what is branding

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of our most popular topics of the season. By far the most clicked, liked, and shared was our series on branding. So today we’re going to boil down the basics of those articles into one handy guide for small business owners looking to brand (or re-brand) their companies.

Let’s get started by getting a definition down. A brand is a set of associations that the public has for your business. It’s more than just your logo, or your colors, or your slogan – it’s the combination of all these elements and more that help your audience know what you are about, and helps them make purchasing decisions based on values and impressions.

So what are some of those branding elements your business may use to make itself distinctive? Some are obvious, but a few are less intuitive:

1. Business name
2. Logo
3. Colors (Target red)
4. Tagline or slogan
5. Fonts
6. Tone of voice (LivingSocial, Geico)
7. Sounds (NBC)
8. Smells (Cinnabon, Subway, Anthropologie)

You can read a more detailed analysis of these elements here.

Once you’ve established those brand elements for your business, you’ll likely use a number of them in created your branded identity suite. This encompasses the tools you will use to get the word out about your business. This identity suite may include:

1. A business card
2. Stationery/letterhead
3. Customer envelopes/address labels
4. A website
5. Appointment reminders or postcards
6. Custom CD labels or flash drives
7. Stickers (fun!)

When companies succeed at all of the above and they communicate an appealing brand effectively, they increase their brand value. Separate from the actual measurable value of the company itself, the brand’s value is somewhat harder to pin down. The term usually comes up most in boardrooms. When companies are considering mergers or purchases, the brand value often plays a huge part.

I like the example of Instagram, which was purchased by Facebook in 2012 for 1 billion dollars. Instagram was a tiny company that does not require much in the way of tangible equity due to things like real estate or equipment. So why the high price tag for a fairly simple technology that the people at Facebook could have probably rebuilt themselves? The established value of the Instagram brand, that’s why.

If you are just starting out, and you’re having a hard time defining the brand you want for your small business, have a look in the mirror. Some businesses have great success when they let their brand echo the values of the founder. It’s a great way to establish a brand that feel authentic and organic.

Prefer pictures to words? Check out our branding infographic. Until next time, happy branding!