Ask anybody to name ten brands and they could probably do it easily. Audi, Burberry, Canon, Dove, eBay, Facebook… Look, even naming one for each letter of the alphabet is not a huge challenge!
Ask someone to answer the question of “what is a brand?” though, and you might find things get a little more vague. “Brands” and “branding” have become somewhat slippery concepts to define. But there’s no escaping the fact that branding is incredibly important when it comes to building a sustainable business, whether you’re a freelancer, own a small business, or are running a blog.
There is — arguably — no single “right” answer to what branding is. But let me explain what it is for me and how I tackle the concept in order to help business owners gain the benefits of good branding. Benefits that include being able to differentiate their business from their competitors, attracting clients who absolutely desire what they offer, and gaining higher conversions on their marketing efforts. Just a few of the reasons why branding is so important to the health of your business.
First, what is a brand?
The most concise answer is that a brand is the impression people have of your business. It’s the way they perceive who you are and what you’re all about. Whenever people encounter your business — whether by seeing the logo, hearing the name, or visiting your website — what do they think of? What is their reaction?
That is your brand.
I also like to go a little further and define your brand as the relationship you have with your clients. It’s about how loyal your audience is, and whether they view your business as something irreplaceable to them.
Something I like about this definition is that it emphasises the strength of the connections you have, rather than the size of your audience. If your clients are die-hard fans, then you have a strong brand even if your client-base is small. Relationships can be powerful even if only a couple of people are involved, right?
Your brand is something you cultivate over time, and the way you do this is through your branding. That brings us to the next question.
What is branding?
Branding describes the action of building a brand. The things you do to establish a certain image of your business. You select specific colour schemes and images to represent your business. Share particular stories on social media. Affiliate your business with certain partners and other businesses.
All of these things combine to establish the way you want your business to be perceived and the kind of relationship you want to build with your audience. In the end however, defining your brand is a two-way conversation. It happens through the actions you take (your branding) along with the way your audience receives and responds to those actions.
Why is branding important?
Branding is important because it’s how you communicate the purpose, core values, and personality of your brand. It’s a way to stand out and let your target market know that you are here for them, and inform them about the kind of business you are. It shares the story of your brand, highlights the things you find important, and makes your business feel relatable. All this is important for connecting with people on a more intimate, emotional level.
People like to feel like they “own” brands. They use the brands they choose as a way to define themselves as individuals. Your branding efforts, from the visual elements, your tone of voice, the way your clients can expect to be treated, should all represent a genuine view of your business and how you run it. And the more consistently you can deliver your branding, the more confidence people can have in your brand and the better the relationship between your business and your clients.
Related post: How using consistent branding will grow your business
What are some examples of branding?
Well, it definitely goes far beyond your logo. Let’s just get that out of the way.
Branding involves just about every part of your business that people experience.
- your identity system, which includes your logo, as well as the way you use typography, your colour palette, and other visual elements
- the look and user experience of your website
- the choice of words and type of language you use in your ads
- how photos and images are used on your social media accounts
- the quality of your customer service
- how your services are delivered
Every interaction your clients have comes together and determines how they perceive your business, and — repetition for emphasis — this perception is your brand.
What is branding in marketing?
There’s a close, co-dependent relationship between branding and marketing. One just can’t effectively add value to your business without the other. However, I do like to separate the two into distinct concepts.
While branding helps to establish the tone and purpose of your business, marketing is what takes that purpose and projects it to your audience. Branding can give your business a compelling story, but marketing is how you ensure someone is around to hear it.
Maybe you’re thinking: If marketing is what gets people through the door in the first place, what do I need branding for?
In a way, it’s a matter of long-term strategy vs shorter-term tactics. Sure — marketing campaigns will get the attention of your target audience… but how will you build a relationship with that same audience that ensures they stick around and continue to engage with your business? How do you gain their trust and earn their loyalty? How do you create that emotional response that so often is the difference between a client buying services or leaving without a second thought?
Well, that’s where branding comes in. Branding gives your business a strong underlying message that draws your audience in. It what tells them that they’re in the right place because you have shared values and an understanding of what they want to gain out of your services.
Marketing needs good branding to support it. Without a brand in place, there’s simply no strong message for marketing to share.
Read more about the topic: The importance of branding in marketing
What is brand strategy?
The last thing I want to cover in this post is brand strategy. After all, you don’t want to just understand the concept of branding — you want to know how to apply it to your business and gain the benefits, right?
A brand strategy acts as a framework to ensure your branding efforts have purpose behind them. Like any good strategy, there should be a goal in mind — what is it you want to achieve with your brand?
You should also have a solid understanding of the needs of your clients. Who are they? What problems do they struggle with? What would it mean for them to overcome their struggles? How do you help them with that?
The final part of a good brand strategy is clarity on what I call your brand foundation. I break it down into three parts: your purpose, core values and brand personality. These three things will give you a message to share through your branding, and an overarching direction.
With a strategy in place, every time you make a decision about your business — whether to try a new marketing tactic, partner with another brand, or change your logo — you can use the framework to determine if the decision would be a good one or not. You make measured choices based on whether:
- it helps get you closer to your goal
- fits with the needs of your clients
- aligns with your brand foundation
So, to put it together as neatly as possible, your brand is the perception of your audience and the relationship you have with them. If you put time and energy into building a brand that really fits your business, it will have great positive impacts on the success of your business, by setting your business apart from the competition and connecting with your clients on a deeper level.
Are you starting to develop your branding? My Branding Intro Workbook will help you get started in the right direction and is available as a free download. Get it here.
If you’re looking for more guidance and want to build a powerful brand experience for your clients, learn about working with me.
Looking for more content? Try these:
- Why your logo is not your brand and how to start branding
- Why branding is the key to building lasting client relationships
- The 4 branding basics you need to unleash your business
- Branding tips to get more clients to your small business
- Personal brand strategy for service-based entrepreneurs
- Why you need to define your ideal client