What is a brand anyway?

Whenever I first meet someone, and they ask me what I do, my response is usually something like: "I develop corporate branding."

Their reaction is generally a pause, then a nod of the head, followed by an: "Ah, logo design."


Branding isn't just about logo design.

In its most basic form, branding is about taking a business and connecting it with an individual on an emotional level. By this I mean building a relationship so tight that their customers say things like: "I only buy Beamers" for BMW or "I love my Tar~Jay!" for Target. This is audience loyalty so strong that they give their brand a nickname. As if they're friends.

That's a true emotional connection.

Logos help us remember the brand and can also remind us of its attributes, but logos alone can't achieve this level of engagement with customers.


For a brand to truly function effectively, it needs to express the company, its products/services and the people behind it in one clear package. This is done by identifying and defining the heart, mind and soul of the organization it represents.

We do this by looking inside and outside of the organization – from employees to the competition. This brand process informs the whole picture as to:

  • What the company stands for
  • Why it's successful
  • Where it's going
  • Who the audience is and could be

Brand definition leads to the mission statement, tag line, messaging and brand promise. By clearly understanding the voice and attitude of a company, the creative direction or overall look and feel begins to take shape.

Design elements such as logos, imagery, color and typography are explored and established to give the brand its physical look. The visual expression of a company is the most immediate way to draw in customers and make a strong connection.

In other words, branding (visually and verbally) is the physical manifestation of what an organization is today and can be in the future. It's informed by authenticity and succeeds through continuity.

Once the brand is defined, Brand Standards establish communication guidelines for advertising, web sites, collateral, events and more. This clear definition of the brand keeps an array of vendors such as web designers, ad agencies and graphic designers all on the same page. Brand Standards are the most effective way of keeping the brand consistent – regardless of platform or creative team.

Branding enables a business to define its personal traits – helping their consumers understand what the company looks like, how it thinks, why people are drawn to it and what it stands for.

Now when people ask me what I do, I guess it's best to just direct them to this post. Hopefully it will help them look beyond the logo and see the identities that live under the companies they love.

Learn more from Richard Shuback on branding in his class at DCPA15.

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