What is branding?

By John Murinye

What Is Branding — Zarura Creative

In this article, we will talk about what is branding, and what it means for you and your business.

When you search for the term branding in Zimbabwe, you will come across images and companies promoting the placement of your logo on cups, t-shirts, hats, billboards etc. The emphasis is on the implementation of visuals and not what branding actually is.

What is branding? The origins of the term brand or branding, came actually in the 17th century when farmers would take iron with a logo or emblem, place it in hot coal, and burn the back side of a cow. This process became known as branding. They did this as a sense of ownership, so when you see the mark, then you would know that this cow is owned by say Tendai or Valentine. That was the origins of the term. But the origins of the practice itself — what branding actually means, dates way beyond that time.

A brand is when one or more people come together, united by shared values, beliefs, principles and all these in turn — define a way of life: which is also known as culture. These people may form a company, a non-profit organization, a church or a club. The institution is usually then referred to as a brand.

A brand is who you are. Not what your audience thinks you are. Because a brand is intrinsic in nature, it means you really cannot create a brand. You can only define or develop a brand.

What then defines a brand?

There are three core elements that will make up your brand; Character, Personality and Visual Aesthetic.

A lot of people associate branding with the third, which is the visual aesthetic of the brand. So when they look at a logo, colors, typography or when they look at your website — they would call that the brand. These elements do point towards the brand, but they are not the actual brand in of themselves.

Back to our three components: Character, Personality and Visual Aesthetic. Let’s go through each individually.

Brand Character

This deals with whether, for example, the brand is adventurous, a brand of integrity or nurturing. These are the things that are intangible. You can’t really see them, but you can experience it. The character of your brand is only tested over time. If your brand is a brand of integrity, over time your audience will testify to whether this is true or not. How do you handle pressure or difficult situations? Do you stand up for what you believe or not? Simply saying you are a brand of character is not enough — you need to live it. This is very important as you work on branding your organization.

Brand Personality

The second component is personality. Now, this deals more with the expressed nature of a brand. Is it outgoing, gentle or quirky. Within personality, you would find elements like the language and tone of the brand. Notice the clear similarities between a brand and a person. This is because people relate to people.

People don’t relate to products, services or features.

Though a lot of marketers would sell features, that’s not what people actually relate to. As you brand your business, build yours on the basis of the people of the brand. That’s what makes the brand.

Visual Aesthetic

The third and final component as you consider branding your business, is the one that’s most popular — logos, websites, brochures e.t.c The visual aesthetic of the brand. This is what a lot of people confuse and commonly associate with branding. It’s easy to understand why, because it’s the most visual aspect of the brand.

These three components are interlinked, and they should work cohesively together to form the brand itself. Your character works together with your personality. If you have a certain character, the personality would match your character. And the visual aesthetic would also match your personality and character. For example, someone who is quirky, tends to wear bright colors and unusual combinations. You can also find traits of their quirky nature in their behavior and language.

You can also take a look at this article on When You Should Rebrand.