Much of N2Growth’s activities evolve around branding, one of my greatest business passions is the art and science of branding and about half of my personal practice is built around creating dominant corporate and personal brands. Because I eat, sleep and live branding I am always amazed at how many savvy executives and entrepreneurs don’t understand the importance of building significant brand equity. More to the point it amazes me how many people can’t even describe what a brand is. In today’s post I will demystify branding by breaking it down and making the complex simple.

Most business people just pay lip service to branding. They don’t treat their personal or corporate brand as one of their most important assets rather they just let them evolve…The reason for this as I mentioned above is that most people really just don’t understand branding.

So, Let’s start with what a brand is not: A brand is not a name, a logo, a product or a service…These are examples brand assets, associations and extensions that should be considered in the creation of your brand architecture and the development of your brand components, but are not brands in and of themselves.

So what is a brand? A brand quite simply is a collection of perceptions in the mind of your stakeholders. It is the image that your employees, shareholders, customers, partners, vendors, the media etc. have when they think, touch, feel or otherwise interact with your company. It is the mixture of attributes, tangible and intangible, which if managed properly creates value and influence.

Now that we’ve defined what a brand is, let’s turn our attention to how you properly conceive and build a brand? The following items are individual brand components which when put together in a coordinated fashion are the brand:

Brand Vision:  If you don’t know who you are how can you tell anyone how you want them to think you are? Your brand vision is the nucleus of your brand. It supports, authenticates and validates why you are in business and where your business is headed. It defines your brand graphics, brand language and brand voice. It serves as the guidepost for all decisioning related to brand.

Brand Positioning: This is the specific niche in which the brand defines itself as occupying in the competitive environment. Positioning addresses differentiating brand attributes, benefits and segments. Brand positioning is what establishes emotive connections. It creates reasons to buy, engenders loyalty and causes internal and external stakeholders to advocate for you.

Brand Target: This is an assessment of who you want your brand to influence. Your brand target should be comprised of all industries, sectors, verticals, micro-verticals, groups, associations, constituencies, companies and individuals that you want your brand to reach.

Brand Identity: Your brand identity should be developed based upon your brand vision, positioning and target. Your brand identity is the outward expression or manifestation of the brand. The brand’s identity is its fundamental means of consumer recognition. This would include your naming, logo, taglines, graphics, voice, collateral packaging, advertising content and language.

Brand Promise: This is the brand’s essence expressed in the simplest, most single-minded terms. For example, Volvo = Safety or Disney = Entertainment…The most powerful brand promises are rooted in a fundamental customer need.

Brand Experience: These are the feelings and emotions tied to an interaction with the brand. It could come from a display in a retail environment, the purchase or use of products and services, the impression created by advertising, journalistic commentary or public opinion. A positive brand experience will increase customer satisfaction and loyalty whereas a negative brand experience will have the inverse affect.

Brand Personality: This is the attribution of human personality traits (trust, warmth, humor, imagination, etc.) to a brand as a method for achieving differentiation. This is usually accomplished by consistent, long-term, advertising, marketing and public relations.

Brand Continuity: Ensuring that all products/services in a particular brand range have a consistent name, visual identity and ideally positioning across geographies, mediums and markets.

Brand Protection: This is the implementation of strategies and tactics to reduce the risk and liability from the effects attributable to counterfeiting, diversion, tampering and theft so that differentiating thoughts and feelings about the brand are maintained.

How do people view your brand? Do you have a brand in stealth mode, it is innocuous or ambiguous, is it a brand in decline or is it a strong, recognized, credible, sustainable or dominant brand?  Use the information contained in this post to conduct a brand audit to determine whether or not your brand is growing by design or evolving by default.