There’s a lot of confusion out there about brands and branding. What’s a brand? What’s the difference between your brand and branding? Well, allow us to clarify things for you.

What is a brand?

Brand = Branding + Interaction/Experience

A brand isn’t a logo. Or a brand name or product name. In fact, it isn’t any one thing.

Your brand is everything. It’s the perception of your company, products and services in people’s minds. It’s how people think and feel about who you are as an organisation and what you do.

Your marketing and branding clearly influence that perception, but your brand exists whether you actively market your business or not. If you’re out there and people are interacting with your business, you have a brand.

It’s our job to use marketing and branding to manage the perception of your brand – to change the way people think and feel about your organisation and, in turn, change their behaviour.

What is branding?

Branding: The process of creating, maintaining, strengthening or changing a brand.

Branding is a powerful and sustainable marketing strategy that we use to influence and manage the way people perceive and respond to your brand, and thereby influence their buying decisions.

We do this by:

  • creating an affinity or emotional connection with the consumer
  • providing justification for paying a premium price for a service or product
  • creating loyalty to the product or organisation
  • demonstrating the quality and benefits of a service or product and the company behind it.

Acquiring loyal customers (who are happy to pay a premium price) is what many successful businesses strive for, and that’s what the marketing strategy called branding is all about.

Why is there so much confusion around brands and branding?

The creative services industry has a lot to answer for! Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of confusion surrounding brands and branding!

Much of the confusion stems from two scenarios:

  • branding consultants with a limited understanding of marketing; and
  • advertising and marketing consultants with a limited understanding of branding.

Consequently, the industry has confused audiences by coining often self-contradictory buzz-words and using them superficially or out of context. Not surprisingly, the marketplace is left confused and sceptical.

At Distl, we have attempted to create some clarity through concise definitions within a consistent frame of reference – a difficult task given the sheer volume of confusion and misunderstanding that surrounds the topic.

Our definition of branding is ‘the process of creating, maintaining, clarifying or changing a brand’.

It’s as simple as that.

Branding encompasses much more than the visual realm. It’s the process of influencing the perception of a business or product, and any sensory experience can be used as a branding opportunity. Audible and emotional communication are very much part of the process, and can play a significant role in forming an impression of a company.

In competitive environments, or to position themselves as an industry leader, smart businesses harness the impact of all interactions with consumers to differentiate themselves from their competitors and influence consumer perception.

Some interactions or ‘touch-points’ will have a greater impact than others, and some companies decide to sacrifice certain branding opportunities to meet real or self-imposed budgetary constraints. It’s better to implement some level of strategic branding than none at all.

Where does the confusion stem from?

The process of branding animals with a mark of ownership was a concept adopted by manufacturers of yesteryear to identify their products. However, branding has evolved from its origins of signifying ownership into a higher-level marketing strategy, to the point that a brand that signifies ownership, and a brand as a perception, have very different meanings. Both exist, but they are far from being the same.

Today, branding is concerned with creating a perception in the minds of consumers, rather than displaying an identifying mark or promoting a name. The problem is that the branding ‘frame of reference’ – i.e. the collective understanding – and related terminology have not been suitably redefined to reflect the fundamental changes to what a brand is and how it is created. Thus, the common confusion between a logo or name and a brand.

This was published by a reputable Australian marketing company:

“What is a brand? Marketers engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique. A brand image may be developed by attributing a ‘personality’ to or associating an ‘image’ with a product or service, whereby the personality or image is ‘branded’ into the consciousness of consumers.”

This is a typical example of superficial attempts by ‘experts’ at a definition that actually gives no clear definition at all. At least this consultant does refer to ‘creating and impression’, but contradictory concepts and terms create ambiguity and confusion.

Why is this so common?

Most likely, it’s due to a poorly-defined understanding of the topic – they are attempting to reconcile incompatible concepts.

Some branding experts certainly appear to be confused. One such consultancy states on their website that ‘perception creates brand experience’.

We say experiences create perception.

Need help with your brand or branding?

Splitting hairs? It is superficiality and confusion at this foundational level that builds a very inconsistent and fractured understanding of branding – an understanding that crumbles when put under the pressure of scrutiny. Incompatible concepts and a lack of clear definitions have exploded into an epidemic of confusion and ambiguity such that even industry ‘experts’ regularly contradict themselves with the terms they use.

This is our area of extertise. We can help you differentiate your brand and branding. Talk to our team for more.

Kate Wright (Paratore)

Brand Strategist & Account Manager