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Branding 101 – (the obligatory post) What Is a Brand?

In our line of work, we see posts like this all the time defining the concept of ‘branding’. We were tempted to stay out of the fray, but we often find our clients looking to us to explain our thoughts on the subject. To clear a few common misconceptions, a brand is:

  • Not just your logo, your color palette or your visual style
  • Not just “something marketing should be doing”
  • Not an optional part of your business (more on this further down)

So then (sorry we have to say it), what is a Brand?

Your brand is the unifying idea that drives decision-making within your business, aligning your internal strengths with the external needs and expectations of your customers. Brands are comprised of three overlapping parts:

Verbal/Written – What you say and write about who you are, what you do, and the value you offer your customers

Visual – How your company “looks”, from your logo, symbols, and typography, to your website, business cards, and pitch deck

Experiential – the personal experience of interacting with your business, what it’s like to work with you or for you, to visit your office or meet you at a tradeshow

All three of these components inform and influence the others – a sleek, minimalist pitch deck matched with a long and rambling sales pitch will not engage a new prospect like you’d hoped. A clear concise description of your offering and value on a website that appears to be 20 years old will not appeal to your buyers. An apathetic and unhelpful service culture at your organization will ultimately become an obstacle to winning clients no matter what you say or how you look.

Whether or not they actively define and manage it, all companies have a brand. The less you participate in actively shaping it yourself, the more the market will do so for you, often at your expense – pigeonholing you into the wrong category or lumping you in with all the dime a dozen providers in your space.

Branding is a strategic effort that must cross the entire organization like steel threads linking your senior leadership, sales, marketing, HR, operations/service delivery together. Overtime the natural course of business will pull and stretch these threads, and without careful maintenance and renewal, they will pull apart. But when is the right time to rebrand?

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