What You Think You Know About Branding, But You Don’t

Advertising, Best Practices, Branding, Uncategorized Sep 19, 2016 No Comments

What is a Brand?

Branding can be an intangible concept. It’s not something you can hold in your hand. It’s much more than a sign. Or a collection of fancy fonts arranged into a newly-coined phrase. And while, when done well, it’s worth a thousand words, Branding consists of way more than some interesting photography.

Many Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) still don’t have a good handle on what exactly their Brand is or should be. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise; after all, there are still members of my family who don’t get what I do. Holiday dinners sure are interesting. No matter how many conversations are had about the concept of Branding, I’m still met with my fair share of confused looks and vacant stares, resulting in the general consensus that I must do “something” in “Advertising.” Advertising is much easier to wrap one’s heads around.

Despite the holiday confusion, here’s the first in a series of articles attempting to explain — in the most basic terms — what Branding is and what it is not.

1. Your Logo Alone is Not Your Brand

Many SMBs think their logo is their brand. Perhaps this misconception is a holdover from the Wild West when it was common for cowboys to burn the name of their ranch into the hides of their livestock.

This practice of identifying cattle is a good place to start, since our modern understanding of “Brand” and “Branding” comes specifically from these acts of cruelty. And, as holiday dinners have shown, explaining Branding can be a cruel affair itself. Back in the day, livestock ranchers in need of a way to distinguish their product from their competitor’s, decided to brand their cattle with a unique identifier. Today we call this unique identifier a logo or, more appropriately, a Brand Identity. And while your Brand Identity visually identifies your business, it alone is not your company’s Brand.

Generally, a Brand Identity consists of a combination of elements including a font for your company name and possibly a snazzy graphical element. A logo is designed to be easily recognized and to succinctly state what it is your company offers. An effective Brand Identity should only be created after careful consideration of your overall Brand position, as the ID should reflect all aspects of what your Brand truly represents.

But don’t stop there. Just because you now have a Brand Identity, your Branding work is far from over.

2. Your Tagline Alone in Not Your Brand

A Tagline is, generally, a catchy phrase that’s used in conjunction with your Brand Identity to communicate in greater detail what your business does. It’s yet another of the many elements that make up your Brand. And like your logo, a Tagline alone will not hold up as your company’s overarching Brand.

Creating a Tagline that works for your business is simply the next of several steps in the Branding process. As with everything, some Taglines accomplish this better than others. For instance, what does “Denny’s. A good place to sit and eat.” or “Bacardi Spice. Distilled in Hell.” say to you? Perhaps Denny’s has comfortable booths? Or Bacardi Spice is too dangerous to touch? However poorly they’ve been done, these taglines are attempting to give us a sense of personality for each company, and why you might choose them over a competitor. And there’s another bad favorite of ours from Jimmy Dean Sausages: “Eat Jimmy Dean.” We’ll just agree to leave that one alone.

Even the savviest marketers can get it wrong. But at least we’re going to understand the ultimate goal, even when we miss the mark. So while your Tagline isn’t the epitome of your Brand, it will help define your business.

3. Your Color Palette Alone is Not Your Brand

In 1939, the Wizard of Oz hit theater screens everywhere. The movie utilized color in an all-new way; at least for the time. The action changes from plain old black-and-white Kansas to a Technicolor dream when Dorothy lands in an alternate universe. This was the first ever use of full color in movies. And ever since then, we’ve been color-obsessed.

Every Brand is faced with how it’s going to differentiate itself from its competitors. And one of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through the use of color. However, color palette alone is also not a Brand. Visually, a color palette is chosen specifically to complement and support your overall Brand positioning in the marketplace. And it’s also often the single element that ensures consistency throughout all your marketing and communications efforts.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s easy. There’s a lot a strategy behind choosing colors for a Brand. Many of which are based on your market segment, principles of psychology, cultural influences, and the science of color theory. Different colors affect us differently; and colors have different meaning depending on culture, psychology or as a result of generational influence. When selecting colors, your Brand will benefit from the advice of a professional who understands the process.

And, there’s still much more work to come.

Now What?

In an attempt to save money, it’s common for SMB owners to take on Branding efforts themselves. This can be a bad idea. Decisions regarding Brand Identity design, color palette and copywriting can often be affected by personal preference and emotion, rather than critical business thinking. A fully-developed Brand for your business should take into account who you are as a company, but also who your customers are and why they choose you over your competitors. Creating a Brand is not like selecting paint for your walls. Just because you love fushsia doesn’t mean it’s a good choice for the your new men’s clothing line.

When developing your Brand, hire marketing and graphic design professionals who fully understand branding and can lead you through the process. Just because your nephew did a good job on the signs for last year’s prom, doesn’t mean he’s going to be able to build your Brand for you.

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