What is branding?
Let’s start with what branding isn’t. Because it’s not a lot of things people say it is. It’s not a logo. A logo is a very useful tool for business, but it’s not the brand. It’s a symbol for the brand. A brand is not a product. Some people talk about “this brand, buying this brand or that brand”, they’re really talking about buying one product or another product. The brand is not that. People say the brand is a promise the company makes to customers. There’s some truth in that, it does end up acting as a promise, but that’s not what it is either. Advertising people like to say well it’s the sum of all the impressions that a company makes on an audience. Well, you know, if you try to sell a lot of impressions, I can see where that might be useful to you, but from a business’ point of view why would they want that? How does that help creative people understand what they’re doing? None of those things are really what brand is.
A brand is a result. It’s a customer’s gut feeling about a product, a service or a company. It ends up in their heads, in their hearts. They take whatever raw materials you throw at them and they make something out of it. They’re making it, they’re creating it. In a sense when you create a brand you’re not creating one brand, you’re creating millions of brands, like however many customers you have. Each one has a different brand of you. A brand is like a reputation. It’s your business reputation. Everyone’s gonna be a little bit different about what that reputation is. That’s OK, as long you’ve got it corralled mostly where you want it and it’s beneficial to the company.
We tend to look at companies, and designers, tend to look at branding as, from our (designers’) point of view, like this is something we’re doing. We’re telling a story, we’re making a claim, we’re making a pitch. That’s what we do, but that’s not what a brand is. The brand is the result of that and if you don’t start there you don’t know what you’re doing. You think you know what you’re doing, but you don’t. From a designer’s point of view, I mean I always tended to be this way, it’s like it was my gut feeling about whether this is gonna work or not and then I would sell it as hard as I could to get the client sign off on it. From the client’s point of view they are going: “well it’s a check list I got the logo, I got the tag on it, I got the ad campaign”, and they think they’re done. None of that’s right. What’s right is what happens in people’s heads. Like what have we achieved? Like what’s the reputation that we’ve created through the products we’re putting out, the design of the products, the messaging we’re putting out, the look and feel of them, our culture, how does that affect people, how our employees behave, how is that affecting our reputation? All that stuff counts, so it’s a big world and actually takes in almost all of business. Not so much finance, but finance is involved too, because finance has to green-light all these things, but almost everybody in a company is affecting the brand, doing something with the brand, doing it for the brand, or hurting the brand. You’ve got to think of it that way.