We’re getting down to basics. What is a brand? What is branding?
We’re in the business of communications. We know how powerful words can be– and how slippery. Even if we share the same language, we don’t always agree on the same meanings. That’s why we don’t take words at face value. We pick them up, look underneath, and check all their pockets.
“Branding” is a word that’s firmly placed in our everyday lexicon. But there’s a surprising lack of clarity about what it means. What is a brand and what is branding? Let’s break it down to basics.
What is a brand?
A Brand is not your logo.
> Brand is identity.
A brand is bigger than your logo, brand mark, or product. It includes those things, but it’s bigger than any one facet. Your brand is your identity. Your brand communicates who you are, what you believe, and why you do what you do through a combination of words, visuals, and actions.
It’s not just one campaign– it informs all campaigns and external communications. And it’s not solely for your customers. Your brand is also for your competitors, your employees, your suppliers, and anyone else who comes into contact with your business.
> A brand is more than the sum of its parts.
Think of your brand like a rose.
• Your logo, name, and campaign creative are the flowers– the most immediately visible part.
• The stems and leaves supporting the blooms are the entire identity system: core messages, tone of voice, colors, fonts, graphic styles, and visual feel.
• At the roots, anchoring it all together, is brand strategy. Strategy is the big idea– your core values, conceptual position, audiences, and personality.
It all works together. Take one of the parts away, and the brand can’t thrive.
> Brands are living, breathing organisms.
As a person, your identity isn’t static. It evolves as you get older, respond to challenges, or change environments. The same is true for your brand. As your company grows and your offerings expand, your brand needs to scale. It’s not that brands aren’t built to last– in fact, a strong brand is a long-term investment that should provide the very foundation on which to grow. But major changes, like a merger, new product launch, new strategic direction or reputation crisis can cause a healthy reassessment of your brand. Depending on the situation, that can range from minor changes to a full scale, back-to-the-drawing-board rebrand. Keeping a finger on the pulse of your brand and checking in for authenticity is crucial. If it isn’t resonating, it’s time to transform.
What is branding?
It’s not just about what you do for people. It’s really about how you make them feel.
> Branding is a process of emotional association.
Effective branding takes your big idea and distills it down, then ensures all communications are aligned with that core concept. It closes the gap between how you see yourself and how others see you. Branding communicates who you are on an intuitive, gut level, making your identity simple, clear, and unmissable. To resonate on this deep and immediate level, branding elevates products and services from things to feelings.
Branding is not only about what you do for people. It’s really about how you make them feel. As Vance Packard put it succinctly in 1957, “cosmetic manufacturers are not selling lanolin– they are selling hope. We no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality. We do not buy just an auto, we buy prestige.” That’s why strong brands find loyal audiences and command premium price points.
Branding creates a distinct atmosphere through visuals, messaging, and experience design. Engaging with the brand means entering into that atmosphere, resulting in a specific feeling that we crave to repeat. Building the atmosphere and engineering an emotional response is what branding is all about.
> Branding isn’t magic. It’s method.
Because strong brands resonate on an emotional, intuitive level rather than an intellectual one, the process of crafting them can seem almost mystical. How do you bring out a company’s true identity, then speak it in a way that’s simple, bold, and resonant with the most receptive people? It’s not a secret. Any brand agency worth their salt should have a proven process for revealing and refining your brand.
We use the word revealing intentionally– your brand isn’t invented. It’s a distillation and framing of all the components that are already there, which ensures it’s authentic to who you really are. At Flux, we use the IDEA Method to transform your brand in four core steps. Starting from the inside, we understand your company DNA, then create a set of strategic deliverables to turn big ideas into impactful realities.
> Branding drives marketing.
Your brand is the what and the why. Marketing is the how. Marketing gets your brand out into the world, attracting eyes and engineering engagement. But if your brand isn’t solid, exposure can’t be maximally effective. With a brand that’s unclear, a messaging strategy and visual language that’s inconsistent, it’s hard to convert those eyes into actual leads. Brand strategy and marketing strategy should work in tandem to ensure that you’re showing up in the world authentically and cohesively.
It takes just .05 seconds to make an impression. Are you making an impact?
If you’re ready to take your brand from now to next, >> get in touch.