What is branding? Maybe it’s one of those things we all think we know, and so don’t really give it much thought. We should. Time and time again, I see companies that either don’t have a solid understanding of what constitutes a brand, or have done an inadequate job of developing one. With that in mind, here is a brief summary of what constitutes a brand.

The Definition of a Brand

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” In practice, it goes deeper than that. Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is comprised of who you are, your business goals, and who people perceive you to be.

The Three Pillars of Branding

Branding consists of three pillars: strategy, messaging, and design. Here is a brief description of what each pillar’s role is in the development of the brand.

Brand strategy is a long-term plan in order to achieve a specific set of goals. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and takes into account business goals, consumer needs and competitive environments.

Having a brand strategy benefits a company or product in many ways. It can make it appealing to consumers, differentiate it from competitors, and grow customer loyalty and retention.  

Brand messaging is the language and phrasing that a company uses to promote itself. Brand messaging should include what makes the company or its products unique, what problems it solves for the consumer, and why someone should choose it over a competitor.

Both internal and external brand messaging should be developed. Internally, it can ensure that all employees are aligned with the company’s philosophies and goals.  Externally, it will ensure consistency in all communications. 

One more note about brand messaging: the tone in which messages are communicated is as important as what is said because it will help define the brand’s personality.

Brand design is the visual representation of your brand. It extends beyond the logo, color palette and fonts to include any visual elements or images that, when applied in some combination, to marketing or communication materials, distinguishes that company from all others in its market. Like messaging, the brand design can also project an appropriate tone or personality for a company or its product.

Formalizing the brand design (e.g. brand guidelines) offers several benefits. First, it ensures that the design can be applied to all types of materials and mediums without any issues. It also provides a set of rules that both employees and outside vendors can reference, providing consistency and efficiency when creating materials.

It takes effort and commitment to build the three pillars of a brand, but its benefits become clear very quickly.