January 28, 2021

Understanding the Basics of Branding

Competition in today's market can be aggressive. Everyone’s trying to catch their customer’s attention and sometimes, we have to admit, we’re not even sure how we are going to stand out.

An effective way to really get to your customers is creating a brand for your business. However, this word and process can be quite unfamiliar to some people, so we rolled out some of the basics of branding to give you a general idea of what it is and what it can do for your business.

Branding 101

By definition, branding is a marketing practice and process where you help shape an image of your business in your customer’s mind by making it distinguishable from other products and services in the market. Aside from this textbook definition, there is actually so much more that goes into this process.

But let’s get this out of the way: Branding is NOT just a look and your logo. 

Let’s clear this one up, especially since a lot of people equate branding with just making a logo. Yes, creating a logo is a part of the branding process, but it is just a small part of it and not the be-all and end-all of branding

Now, your customers will have different points of interactions and exposures with your brand also known as touchpoints. Everything that you do and present in every single one of those touchpoints will help shape and define your branding. Your branding can be in the form of advertisements, product or packaging design, and even your customer service.

Before we dive deeper, we’ll explain why branding matters for your business. Sure, it might be something that’s good to know, but how can good branding truly benefit your business?

Why does branding even matter?

It matters because...

Branding gives you the recognition you need to stand out against your competitors. Once you start rolling out your business, expect to have some serious competition from brands who offer similar products or services. In this competitive market, customer recognition is so essential, because it will help you break through all the noise and stand out is good branding. It will establish the ways in which you’re different, special, and unique. In turn, it will show your customers why they should purchase your products or avail of your services instead of your competitors’.

Branding establishes connections with your audience and turns them into loyal customers. With a lot of competing brands out there, gaining loyal customers isn’t going to be a walk in the park. An important question that you should ask as a business is “Are we fostering a good emotional connection with our customers?”. By employing various branding strategies, you can connect with your audience on a deeper level, which can help turn a prospect into a customer and a customer into a loyal patron.

Branding creates a consistent brand experience for your customers. Consistency is key when engaging with your target customers, especially if you want them to remain as loyal patrons of your brand. Through branding, it allows you to control how customers perceive and experience your brand to make sure that their perception and experience stays consistent as much as possible all across your brand touchpoints.

Branding helps manage your customers’ expectations. Once your customers come into contact with your brand at any given touchpoint, they should already be able to get the general idea of what your brand is all about. With good branding, your customers will be able to know what to expect even before purchasing anything. Of course, it’s also crucial to follow through with what was “promised” so that these expectations are met.

Branding develops your brand’s credibility. Poorly designed marketing materials, a confusing logo, and no existing website—it’s hard to trust a brand like that, isn’t it? First impressions matter, even if your customer has met touchpoints with your brand more than once.  A branding that can send a clear message through thoughtful and well-crafted brand materials will feel more credible and trustworthy than a brand who doesn’t seem to put any effort into their branding.

Branding helps you attract the right people and repel those who are not. Every brand has their own ideal customer, which represents the people they want to target. When your branding fits well with your ideal customer, you’re able to attract the right target audience who would benefit the most out of your product and turn them to loyal customers.

Product vs Brand vs Branding vs Business

As you learn more about branding, you’ll encounter terminologies that people often use interchangeably but, in the strictest sense, mean something completely different. 

You’ve actually already encountered these terms earlier: “product,” “brand,” branding,” and “business.” 

They may seem to be referring to one thing, but don’t be fooled. Each of these words represent an important aspect of what you do, so it’s best to understand their differences.

Business

Let’s start with “business.” If we look in a broad perspective, we can have various definitions of what a business is, but for the purpose of distinguishing it from the rest, business refers to the organization, an entity, or even a group of people involved in the exchange of goods or services. 

Product

We now move on to what a “product” is. Generally, a product is anything that you offer to customers that satisfies any of their wants or needs, which may include physical goods, digital goods, services (which can be categorized under "product" for the purposes of classification), events, places, properties, information, and ideas. Products can be that juicy steak from your favorite restaurant or it could be a stay in a luxurious five-star hotel or resort over the weekend.

A product in itself, however, is not the same as a brand. 

