collage of retro brands from the 50s and 60s

brand series: what is branding?

February 11, 2019

written by
Barbara O Stephenson

Part 1. what are you good for?

Everyone talks about ‘brand’ as if it’s this big monster under the bed. Brands for companies, personal brands, branding, brand reputation management, brand hijacking…. what does it all mean? It really is simple when you boil it down…it’s the concept of what you’re willing to stand for. What’s your soul, your essence. Everyone has something that they believe about themselves, something that they feel so strongly for that they would stand up for it. That is the core essence of the branding and everything else is just the extra fluffy stuff that holds in the filling.

Thousands of words have been written about the tools used to help identify and hone in on brand. Strategies will discuss mission statements, messaging architecture, vision statements, values, brand promise, tagline, brand stories, target audience, comp set, personas, etc…… there are so many components that can be added to a brand exercise that it can get complicated, aka expensive, fast. That’s scary because no one wants to waste their money on a ‘concept’ but if you don’t do it correctly the first time, you’re going to waste money hiring someone to do it right the second time around. That means it’s more expensive than it needed to be and on top of it, you’ve got the bonus loss of your wasted your time and effort.

The overarching thing to keep in mind is you want to build a brand that will grow and stand out. Your brand should be Five Big Things:

1. distinct

2. memorable

3. scaleable

4. cohesive

5. easy to use

You don’t need a color palette for 50 variations, 25 different font families, and 15 personas to have a successful brand. Besides the core concept of knowing what you stand for, communicating that brand out to your internal team and your clients is the next most important thing. Which is why you need to create an idea that people can wrap their heads around, clearly understand, and express simply. Your team should be reinforcing brand values on the daily, using them in conversation both internally & externally, and making decisions based on those brand values. Creating a brand and then not living up to it is probably the largest waste of money we see in the industry. So if you’re not in marketing and this is all gobblety gook, what’s a kid to do?

next up in our series: part 2. marketing terms for everyone