What Exactly Is a Brand?
January 18, 2023
A brand is more than just a logo. In fact, it’s much more.
What’s your favorite brand? Imagine their logo. Maybe they have a tagline - imagine that, too. Now let’s take it a step further. How does that brand make you feel? Why are you so loyal to it? Why were you drawn to it in the first place?
Now we’re getting somewhere. A brand is not a name or a logo - it’s a perception. It lives in the mind (of your consumers). Branding is the process of defining how that entity is perceived.
Brand Basics: What is it NOT?
But before we define the elements of a brand, let’s talk about what a brand isn't. A brand is not just a logo. A brand is not just a color palette. A brand is not just a tone of voice, or even a vision statement. Those things are important, but they aren’t the brand itself. Those things are part of brand guidelines, but a brand moves beyond those borders.
Remember before when we asked you to imagine your favorite brand? Yes, that’s a logo and maybe a memorable tagline, but there’s more to the brand than just those two elements. Let’s take a closer look at a common brand to solidify this idea.
Whether you love it or you hate it, Target is pretty popular. For some people, Target means some long-awaited retail therapy. That’s not what it means to all of its customers, but Target is essentially in the business of offering their customers affordable satisfaction. Whether that’s a new outfit, a new piece of decor for their home, or even groceries - Target’s motto is “Expect More. Pay Less.” And that’s generally the consensus of Target’s target consumer (pun intended). All of those elements - the logo, color palette, tagline, shopping experience, store aesthetic, and more - combine to shape Target’s brand: The perception of its business in the minds of their customers.
Brand Basics: So what ARE the elements of a brand?
The way we see it, a brand can essentially be seen from 5 key angles:
#1 Positioning: Where do you fit in relation to your competitors?
Your brand’s positioning determines how consumers perceive it in relation to other brands in your industry - or any competing entities. Let’s use Walmart and Publix as examples. If you’re familiar with both of these grocery stores, you’ll know that there’s a general consensus that Publix is the “higher-end” grocery store of the two.
Both brands essentially do the same thing, but there’s a difference in perception in consumers’ minds. So, when building a brand, it’s always important to consider your competitors and where you sit in the minds of your customers.
But what about indirect competitors?
If you’re familiar with the TikTok app, you’re sure to have heard about its uncanny ability to capture and retain attention. It’s a master of the endless scroll. When TikTok’s users are on the platform, what are they foregoing? It may not seem obvious, but one of the main competitors of this attention-span-hungry app is fundamental for all people: sleep.
How much time a user spends on TikTok depends on their view of the importance of sleep. Those hours of scrolling could have been spent catching ZZZs, so the consumer has a choice to make. That’s how it works with positioning in regards to indirect competitors.
It might seem like a difficult task, but taking your indirect competitors into consideration when looking at the positioning of your brand is one forward-thinking step closer towards better business.
#2 - Personality: A brand is unique, like a person. What sets it apart?
Your brand is like a person in the sense that it must have a unique personality. That’s why Made in July recognizes the importance of establishing copy guidelines when building out any brand voice. Why? Because you need to establish consistency in the early stages.
And take a look at us! Made in July’s personality is friendly, collaborative, and positive. Hanging out with us (or reading any of our content) is like spending time with the coolest friend you have - sipping on lemonade while watching the sun set. Get the picture?
All in all, a brand should have a clearly defined personality that remains consistent.
#3 - Proposition: What do you have to offer? How or why are you valuable?
A brand needs a value proposition. Customers seek value, so that’s what you have to offer. You must demonstrate that you have something they want, and that you’re the place they need to get it.
Because we love to use ourselves as an example (clearly), let’s look at how Made in July offers value to its customers. We like to think we do this in three specific ways:
- First of all, Made in July is a new kind of creative shop. What does this mean, value-wise? Well, we are dedicated to offering strategy-inspired creative solutions no matter how big or small the project is.
- Secondly, our agency is high-touch, meaning our founders are involved in all aspects of our business. Everything we do is handled by experts.
- Lastly, the magic of Made in July is that we can help build or grow your brand regardless of what it looks like. We are dedicated to unleashing creativity in ways that attract eyes. From competitive audits to content creation, we put your brand’s goals first. We even work with brands that are often overlooked by traditional agencies because we’re determined to blend creativity with fresh thinking to build brands that make an impact.
That’s what it means to work with Made in July. That’s the advantage we have over our competitors, and those three bullet points build a proposition that sets us apart in the best way possible.
A brand needs a value proposition that draws customers in and leaves them without a single regret.
#4 - Promise: What are you dedicated to delivering?
What does your brand pledge to deliver? A brand must make a promise to its customers, and that promise should be present in everything it does: the tagline, social media, website, etc.
Nike promises to bring inspiration and innovation to all athletes. Coca-cola promises thirst-quenching happiness. Geico promises its customers quick savings on their car insurance. Made in July promises strategically-sound and impactful creative solutions.
The bottom line is this: customers want to know what to expect, so tell them. And once you make the promise, be sure to deliver.
#5 - Pupils: A brand’s visual and written identity.
How is your brand physically viewed in the eyes of your consumers? This is where your logo, brand voice, tone words, and other brand assets come to life. And for thoughtfully-planned brands, this is where design rules and copy guidelines are showcased at the most pleasing levels.
Let’s look at Target again. Even when we say that word - Target - your brain probably just flashed the logo. When the visual aspects of a brand are properly, effectively, and powerfully conveyed, a mental connection is almost instinctual.
Now look at a smaller, more recently established brand. Yes, once again let’s use Made in July.
Just from browsing our social media or website for any amount of time, you’ll become familiar with our soothing yet playful aesthetic and our familiar yet informative tone of voice. That’s just what a visual identity and brand voice + tone encapsulate: How customers perceive a brand with their senses.
So what is the lesson learned here?
A brand should be visually and mentally stimulating to attract and retain your customers’ attention. And that begins by building a solid brand identity as a foundation.
Branding is an art.
Because a brand encompasses so many things, the act of creating and nurturing a brand truly is an artform. It requires attention, devotion, adaptation, creativity, analysis, foresight, and layers and layers of hard work – and that’s just the beginning!
But the tireless effort of building an impactful and meaningful brand is always worth it, especially when the brand embodies a clear vision or fills a need.
At Made in July, building brands is our passion and strategically-driven creative is our love language. We are committed to fresh thinking that brings brands to life.
Are you ready to invest in your brand? We’d love to help get those wheels turning.