Updated: Nov 1, 2019
It's ironic that the discipline of "branding" has an identity problem.
Let's get one thing out of the way. Your brand is not a logo, set of fonts or a colour pallet. I know this is how some people might view it but "brand" has a much wider meaning. A meaning which is much more helpful. Which is strategic and powerful.
So what is a "brand" then?
I define it as "the meaning people attach to you and your offering".
The scary thing about this of course is this that you do not own your brand - other people own the meaning they attach to you. It's in their heads and hearts.
This is where "branding" comes in. "Branding" is the attempt to manage that meaning. To thoughtfully consider the meaning we want people to attach to us. To design the desired outcome of their interactions with us.
So the question is - are you managing the meaning people attach to you? To do this you need to understand your purpose. Who you are. Who you serve. Most importantly you need to appreciate why it matters.
These are strategic leadership questions. Once in place you can then design on top of them. Inside out. Until you finally consider your marketing communications and then yes, one expression of this might be your logo, some colours and a font.
I believe that to do "branding" properly you really need to consider in in the light of the following key business areas:
This would include leadership, your staff, HR, recruitment, routines, rewards and the environment your team live in. It encompasses what behaviours you encourage. How your team collectively behaves and how they interact with each other and the outside world. Have you designed your employee experience (EX) and do they engage with the ideas behind your brand?
Products / Services
If you exist to serve customers, are you developing unique products or services which truly help customers with their goals or needs? What you actually do, what you provide, ultimately brings meaning to a customer and branding cannot simply be a coat of paint at the end. We need to get serious about innovation and customer-centric product development. We need to make better things. Branding should influence where you source your materials, how you treat partners, and how your products or services actually make people feel.
Have you mapped this out and do you constantly seek to improve it. Your CX is crucial to keep on top of as customer behaviours and desires change over time. How do you enhance them? How do you make your customer stronger?
Finally we come to what we say and how we dress. Note how I've put this at the end and not at the start. Are your communications rooted in the longer-term meaning you want customers to connect to you? Do they embody the character, tone of voice and style needed to build recognisable and distinctive meaning? Do you articulate your purpose? Your "why" and not simply your "what"? Do you "dress" and "speak" in a way which your audience connects with?
So there you are.
Your brand is not your logo. It is the meaning people attach to you.
The question to ask then is - are you managing meaning?