What Is A Brand?

Four employees sit at glass oval table with MacBook, tablet, printer paper, pens, markers

A brand is an integral part of modern business. It’s the public perception of your entire business – products, services, marketing, everything. Because it plays a major role in marketing and advertising your business, your brand impacts sales, revenue, profit, and general organizational stability. 

In this article, I’m going to cover everything that you need to know about business brands. Continue reading to learn: 

  • What a brand is 
  • The different types of brands 
  • The elements of a brand 
  • Why it’s important to invest in your brand

What Is A Brand?

A brand is the general public’s perception of your business, products, and/or services based on your efforts to shape it. Your brand is intangible. It’s based on a feeling or emotional connection, but impacts how customers resonate with your business and whether they want to support it.

Brands are consumed by the general public, avid supporters, investors, employees, media, competitors, and more.

Brand vs. Branding: What’s The Difference?

While the terms are similar, a brand and branding are two separate ideas within your business: 

  • A brand is the consistent, recognizable feeling that your business, products, and/or services evoke. 
  • Branding refers to the physical tools and strategic efforts to establish, manage, and influence your brand.

A successful brand aligns two core components of branding: 

  • Your brand identity, which is how you want people to perceive your brand
  • Your brand image, which is how people perceive your brand

Think of it this way. Your logo, name, marketing efforts, products, and advertisements are all components of branding. Those components aim to establish a consistent feeling – your brand. To achieve the goal of building a brand, your strategy in developing branding components must lead consumers to experience the feeling you desire them to.

Types of Brands

Several different types of brands make up the modern business landscape. There are three major types of brands: 

  • Corporate brands create a reputation for an entire company or organization. This type of brand helps businesses distinguish themselves from competitors in the market and develop lasting relationships with customers. 
  • Product brands are specific to products or services. They create a reputation for certain qualities or characteristics that set your product or service apart from similar offerings. 
  • Personal brands are less directly related to business and more centered around an individual. They’re established primarily through social media – creating a reputation and dedicated following through social media posts, engagement, and other public relations. 

These different types of brands often impact one another. For example, the owner of a law firm might establish a corporate brand for the firm and a personal brand around themself – an established, authoritative legal professional. 

An example of all three working together would be Amazon: 

  • Amazon’s corporate brand is focused on the business entity of Amazon.
  • Amazon Basics is a product brand the company established for its equivalent of a “store brand” product line.
  • Jeff Bezos is the founder, executive chairman, and former president/CEO of Amazon. His personal brand shapes a consistent feeling around his life and professional endeavors. Often, news involving Amazon’s corporate brand is inherently associated with Bezos’ personal brand – and vice versa.

four male attorneys and one female attorney pose for law firm brand image

Elements of a Brand

Your brand is made up of various concepts and theories. Together, these elements influence the general public to feel a certain way about your organization, product, and/or service. 

The elements of a brand include: 

  • Positioning 
  • Architecture 
  • Compass
  • Archetype 
  • Personality 
  • Promise 
  • Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
  • Identity, and 
  • Experience  

In the following subsections, I’ll expand upon each element of a brand. 

Positioning 

Brand positioning defines your location within the competitive landscape. Positioning involves defining your categories (industries and/or industry verticals) and emphasizing a distinct quality that sets you apart from competitors. Identifying the characteristic or quality that sets you apart from competitors requires an understanding of the competitive landscape and insight into your target customer’s needs. 

Auto manufacturers like Mercedes Benz and Audi position themselves as high-end luxury brands. They aim to attract a more exclusive, wealthy support base that needs (or desires) to be part of an “elite” societal status.  

Your positioning shapes customer preferences, dictates their buying behavior, and serves as a basis for customer loyalty.  

man and woman drive in blue convertible down coastal highway

Architecture

Much like architecture forms the foundation for buildings, houses, and bridges, your brand needs organization and a framework. Brand architecture is the system of names, colors, symbols, language, and/or visuals that define the structure of your brand. 

Architecture applies more to larger corporations, involving a master brand and numerous sub-brands. Smaller businesses don’t need architecture if their brand is centered around the entire organization and there are no sub-brands. 

There are four different styles of architecture, each creating a unique infrastructure to organize your brand. 

