The Four Core Functions of Branding

Branding isn't just a logo or slogan. It's a force with some specific jobs to do.

Branding is a company’s way of life that has a greater purpose than being just the “visual face” of an organization.

When practiced to its full vision, branding performs four specific core functions:

  1. To differentiate your organization from those in your field
  2. To show the authenticity of your product or service
  3. To reinforce the values that your company places at the forefront of each action
  4. To unify each department within your organization.

1. Differentiation

Each day, there are more and more companies rising to the surface in their fields.

It’s safe to say that within your industry particularly, you’ll be going up against competitors both big and small. The innovation of product and services is moving far too fast for businesses to solely rely on out-innovating the competition to gain market share and momentum.

With this being said, it’s important to stand out in the sea of other organizations in your niche with the power of your brand.

“I believe with every part of my being that brand is going to be the last great currency in marketing,” said Tiffany Sauder from Element Three.

Preach it Tiffany. We agree 100-percent.

Here are some questions to evaluate as you work on leveraging your brand to stand out:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What is it that makes you unique from the people who have the same ideal audience?
  • Why should someone buy your product or use your service?

Hone in on what distinguishes you from everyone else. Leverage your unique story to build something unique—from name to slogan to visual identity to culture to store front to website.

2. Authenticity

You have a past. Whether that history is good or bad, it brought you to where you are today. Your failures and successes are all a part of what makes you unique so it’s important to share them with your audience in a way that makes sense.

That’s just part one though. Your storytelling should be authentic to the bone. Nothing should be half felt. Nothing should be said just because it’s trending. It must be real. If the story isn’t real then you’d best not share it.

We live in a world where the end-user is better than ever at sniffing out fake people and brands. If a brand starts at its core not from a place of authenticity, everything else the brand does will be effected.

It’s important to attribute your success with where you’ve been, how you want to make a difference and why you believe strongly in your product or service.

An Example

A good example of a company that knows how to share their story would be a brand that sells acne clearing ointment. If the founder struggled with acne as a teenager, telling that story is authentic and compelling to the audience.

This shows the target audience that they have a drive to make things better for others who are in the same situation that they were faced with in their adolescence. It shows passion and understanding—two things that are qualities often underrated.

Be authentic by staying true to who you are. Don’t try to be something you are not. Many companies run into issues when they desperately try to reach everyone when they should be placing their efforts in the direction of their target audience.

When this reach is done incorrectly, it wastes both time and money. In the end it ends up making an organization look desperate and unorganized.

Another Example

Matt Hardy—the man behind GoodGuyFitness and Talon Strong—has a great story to tell.

“Matt Hardy is an ISSA certified fitness trainer and specialist in fitness nutrition. His approach to fitness is direct, simple and proven by results. He doesn’t just preach the mantra of balance and ‘baby steps.’ He lives it day in and day out. Whether you’re new to this scene—or an experienced veteran looking to make a serious comeback—Matt’s been in your shoes. He’s built himself from nothing, lost it all to an episode of surgeries and has since come back stronger than he’s ever been.”

He doesn’t just tell this story to “appeal” to his audience. He tells this story because it’s his authentic origin story and feels it to the bone.

That authenticity oozes out through every message, blog and marketing piece. Check out this video and you’ll see what I mean:

3. Value Setting and Centering

Branding is a way of life that uncovers and formalizes the core values of an organization. The storytelling step is one of the best ways to bring a companies mission to the forefront, but first you have to set your values.

Again, the common misconception is that branding is all about visual identity and some witty slogans. As you’ve already seen, it reaches far beyond that. The branding process should uncover the values that an organization truly believes in. Once it does this, it’s up to the power of branding to weave that into the story in a compelling way. Also at this time, an organization should center itself on these values as an operating procedure.

An Example

For example, an earth-friendly company would have a moral obligation to make sure their products are produced responsibly. This organization would center their brand on the values that they hold dear.

If they believe in being good stewards of the earth, then they would support causes and engage in practices that are of most importance to their cause. Branding acts as a framework that guides an organization in the right direction.

4. Unification

Each department in your organization should know it’s role in the branding process.

Everyone should be on the same page as far as the general rules that go into making everything work. Branding, as stated earlier, is a way of life. It’s not meant to be dealt with in one department. Simple day to day tasks are all part of a companies brand.

A brand isn’t a vertical department. It’s a horizontal force that should span across all departments, actions and practices.


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