The term “Brand” has grown more popular as a buzzword over the recent decade as we’ve witnessed companies gain unprecedented amounts of market value through the sheer influence of their names, symbols and other related touchpoints. Like any buzzword in any industry, chances are, people tend to mean different things when they use the same word.
So when people come asking for a “new brand” what they really mean is a new name, logo, colour palette or appearance. Now, this assumption probably comes from the history of branding when farmers would brand their cattle for identification or when craftsmen would imprint symbols on their products to differentiate their goods. But Branding has evolved so much that in our day and age, it needs a better definition to better encompass its role in our world today.
What is a Brand?
One of the best modern definitions of a brand comes from Marty Neumier’s Brand Gap:
A Brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) puts it this way:
Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
Your brand is in the sum of all the experiences people have with you. The quality of your customer service contributes to that experience. So does the tone of voice used across your communications, messaging, the quality of your visuals (yes, your logo, colours, photography, etc) even the smell of your freshly printed brochure, and your overall strategy. Your brand is no single one of these, but all of these (the tangible and intangible) working together consistently, in tandem to create an experience that makes people form an opinion about you. Get enough people to share a similar opinion about you, and you have the makings of a strong brand.
If these definitions are correct, they indeed carry some scary implications:
- You cannot control how people feel or say about your brand (unless you’re a totalitarian dictator). But you can influence the narrative by being intentional.
- A brand isn’t built in isolation but in community, shaped and evolved over time.
- Whether you are intentional or not, you will make an impression that will contribute to people’s opinions about you. Your brand is constantly evolving, one impression at a time.
By now, you should notice that the logo is really only the tip of the iceberg. It actually plays an important but relatively small role in the grand scheme of things. Think of it like the door that leads to a room full of all kinds of gadgets and amenities. The door can easily be changed; but if the room and it’s contents are not modified, it makes no difference whatsoever.
So before changing your entire identity, start by seeking clarity about the “Why” behind your brand. Everything else stems from there—vision, mission, target audience and positioning. An effective brand identity is one that consistently communicates your “Why” in a way that resonates with the right people.