Your marketing department loves talking about your brand, but unless you’re a seasoned marketer, you probably struggle to grasp the importance of this seemingly abstract topic. So what is a brand? How do you define it, how do you shape it, and why is it important for your business?
Definition - Brand
Listen, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a marketer, salesperson, executive, or programmer, you need to have a solid understanding of what your company’s brand is, how it is leveraged, and what you can be doing in your day-to-day work to help contribute to that brand. First, though, it’s important to understand what a brand is and why it’s important in the first place. Here’s one definition:
Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.
- Business Directory
Personally, I find this definition to be extremely simplistic, especially in the modern era of marketing. Your brand should transcend things like messaging documents and design elements, but if you have weak leadership at the helm that doesn’t understand what a brand is and how to leverage it appropriately, this is all your brand will be worth at your company.
What Isn’t A Brand?
So before we get into the details of what a brand is, let’s talk about what a brand isn’t. Misconceptions about branding typically start here, because even if someone grasps the do’s of building an effective brand, there’s no guarantee that they’ll grasp the don’ts.
A brand is NOT:
- Made in the Design Room - When going through a rebrand, many organizations believe that they need to start with design. Sooner or later, they all discover that their employees, not their logo, define your brand. As The Harvard Business Review states, “You can’t be special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace.”
- Stagnant - Much to the chagrin of major brand managers, your brand isn’t stagnant. Just because you enjoy positive brand sentiment one day doesn’t mean it’s destined to last. Your brand changes every day as more and more people are exposed to it. This doesn’t intimidate great organizations, however. Great organizations rise to the occasion and defend their brand at every turn.
- For Sale - To paraphrase the Beatles, “Can’t buy me brand.” Plenty of corporations have thrown around big bucks trying to emulate brands that they admire. Whether they’re investing in a large rebranding project or building out a flashy game room to compete with Silicon Valley startups, all these corporations eventually learn the same thing - Money alone will not buy you a more effective brand. These kind of purchases need to be coupled with an institutionalized commitment to doing things the right way.
So What Is A Brand?
So what exactly is a brand? If I can’t buy it or design it, why do I pay my marketing team so much???
Calm down. The process of building and managing a brand is extremely complex and requires diligent, daily effort from everyone on your team. So how do you actually define a brand?
A brand IS:
- Deliberate - One mistake companies make all the time is not being deliberate enough about their brand. A brand is built very deliberately around the culture of the company that already exists. This means crystal clear messaging, effective imagery, and a meaningful color palate. If you need help defining which of these items may need work, performing a brand audit is a great first step.
- Consistent - We’ve all seen those companies whose color palate seems like it changes weekly. You built brand guidelines for a reason, it’s your responsibility to follow them. If you built a strong, deliberate brand, you shouldn’t need to deviate from your brand guidelines.
- Ever-Changing - In addition to consistency, however, great brands also evolve over time. Just because you hold to the same principles doesn’t mean you have to insulate yourself from change. Embrace changes as they come and make sure to align everything with your brand’s true essence.
How do you define an effective brand? Is there something we’re missing? What are the most effective brands you’ve seen?