The Basics of Branding. Understanding Branding from Logo to Positioning
There are hundreds of millions of companies worldwide, and with most of them, we will never interact. Still, there are companies that we know, even if we’ve never been a customer or they don’t operate in the market we live in.
Yet we can recall and recognize brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, IKEA, Amazon, and eBay.
Branding has been here almost since the beginning of time. And once technology started evolving, brands had much to benefit from this.
These days, branding has an updated definition and new practices that can lead to a business becoming a legitimate brand.
Thus, in this article, we will discuss the concept of branding, what it does and does not include, how it works, and what precisely the basics of branding mean. Stick with us and learn more about how you can make your business rock among consumers.
What Is Branding?
At its core, branding is a group of practices that lead to shaping users’ perceptions regarding a company. Usually, you can understand branding as building a well-defined strategy to help potential customers easily recall a specific business over competitors.
Branding goes beyond visuals and communication, gathering several company characteristics and guiding them toward one common goal or idea. According to Wally Olins, a British branding consultant, a brand is built based on 4 vectors: behavior, products, communication, and the brand environment.
What Is a Brand?
A brand is an intangible concept built through a synergy between name, logo, general communication, and, most importantly, consumer perception.
A brand consists of various marketing concepts that, when put together, can help consumers easily recall a specific company. Being intangible, brands help shape customers’ perception of a business, distinguishing it from others that sell similar products.
Usually, a brand is considered one of the most valuable assets a company can have. It can bring significantly bigger revenue and help a particular business maintain, if not even increase, its popularity in the industry.
Coming with great benefits for a company, a brand should be extremely well protected when it comes to legal matters. This is to ensure the business that nobody can use its products or name without permission. To protect a brand as much as possible, companies can try to get a trademark.
Types of Branding
There are various types of branding that marketers can choose from. Depending on what they want to create a brand for, they can choose the best option for them.
Personal branding is suitable for freelancers, VIPs, and individuals who want to get themselves known to a certain audience. One of the advantages of personal branding is that people can leverage their popularity to increase their revenue even more.
Perhaps one of the most illustrative personal branding examples is from Elon Musk. Through his extravagance and initiative, he has managed to build up a worldwide following and promoted Tesla and his other initiatives more effectively than any marketing strategy could have.
And before him, Steve Jobs became known as a “reality distortion field” thanks to his charisma and appeal to emotion while selling new consumer technology concepts.
Product branding may be one of the most popular types of branding. Basically, it implies branding a specific product to shape how consumers see it on the market. The main purpose of product branding is to acquire suitable customers for that specific product.
Perhaps the most well-known case of product branding comes from Apple. Yes, we’re talking about iPhone. Even when the first iPhone was launched, it was not to be confused with an iPod, just like you wouldn’t confuse it with an iPad, although the names are not that different.
Now, the iPhone is the most popular luxury smartphone out there that maintains its brand positioning not only through advanced software and hardware but also price. Thanks to that, the iPhone continues to generate around half of Apple’s revenue.
Service branding has the main purpose of generating a feeling of trust among potential customers. It is a more complex process than product branding and focuses on delivering a positive experience to those using a specific service.
If we’ve mentioned iPhones, we have to mention the iCloud services as well.
One of the most praised and well-known Apple services is iCloud. The cloud service effectively creates a digital environment that allows users to connect Apple devices so that the same content and information can be viewed, modified, and edited without any trouble.
Corporate branding focuses on the success and popularity of an entire company. It involves many marketing tools, such as its products, employees, name, and many other things that can be connected to the company.
Corporate branding primarily focuses on maintaining a good reputation for the entire company. And to do that, people have to make sure that everything added to their brand, be it a new product, campaign, or employee, is not changing or affecting consumers’ perception of the company in any way.
For example, Apple has consolidated its brand as a luxury tech products brand. They have worked hard and innovated their tech products to offer their target audience an ecosystem that cannot be replaced. The company innovated so much that it pushed forward the whole technology paradigm toward user-friendly design, portability, and speed.
Where Can You Deliver a Branding Strategy?
Online branding refers to how a company or an individual communicates and establishes their brand in the online space. Including building a website, establishing a social media presence, and delivering new and relevant content constantly, online branding is one of the most essential and highly used branding types.
Offline branding differs slightly from online branding, but they do follow the same goals to some extent.
From shop signs to roll-ups and interior design, offline branding even goes so far as to include elements such as in-person meetings or the company’s prints.
For instance, food companies need to choose their packaging wisely. The packaging is part of a customer’s experience and significantly contributes to how they look at the brand.
How Branding Works?
Branding is usually built based on a well-developed strategy. And the main reason is that creating a strong brand has to follow multiple goals.
Just like when someone is trying to build a business, marketers should ask themselves a series of questions to know where to start with their branding strategy. Here are some of the most important things you should think of:
- What does your business offer?
- Who are your potential customers?
- What needs are you fulfilling?
- What differentiates you from other similar businesses?
- Why should consumers believe in you and your products or services?
And while you may have asked yourself these questions when building your company, it is also essential to add them to your branding strategy.
Branding aims to bring a high level of authenticity to a business, along with a significant increase in the number of customers and many more long-term benefits. And just like we mentioned before, branding is a group of practices that, when put together, form a company’s identity.
You can think of branding as a puzzle where the pieces are still white. A customizable puzzle let’s say.
First, you should decide what to paint on your puzzle. Then, you have to paint one piece at a time while ensuring that the pattern and color palette match the pieces painted before. Afterward, all you have to do is build the puzzle.
But what should you draw on each piece of the puzzle?
