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Let’s talk about brands

We all know and are familiar with lots of brands, but what exactly does that word mean? How does an organization develop and curate a brand, and how do they share the story and meaning behind that brand with their customers? What happens when a company decides to rebrand?

There’s a lot of information and advice on the internet about how to establish and market a brand. So, it’s understandable that people are often confused about what a brand truly is and why is matters.

So, for this blog post, let’s review the basics about brands – what they are, what purposes they serve and how they can be improved.

What exactly is a brand?

If you look up information on brands, you’ll likely find several different descriptions and definitions. One that we think does a good job of explaining the term comes from an article by Winnow Creative, a branding and marketing service agency in North Carolina. This article defined a brand as “the overall promise and attributes that a company communicates to customers, employees and prospects.”

So, what exactly does this mean? A brand is characterized by what an organization or company does, their employees, their values and their mission.

And a successful brand is one that stays true to its company’s culture, services and goals.

So, what is a successful brand in the real world?

We are surrounded by brands every single day, from when we wake up to check our social media notifications on our Apple™ iPhone to when we watch shows on Netflix™ right before we fall asleep.

Apple and Netflix are two examples of brands – and pretty well-known, successful ones at that.

What makes companies like Apple and Netflix stick out among competitors? A big reason is they are good at what they do. However, it is also because they clearly show customers what they do and who they are.

Apple is one of the titans of the technology industry and its team is always coming up with new, innovative ideas. We know this not only because of their products, but because of the messages they communicate, their customer service, their reputation and their history. Meanwhile, Netflix is known as the “world’s leading internet entertainment service” for similar reasons.

However, you do not have to be a billion-dollar corporation or industry to have a successful brand. There are plenty of nonprofits, small businesses and startups with strong, identifiable brands. These companies and organizations recognize what makes them unique – and show it to the world.

Is a company’s logo or tagline its brand?

When consumers think of certain brands, their minds may immediately go to a logo or a tagline. For example, when someone sees a swish symbol that looks like a checkmark, they think of Nike™. When they hear the phrase, “Eat fresh,” they think of Subway™. Because of this, it is no surprise that people may think logos and taglines are brands.

Logos and taglines represent and can be associated with brands – however, they themselves are not brands.

Think of it this way – would the Nike logo be so well-known if it weren’t for Nike’s comfortable sportswear? And would the Subway “Eat fresh” tagline convince customers to go to the Subway chain if their products were, well, not fresh? The answer is no.

If a brand is a swimming pool, the shallow end is its logo, tagline or catchphrase and the deeper end is the products and services an organization provides.

When is it the time to change a brand?

Often, when we discuss branding with clients, it is because they are interested in rebranding.

If you are in a similar boat as some of our clients, ask yourself the following questions about your organization’s brand before scrapping it:

Do our products reflect our mission? Is the language spoken in our workspace and during meetings conveyed through our messaging? Is what people think we do actually what we do?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may not need to change your brand at all, or maybe you just need to change aspects of it. If you answered no, you don’t need to immediately abandon your brand. Research within your company, talk to your coworkers and employees, speak with outside resources like consultants and dive deep into why your brand needs work and how it can be fixed.

Sometimes, rebranding is the best option for an organization – and sometimes, it is not.

Overall, we all play a part in a brand in some way or another, whether it is by being a part of an organization or by acting as consumers. Because of this, it is important to understand what brands are and why they are important.

Now that you know more about brands, I encourage you to learn more about your organization’s brand or your own personal brand. And, if you are looking for more guidance, please let us know.


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