Companies, organizations, small companies, no-profits and individuals have been ignoring branding and looking for answers on the wrong places for a long time. Investing hundreds of dollars on Facebook Ads, changing your web’s typography or hiring a cool illustrator won’t make your brand more successful. Of course I am speaking about branding as a complex process and not as an easy make-up.
What many people don’t understand is that branding is not elective to business but fundamental. It wasn’t always this way. Fifty years ago, unless you were a major consumer company that advertised on TV you could get by without a brand. Today even small local coffeeshops are working on their brand not because they are cool or edgy but because they need to stand out and establish a brand personality and message if they want to succeed.
Wally Olins defines branding as “a profound manifestation of the human condition. It is about belonging. A tribe is a brand – religion is a brand. When branding moves into service, it becomes much more complex. From that point of view, a brand is a product or service with a distinct personality. That distinctive personality is what enables people to differentiate one brand from another”. In The Brand Handbook he talks about the “Four Vectors of Brand Tangibility”. These are: Product, Environment (where the brand owner makes or sells a product), Behavior (how the brand owner behaves) and Communication (transmit and receive).
Seth Godin defines brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer”.
Marty Neumeier writes in The Brand Gap that a brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization”.
Regardless of what definition you prefer to use, you need to understand that branding is a process. Clients understand marketing, sales and communication easily because they see those as continuous processes. Branding is often seen as something you do at the beginning, while you are about to launch a product, or at periods of transition and that's it. But, in fact, it’s something that companies need to think about every day.
Branding requires research, feedback and teams of experts. It requires hours of thought and not just looking on Pinterest at what looks nice or what colors are more trendy. A good brand strategy can save companies money by preventing mistakes or overcoming crises. Many marketing departments rush into projects without understanding the real purpose, without knowing what’s the brand relation with this marketing actions and without stopping to think about the brand’s message.
A strong brand lets you make informed decisions faster and easier but to achieve a strong brand you need to work on it continuously. Branding is not about updating a brochure just because it’s old but asking why you need to do that and if that's the best way to spend your resources. You need to have a deep understanding of the brand in order to answer those questions.