Published in Business Today magazine. December 2012 special issue on branding. Page: 58.

Branding is the most misunderstood concept in all of marketing, even among professionals because it is not advertising and it’s not marketing or PR. Branding happens before all of those: First you create the brand, then you raise awareness of it

There are no dull products only dull brands. This is a topic that hundreds of books are written about and it is impossible to summarise it in a single article, but I will try to lay down the foundation in simple terms to communicate it effectively. Branding is the most misunderstood concept in all of marketing, even among professionals because it is not advertising and it’s not marketing or PR. Branding happens before all of those: First you create the brand, then you raise awareness of it.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a ‘name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers’.

A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a corporate identity system. A corporate identity system function is to control and keep consistency in implementing the logo consistently across multiple platforms but consistency alone does not create a brand.

A brand is a promise of satisfaction that must be reinforced every time people come in contact with any facet of your organisation. It is an unwritten contract between a manufacturer and a customer.
Branding is the act of devising the promise your company makes to the world. Marketing is the strategy that differentiates your brand promise from all the other brand promises in that increasingly crowded house called ‘your category’.

It takes strategy and creativity together to build a great brand. Most importantly, great brands are created in collaboration with forward-looking, open minded and courageous clients who have belief in integrating their brand strategies at every point of public contact and the transformative power of design as a competitive advantage.

A strong brand reaps economic benefits in the marketplace; it is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all, your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It’s a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without, so it pays to become familiar with the process and rules for creating and maintaining a strong brand.

A brand must accurately reflect the core beliefs of your organisation, your leadership, and all who deliver your brand experience to customers in a memorable, engaging, informative, useful experiences driven by ideas and insight.

Branding means coming up with a name, conveying an image, and keeping the brand up-to-date. Find a good branding agency locally as they would know what is relevant to your market and target audience as well as providing rapid response to marketing and media opportunities.

Before you spend any amount on advertising or marketing, define your brand identity – your products ‘personality’. If you can’t define your brand, your customers won’t be able to, either. Answer in writing the following questions about your organisation:

1- Who are you?
2- What do you do?
3- Why does it matter?

That is the essence of your written brief to the agency, which will serve as the roadmap to your brand. Unless you have compelling answers to all three questions, you haven’t got a brand. Proceed by shortlisting branding agencies based on the quality of their portfolios – not price, and then award the work to the ‘chosen one’.

Be patient, your agency will ask plenty of questions to help them better understand your business and your customers as ultimately the brand belongs to them. Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of your customers, it is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot, so your brand is not what you say it is. Its what they say it is.

Logo design is an important area of graphic design and building your brand, and one of the most difficult to perfect. Emphasise on originality and creativity.

A logo as defined on Wikipedia is a graphical element, (ideogram, symbol, emblem, icon, sign) that, together with its logotype (a uniquely set and arranged typeface) form a trademark or commercial brand. Typically, a logo’s design is for immediate recognition, inspiring trust, admiration, loyalty and an implied superiority. The logo is one aspect of a company’s commercial brand, or economic entity, and its shapes, colours, fonts, and images usually are different from others in a similar market.

The effective design and use of a logo employs the understanding of human behaviour. Whether cultural, or internal, people recognise and react to colour, shapes, lines, fonts and other symbolic forms with emotions tied to their experiences.

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