So, what's a brand? That's the image of a company or a business. That's how the company/business can present itself to the world and affirm its positions. The brand is like a business card of a sales person - he needs it when he meets clients and customers. Without a business card, the sales person would have to verbally explain who he is, what his phone number or email is, and similar. It's like advertising in the Middle Ages... if there's been any advertising back then.
The brand needs to communicate to you, as their customer. They need the brand!
What does a brand consist of?
No company can start its life without a name. Can you make a logo without a brand name? Possibly, but only if it's an image. Yet, that's kind of a reverse logic and can't possibly work for the best. You need the brand name first, and the logo second. Not vice versa.
Curiously enough, I've met companies that haven't come up with their brand name yet, but they requested a logo. I'd say that's kind of weird and counter-intuitive. I usually don't enter such relationships as it may jeopardize my logo design career - how can I possibly create an amazing logo without knowing what the company's name is?
The company name usually conveys all the company wants to be! It's like my name. Eva. It's my 'brand name'! I advertise myself as Eva. People will know me as Eva, and they will call me Eva, etc. When they hear Eva, they will remember all the women they know that are called Eva. So, they will immediately correlate the face with the name! Bam! I've established myself in the client's mind! :)
Back to the name!
Why is the name so important? The company will be known with its name by thousands and maybe even millions of customers or clients. Of course it's mega important! If a company is serious about their business, they should hire a professional copy writer to help them choose the brand name, the brand's motto or tagline, and hopefully other copy for their website, brochures and other advertising media.
Something else that a brand would need are stationaries. These are business cards, letterheads, envelopes with the brand's logo and design, pens, mugs, cups, and other similar B&M world products. Basically any product that the company wants to use to advertise itself are part of the stationary design.
The way I also like to describe what a brand is, is related to a word I love - positioning. What do I mean? When I say to you Coca Cola, what do you think about? Yes, the fizzy drink with dark caramel color and sweet sugary taste. You probably immediately see in your mind's eye the bottle, or the red can. Maybe you remember the Coca Cola handlettering:
So what does all that mean? Coca Cola has successfully positioned itself in your mind and you'll instantly recognise any of the symbols, typeface, handlettering, color, cans or bottles - all part of the Coca Cola brand. Now that's a brand! All of these elements which probably very few people think about. Yet, if you're a designer, I'm sure you have come across the need to create some (or all) of these designs.
Keep in mind though, a brand may change over time. It depends on the company's needs. Usually a strategic analysis of the market and competitors may be helpful before the company moves on to rebranding. If Coca Cola should become Koke Kole, for example, I'd say this would be the end of the brand. They'd totally kill it!
Of if they don't, at least they'll have to spend millions of dollars to reposition themselves in your precious mind! What a waste of resources, time and energy!
In fact, that's why Coca Cola has never changed its initial logo (the one you see above). They know it's successful and they don't want to lose the momentum! It's already firmly stuck in your mind, isn't it? You don't care about KoKe KoLe or whatever. You care about Coca Cola!
Are you curious about how Coca Cola's logo started out? Here's the first logo released into the world - only slight changes and improvements today, but the overall look is retained:
You can see the entire history and evolution of Coca Cola up to this day if you're curious. Look it up on logos.wikia.com
So, key takeaway:
[...] your brand exists only in someone’s mind - Jerry McLaughlin
Branding is very closely linked to marketing. I may have to explain a bit more what the difference is, so we can continue our research. I promise, you'll be able to clearly define what branding, marketing and the brand do, by the end!
So, marketing! This employs tactics. Branding - strategy! What do I mean by that?
Tactics usually require the availability of certain tool(s). This may mean, social media presence, the entire's brand design (logos, website, tagline, copy, messages etc). To execute a successful marketing strategy, you will have to use some limited resources. Marketing is of course related to researching the market as well. The marketing department is a resource. You can't hope to position your company out there, without knowing what the competition is up to, right? Yeah, the marketing team will do the research!
Also, marketing should be employed on a short-term (campaign) basis. For example, if you come across an awesome Nike ad, I can tell you - this is a marketing tactic. It's part of the entire brand, but it's a means to an end. When the campaign is over and it's no longer appealing, Nike will release a new ad as awesome as the previous one. Or maybe even a better one! Surely, they will try to surprise you. And keep staying firmly stuck in your mind! Remember that!
