As a brand strategist, one of my pet peeves at the moment is the use of the words brand and branding interchangeably. This is not so much about accidental confusion by people who don’t know the difference. It’s more when I see it confused in materials from marketing professionals who sell branding, but call it brand. (I don’t know why they do this. Perhaps they don’t know the difference between brand and branding either).
So what’s the difference between branding and brand?
Your brand is who you are, what you stand for and how you deliver it. So this includes your purpose, your personality, your values and your vision.
Your branding is the physical and tangible expression of your brand (if it’s done right) – for example, your logo, your colours, your fonts – and the physical materials that carry your logo. Even your business name is branding – it’s an expression rather the definition of who you are.
So why is it dangerous if people confuse branding and brand (especially when professionals do it)?
It’s simple. Defining your brand is an essential first step for any business. By thinking about who you are, what you’re in the world to do and how you do it differently, it will help you stand out and attract the people you want to attract. And that will drive and shape your strategy – what you want to achieve and how you get there.
But often businesses have to make decisions on the branding first. They need to decide on logos, colours, naming before they’ve defined or even thought about the brand that sits behind it. It’s easily done – the branding is the tangible stuff needed before you can start promoting your business or building websites so it’s no wonder people are keen to get going. And no judgement here (I promise). This has been the case for several of my clients – mostly out of necessity and speed of growth (and something I can help fix and resolve). So this is not the main issue.
The issue with your branding
If you only ever focus on your branding, and never define your brand, there is nothing to govern how or why you do things as a business. This means you can inadvertently base some big decisions about your marketing or even your business purely on subjective opinion or tactical need. And without clarity on your brand, your branding will likely not be fit for your long term objectives. So you may find it more of a struggle to apply your corporate identity on a day to day basis. Or you might need to rebrand in order to express and encompass what you actually do.
For example, I might love the look of vintage logo design and my favourite colour may be magenta but these may not be the right choices for my management consultancy. (Although it could be awesome for the right brand).
The solution : define your brand
If you start by defining who you are, what you stand for and why you exist, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to translate this into a strong, distinctive and enduring look and feel for your business – one that helps your target clients and customers understand what you do best and why it will help them
Not to say that branding isn’t vital – it is an essential component of creating your physical offer. Your branding is how people will recognise your business, how they will experience your personality. It’s what makes people stand up and take notice and how you stand out. And ultimately it’s what people will see and touch every time they interact with you. Branding is key. It is brilliant and exciting to develop as you’re building or redefining your business. It’s just not where you start. And developing your branding is definitely not the same as defining and building a brand.
So if you’re ever in doubt about what you need or what you’re getting, remember :
BRANDING = what you look like
BRAND = who you are
What do you think? Do you know the difference between brand and branding? Does it even matter? Let me know what you think in the comments below.