What Is A Brand?

Brands: It’s not what you think.

Without an understanding of brands, your business will fall by the wayside. It’s time to stop ignoring and start imploring. 

Brands! Hold on, hold on, don’t be scared, it’s not what you think. 

The word “brand” conjures up a number of weighty interpretations for most people. They imagine brands as incomprehensible behemoths of the business world, all encompassing megaliths that infiltrate our everyday worlds through tangible advertising to invisible ideologies. 

Or maybe you just think of clothes. Brands as your badge of honor. 

Whatever your understanding of brands are, there’s a likely chance that they’re largely misinformed, misconstrued and misunderstood. If you don’t want your business to miss, it might be time for a lesson in brand basics. 

What Are the Common Perceptions of What a Brand Is?

There’s a whole universe of perceptions when it comes to brands. Some of them are right, a lot of them are way off. 

The thing with brands is that people think of the word in the abstract. It’s a word that’s so omnipresent in our modern vernacular that it’s lost some of its meaning. It’s sort of moved on from being thought of in clear, concrete terms. It’s transcended its original meaning. We’ve become so accustomed to pontificating on the power and influence of brands that we’ve probably elevated the meaning in our own minds. 

There’s an inclination now towards only seeing big, global companies with colossal advertising budgets, lofty price tags and iconic logos as brands. As though only a big-hitting, global mega power with iconic, historic status could be endowed with the holy, life-immortalising status of “brand”. 

But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. 

A brand doesn’t hold some kind of magical power simply because it’s a brand. That’s down to a whole load of other elements that help to elevate it as a brand. 

What People Don’t Understand About Brands

What people fail to understand is that a “brand” is much more simple, and much, much less complex than what their perceptions might suggest.

In reality, a brand is essentially any business, organization, public personality, or really any public-facing entity at all. You, as an individual can be a brand. 

I mean, just look at a couple definitions straight from the Cambridge English Dictionary:

1: the set of qualities that people connect with a particular product or organization

2: the set of qualities that people connect with a particular person, or the idea of themselves that the person tries to present to others

Nowhere does it say anything about having to be world-renowned, wealthy or influential. It’s simply a word to denote the public-facing qualities of any one individual or entity, whether that be an organization or a business. 

And so, with that knowledge, we can begin to see and highlight the importance of establishing a “brand”, because within a brand are the set of qualities that any person you engage with will use to, either connect to, or disregard you. Your “brand” is your public profile. It’s in every interaction you make with your audience. It’s what they see. Without it, there’s no personality. How could you possibly hope to engage someone’s interest without a personality? Or, more importantly, how do you expect to engage with your audience when you have a bad personality.

I say ‘more important’ because…

There Are Only Good Brands & Bad Brands

Yeah, that’s right, when it comes to branding, there’s no happy medium. Just like personality, it speaks for itself. A bad personality is off putting, obviously. But you know what else is pretty off putting? A bland personality… In many ways, when it comes to branding at least, it’s kind of worse. I mean, at least bad branding might sometimes be evidence of some effort. Bland branding is just a whole load of nothing. Why should your audience engage with you if you aren’t making the effort to engage with them?

If you want to capture the attention, the imagination and the hearts of your audience, you need to start thinking of your brand. 

So, we know bland branding’s no good, and if you’re really thinking of your brand and giving consideration to it, you’ll surely avoid this. But what about bad branding? How can you avoid that? 

Well, here’s some ideas…

What Does Bad Branding Look Like?

The thing is with bad branding is that if you simply avoid a number of essential mistakes you’ll be on your way to avoiding bad branding as a whole. Of course the next step then, and the most difficult one, is making sure you do adhere to some advantageous essentials, whilst also doing all of them well, but we’ll get to that. 