Brand

It is only when people start forming ideas and images about your product that it actually becomes a “brand.” It's the understanding people have about your products and what they say about it when you are not around.   These ideas and images are formed both in a practical/physical way such as saying that a certain shoe is comfortable to the feet and in an emotional way by saying that the same shoe, through its comfort, makes you feel empowered. Once these two ideas and images are combined, they create a certain perception, which eventually forms your brand.

So how do you, then, shape people’s idea and image of your product to cultivate a brand?

Branding

This is where “branding” comes to the spotlight. 

Just as we’ve mentioned earlier, the actions you take and process you go through cultivating your brand is branding itself. When you begin designing your logo, develop your brand voice, or brainstorm an ad campaign, those are branding. Remember, brand is the noun, or the concept that is developed. Branding is a verb, or the process and actions you take to guide people to understand the brand in the way you want them to see it. 

You will still have a brand even if you don't do branding. But it might not be what you envision your brand would be unless you become strategic with it.

EXAMPLE: To give you a clearer picture on the distinctions between each term, we’ll use smartphones as an example. Now, as humans, we have the need to communicate and connect with other people. At the same time, with the internet booming, we want to be able to maximize its potential. To satisfy those needs and wants, smartphones were developed. So, in this case, the PRODUCT is the smartphone itself. While the smartphone itself is a good product, various BUSINESSES (such as Apple and Samsung, among others) developed their own brands to entice customers to purchase their own version of the smartphone. So when you think about the players in the smartphone game, each one of them has their own way of presenting themselves to the general audience: The iPhone presents itself to be a “premium” brand that gives a feeling of luxury and exclusivity while keeping the design ergonomically dynamic. The Samsung Galaxy, Note, and the S series give that same feeling of prestige, but as one more accessible to the general public.These two brands conveyed this image to their customers through the process of BRANDING: using elements such as their logos, advertisements, product design, customer service, etc.

Branding Elements

Now, to give a better sense of the tools that you have at your disposal when cultivating a brand, here is a list of branding elements that businesses often use:

NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list of all the branding elements you need for your business, but there are certainly more elements you find online and other resources that can help shape your brand.

1. Brand Values and Purpose

Ever wondered why brands look, feel, and sound so consistent and cohesive? It is actually because all of the branding elements are anchored on two important statements: the brand values and brand purpose.

Your Brand Values is a set of non-negotiable principles that drive strategies, daily activities, and goals. On the other hand, your Brand Purpose captures the impact you intend to have in the world around you, especially your customers.

2. Brand Materials (Brand Visual Identity)

One of the most visible ways that you can communicate to your customers in every possible touchpoint is to utilize well your brand materials. There are a lot of key components here, but the most visible are the following: 

Logo

While logos may not be the singular representative of what a brand is, it sure is the most recognizable branding element. A great evidence of this is when you see golden arches, you immediately think of McDonald's. Green Mermaid? Starbucks. A check mark? Nike. 

Logos are recognizable graphic symbols that identify your brand. It shouldn’t be complicated--they just need to stick in people’s mind.

Typography

It’s more than just choosing a set of fonts for your brand. Typography involves how you present the text’s layout, spacing, sizes, hierarchy, color, and the integration of type across various mediums. All of these to make sure that your text is both legible and engaging.

Color Palette

Aside from the logo, customers can make easy associations with brands using colors. Each color combination is carefully chosen using psychological and/or sociological associations (such as the use of the color red by food brands to tap into the feeling of hunger) to create a palette that fits your brand message.

Visual Guidelines

This is your “user manual” in making sure that the goals you set, the values you espouse, and your goals reflect and translate well into every aspect of your branding. At the same time, this will help make sure that all visual and creative aspects of your branding (colors, logo, typography, etc.) are applied properly and consistently.

3. Website

While having a social media account does help in presenting yourself to your audience, it is still an essential part of your branding to have your own website for your business. Your website is your business’ virtual home where your customers can not only check out your products, but also to give them a better idea and understanding of who you are. At the same time, you are able to present what sets your products/services apart from the competition. You can show them your product/service's special features or variations that you can integrate in the website. 

Branding can help your brand and your business stand out in a competitive market, and gain for you loyal followers and customers along the way. Through various branding elements, you can help shape the perception of your customers and entice them to patronize your products and/or services.

Branding entails a lot more and can do so much more for your business and brand. All of these are just surface-level—merely the first step to create an effective brand that communicates well with your customers.

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