Coca Cola Letter C on Red Background
Branding

The Difference Between Brand, Brand Identity, and Branding

June 12, 2020
Nolan Marketti

If you took a guess, what brand comes to mind first from the image above? You probably guessed it. Coca Cola. Their brand is one of the largest, most iconic brands in the world and they can be easily recognized from just a simple letter. So let's talk branding.

Your brand and your visual identity are both critical to your business but they are two different things and both terms have been used loosely in the past years in terms of what they stand for.


These are some of the most common ways project requests that come our way start with:


“We need to redesign our brand”


“We need to update our brand”


“We need to update our brand identity”


Most often, after a brief chat to understand the project at hand, typically they are referring to their logo or website. However, your logo and website is not your brand.

Defining “Brand”.

In the simplest form, your brand is the way someone feels about you. A deep down gut feeling. It is the emotional connection your customer has towards you. Every time your customer interacts with your brand, they build up a perception of how they feel and think about you as a business. If you think about your last experience with any brand that was negative, do you trust them as much anymore? Probably not. Over time, your customers will create a set of expectations on how each experience with you should be, and how they feel about you. Those thoughts and memories are what builds long term trust and loyalty. That’s what you want. That’s gold.

Nike Logo, This Is Not A Brand, The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier (Book Recommendation)


Your brand has three primary functions:

1. It Builds Trust

The more trust you build, the more loyal your customers become. You become irreplaceable in their eyes and there is an unbreakable connection between you and your customer. They will choose you over a competitor.


2. It Creates Distinction

You should stand apart from your competition, not blend in. The more distinctive you are from everyone else, the more noticeable you become.

3. It Increases Value

From a service, product, and a business you become more valuable. Additionally ー if your products or services are meant to be luxury, and you do not exude that feeling as a brand people will be hesitant to pay that higher price point. They will not see the value. Take Peloton for example; when they raised their bike prices they actually sold more bikes. Many people believed that because the bike was cheaper that it must not be a quality machine.

Peloton is also a great example of building a valuable brand over time. They empower people to connect, be inspired, and grow stronger together. They are the leader in their segment and while their products are expensive, they have built trust and differentiated themselves from others in a way people believe in and connect with, which has fueled their success. After only launching in 2012 they are now worth 4 billion dollars.

Defining “Brand Identity”

Your identity is all of the different touchpoints someone may interact with your business. It is an entire system put together that people can see, touch, hear and feel. This is everything from your logo to emails, customer services, and even the way you speak to people. This is how you influence the perception of your brand. Changing how people think about you, can change their behavior, which will increase your bottom line performance.

A variety of brand identity touchpoints
Brand Identity Touchpoints

Your logo is only one piece of the puzzle, and while most often it’s the first step when creating your identity, it is not the last. A good logo surrounded by a frustrating website experience, un-unified collateral and marketing is a recipe for failure. Every touchpoint matters.


Your identity has three primary functions:


Identify Your Business

The visual look and feel that your company encompasses should separate you from the competition. Over time, your customers can immediately look at something and have a sense of feeling for that brand.


Communicate Your Message Clearly

It should communicate to the desired customer you are trying to attract. This is key. Your identity cannot always speak to everyone. Some brands target the average individual looking to stay fit, other brands target suburban moms who want to learn how to cook authentic asian cuisines. By understanding who is your ideal customer profile you can design for them, not for yourself.


Create Visual Consistency

Your identity takes separate elements, and makes them whole by staying consistent through design and messaging. Every part of your brand should be consistent. The moment something is different from the rest, you risk mis-communicating to your audience. This breaks trust.


The Branding Process

Branding is the ongoing process of developing, or re-developing your overall strategy and touchpoints within your identity. This could be redeveloping your website, logo, collateral, messaging and your color system. It’s an investment that can help position you for success and growth. There’s several key reasons when the process of branding is necessary.


New Company or Product

  • You have started a new business, or have a new product
  • You need to raise venture capital, even though you have no customers

Revitalization

  • You need a facelift
  • Your product or service is great, but you look behind the times
  • Your packaging is not distinctive

Consistency

  • Everyone creates and does their own marketing
  • All of your marketing looks like it comes from different companies and you lack consistency

Reposition

  • You are not attracting your desired customers
  • You want to appeal to a new customers
  • Nobody knows who you are
  • You need to communicate more clearly who you are

Name Change

  • Your name no longer fits the business you are in
  • Your name needs change due to trademark conflicts
  • Your name misleads customers

You have Merged

  • Two companies have merged into one
  • You need a new name
  • You want to build on the equity of one brand


Starting the Branding Process

The branding process is essential for any business that wishes to differentiate and get ahead of their competition. It’s also a process you shouldn’t rush. While the investment is long term, it can pay off in growth of your business. The overall process consists of four systematic stages that vary from business to business.

Strategy

This gathers all necessary information from research to organized brand strategy workshops.

Design

The development of all visuals and assets.

Implementation

The rollout of the new visual identity.

Build

Adapt and pivot where necessary and grow your brand over time.


Why Branding is Worth The Investment

In the end, the long term rewards of the branding process building trust, distinction and value pay off big. It creates years of competitiveness for your business. However, in today’s business world everything moves at lightning speed. That makes it easy to get caught into quick fixes such as a fast logo or website redesign on websites such as Fiverr and UpWork which can be risky. The strategy and development process typically takes several weeks to a few months depending on the scale of the project at hand. Rushing this process will not provide the results you are looking for.


If you are ready to put the investment into your brand and succeed and grow by creating meaningful connections with your customers through the branding process, we can help. Let’s talk!


Free Branding Workbook

Not sure you have the budget to go through an extensive branding process? We’ve put together a free brand strategy workbook. While it's not the same as professionally run workshops, it’s a great foundation for you to work from.

Download The Workbook


Nolan Marketti

Nolan is a Brand Expert and Creative director who has experience working with brands including The United Nations Foundation, IBM Red Bull Racing, Samsung, and Nike. His work has been featured in both highly recognized online magazines and printed in books.