What Is a Brand?

Last week I shared about a bad experience I had with a large company whose brand I thought was about service. The experience I had left me feeling like just a number.  The “customer service” manager repeated the company line over and over without nary an indication she actually cared about me as a customer, or as an individual.

That experience got me thinking about what a brand is. When a company sets out to create a brand, they often go about all the regular actions and checklists:

  • Logo? Check.
  • Website? Check.
  • Slogan? Check.
  • Business cards and collateral. Check. Check.
  • Good product or service. Check again.

But the truth of the matter is that a brand is so much more. All those things are components of a brand. But at the end of the day, a brand is a promise. It’s an experience. It’s an existential issue, not just a marketing one.

It feelings. Memories. Thoughts. Actions. Sights. Sounds. It’s the tangible and the intangible.

It’s the feeling you get when you’re hungry and you see those famous golden arches on the horizon. Or when you’ve been driving for a long stretch then see that green circle with a siren in the middle on the next off ramp sign. It’s why you choose one line of computers over another.

You can get your logo, colors, websites and collateral, but that is really just the beginning.  It’s intentional, thought out, and directed. But a key ingredient that you have no control over is time. If I may use a food analogy, a brand is not a frozen burger you throw in the microwave; it’s a Thanksgiving turkey you marinate then slowly roast all day. It takes time and tender loving care.

Over the next few days I want to explore this idea of building a brand. I’ll look at some of the elements that have gone into my own brand. Where I think I’ve succeeded, and where there’s room for improvement. In the meantime think about these key elements of branding and how (or if) you’ve done in implementing them.

  • Design: how many aspects of the design of your brand have you been intentional about? From the colors on your site and logo, to the fonts you use in documents.
  • Your product or service: what kind of quality do you provide in the products or services you create? And regardless of that quality, or your consistent in delivering on it?
  • Social media: how is your brand expressed in the social media outlets you use? Is your use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest congruent with the brand of your business? Or have you separated those social media elements from your business?
  • Customer experience: what experiences do customers have when they work with you? When they contact you?
  • Employee/contractor experience: your brand extends to the people you hire as well. How do you treat the people who are working hard to represent you to the public, or perform work for you?
  • Mission: do you have a mission statement for your business? Even if you don’t have an official one written down, do you have a general idea in your mind or heart as to what it is? Are you on track to deliver on that mission?
  • Your Promise: what is your brand promise? What is it that you provide your clients and customers that they can (and do) expect to receive every time they interact with you?

Think about all those things then check back tomorrow as we look at these elements one by one.