We’re getting down to basics today: 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?
First, a brand – and branding – is not your logo.
Branding is about identity
A brand is bigger than your logo, brand mark, or product. It includes those things, but it’s bigger than any one facet. It’s a full 360-degree brand 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.
Branding 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.
Branding creates a living, breathing organism
As a person, your identity isn’t static. It evolves as you get older, responds to challenges, or changes environments.
The same is true when it comes to answering the question: “what is branding to us?”
As your company grows and your offerings expand, your brand and branding need 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, a new product launch, a new strategic direction, or a reputation crisis should trigger a healthy reassessment of your current branding.
Depending on the situation, that can range from minor changes to a full-scale, back-to-the-drawing-board rebranding effort (made easier with our rebranding checklist).
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 rebrand.
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
An effective branding strategy process takes your big idea and distills it down. Then, it ensures all communications are aligned with that core concept. It closes the gap between how you see yourself and how others see you.
Great 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 branding results in brand loyalty – and lets companies 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 a 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 branding agency worth its 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 our proven, proprietary 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.
Product marketing and brand marketing 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.
Is your brand making the impact you want to? Reach out to our team of branding experts and learn how we can help align your brand vision with your brand reality.