What Is Branding?

Are you sure you know?

We’re continually amazed at how many people simply answer, “a company’s name” or “a corporate logo.” Let me show you how branding can be understood—as easy as pie.

Just like we know people by their names, we know hundreds of brands by name. But, like people too, the more you know about a brand, the more it seems to have its own individual personality.

But while we know people by their names, we don’t say they “are” their names. Here’s where we get to what branding really is. Branding is the sum total of a company’s identity—from its name and logo to every piece of communication, internal or external—to every encounter every customer or potential customer has with it.

It’s how the phones get answered—or don’t. I remember an experience where I’d just bought a new coffee maker and had a question about the filters. I called the 800 number but hung up after over 30 minutes on hold. I never got to speak with anyone, but boy, by then I really had something to say. Had my call been answered, I’d have become a lifelong customer and even a fan of the company. Instead, I buy from their competitors’.

Here’s my explanation of branding using a pie as an example. Not plain, ordinary pie. But apple pie with two scoops of ice cream and a cherry on top.

The cherry is a brand’s promise. The ice cream represents all your products and services. The apples are the corporation itself—the corporate environment. The crust is the structure of your company—not the building (although how it looks is part of branding) but your systems.

So here is your delicious, multi-tiered, integrated apple pie. Of course the cherry gets attention. It’s your name in neon lights, your fancy new logo, and your overall visual appeal. If a prospect buys a slice of your pie just for the cherry then you’ve done well!

But integrating the ice cream (Product/Service), apples (Corporate Culture) and crust (Systems) are essential for building true “core” brand equity. Don’t get caught up in thinking branding is only about the cherry. This happens at graphic design firms whose only expertise is generating visual solutions. You may even find it at large advertising agencies that want to do more ads. To them the cherry is all that matters. The Brand Identity Guru Inc. thinks differently.

I don’t care if you do no ads at all—if that’s what’s right for your company. Maybe your success lies in direct contact at trade shows or public relations and press releases. Whatever it is, whatever your sweet suite of services is, you need the ingredients working in combination to make your pie a success.

My approach to strategic analysis and planning will help you find the right recipe. When you see it, you’ll agree: Once you know all that goes into it, branding is easy as pie.


Brand Identity Guru Inc.
Tel. 617.504.2305

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