In the twenty-first century, you couldn’t escape brands if you wanted to. They dictate our lifestyles, buying habits, mood, and even define who we are.

Because of this, branding is the most important aspect of marketing. The brand is the most powerful means to influence the customer. It is the differentiating factor in sea of similar products and services.

The brand and can influence a buyer’s loyalty, an entire industry, or even the wider culture. So why is branding so often put at the end of the marketing priority list?

What is Branding?

Branding means different things to different people. To some, it’s the logo, or the stationery. To others it’s the shop-front or the design features of a product. Let’s put the definition of branding on a clearer footing and establish what branding truly is.

A brand is an emotional experience, created by a consumer’s perceptions about the totality of your company, service, product, reputation and people. It is what makes you unique (or not) in the eyes of the market. A brand is inextricably linked to the emotions, attitudes, beliefs and memories of consumers, and therefore we must work actively to establish positive and memorable experiences of your brand.

The Touchpoint

Consumers can interact with a brand in obvious and more subtle ways. We call these touchpoints. Seeing a television advert is an overt example, but a consumer’s perception may also be powerfully affected by sights and smells in a store, or the way a member of staff made them feel. It is therefore vital to manage how your brand is perceived, and ensure that when consumers encounter your logo and touchpoints, their experiences align with your uniqueness and brand values.

The key to branding is differentiation. What makes you special? What makes your product or service worth buying over all others on the market? The answers to these questions should be baked into the brand at every level. In a sea of similar competing products and services, the brand communicates the missing information.

What are some of the concepts behind a brand?

History – What is your origin story (or myth)?
Strengths – What is your top strength?
Mission – Why do you exist? Where are you headed? What are your values?
Size and scope – Are you a market leader or start-up? Local, national or international?
Positioning – How do you serve the needs of your customers?

What are some of the physical manifestations of a brand?

Location – Premises, offices, shop or hotel
Identity – Logo, colours, typefaces and marks
Collateral – Stationery, packaging, website, advertising, clothing

The Art of Branding

We now have a good working definition of branding which transcends the simplistic idea of logos and colour schemes. Branding is a complex subject because it deals with human perceptions, beliefs and emotions. It is an inexact science, and that’s what makes it such an exciting break from the analytical nature of how most marketing is done.

In future articles, we’ll delve further into the intriguing world of the brand. For now, take some time to examine exactly what emotional responses your branding triggers in your consumers, and how you can amplify or change those feelings.