Branding is a frequently used buzzword that may have you asking, “What exactly is a brand, anyway?”
The concepts behind this art form are as timeless as they are powerful for developing your business. Mastering branding is a necessity for long-term success and mastering communication across all platforms.
1.) A Branding Crash-Course
Branding is Consistent, Intentionally Shaped Identity
The most basic way to think of branding is consistent and intentionally shaped identity across all platforms. The discipline of branding should seek out to influence the six sense including:
- What’s seen
- What’s heard
- What’s smelled
- What’s tasted
- What’s touched
- What’s felt/thought
In the case of Starbucks, for example, consistency starts with coffee and continues with logo usage, language, furniture, decor and philosophy. Every location is immediately identifiable, and each location triggers certain thoughts (good or bad) in your mind.
Branding is Classical Conditioning
A brand like Starbucks triggering thoughts in your mind is a rather “classic” psychology example–Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, Pavlov tried associating a stimulus with a reaction. He experimented with one of his dogs to test the concept of Classical Conditioning. Consistently, he would ring a bell and then immediately follow the ringing by feeding the dog. He continued this until eventually, he would simply ring the bell and the dog would immediately salivate because it was expecting to be fed.
What do your customers do when they see your logo or hear your jingle? Do they associate it with pleasant memories? Do they cringe?
The Key Elements of a Brand
Here are the key elements of a successful brand:
- Narrative—an intentionally crafted story about the brand with copy pieces for every platform. This is where branding begins. It has to begin here. If a brand is started at the visual level, it risks missing understanding an organization’s key audiences and true story, which throws off the aim of visual design.
- Name—a name is everything. It sets off the brand.
- Brand Copy—compelling copy is vital for every platform from your website, to social platforms, to marketing materials.
- Visual Identity—all the outward facing pieces such as logos, fonts, colors, textures.
- Digital Destination—a compelling website that attracts and converts traffic.
- Materials—the traditional and digital ambassadors such as the corporate identity, brochures, menus, etc.
Branding Should Be Omnipresent
Horizontal Brand Integration—the DNA of Successful Business
Your brand identity should be present across all platforms–both digital and traditional.
Branding is not a singular department, like finance, HR or marketing. It is an omnipresent concept that should stretch across every, single department. True branding effects everything from the way sales handles leads, to the waiting music played on a hold line, to the look and feel of an office, to the voice on social media, to the demeanor of a customer service representative.
2.) Why Branding is Important
It Drives Your Marketing Efforts
A lot of marketing is determined by repetition. Usually the question is, “How much repetition will it take for us to get our message across?”
Branding drives this process with consistency, and with consistency, people recognize your organization easier.
As an organization gets legs and grows, it needs a central compass for designing materials and campaigns. If there is no centralized brand—with intentionally crafted narrative and visual identity—these efforts will be scattered. Over time, this effect creates a “brand mutation,” where every department is creating something that looks different than the brand it represents.
It Influences the Way Others Perceive You
So often, the narrative and visual identity of an organization is putting out the wrong message about who’s behind the organization and what it stands for. This creates a specific impression by not only the key audiences at stake, but the world in general.
With intentional branding guiding the way you run an organization, you’re able to influence the way others perceive you.
It Helps You Grow
If you have your brand guidelines in order then it’s easier for you to grow your business.
- Need to open another location? Not a problem–you have all your considerations straightened out.
- Need to train a new employee? No problem.
- Is someone interested in franchising your operations? No problem. The repeatable system is already in place.
It Will Increase Your Revenue
If branding enhances your marketing efforts and helps your business grow then naturally it will increase your revenue. That’s why it’s important to invest in branding efforts and a formalized process that establishes and documents the details for your entire organization to understand.