What is Branding?

Firstly, I should explain what branding is and why you need to do it.

When you think of what is your brand, you might think of the name of your business and the products or service you offer, but your brand is much more than that.  Your brand is the overall effect not just of what you sell, but who you are.  It is the look, feel, and attitude that your company puts forward, and it is something that any successful company will have paid close attention to building.

The first reason for this is to show people what they can expect from you.  Compare two clothing stores- One has a jagged red and black logo with a crack through it, while the other is in rounded, pastel letters punctuated with flowers.  At first glance, you know where to buy a cute summer dress, and where to buy a spiked leather jacket.

Second, branding serves as identification.  The Superman “S”,  Mickey Mouse's round ears, The Ferrari stallion logo- If you see them on any item from a lunch box to a t-shirt to a set of dishes, you instantly know who produced them.

The third reason for branding is to lurk in the mind of established customers.  When you see a yellow M, you think of hamburgers, fries, and chicken McNuggets.  When you see the Harley Davidson logo, you think of black leather and the open road.  When you see a pair of Nike sneakers, you think of sports and athletes.  Companies invest billions of dollars in establishing these connections because if they're connected deeply enough, they work both ways: You want a hamburger, you think of McDonalds. You want to feel wild and free, you think of Harley Davidson.  You want to play basketball like Michael Jordan, you think Nike.

So, branding is essentially an overall image designed to convey who you are and what you represent, and to reinforce that association in the public mind.  As an incidental benefit, good branding also opens the door to potentially lucrative merchandising once people begin to associate your brand with a particular ideal or status.

Now, for the first step of our branding process, we need to come up with the shortest, most concise description of you that still conveys everything about how you want to market yourself.  Let's look at a few bands and how they're branded:

  • Guns n Roses: Dangerous, hard-living bad boys.

  • Brittany Spears: Lolita. 

  • Ice T:  Original Gangster.

  • Taylor Swift: The girl next door.

  • Toby Keith: Good old Southern boy.

  • Adelle: Deep, soulful, and classy.

  • Usher: Smooth and sexy.

This also works for companies and nonprofit organizations:

  • Whole Foods:  Natural healthy quality

  • Hilton:  Luxury, comfort.

  • Apple:  Cutting edge form and function

Let’s try a quick game to see just how successful this approach can be.  Match up the car company to their image.

Rugged, outdoor adventure


Elegant class and sophistication


Affordable dependability


Exacting quality and precision


See how easy that was?  This is not by accident- These four automakers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars reinforcing those associations in order to attract a specific kind of customer.

So, the best place for us to start out is to list everything that comes to mind when we think about your brand: How do you want your product to be used, and how do you want your customers to feel about it?  Who is it for?  What is important to you?  Who are you, and why did you choose this of all things to pursue?

Once we have it narrowed down to a couple specific words or phrases, we can start coming up with visual cues and emotional associations.  Yes, for an airline, our first thoughts might be of clouds, maps, birds, or other symbols of flight and distance- But our job is to go deeper.  Who is your target customer, and what do they want?  A businessman feeling pressured to keep on schedule, or a family taking the vacation of a lifetime?  Should your image imply a rigidly punctual speed and efficiency, or a lazy, relaxed comfort?

From this point, we start to develop these ideas further, and ask what kind of presentation best reflects you- Organic or highly engineered?  Primal or sophisticated?  Simple or opulent?  Clean or cluttered?  We then look at how this ties in with certain shapes and color schemes, and move towards tying them all together into a cohesive image.

The final step is to apply this image to signage, promo materials, merchandising, and communications.  Someone handed your business card should be able to look online and immediately recognize both the site and the card as belonging to the same entity.  They should be able to seek you out in person and know they are in the right place by immediately associating the look and feel of your advertising with your physical display, and also with the appearance of your clientele.

Ready to get started?  Drop me a line and see what I can do to help you build your own successful brand.