Branding is one of those words like “the”, we use it a lot but have you ever sat down and tried to define it? Well, for those that are now distracted by defining “the” it’s a determiner — “denoting one or more people or things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge”. Now you know. Da, da, da daaa.
The word “brand” has undergone a huge transition over the last few years. In the old days of the early 00’s, branding was just your logo, business cards, collateral, rubber balls, etc — stuff with your mark on it. Then came the idea that brand was more than that. People looked at huge companies like Nike and went “wait a minute, there might be more than just a swoosh there”. Then came complicated sounding things like brand systems and brand analysis and brand strategy.
Problem is, as this became more and more popular, it started to encapsulate more and more disciplines. This site lists thirty different definitions for brand and branding. Since thirty is a bit too much we’ll try to figure out our own definition.
Brand (brand), verb
Everything a business' customer can experience.
Branding (brand’ing), verb
The act of refining and communicating those brand experiences.
How your food tastes is your brand, how your software looks is your brand, the plants in the lobby, the toothpicks by the door, the weight of your business card stock. All of this is your brand.
It’s what makes you, you.
Nobody gets brand better than the hotel concierge; “How are you doing today Mrs. Smith”, “let me get the door for you”, “you look nice today Mrs. Smith, is that a new hair color?” Because he knows that there are a dozen hotels on this block and Mrs. Smith could go to any of them. She comes here because of the experience.
One of the best examples of branding in the last twenty years has been the Apple Store. Nothing beats the instant communication you get once you walk through the doors and into the threshold. I could show you a small corner of any store in the word and you would know it was an Apple store. It’s hard to describe, isn’t it? You just know. It’s clean, it’s modern but not too modern. It’s white, aside from the colored shirts of the Geniuses — making them stand out. That’s another thing, their techs aren’t “Helpers” or “Geeks”, they’re Geniuses. Makes you think “if anyone can fix this thing, they can”.
Go to a Starbucks and try to order a large. That’s branding.
Are you giving your customers the best possible brand experience from start-to-finish? Is it consistently, uniquely you? If you were in their shoes, what would you think?
Branding is more than just a logo, but a set of ideals. It’s the ethos of the organization and it’s people. It’s the entire experience. Marketing and advertising can help you communicate these ideals but they have to be — at least initially — found within the heart and soul of the company.