On the other hand, branding is the strategy.
So, if tactics is winning battle after battle, strategy is winning the war.
And the war will end once the brand is dead. If you don't want your brand to die soon, you need those battles, to keep on top of the war. And keep winning!
There's another distinction I need to make about marketing and branding.
Marketing targets the brain. Branding targets the heart!
Branding is closely related to maintaining the brand's reputation on a large scale. The brand can be alive, as long as the branding strategy is up and running.
Marketing is its tool!
As you watch it, take a look at the brand's logo. Did you even see it the first time you ran the ad? Personally, as I watched it, I didn't even think about Nike at all, let alone keep track of the logo and where it pops up! With this ad, Nike shows us a perfect example of story-telling!
Storytelling is not intended to be a “selling” tool; it’s a method of building strong relationships with your customers and a thriving community of loyalists over time. Your story identifies what your passions are and serves as the foundation for all your future content developments.
So, now that you read that quote, do you see the story behind Nike's ad? I do. I am sure you do too. That's super powerful! Story-telling will totally convert you into a loyal customer, if executed properly!
In fact, the above ad looks nothing like an ad at all! The focus is NOT on Nike's shoes or products. The focus is on the team, on the people, on their power and energy, their love for sport. Your brain is bashed with 'Snow day'. It almost sounds like a thing, like a mantra, like a code-word between close friends. The ad is tapping into your intrinsic need for human bonding and relationship.
Maybe you even recognise yourself in some of the characters. Maybe it reminds you how you used to (or currently) play in sports teams with your friends. Maybe you dream of being on a sports team one day? Maybe the ad connects to you in some other level, but I am sure many people love it! Why? It touches their heart. The ad isn't intellectual. There's no logic involved.
When a company story-tells, hitting the heart shouldn't be secondary to hitting the intellect. We humans tend to like things that make us feel. Remember when you used to read children's stories and how emotional you felt when some of the main characters suffered, or was happy. You felt it too. And now, thanks to that emotion you still remember the story.
So, if marketing is the inner mechanics, branding is the effect you see. So, behind that story-telling, there's a lot of work and marketing. The tool, remember?
Story-telling is one way of expressing the meaning of branding, but it's one of the most powerful strategies of winning your heart as a customer. If you're a brand designer or even brand strategist, you'll consider all these aspects when they crystallize in your brain.
Here I'm quoting part of a Disqus post which consists of lots of examples of the differences between a goal, strategy and tactics. I think it's very well explained:
Goal: Improve retention of top 10% of company performers.
Strategy: The Employee is Number One (vs the typical "Customer is #1).
Tactics: Offer best in market compensation plan with benefits as well as sabbaticals to tenured top performers, source ideas from top talent.
Goal: Provide a mobile experience to customers while in our physical stores to increase sales.
Strategy: Quench Your Desire
Tactics: Offer location based mobile apps on top three platforms, and provide top 5 needed use cases based on customer desire and usage patterns.
Goal: Become a social utility that earth uses on an daily basis.
Strategy: Love Your Neighbor
Tactics: Offer a free global communication toolset that enables disparate personal interactions with your friends to monitor, share, and interact with.
- Jan Zlotnick
So, if you remember that marketing is tactics (short-term goals) and branding is strategy (long-term, long-lasting goals), and you think of them in terms of the examples above, I'm sure that you finally got the idea.
Branding on the other hand is the motion ahead. It makes way for the brand to keep existing in this world. Branding and marketing together are like the soldiers that hold the king above all else. They need the king, he represents them. Without the king though, they are just ordinary people. Without the brand, branding and marketing mean nothing.
Without branding and marketing, the brand will die as quickly as it was brought to this world. They have a strong symbiotic relationship, but they are not the same thing. One is the object (brand/company), the other involves motion, strategy and tactics (branding/marketing).
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I'd love to hear your knowledge, experience and opinion (also, how you'd explain those concepts, yourself) in the comment area! Thanks for reading! If you found this article useful, you'd be an immense help in sharing it with other fellow designers! :)