What the heck branding actually is

There’s tons of misconception when it comes to branding nowadays. If you ask any life-long marketers, new business owners or other professionals about branding, too many would probably start talking about their logos, brand colours, or their thoughtful advertisements. Some of the more experienced could mention emotions or “feel of gut”. And while all of them are true, they are still missing the bigger ‘less vague’ picture.

It can be defined in a way more straight-forward way. As the underlying principle of why nearly identical products can spark completely different emotions in us.

Here is my own definition of branding:

Branding is building a connection between a desire and an outcome.

Let me demonstrate it to you in an example. Before Uber was launched in 2009, regular taxi service was full of unpredictable and anxious experience. If you ordered a taxi, you had to wait at a specific spot under the premise of the driver coming on time.

But Uber completely eliminated these negative emotions. How? They built an app with a map showing the driver’s location in real-time. And here is the most interesting part: It doesn’t matter that the waiting was the same for both taxi and Uber. The live updates of the arrival gave people a piece of mind and estimation of arrival. Which resulted in exponentially more positive experience.

So Uber managed to allocate a “desire”, in this case a major pain point, and built a connection to the positive outcome. And that’s where brands actually start to create positive associations in our brains. And I suppose you never really cared about their logo in the first place, did you?

Similarly to Uber, your brand should be positioned as an outcome on top of your customers’ desires. By the way, such connection is often built subconsciously. People knew they didn’t always had the best experience using taxi services. Yet they considered it normal and not as something that needed a solution.



Desire → Brand impression → Outcome → Brand association

Don’t worry if you don’t have a business with such an disruptive idea as Uber. There are plenty of strategies you can employ that help you cultivate a compelling brand identity and strong relationship with your audience. I’ll keep it simple for you.

1. Existing businesses – Optimise

If your business is on the market for more than 3 years, you most likely have some brand elements in place. Defined identity, brand story, elements of customer experience, website and social media. If that’s your case, your priority shouldn’t be trying to create something new. Instead, it’s essential to analyse your current practices and identify any areas for improvement.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How in line are our business initiatives with the core brand values?
  2. How do they differentiate us from competitors?
  3. Is our brand consistent across all platforms and customer touch points?
  4. How well does our brand communicate our core brand values?
  5. How can we utilise feedback from our existing customers for growth?

2. New businesses – Pick out 1-2 values and stick to them

On the other hand, if you’re new to the market or just thinking of starting a new brand, you must give a good thought to what you want to be associated with. Brainstorm if you would like to be for example:

  • Luxurious or Available
  • Traditional or modern
  • Serious or playful
  • Transparent or Mystical
  • Masculine or Feminine
  • Professional or friendly
  • Practical or creative

Defining these values will serve as a foundation to your entire brand strategy. On top of that, you can ask yourself these questions:

  1. What values align with my personal beliefs and vision for the business?
  2. How will the core values resonate with the target audience and differentiate our brand from competitors?
  3. Are there any specific problems in the market that the values can address or solve?
  4. How can we integrate the core values into every aspect of business?
  5. How can we communicate the values effectively to our audience and build a strong brand identity around them?

That’s in short the high level overview of what branding actually is. See, it’s not as complicated as long as you understand this core principle. Finding a connection between what people desire and what kind of outcome you can offer them. Once this is in place, you can then go beyond the purchase and start building the entire brand experience (Yes, the logo finally). And as you continue to refine your branding efforts, every decision should be aligned with this core principle as it will shape how your audience perceives and interacts with your brand.

Written by

Jan Minarik

A specialist in brand-centric and creative solutions to improve brands’ credibility and design unified customer experience across all promotional platforms.

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