Branding: A Brand Is More Than a Logo

What is Branding?

Let’s face it, brands are everywhere. A brand is how we identify products, services, people, places and religions. Everything can be “branded,” however, a brand is more than just a logo or identity; it represents a symbolic construct created within the minds of people that consists of all the information, expectations and personality associated with a company, product or service. It can symbolize confidence, passion, belonging, or a set of unique values. A brand is an experience.

Branding has been around for more than 5,000 years. Historically, branding was used as a way for farmers to stamp their livestock, a way of saying, “that’s mine.” By the 20th century, it had evolved into more than just a way for farmers to mark their property; the industrial revolution introduced mass-produced goods and the need for companies to sell their products to a wider market. By applying branding to packaged goods, the manufacturers could increase the consumer’s familiarity with their products in an effort to build trust and loyalty. Campbell Soup, Juicy Fruit Gum and Quaker Oats were among the first products to be ‘branded.’

In the 1900′s, companies adopted slogans, mascots and jingles that began to appear on radio and television. Marketers soon began to recognize the way in which consumers were developing relationships with brands in a social and psychological sense, and over time learned to develop their brand’s identity and personality traits; such as youthfulness, luxury or fun. Branding became more personal. This evolved into the practice we now know as “branding” today, where the consumers buy “the brand” instead of the product. This trend continued to the 1980s, and is often quantified in concepts such as brand value and brand equity.

In today’s modern digital age, the Internet and social media have had major impacts on branding in a very short time. Brands are now more connected to consumers than ever before across numerous “touch points”-websites, blogs, social media, videos, television, magazines, mobile phones, applications, games, events and even art installations are all common channels where brands are engaging consumers. Unlike 20th century practices where consumers were passive receivers of messages, today’s successful branding campaigns involve multidimensional, two-way communication where consumers participate, share, and interact with a brand. Branding has become a physical, social and psychological experience.

The “brand experience” is the concept that a company’s identity and design evoke certain sensations, feelings and cognitions for the consumer. Several dimensions can distinguish the brand experience: sensory, affective, intellectual, and behavioral. Such stimuli appear as part of a brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments. Prime examples of some of the most experiential brands are Victoria’s Secret, Apple and Starbucks. Not only is branding about the individual’s awareness of the brand, but the experience the brand brings to the individual; the prospect that the individual moves from awareness of the product to consideration, to loyalty, to advocate. Hewlett Packard CEO, Meg Whitman, says, “When people use your brand as a verb, that’s remarkable.” For example, “Google it,” “Skype date?” or “Photoshop that picture!”

A strong brand is a critical marketing asset, as important to your business as the product itself. In our rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, technology and human interaction are intersecting in new ways, creating an experience economy where trust, conversation and brand portability are crucial to remaining relevant. Big will no longer beat the small. It will be the fast beating the slow.

5 Branding Tips for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups

A strong brand is important in this day and age of constant advertising everywhere we turn. Having a strong brand would ensure that your ideal customers think of you as the best provider before anyone else in your industry or niche.

If you’re a solopreneur, start-up or entrepreneur and you are the biggest element of your brand, think about how you will stand out and get noticed. What is the one thing that will make your ideal prospects sit up and take notice? In what way can you make yourself or your business memorable? Don’t worry – you can have a “rockin” brand just like the big boys!

Here’s a quick list of branding tips:

1. Picture it and make it visual. Branding is best when it is simple. I think the best brands create theater of the mind in the consumer’s mental eye. If you can make an association in people’s minds that will help them to remember you. Can you picture the original soft drink bottle shaped like an hour glass or the famous fast food chain with yellow arches? Yes, I thought so. You get the picture…

2. Get Creative and make it fun. Some of my favorite entrepreneurs have quirky, humorous or amusing elements incorporated in their brand. If you come up with an idea that’s a little off kilter, don’t discount it. It just might work. Ask a group of colleagues for their honest opinion. If you’re a part of a professional networking group, do your own focus group survey. Send an email asking for input on your brand and ask how it strikes the reader. You’ll get tons of varied responses but it’ll be great feedback.

3. Rock The Tweet. There’s no denying that Twitter is an entrepreneur’s best friend. You can quickly gain a following of several hundred to several thousands of potential customers and brand ambassadors. Social media is crucial in coming up with your brand concept. Make sure you check to see if the brand name you want is “tweetable.” Simply put, when choosing a brand name, make sure it works well with social media outlets.

4. Credibility. It’s great to have fun with your brand. However, make sure that it is authentic, believable and something you can stick with. Make sure that you are comfortable with the brand position and identity you have chosen. If you don’t believe in your own brand, no one else will. The worst thing would be to choose a brand and then change it repeatedly because you just aren’t sure what message you want to convey.

5. Consistency is key. Once you have created your brand, make sure you market it and use it everywhere. Many entrepreneurs have one brand image on their business cards and another on brochures or stationary. Think of how major corporations use their brand, you see it on their website, stationary, logo, mailing labels, specialty items, and more. It’s important to establish your brand in all elements of your marketing and public relations efforts. Make sure that you get rid of any old branding that you are no longer using. The last thing you want is to confuse your target audience about who are and what your brand is about.

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