  • Branded House: One overarching parent brand with numerous sub-brands that encompass a consistent look, feel, marketing message, and other characteristics. 
    • An example of a branded house architecture is Google and its sub-brands (Google Maps, Google Pay, Google Drive, etc.).
  • Endorsed brand: A parent brand endorses other sub-brands beneath them. While they don’t share the same name or messaging, the parent brand’s identity helps the endorsed sub-brands appear legitimate and trustworthy to consumers. 
    • An example of an endorsed brand architecture is Intuit (Intuitt is the parent brand that endorses sub-brands like TurboTax, Quickbooks, and CreditKarma). 
  • House of Brands: Multiple brands that operate across various industries, independent of the parent company that owns them.
    • The best example of a House of Brands architecture is Proctor & Gamble (Fabreeze, Old Spice, Pepto Bismol, and Bounty are all owned by P&G though they don’t share any relationship in brand or category). 
  • Hybrid: A mix of sub-brands that are related or have similar messaging to the parent company and independent brands. 
    • The Coca-Cola Company is an example of a hybrid architecture (Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, and Diet Coke share consistency with the parent company, while Sprite, Dasani, Powerade, and other sub-brands are completely independent in their branding). 

Compass

To progress and grow as a brand, you have to know where you’re going. Your brand compass is where the business is headed and why. 

Brand compass is made up of four independent components: 

  • Purpose: Why do you do what you do? 
  • Vision: The ultimate end state you hope to bring about with your work.
  • Mission: The plan to reach your vision outlining what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, who you’re doing it for, and why you’re doing it (your purpose). 
  • Values: The principles that are most important to your organization.

The balance between your purpose, vision, mission, and values keeps your brand on track, leading you in the direction of success.

soldier in camouflage sits alone on train holding disposable Amtrak brand coffee cup

Archetype 

At first glance, you might think of archetypes as they relate to characters in movies, TV shows, and books. You’re not far off. Brand archetypes are ideas or concepts that humans are innately familiar with and that they associate your brand with. 

Like an overarching summary of a person’s character, archetypes compartmentalize brands into categories based on various combinations of traits and characteristics. Each archetype comes with meaning and narrative, and sets the foundation for a powerful brand story that resonates with audiences. 

Depending on how your brand is perceived by the public, you’ll likely fall into one of the twelve archetypes: 

  • The Innocent
  • The Everyman
  • The Hero
  • The Rebel 
  • The Explorer 
  • The Creator
  • The Ruler 
  • The Magician 
  • The Lover 
  • The Caregiver 
  • The Jester 
  • The Sage

If you’re in charge of brand strategy for a Senior Living Community, you might strive to align messaging with The Caregiver archetype. A brand that protects and cares for its customers, offering a nurturing, compassionate atmosphere.

chef in white hat checks on two female senior living residents dining

Personality

The characteristics and traits that determine your archetype stem from your brand personality. Personality is a comprehensive, detailed representation of your brand through humanistic traits. These characteristics and qualities are applied to your communication and marketing to present your brand as an actual person consumers can relate to.

A strong personality is consistent and engaging. To assess the strength of your brand personality, you might ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Is your messaging cohesive across all channels, interactions, and communications? 
  • Does your brand look, feel, and sound like a relatable person to consumers? 
  • Is your personality resonating with the relevant audience?

Promise

Your promise as a brand is the pledge you make to those you serve. A commercial healthcare brand’s promise might center on providing trustworthy, transparent care. Walmart promises to help consumers save money and live better. 

Your brand’s promise is communicated, either explicitly or implied, in numerous forms: 

  • Taglines and slogans: The aforementioned Walmart’s “Save money. Live better.” is an explicit, literal representation of their brand promise.  
  • General messaging: The tone, voice, and language of your brand’s messaging can both explicitly describe your promise or it can be sprinkled in through implication.  
  • Advertisements: Print and online advertising efforts routinely promote your promise in every form.
  • Social media presence: The way your brand interacts and engages with consumers on social media and through online marketing content directly reflects your brand’s promise.  

Genuine authenticity is important in your brand’s promise. Words and visuals should only support fulfilling your promise in every facet of your business.

female healthcare professional holding stethoscope poses with four coworkers in portrait photo

Unique Value Proposition

Memorable brands make for lasting business success. If you’re memorable, you stand out from the competition. Your unique value proposition (UVP) is a benefit of your brand to those it serves. It’s the unique value that meets the specific needs of your target audience. 

Your UVP is a straightforward declaration of the ultimate value that a customer can expect to receive from your brand. It:

  • Addresses their needs
  • Uses clear and distinct language, and 
  • Is believable and provable. 

Think of Walmart’s “Save money. Live better.” promise – it declares their UVP. Walmart offers affordable pricing and an expansive variety of products. That presents an opportunity for customers to save money on a wider range of wants and needs than most other retail stores.

Identity

Your efforts to shape the way consumers view your brand create an identity. It’s how you want people to see you. 

There are two segments that your brand identity is composed of: 

  • Logos, images, videos, and other visuals make up your visual identity. 
  • Your name, tagline, voice, narrative, messaging, and copy – including marketing content, ad scripts, website copy, and other written communication – make up your verbal identity. 

