What is branding anyway?

Gearbox Creative Branding Blog

It’s the “it” word in advertising. Everyone wants to talk about branding. Some companies even employ “brand champions” whose primary purpose is to patrol the borders of an organization’s brand-ness to make sure nothing is inching over the lines.

But, what does that mean? What is a brand?

Is it the logo? The tagline? A list of guidelines surrounding the corporate fonts and colors?

While all of these elements make up the look of the brand, they’re not the heart and soul of what it is. According to Marty Neumeier in the Brand Gap, the essence of a brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.”

Neumeier believes that each person creates his or her own version of the brand. In other words, he adds, “it’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”

This can be a frightening realization for some companies who’ve spent countless hours hammering out the perfect positioning statement or the right brand strategy only to find out it’s all in the customer’s hands. But in reality, it always has been. And it always will be.

But, while we can’t control how a customer feels, we can certainly influence the process by communicating what’s truly unique about the product. And—this is the most important part—by framing those unique qualities in the right context. Ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine times out of a hundred, that context is emotional. Because, the best way to evoke emotions is with messaging that appeals to the customer on an emotional level.

We know. It seems super simple and super obvious. But this is where so many companies jump the tracks. We’ve seen amazing, poignant, attention-grabbing concepts get annihilated by well-meaning marketing professionals who want to weigh down the messaging with stiff corporate-speak…or are simply too nervous to go the emotional route.

But, when it comes to the emotional appeal of your brand, it pays to be fearless.

If you’re wondering whether or not your branding is on the right track, here’s a quick test. Read your last ad or customer email or web page or social media post and ask yourself a simple question. Does it feel like you just had an authentic conversation with an interesting friend you’d like to talk to again? If not, it needs to go a level deeper. It needs to find that place where your product makes a more human connection. It’s there. Keep digging. When you find it, it can be magical.

Your brand will thank you.

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