Branding Masterclass #1 – Brand, Branding, and Brand Identity

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Branding Masterclass #1 – Brand, Branding, and Brand Identity

Originally posted as “Brand, Branding, Brand Identity – What’s The Difference?” on 18 Sept 2020.

 

Wow, it’s been a little more than 3 years since I wrote the original post. There’s no doubt that the media and consumer landscape has changed since then. In that spirit, I thought I’d revisit these topics and release them as a series of Branding Masterclasses updated for the times. 

 

If you routinely ask yourself questions like “how to design a brand identity” and “how do I communicate my brand identity”, then this edition of my Branding Masterclass and all its sequels will be perfect for you.

Brands

What is a brand? Last we spoke, we established what a brand is not – it is not a logo, nor a product; it is neither a promise, nor an impression. So what is a brand? Simply put, a brand is the reputation a product or service has achieved over time. 

This reputation, meticulously curated by companies large and small, differs from individual to individual. Based on your system of values, beliefs, and experiences, how brands are perceived can be very subjective.

A visual representation of what affects a brand.
Credits: https://www.ybrand.co.uk/ys-belief

This is why the answers to “How can I define my brand” can vary so significantly. No two people will have the same perception. As a result of this variance, businesses toil away endlessly and allocate large swathes of resources just to build their brand, which also conveniently brings us to the “How” of the matter.

Branding

Well, if the goal is to build a distinctive and recognisable brand, then branding is the process in which that is accomplished. I had a really succinct explanation in my original post, which I’m going to reiterate because it perfectly answers the question – “what is branding?”

“Branding is the concerted effort of carefully interlacing business strategies with company culture; artfully weaving personality into visual and verbal identities; and systematically deploying marketing activities based on well-thought plans – all with the aim of building awareness surrounding your brand.”

I do hope you’ll forgive me for all the technical terms in that definition, but seeing as this is a Masterclass article, I think it’s well-deserved. For the unacquainted, I promised a glossary of terms in 2020, and that’s definitely part of the Masterclass articles I’ll be writing over the months. 

Aside from the many operative terms in that definition, I want you to pay careful attention to the phrase “visual and verbal identities”. Regardless of strategy, a brand’s visual and verbal identities will always be the medium in which these plans manifest.

In essence, it is the visceral manifestation of your branding efforts

EDMs are a great visual and verbal representation of branding.
Sign up for ours if you want some inspiration 😉

Brand Identity

Further down the rabbit hole we go! If a brand is the reputation a product or service has achieved over time, and branding is how businesses strengthen their brand, then what is brand identity? 

Well, I alluded to this slightly above remember the concept of visual and verbal identities? A brand identity hinges along the same lines, and briefly put, a brand identity is the tangible expression of your brand. It is the thing people associate with your reputation, and it typically includes your logo, colour palette, patterns and shapes, typography choices and tone of voice.

Individually, these elements might not encapsulate the full scope of your brand identity. However, when applied alongside brand identity guidelines they enable you to communicate your brand identity thoughtfully and intentionally.

An example of brand guidelines  from logos, to colours,  and typography

LOGO

The cornerstone of your brand identity and the visual icon that immediately resonates with your audience upon hearing your name. While not necessarily an image, it often manifests as a symbol such as Nike’s Swoosh or Rolex’s Golden Crown.

An example of a recognisable text logo, from a branding project we worked on!

COLOUR PALETTE

The colours you choose to associate your brand identity with inevitably convey subtext, and that’s because colours shape perception. The human subconscious is a powerful thing, it’s also why we use colours to describe things. “A red flag”, “green with envy”, “feeling blue” – these are all examples of how colours inspire feelings and moods.

PATTERNS AND SHAPES

After buying over Twitter in 2023, tech-giant Elon Musk immediately rebranded it to “X”. Doing away with the round and wholesome logo of yore, he pivoted towards a monochrome sharp “X”. His goal was simple: to overhaul X’s brand identity, making it bold and edgy. Industry pundits argue this shift in identity was too drastic, but it demonstrates clearly how patterns and shapes force paradigm shifts.

TYPOGRAPHY

An element that deserves its own article, truly. In the 2020 blog, I mentioned I’d do a follow-up post about the different typography styles you can select from and how to pair them. Look forward to that as part of this Branding Masterclass series!

TONE OF VOICE

““What would my brand be like if it was a person? How would it speak, interact, and behave with others? What personality would it have?”

These questions can help you determine your brand’s tone of voice and reinforce your overall brand identity. Once you can quantify your brand’s tone of voice, make it core to your brand identity guidelines and align all strategic communications using that tone of voice!

THERE'S MORE TO COME!

“Brand”, “branding”, and “brand identity”. Three terms that might sound synonymous, but really aren’t the same at all. I hope that at this point, you’ve developed a sense of how to differentiate them and suss out when someone’s taking liberties.

 

This is only part one of what I believe to be an in-depth series, one designed to provide industry insight to everyone in the brand management sphere, novice and veterans alike.

Stay tuned to this space for biweekly updates from me, and until then, don’t be a stranger!

Nadine is the Principal Brand Consultant and CEO of Superminted. She is a nonconforming, divergent thinker with a conviction that effective branding is the cornerstone to a successful business.

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