The terms brand, branding, and brand identity (the three Bs) are often tossed around interchangeably. However, each term carries a unique meaning. Understanding the differences and how they interplay is not just a matter of semantics; it’s a crucial step toward shaping a thriving business.
Definitions and Distinctions
Let’s begin by demystifying these terms. A brand is the sum total of who you are as a company and how your audience perceives you. It’s a blend of your products, services, mission, and values. It’s the promise you make to your customers and the experience they come to expect from you.
Branding is the active process of shaping your brand perception. It’s the strategic actions you take to ensure that how your audience perceives you aligns with how you want to be perceived. It’s about storytelling, creating a narrative that connects with your audience and differentiates you from the competition.
Brand identity comprises all the tangible elements you create to communicate your brand to your audience. This includes your logo, tagline, color scheme, business card, and website. These elements work together to create a visual and sensory experience that communicates your brand’s personality and values.
Brand, branding, and brand identity are individual pieces of a larger brand strategy. They are interconnected, each influencing and being influenced by the others.
Without a brand, there’s no foundation for branding. Without branding, the brand lacks substance and direction. A strong brand identity is crucial to effective branding and a robust and resonant brand.
Establishing a Strong Brand
Your brand is the bedrock of your business. It’s the starting point for developing a branding strategy and designing your brand identity. Key elements of your brand include your:
- Mission: what your company aims to do and the impact you want to have on your customers and the world,
- Values: the principles that guide how you accomplish your goals,
- Unique selling point: what sets you apart from the competition, and
- Products or services: how you add value to your customers.
Developing Your Story
Weaving a narrative that informs and connects with your audience emotionally is a crucial component of branding. It should tap into people’s needs, desires, and aspirations and show them how your brand can fulfill them.
Your brand’s story should encapsulate your mission, values, and unique selling point. It should reflect who you are as a company and what you stand for.
Your brand’s story should also evolve with your audience. As their needs and preferences change, so should your story. Mastering this requires keeping a pulse on your audience and being responsive to shifts in their attitudes and behaviors. It also requires authenticity and transparency, as today’s consumers value genuine and open brands.
Building Your Brand Identity
Once you’ve defined your brand, it’s time to bring it to life. Your brand identity comprises several elements, each significantly shaping how your audience perceives your brand.
Your business name is a crucial part of your identity. It should be catchy, stand out from the competition, and represent who you are as a brand.
Your logo, often considered the face of your company, is another key element. It’s the design symbol that customers recognize and associate with your brand.
Similarly, your brand color palette and fonts play a significant role in eliciting certain emotions and associations. Your brand voice should match your brand personality, whether authoritative and professional or laid-back and casual.
A well-designed website is also a necessity for any brand identity. It’s often the first point of contact with potential customers. Your brand might also require a presence on social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. Your branding should be consistent across all platforms.
Lastly, your business cards and collateral are physical extensions of your brand that continue to make an impression long after conversations have ended. Refer to last month’s article on creating high-performing business cards to help your company stand out.
The Style Guide
After defining and designing your brand identity, it’s important to consolidate all the key elements into a brand style guide. This guide serves as a reference point for your team, ensuring all marketing efforts align with your brand identity. It establishes a standard for consistent messaging and image projection, thereby strengthening your brand over time.
With the three Bs in place, the next step is to devise a strategy. This action plan connects with your customers and shapes their perception of your brand. The process starts with identifying your target audience and developing personas that describe in detail the characteristics and attributes of each audience.
Next, determining what channels are best to communicate your messaging and reach your audiences is essential. It’s unlikely that one channel or one type of marketing will appeal to all of your audience personas. A well-designed strategy includes messaging and imagery for specific audiences while maintaining consistent branding.
Once you know who your company is, what it does, its values, and how it wants to be perceived, you can build more effective marketing campaigns that support and project your brand. These steps will unite your brand, branding, and brand identity, propelling your business toward success.
Jillian Harman is a designer, branding specialist, writer, and photographer. Her company, Hyperion Design and Publishing, is a boutique creative studio helping companies elevate their brands through effective design, communication, and technology solutions.