I participate in several LinkedIn groups focused on Marketing and am constantly amazed how convoluted conversations surrounding “brand” and “branding” can be.
Understanding the use of brand in reference to a company – as in the “Target brand” – or as a product – like “Kleenex” – is difficult enough, but then to have “brand” and “branding” be seemingly interchangeable on top of that can be dizzying. If the so-called marketing professionals can’t even come to a consensus, how are business owners to understand the difference?
So here are my two-cents at differentiating Brand vs. Branding.
“A brand is a result, not a tactic.”
– Lucas Conley, Fast Company
A brand is a promise that lives in the minds of consumers. It’s what people think about your company – the result of their interactions with it. It’s subjective, it’s emotional, and its truths are fluid, fluctuating from consumer to consumer depending on their individual experiences.
Think your company owns your brand? Think again. Consumers create brands. They own them and can be fiercely protective of them.
When Gap launched a new logo design back in 2010, it was met with a storm of negative comments on social media, with some threatening to no longer shop at the retailer – and within a week Gap swapped out the new logo with the original. And, how about the JC Penney disaster? When then CEO Ron Johnson changed the store’s pricing platform, he didn’t just take away customers’ coupons. He changed the customer experience and expectation of interacting with the brand.
Customers can also build and grow the popularity of a brand. As Jerry McLaughlin points out in “What is a Brand, Anyway?”, a brand is like a nickname bestowed upon a company by its customers – he points out “FedEx” and “Tar-jé” as perfect examples of this.
“Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company.”
– Jay Baer, Convince & Convert. Author with Amber Naslund of The Now Revolution
Branding is the process of defining, developing, and implementing a Brand Strategy that will guide people in thinking about and reacting to your company. Branding is figuring out who you are, what your story is, how to tell your story so that it resonates with your audience – and then making sure you’re sticking to that story across all your marketing platforms.
And the truth is that branding happens whether you are an active participant in the process, or not.
You, your team, and your customers are developing and telling the story every day without, most likely, making a conscious decision to do so. From logo development, to how you decorate your office, to how the receptionist answers the phone – it is all part of creating your story. Making a conscious decision to brand – the process of branding – helps ensure you are telling the story you want to tell, in the way you want to be telling it.
Without branding there is no alignment between what you want people to think and what they actually do think.
So, if you want to impact the customer experience and create brand ambassadors – customers who are loyal to your brand and promote it with their peers – make sure you are actively branding your company. Develop a brand strategy that reflects who you are and resonates with your audience – and implement it throughout all levels of your organization.
Who knows… you could wind up with your own great nickname!
Jacqui Genow is the founder and principal of J. Genow Marketing. She works with clients in building Marketing Roadmaps, fine-tuning their brand message and coaching them in how to improve their marketing. As a business Marketing Strategist, her focus goes beyond marketing to understanding the connection between marketing decisions made today and how they can positively impact a client’s business in the future. Contact Jacqui to find out how improving your marketing can improve your business.