The word gets thrown around quite a bit. Even though I’ve been at this design thing for a while, I wasn’t sure I really got it.
A true test of understanding something is being able to explain it or teach it. I wasn’t confident that I could do either without fumbling around a bit so I dug in. I did some reading, a lot of writing, scribbling, and rewriting but I finally distilled brand down to what I perceive to be its essence.
Lets start with what a brand isnt as I think its important and makes it easier in this case.
What a Brand is Not
A brand is not a logo or any of the designed collateral that could be created and used by a company. It might seem like a logo is a brand since it is one of the first things many businesses get designed and it’s also what big-name designs slap on shirts, bags and overpriced-sunglasses. Logos are recognizable often without any other context or words around them and the brain retains visual information more readily.
What is a logo, then? A logo is the visual representation of a brand and what it stands for.
So What is a Brand?
A brand is a response – it is a persons gut feeling about a product, service or company. Thats important. It is not what you say it is but what they say it is. They being your audience and your customers. When there is a general consensus among many people about a company, it is said to be a brand.
Having a brand is important because a strong brand inspires trust, loyalty and creates a sense of community though identity and reputation.
A brand could also be considered a promise to do the things you say you are going to do. It is the keeping of those promises that builds a brand and the continuous keeping of those promises that builds a strong brand.
Think of friendship. When your friend says shes got your back, thats the promise. When she comes over to help you pack and move, takes your 2AM phone calls and tells you when youve got something in your teeth, shes keeping the promise.
Because she keeps the promise – I’ve got your back – over time you come to trust her. You feel loyal to her and, because you share that belief with her of how friendship should be, she becomes part of your close-knit circle (identity & community).
How Do You Build a Brand?
Brands are built over time, a little bit every day. The word build is important because I believe you do build a brand. It is not an overnight achievement and just because you have a logo doesnt mean you have a brand. Much like that friendship – just because you hang out doesnt make you the kind of friends that pick up the phone at 2AM for each other.
Through my reading and scribbling I have found 5 core elements that make up a brand. I usually say 6, the first being the definition of a brand (which we just covered) because if you dont know what youre building the other 5 dont mean much.
For the sake of length, I’ve decided to include their brief outlines here. The information would become too detailed and overwhelming to dive into any more detail here but really? The point of my deep-dive was to get to this point. To make the concept of brand simple and clear.
Without further adoâ€¦ The Building Blocks to Create a Brand that Resonates
- WHAT IT IS: Strong brands are built on an authentic set of core values that can not only be promised but delivered. Values are timeless guideposts that will hold true regardless of success or struggle and they will guide the business behavior and decisions as it grows.
- WHY IT MATTERS: These core values will be the shared experience between you and your customer creating a deeper sense of community, loyalty and overall brand experience.
YOUR PURPOSE OR YOUR WHY
- WHAT IT IS: Your purpose is the mindset and conscience of your brand, usually rooted in the inspiration for starting your business. A clear purpose describes the change you want to see in the world and the role your brand plays in achieving that change.
- WHY IT MATTERS: A clear, mindful purpose lays out an inspiring intention that separates one brand from the other brands around it.
- WHAT IT IS: Your story answers the question Why does your brand exist?â€ It shows your customers that you relate to them, you understand them and that you are like them. It shares the value of the products and services you have created and the problems they will solve.
- WHY IT MATTERS: A compelling brand story gives your audience a way to trust and connect with you and to view your business as a living, breathing entity run by real people offering real value.
- WHAT IT IS: Your who is narrowly defined group of people who are your ideal customer or audience. They are the people served best by what you offer, will share your core values and will feel inspired by the purpose of your business.
- WHY IT MATTERS: Knowing your who will help you create and deliver better products and services and craft a clear, focused message that truly resonates.
YOUR BRAND VOICE
- WHAT IT IS: Voice is not what you say but how you say it. Whether funny or formal, your brand voice is based on the message you want to share with the world and consistently embodies the brands personality, values and way of thinking.
- WHY IT MATTERS: A distinctive brand voice will make you stand out by creating an influential, emotional connection that builds trust and relationships.
Why Defining These Elements Matters
When you take the time to define these 5 elements it creates a foundation from which everything else grows. Your marketing, your design, your colors, even the words you use or dont use, should stem from these elements.
This is the piece that separates one company from another. Its what moves a company from a commodity to a recognizable name that customers want to purchase from, even if it is more expensive.
And it isn’t just about the customer or standing out in the marketplace. Defining these elements can help remove doubt as to whether a new product, service or marketing campaign should be pursued. If it strays outside the brand, if it will break the promises you’ve made, it shouldn’t be done.