For now, let’s break down the missteps that constitute bad branding. Bad brands:

  1. Copy the competition: Copying close competition in an obvious way usually sticks out like a sore thumb and reflects badly on your brand’s originality and integrity. Whereas copying the general look and voice of the brands in your field will do the opposite, which, ironically, is just as bad. That’s because, in this case, the opposite means you don’t stick out at all. You’ll get lost in the ocean of copycat brands, with your audience unable to distinguish you from the rest. You won’t get noticed. 
  1. Only reuse and resell: Again, we’re talking about originality. We all know reuse and recycle is a good motto for the planet, but reusing and reselling old, stale, overdone ideas makes your brand look static and out of touch. Like a shark, you need to keep moving forward. 
  1. DIY/Skimp on design: If you want to communicate quality, you shouldn’t look cheap. It’s as simple as that. What the look and design of your brand says to your customers is exactly how they’ll see you. Do you want to be seen as cheap and nasty? We’ll let you answer that yourself. 
  1. Prioritize their own feelings: Of course, you want to feel good about your brand. You want it to reflect your values and your personality, to an extent. Remember, ultimately what your brand is trying to do is to connect to your customers, to do that you need to prioritize their thoughts and feelings, not just your own. Good brands aren’t selfish. 
  1. Wing it and hope for the best: You need to come prepared with a plan if you want to succeed. Good branding isn’t plucked out of thin air, it requires research, time, effort, prolonged creativity and repeated fine tuning to work at an optimum level. You can’t just guess at what your audience wants. You need to find out who they are and what their needs and desires are, only then can you begin to address those with your brand. 
  1. Hire cheap: You know what they say: buy cheap, buy twice. The cheap option may look like the quickest and skimpiest solution to bulking your brand, but it often ends up taking longer and costing more because you end up taking longer to get to a satisfactory solution, and even then it won’t be the best. 
  1. Get known for the wrong reasons: Credibility is everything for your brand. When people start to spread that the milk’s gone sour, no one will want to drink from it. Studies suggest that one bad review can undo the value of 40 good customer experiences. If you get known for being a bad quality service, that news will spread. 

What Makes A Brand Good?

Okay, so with that done, let’s talk about how you can build a high quality brand. For most of these points, you’re essentially inverting the points that make for a bad brand. Avoid bad branding, do the opposite and do it well. Good brands:

  1. Differentiate from their competitors: They don’t follow what’s directly in front of them, they mark out their own lane and speed ahead. You want your brand to stand out so you get recognised. With such an oversaturation of competition these days, this is absolutely vital.
  1. Innovate and develop products/services: Okay, this one is a little more difficult and subject to what you actually do as a business. But if it’s something that you have the opportunity to do, you absolutely should. And more than that, you need to shout about it. Innovation gives you credibility and gets you seen as the exemplary business in your niche. 
  1. Invest in excellent design: Remember what we said before? If you want to communicate quality, you shouldn’t look cheap. So instead, communicate high quality by looking high quality. 
  1. Connect emotionally with customers: This one’s a biggie. It’s also difficult to achieve, but nothing worth having comes easy. Connecting emotionally with your customers means that they’re able to engage with you on a level that transcends the transaction. That makes them far more likely to remember you and to come back to you repeatedly after the first engagement. 
  1. Strategize and work towards goals: This is essentially the opposite of winging it. Having a proper plan and strategy in place, with incremental goals to work towards will give you structure and will also supply you with evidence that you can analyze later on to see what needs to change or what needs to be focused on. This kind of information is indispensable when it comes to growing your brand.
  1. Build a team of ambassadors: It’s time to spread the good word. You want your brand’s credibility to soar and ring in the ears of potential customers far and wide. It’s no good having a quality brand that no one knows about. 
  1. Get known for one thing (usually): Okay, so I know Tesla is known for cars as well as rockets, but when you really think of it, the key thing they’re known for is innovation. Good brands, even when they develop and produce any number of varying products, can still be known for one singular thing. Just think of some yourself, you’ll soon realize that there’s all kinds of businesses that do more than one thing, but are associated with one particular value or product. This comes from good branding. Their mission and their values are clear, making it easier to connect to and remember them. 

How To Make Your Brand the Best Brand

It’s important to remember when entering your brand into the “brandosphere,” that most brands that are about are essentially pretty forgettable. But every so often a business will genuinely have a positive impact on their customers. It’s rarer than you might think , which gives you a pretty good chance at doing it. That’s why it’s so important to get it right, because it really is possible to make an impact. Your job is to capitalize on that impact using design, communication and relationship building so they never forget your brand … in other words, build an UNFORGETTABLE BRAND®

The Author: Josh Ellis