Together, your complete brand identity embodies your compass, personality, archetype, promise, positioning, and UVP. 

Experience 

This final element of a brand is one of the most important. Your experience is how the brand looks, sounds, feels, smells, and/or tastes. It’s how customers experience your brand, which directly relates to the impact it makes on their lives. 

From your professional website and mobile interactions to the in-store atmosphere and product use, every touchpoint of your brand is the experience. Strong brand experiences are formulated through a cohesive ecosystem of imagery, messaging, and product experience. The most effective ones are born from a brand’s purpose. 

If a pharmaceutical product brand promises and provides reliable, effective treatment through an ailment, they’re likely to make a positive and memorable impact on their customers’ lives. 

female doctor in white jacket and male patient in jean jacket with glasses meet in exam room with medical equipment in background

Why Is It Important To Invest In Your Brand 

In today’s environment, your business is only as prosperous as your brand. Investing in your brand is essential to growing and scaling your company. It’s how you form emotional connections with the right audience and create positive brand recognition – resulting in more supporters and loyal customers wanting to give you their business. 

In the following subsections, I’ll give you a few concrete examples of how investing in your brand benefits your business. 

Shape How Your Brand Is Perceived 

If you’re willing to invest your time and money into the right resources, you can control the narrative around your company and dictate how the general public perceives you. 

Whether you take the time yourself or hire a team of more experienced professionals to do it, you can: 

  • Position yourself within the market 
  • Craft a personality and archetype based on the demographics and needs of your target audience 
  • Determine and define a clear UVP to base your brand around and separate yourself from competitors 
  • Design an experience that leads consumers to perceive your brand as you wish and purchase your product and/or service

Not only can you shape how customers, consumers, and competitors view your brand externally, but also how employees, stakeholders, and board members feel about it internally. Employer branding is an often overlooked but essential component in a business’s overall branding efforts.

female employee in business clothes writes on whiteboard wall while three coworkers meet with her

Attract Relevant Customers 

By shaping the narrative around your brand and how it’s perceived by consumers, you’ll inherently appeal to – and put yourself in front of – the right audience. Instead of skimping out to “save money and resources”, invest the resources to properly research your ideal customer and identify what characteristics/traits resonate with them. 

With that information, you can develop a personality and identity that aligns with the needs of your target audience. Effective targeted branding reduces the amount of waste spent on advertising to an irrelevant audience. Invest in your brand to save on advertising, marketing, and promotion. 

Improve Marketing Efforts

Piggybacking off of that idea, investing in your brand can reduce expenses while improving your marketing efforts. Can you fathom that? 

Your brand strategy ultimately serves as a roadmap and guide to your marketing content. If you establish clear, consistent brand style guidelines, all of your marketing initiatives and content will deliver a cohesive message. 

Think about all of your advertising and marketing channels: 

  • Your website 
  • Print and digital advertisements 
  • Social media 
  • Public relations 
  • Email marketing 

Delivering the same, engaging communication and experience across all of those sources helps you build positive brand recognition. Even more, you establish yourself as an authoritative brand that expands beyond the products and services.

Stand Out Among Competitors 

When you invest in your brand, you find what makes your company unique. One of the stepping stones to establishing a brand is defining the characteristics that set your organization apart from the rest – the UVP I talked about earlier. 

Leverage your UVP to form an effective brand positioned in the market as a genuine, unique option that offers benefits no other company can provide. When you offer benefits no one else provides, you stand out among the rest. 

female Discover customer service associate in pink blouse and blue sweater with headphone mic sits at computer taking calls

Increase Sales

If you haven’t noticed already, these examples are like dominoes in a row. Knock one down and they all fall over. 

  • Investing in your brand allows you to shape the public’s perception. 
  • Shaping the public’s perception of your brand helps you attract the right audience. 
  • Attracting the right audience leads to more effective, targeted marketing efforts (and less advertising expenses).
  • Targeted marketing efforts and a clear UVP propel your brand front and center, ahead of the competition. 

All of these result in the ultimate indicator of business success: increased sales and profits. That improved marketing content targeted at the relevant audience is more likely to lead to an emotional connection, brand support, sales, and return customers through brand loyalty.  

Enhance Your Business Brand With Casey Templeton 

If you’ve made it this far, I have no doubt you have a better understanding of what a brand is and how important it is to invest in yours. Focus on aligning the elements of a brand to your business and target audience. 

One of the most important components to focus on is your visual brand – the images, videos, and graphics that represent your business. Casey Templeton Photography offers professional corporate and commercial photography services to help you acquire high-quality brand imagery

Casey has years of technical work behind the lens and experience in corporate branding across various industries and business sizes. To learn more about business brands or to get started building yours, fill out a contact form

 

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