Words are supposed to help us understand concepts and ideas. The unfortunate truth, however, is that as time goes on—and words mature over time—the meanings get twisted and muddled in a mess of definitions and uses.
Branding is one of those words. It’s referenced and utilized by a lot of people (especially professionals in the marketing space), but it’s not consistently understood.
So what is a brand? Here’s my definition and how I’ve come to grasp the complexities behind the word:
A brand is a story. The story of you, what you believe, where you came from and how that influenced what you do today and what you’ll do tomorrow.
But a successful brand must be more than just a story. It has to be challenged. Refined. Polished. It has to be intentionally forged into a strong narrative that everybody can understand regardless of the platform or perspective.
Narrative isn’t the end either—it’s only the beginning. Once that narrative is firmly planted, it must begin to sprout into a physical being.
One that’s seen, tasted, touched, felt and contemplated by the world. It’s a website. A carefully crafted typography. A thoughtful logo. A meaningful slogan. It’s an experience. An environment. Carried on through its ambassadors. It’s a product. One you can hold in your hands, your heart and your mind. It’s consistency. Across everything.
Why a Story Must Be More Than a Story
Inherently, whether we want to admit or believe it or not, everyone and everything has its own story. It comes stock with existence.
Out of the box, however, the inherent story that comes with all things isn’t the most compelling presentation to the world. In its raw form, a story can be disjointed, confusing and overwhelming.
This transitions to the concept of a brand. Like all else, a brand—a company, person, service or etc.—has a story that comes with it out of the box. As I mentioned above though, in its raw form in can tend to cause more trouble than intended.
From Raw Story to Intentional Narrative:
In order for a brand to connect with its audiences and the world—because connecting with both is extremely important—it must challenge, refine and polish its story into a fully functional narrative. This high-intensity process should seek to uncover and explore the concepts influencing the brand’s existence.
The narrative once cultivated must also be professionally copywritten to be utilized across all platforms. What’s required in our modern marketing moment is copy optimized for social media profiles, website pages, email marketing campaigns and other related assets.
A Refined, Copywritten Narrative Is Just the Beginning
The cultivated narrative—adapted for all platforms—isn’t the end of the process. It’s just the beginning.
With the narrative established, it must sprout from written language to visual representation. The very language and feel of the narrative is extremely significant because it will directly influence the identity of the brand.
What sprouts from a strong narrative is a lot of the elements you’re already familiar. This is the typography, color scheme, logo, website design, email template, packaging, corporate identity, the billboard and everything else that’s visual.
Brand Transcends Copy and Design
Check out some of our branding work
Narrative and design are extremely important, but they’re still not all an intentionally crafted brand should influence.
Have you ever evaluated the experience you’re creating and how it reflects or diminishes your brand? This applies to every organization regardless of industry. For the restaurant it’s as simple as the way you handle your orders and the way people navigate to place their orders. For the service provider, it’s the process you go through to best educate and prepare your clients for the partnership ahead.
How you answer the phone, handle complaints, educate and prepare the world to encounter your brand is part of the intentional hand that differentiates a memorable brand from one that fades away. So often an organization will spend countless hours and resources crafting the narrative and corresponding design, while letting the experience associated with in-store, in-office and in-person visits go on auto-pilot.
Your employees and partners need guidance. You need to think through the experience and take control of the output.
How do you define branding?