What is Branding?

And the role of social media

Cow silhouette with Nike tick

We want to do this because we like to feel that we’re helping our clients – and anyone else – understand more about branding. Whilst we’re not claiming to be the world’s leading branding agency (yet), we’re chuffed to say that over the last seven years we’ve helped our clients become extraordinary. We hope you will enjoy this and the articles that follow, and perhaps pick up a handy tip or two along the way.

You can also download our White Paper on What is Branding?

So what on earth is branding?

Well, let’s start at the very beginning…

A long, long time ago (probably longer than any of us can remember) farmers would find that their cattle meandered off into fields owned by other farmers. Cue massive farmer fight over whose cattle was whose. To settle the dispute they’d burn a mark somewhere on their cow. Done using a hot iron pitchfork, or whatever came to hand, the farmers would sizzle their ownership onto their cattle (ouch!), making it almost impossible for other sneaky farmers to lay claim to their herd. And so came the birth of branding…

What is a brand?

So, a brand is simply a mark applied to a product, process or service that quickly helps distinguish itself from that of other similar products, processes or services. Well, back in the olden days it was this way ….until social media changed everything. The act of creating a brand, or ‘branding’ a business” is a process that develops consistency across all communication media – printed, digital or other visual or audible material, like websites, business cards, company brochures, TV advertising or iPad presentations.

Sounds simple? Sadly, it’s not. Branding has become much more sophisticated in recent years – as has the buying process. But isn’t a brand just a logo? Put simply, no.

Black and white logos

A logo, just like any other symbol or sign, represents everything you associate with it at that moment in time. For example, the symbol of a traffic light could represent: the colour red-amber-green, walking, stop-listen-learn, running late, speed cameras, jumping the lights, busy junction, road-works, speeding cars, pedestrian crossing, etc.

Our eyes are capable of capturing millions of images, words, symbols, noises and smells and our minds store all of this information in an easily accessible format. This helps us to quickly understand our surroundings and determine our actions e.g. red = stop.

Our innate ability to make these instant decisions, using all of this stored information, gets us through the day, usually safely.

Branding is no different. Businesses need to develop associations with their brand that their target audience will remember and recall instantly. This activity of developing associations is what brand building is about. For example, when you see an orange square you may think of the mobile operator Orange. When you see two yellow coloured arches you may think of the McDonalds. And this can be anywhere in the world… these associations go with you everywhere.

As the business environment gets busier and more congested, companies need a quick and efficient way of standing out. Branding can certainly help you achieve this, but building a successful brand has to start from the heart of the company, from the top down. And, it must offer customers one of two experiences – something NEW or something DIFFERENT.

So, no matter how fancy your logo is, people won’t remember it unless the brand behind it is offering something new or different. And communicating this difference is a matter of educating your community through multiple marketing initiatives over a period of time until you achieve a good level of association.

We use the word ‘community’ here, because a brand is made up of staff, directors, suppliers, locations, investors, managers and of course, customers. Every single member of that community has the power to carry a brand along in a coherent manner. And this takes time. Good associations are not built overnight.

The role of social media

Social media has helped challenge and evolve how we think of brands. Through instant exchange of information and speed of dialogue, brands can establish a presence in a market very quickly: think of eBay, Google, Innocent, Twitter or Ella’s Kitchen. These brands do not have decades of history behind them, like Nike, CocaCola or FedEx. This speedy exchange of information (positive or negative) means that perceptions and associations are altering very quickly too. In a sense, we are all getting ‘brand smart’.

Another advantage to social media is that people or customers following or liking a brand, will continue to ‘live the experience’, perhaps months after they first purchased. Social media is a fast and effective vehicle for word-of-mouth.

So, brands are no longer controlled by their owners. The community plays a crucial role in enhancing and evolving the brand message. Social media can enhance a brand story and deliver positive associations that will help fuel customers’ perceptions.

If you believe that your brand isn’t working, perhaps you haven’t got to the core of your brand message. We can work with you to develop an understanding of what’s happening and how to fix it. We’ve helped many small to medium sized businesses better position themselves for growth, for improved perception to enter new markets. We’d be delighted to support you.

Check our latest article on Social Media and Your Brand

Or download our White Paper on What is Branding?

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