August 25, 2021

What is a Brand?

The term 'brand' is used interchangeably with logo design, identity design and typography, but what is a brand exactly? In this article, we will find out.

What is a brand? It's a question that garners many varied responses and sparks some heated arguments by those in creative fields. I find Marty Neumeirs breakdown and explanation to be the most appropriate response to this question, and I will explain why in this article.

What a brand isn't!

To help provide some context and answer what preconceived idea of what you might think a brand is, I thought it might be better to start off with what a brand isn't. So let's do that.

First, a brand is not a logo. Of course, a logo is essential for a business and is frequently the first point of contact a company has with its customer but, a logo is simply a symbol for a brand. Second, a brand is not a product. When you decide to buy one brand over another, you are not buying "the brand"; you are purchasing a product from a company. Lastly, a brand is not a promise a company makes to its customers. Although this has some merit and truth to this as a brand eventually acts on a promise, but ultimately, it doesn't mean it's a brand.

Advertisers and marketers might define a brand as the sum of all a company's impressions on an audience. This is understandable if you're trying to sell impressions, but it doesn't make sense from a business perspective. Designers tend to look at a brand like telling a story, making a claim, or creating a pitch. While a company will often think of a brand or brand project as a list of deliverables such as:

  • Logo Design
  • Identity Design
  • Tagline
  • Advertising Campaign

But, none of the above explains what a brand is. The truth is, there is a much larger psychological element that drives all of the above responses and theories.

Photos supplied from unsplash

A brand is more than a product or service.

So to put it simply, a brand is a result! It's a customer's gut feeling about a product or service. They take whatever raw materials you put in front of them; they then dissect it and internalise it. But the key to realising what a brand is is understanding that the customer is creating their own opinion based on what materials you have provided them. The customer creates what your brand is. This means every product, service, communication or element you put in front of a customer helps reinforce their internal feeling and assumption of what your brand is.

In essence, when you create a brand, you're not creating just one brand. You're producing millions of brands. No matter how many customers and people you have or serve in your audience. Each one has a different brand of you. So a brand is like your reputation! It's your business reputation. And everyone will have their own opinion on what that reputation is, and that's okay as long as you have that opinion corralled to where you want it and that it's beneficial to the company.

Branding is a process.

I hope this helps you understand how important every single element of your business is when creating your brand. Your brand doesn't stop at a kick-ass product or innovative service; the roots of a brand go much deeper. You need to think about your culture, the messaging you're putting out, the look and feel of your products, how your employees behave and how it's affecting your reputation. Everybody and everything inside and outside your company directly contribute to your brand. So, to best protect your brand, you need to audit every aspect from the list above and go far deeper and ask yourself, is it hurting the brand? Or benefitting it?

When creating brands, I approach my work by creating a system of objects and things that best communicate what it is a company does and how they want to be perceived in the eyes of their customers. I can't control this perception, but I can help influence it by creating a system of rules that help lead the consumer to a specific feeling. So, if you're looking to create a brand or looking to make a shift in the eyes of your customers, get in touch to see how I can help your business.

Adam Ingle
about the author
Adam Ingle
Designer & Digital Creator

Adam is a designer and digital creator. He is also the owner of Neu Angle, his personal portfolio and digital resource for creators and business owners. You can find his work over on his portfolio.

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