Branding Is More Than Your Logo

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What's the first thing that comes to mind when you heard the word "branding"?  A logo?  A color scheme?  If you said yes, you are not alone.  That's why so many people outsource their brand design to a graphic designer only to wind up frustrated with the results. Most graphic designers are not also brand and business strategists.

And we don't have time for you to be frustrated or for you to not get a great return on your investment, right?

 So here is a little post explaining the differences between branding, marketing and design and how they all play a winning game together.  {Yup, I'm using a sports analogy.  I promise it has nothing to do with watching my hometown Jacksonville Jaguars crush their NFL playoffs in the background.}

Let's break it down.

Branding is about who you are.  Marketing is about creating awareness & attracting attention based on and highlighting who you are & what you offer. Graphic design is the process, skills and tools used to create the visual elements of your brand identity and marketing campaigns.  

Branding is about identity. Marketing is about information. Branding is about big picture strategy. Marketing is about metrics and tactical goals to implement that strategy.
 

Branding shapes marketing, not the other way around.  You have to know who you are before you can boldly introduce who you are to the world.

Another way to look at it is that marketing is the vehicle used to deliver your brand message to your target audience. Marketing is ever changing and evolving as the channels for your message change over time.  Your brand however remains constant, clear, recognizable.

Branding is central and primary to every other marketing tactic.  It actually defines which tools and tactics your company should use.  Branding creates and cultivates customer experience and expectations. It is the base upon which customer loyalty is built and anchored.

For marketing to be truly successful it must be rooted in a strong brand identity.  {No matter how well you are pitched, please do not invest in expensive marketing tactics until you have a solid brand strategy to guide their use.}

While brand strategists and consultants can play invaluable roles helping you define and develop your brand, your brand itself cannot be outsourced. 

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You can't outsource your brand because can’t outsource who you are.  Branding infuses everything you and your team members say and do. Every interaction, every decision is either strengthening or weakening your brand. 

Marketing, however, can and often should be outsourced to firms who specialize in handling practical tactics and detailed implementation, after a strategy congruent to your brand identity has been chosen.

Graphic designers that may not understand brand strategy can still design you beautiful visual elements.  But without the strategy to inform those designs, you might not be communicating the right message to the right people.

BRANDING

  • Identity
  • Big picture strategy
  • Shapes marketing
  • Central & primary
  • Cannot be fully outsourced, you can't outsource who you are
  • Driver of organizational culture

MARKETING

  • Information
  • Metrics & tactics to implement strategy & measure impact
  • Vehicle used to deliver brand message to target audience
  • Can and often should be outsourced

GRAPHIC DESIGN

  • Image creation & design implementation
  • Determined by brand strategy & marketing goals
  • Can and often should be outsourced

The truth is: you ARE a brand.  Whether you want one or not, you are a brand that is added to or detracted from with every decision, choice and action you take

Your graphics are not your brand, but they are an incredibly important part of your brand.  Your graphics are a visual execution of your brand identity that let's you communicate with you customer base.

The problem is in the mad rush to attract customers, do our thing and beat the bottom line, sometimes we rush right past what may be the most important part of all: clearly defining who we are.

Great branding is about authentic story-telling and clear, creative communication that reflects accurately your identity to your audience.  Great branding invites your customers to become an integral part of your story line. Because they are.  Integral.  To everything.  Your customer is always the hero of your story.

Branding is the soul of your company, your organization and your work.  It affects every area of your business.  From marketing to organizational culture, your brand story will drive both customer and employee experience.

That’s why you should never trust your brand development to a straight-up marketing firm unless they have a dedicated branding division with proven track record of helping their clients discover who they are at deeper levels and building congruent visual identities and brand strategies.

Many marketing firms say they have branding divisions.  But they don’t.  They have graphic design divisions.  If your “branding expert” isn’t asking you soul searching questions that unlock more of who you are, there is a good chance you might not be dealing with a true branding expert. 

Marketing pushes may bring new customers to come in your door but they will do little to keep customers coming back.  Your brand identity is what causes new customers to become loyal consumer advocates of who you are.

If your brand is not authentically defined and artfully designed, marketing efforts will become a cost center instead of an income generator. While some may debate the finer differences, branding is strategic while marketing is tactical and metric.  

Strategy defines tactics, not the other way around.  Who you are shapes what you do and everything else.