What Is a Brand?

What excellent branding looks like

Nike. Apple. Google. Facebook. Business owners look up to these giants to develop their own branding strategies and even identities. At the same time, quite a number of business owners and entrepreneurs can describe their business brand but may have a difficult time telling exactly what their brand is. What they often miss is understanding what branding actually is and it is this understanding that makes a branding strategy succeed.

The internet has its share of answers on the question, but most of them touch on what branding consists of, not what it is. So, what is a brand?

What branding really is

At the heart of it, a brand is a business’ personality. It is an expression of the business, just as a human personality is an expression of a range of qualities a person possesses. A brand is the content of the business and how it carries itself and presents itself to others. And just as human personalities set us apart from our peers, so too does a brand distinguish a business from competitors.

A brand manifests itself in day to day activities conducted by a business:

  • The core values
  • The purpose of the business
  • The name and design
  • Communication patterns and style
  • Who the business serves

The secret to branding success isn’t ad campaigns

There is a widely held misconception that a brand awareness precedes a business’ sales, and this is why some businesses spend thousands in marketing campaigns and fail to meet their financial targets. But let’s just think about this for a minute. How did you find out about Apple’s products? As part of the hype or by encountering someone’s review on one of their products? None of the businesses with exceptional branding now began that way. But they worked to make sure every single customer experience was up to par to their brand expectations and that they worked to deliver its signature value every day. They worked hard to close deals, to innovate on products, to try out new ideas before spending large dollars on marketing. This kind of approach to marketing is self-sustaining because it creates a unique business personality that attracts its own niche of loyal customers who then become ambassadors for the brand and market it, often for free. For any business, this should be the goal; to create competitive brand equity. A strong, unique, consistent business personality that sells itself through its customers.

Building brand equity for long term returns

Building a business’ brand equity takes time and hard work, but when done right, gives excellent returns. It begins after a sale is made, not before, as many would believe. After getting to know a customer and them getting to know you, how a business maintains that relationship as outlined by their personality, is critical. As a defining characteristic of a business personality, communication patterns and style are what create and nurture customer loyalty. By capitalizing on this relationship, a business builds up its loyal customer base, and that is essentially what sets apart some of the world’s best business brands.

A continuous process of refining and improving

These items that build up a business identity are not a one-off checklist, but rather, a continuous adaptive and evolving identity that responds to market demand and consumer needs. This requires constant awareness of the core values and evaluation of daily actions and whether they add up to the overall desired brand characteristics. Paying attention to the details is what makes a difference in customer experience. By creating a valuable and consistent customer experience, loyalty is developed, and the brand sells itself.