What Brand Is and What Brand Isn’t

Cattle brands

In the beginning of branding, when your brand was literally a burning hot bit of metal pressed against the flesh of your livestock, an emblem was enough. Just a picture that stated ownership.

But soon that picture would start to take on more meaning – like the owner’s reputation for quality meat or the longevity of their breeding business. The symbol would come to be a representation of that reputation: what brand is today.

What brand is

A brand is a relationship. Relationships are built partly on the basis of what each person shares about themselves, but also how they behave.

Too often we focus on the snap judgement that’s about looks when BRAND today is really about a healthy relationship.

What we put out into the world about our brand is less important than what people say about us. We don’t control reviews, forums, comments or pub chats. It’s what people say when you’re not in the room, rather than what you shout about yourself.

What brand is not

A logo. Not since we moved on from burning hot metal.

Your branding – logo, image style, colour palette – is not your brand. Those things are a REFLECTION of your brand, a communication of what you’re about. They need to complement what you stand for, but they’re not what people will get excited about unless they’re design nerds.

At the beginning of a brand, we all get overexcited by defining ourselves with these brand artefacts. But really, they should be extremely simple and inoffensive, to begin with, and evolve as the brand finds its voice, purpose and place in the world.

Brand formation

The easiest way to build a brand is to base it on authenticity. If your brand really is about the things you claim, you won’t have to maintain an expensive lie.

What are you really good at? That’s the place to start.

“We have some of the smartest and most rebellious people in the industry. We can break the rules intelligently, based on vast experience and the courage to drag this very traditional product into the 21st century.”

Why do you think people will be passionate about your business?

“They’ll be surprised how much easier it is to set up – the process but also the support. They’ve probably been disappointed in the past and their hopefulness with trying a new company will be tempered by experience – so it’ll be a lovely surprise and a relief when everything goes smoothly.”

How do you tell customers that you’re massively experienced but rebellious enough to change the status quo? Not in so many words, that’s for sure because they don’t care.

You can tell them that by DOING. If they’re jaded by previous experiences, take every opportunity to surprise them with ease and good feeling. That’s when people talk about brands.

And the only way to get customers to talk about your brand the way you want is to do things really well.

The example I gave – that customers will be surprised – is a perfect relationship. Someone saying “I love X because she always surprises me by how willing she is to make life easier for others” is the reflection of a great relationship.

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