Understanding the Basics of Branding
We have previously mentioned that branding gathers several marketing practices and tools that can create an identity for a company. And one of the basic branding concepts is the brand identity itself.
A brand identity consists of the visible elements of a brand. These may include the name, the logo, the colors, and the elements you will use for your visuals.
However, besides the visuals, in defining your brand’s identity, you should also consider the tone you will use when communicating with potential customers or even the customer service experience you will provide for consumers. All these factors are essential for customers to recall your brand easily.
Furthermore, while starting your branding journey, you may want to consider the 3 Cs of branding: clarity, consistency, and constancy.
A trusted brand will always focus on conveying to its target audience what it offers. It’s essential to make sure that your clients understand clearly what the product or the service is and know what to expect of your brand.
Let’s take Volvo, for example. In essence, the Volvo Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction equipment, and marine and industrial engines. But to the general consumer, Volvo is known for offering the safest cars.
Besides saying what you do, do what you say.
When trying to build and increase the popularity of a brand, it is essential to be consistent.
A product that is promoted for a certain quality that the target audience can easily confirm will, most of the time, get more brand awareness.
Continuing with Volvo, the brand has always focused on the safety its cars provide. Regardless of Volvo’s new launches, the company still emphasizes safety in its advertising, and even today, the brand is recognized as an epitome of vehicle safety.
If a company wants to maintain a well-established brand, it needs to deliver the same quality standard to each customer.
For Volvo to become the epitome of vehicle safety, it wouldn’t have been enough to have produced the safest cars once. This is the one brand principle Volvo has stayed with for decades, advancing its safety features as technology evolved.
If you didn’t know, the modern three-point seat belt, used in every vehicle, was developed by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin. And since then, among others, Volvo Cars has also developed the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS).
The Strategic Triangle
Besides clarity, consistency, and constancy, there are some other Cs you may want to consider when building a brand. Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese consultant, defined a business model called “The Strategic Triangle” or “The 3 Cs of Brand Development”. And this concept focuses on the company, the customer, and the competition.
Ohmae’s Strategic Triangle emphasizes what we have already mentioned:
- Focusing on your customers;
- Promoting your company wisely and consistently;
- Differentiating yourself from competitors.
However, according to Kenichi Ohmae, the 3 Cs should be constantly balanced, thus benefiting a brand the most.
So, a company should not only focus on overtaking its competitors, increasing the number of customers, or maintaining its popularity. Nonetheless, it should find the best way of having these 3 goals at the same time, moderately, while also ensuring it is not damaging those around it, be them employees, customers, or competitors.
The Basic Branding Strategy
Branding strategies should always be adapted to a company’s needs. Every business is different, and while some may need a complex and extensive branding strategy, others can achieve success with just minor changes.
However, according to Wally Olins, regardless of the company you have to include in a branding process, there should be at most 7 steps to follow in your strategy. And in one of his books, “The Brand Handbook,” Wally Olins talks about 4 of the main steps every company should consider when building a basic branding strategy.
1. Research, Analysis, and Strategic Recommendations
The first step everyone should complete is to discuss the branding program with the whole team involved and plan everything in detail. Afterward, a company should conduct multiple interviews that can be centered on the following topics:
- The size of the industry the company activates in, how it progresses over time, and how it affects other fields;
- Basic characteristics of the company, such as size, market share, profitability, competitiveness, or the quality of the products;
- The brands, activities, and divisions of the company;
- How others see the company.
To give some answers to the questions above, the team can conduct internal and external interviews, as well as workshops. Furthermore, branding consultants can conduct several types of audits so that they can get a better understanding of how the company is considered on the market. Usually, there are 5 types of audits that would help a branding team, and they focus on communication, behavior, visual identity, brand architecture, and competitors.
After completing multiple interviews, workshops, and audits, the branding team can discuss their results. Based on their results, they can start developing the branding process.
The second step of a basic branding strategy focuses on 3 main topics:
- Whether the company should experience a behavioral change and how it should do so, if needed;
- How the brand architecture should change;
- How the name or visuals should change.
Depending on the company’s goal, current state, and the results from the research stage, the branding team can decide what changes should be made to conduct an efficient branding process.
Thus, while some companies have to go through a behavioral change to communicate better inside the organization or with other partners, shareholders, or customers, others should change their visual identity. And this is where the results gathered during interviews, workshops, and audits will be critical.
Launching the branding program is an excellent way of showing everyone how the new brand will look and act on the market. And to do that, the branding team can focus on 4 launches: internal (for employees), company partners, dealers, and external.
Each launch should focus on telling the story of the new brand. Also, it should include each part at a time so that everyone feels included in the branding process, depending on their role in or for the company.
The last step of the branding process involves implementing the plan developed before. To do that, the branding team can work on various parts:
- Brand specifications – they can include the logo, colors used in the visuals, tone of voice, basic presentation principles, how the teams should communicate inside the company, and many more;
- The center of the brand – consisting of a web page available for every user, it can help to create a community around the brand and offer valuable information about it;
- The brand book – this branding tool has to tell a story about the brand so that everyone who reads it can understand the core principles of the company;
Branding helps shape users’ perceptions of a company.
While logos, slogans, taglines, or products are often associated with a brand, they do not build it. Instead, they are a part of the brand identity. However, brands help shape customers’ perceptions of a particular business.
Branding implies building a complex strategy and improving it constantly. While working with the basics of branding, marketers can focus on some concepts, such as the 3 Cs of Branding (Clarity, Consistency, and Constancy) or The Strategic Triangle (Customer, Company, and Competition).
A basic branding strategy can be divided into 4 steps: research, development, launch, and implementation.