branding-making-your-markHave you ever wondered what branding is, and how important branding is to your business?

For many businesses, when they hear the term branding, they think of logos, taglines, key images and business colours.

But branding is so much more!

The term ‘branding’ is talked about regularly today by business consultants, marketing, and social media experts. It’s difficult not to use the word when talking to business owners. And for good reason!

Brand & Branding

The American Marketing Association (AMA) uses this definition, sourced from SEMPO and Wikipedia, to describe ‘Brand and Branding’:

“A brand is a customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas; often, it refers to a symbol such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme. Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the accumulation of experiences with the specific product or service, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary.” (emphasis added)

A brand often includes an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols, sound which may be developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality.”  (emphasis added)

The word brand or branding is a term familiar to cattle ranchers. At one time, and in some cases still, their cattle stock were branded using a hot iron to burn a mark of ownership on their livestock. Branding is a term and practice that has been used for thousands of years. It permanently marks and makes it easy to recognize ‘ownership’ of animals and, at various times throughout history, humans. This seemingly barbaric practice is the root of the term ‘branding’ today.

The Mark of Ownership

While branding animals may seem barbaric in the twenty-first century, the concept provides a stark image of what branding is meant to do: mark and prove ownership.

Businesses use branding to help them stand out and be easily recognized by those they hope to reach. Branding can help create a positive first impression for consumers before they know you. It also helps consumers recognize your products and services from competitors once they do know you.

Your brand includes your logo, your colours/colour scheme, your fonts and any other design pieces that mark your brand for your business. When these design pieces are included consistently in your online and offline marketing pieces they help build brand awareness and recognition of your business.

Branding Is About More Than Your ‘Look’

Branding involves much more than your ‘look’. While the look of your brand and how that look is used are important in developing the recognizability of your business, building the reputation of your business or brand is just as critical.

It’s one thing to have a brand that consumers recognize when they see it. But when they recognize your brand on a flyer, your business branded vehicle, or social media, what do they think and feel about your business?

What’s Behind The Brand?

Branding itself doesn’t need to be overly complicated or expensive. It does need to represent your business professionally. It does need to consistently mark your presence wherever it appears, so consumers recognize your business mark wherever they see it.

The challenge for most businesses, once they have developed a consistent look for their brand, is to make sure they are building a reputation that makes recognizability of their brand a good thing. So that there is congruence between who they say they are and who they are in fact.

Think of recognizable brands, local competitors and other profit and non-profit organizations. What is their branding like, and do they live up to the image they present to the public? When people see their branding do they think/feel positive or negative about them?

How about your business? Is it easy for customers to visit your website and social networks, view your marketing materials, see your business card and recognize these as your business?

Does your reputation with customers and others you deal with reinforce a positive view of your business?

In the end, branding is as much about the customer experience as it is the mark or brand that represents your business. Both are critically important and work together to define your brand in the eyes of consumers.

For a more in-depth look at branding check out Building Your Brand: It’s Much More Than Your Logo and The Power of First Impressions and Branding.

This article first appeared on the Growing Social Biz blog.