What’s in a Brand?

The terms “brand” and “branding” have been increasingly thrown around in recent years. However, the more common these terms become, the more it seems that different people are using the same word to refer to entirely different things. So what does “brand” actually mean?

When branding first began it was nothing more than a trademark. Just like cattle ranchers brand their cattle to mark them as their own, business used a mark to indicate who produced the products in order to distinguish it from similar products on the market. Simply put, branding began as a way to tell people where the product came from.

However, as branding has evolved, so has the meaning of the term. What used to be considered a brand – business name, symbols, or other features–are actually brand elements, not the brand itself. Branding requires that a business create an experience that goes beyond its brand elements. It boils down to emotion – the feeling that the audience has when interacting with the product or service the business is offering.

For example, would you recognize a Jeep without the wordmark? Sure. Could you walk into a logo-less IKEA store and know where you are? Of course. How about a Nike store without the swoosh?

Every part of the design is crucial in establishing your brand – from the logo to interior design to the manner in which you interact with customers. All of those elements impact the feeling that your audience will have of your business.

Once you know what your audience wants and needs from your business, become it. Everything you do should revolve around that, from your logo to your website to the music you play for your customers. If you own a specialty donut shop, don’t blur your brand by selling quarter coffee. Serve coffee worthy of the donuts you are selling.

After achieving your brand, don’t change it. It is easy for those working directly with the brand to get bored and want to make drastic changes. Instead, pay close attention to your audience. It’s all about them. Then don’t change your brand until your audience’s wants and needs change.

Author: Courtney Huber

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