What is Branding?

Wouter S.

What is Branding?

 If you ask that question to a hundred random people, most will answer, “What is what?” It’s no surprise, though. It’s a word not often used anymore in our daily lives.

To make it a bit easier, let’s break it down.

Branding comes from “to brand,” which comes from “to mark (brand) something.”It’s older than civilization itself. The day we started marking our livestock is the day branding was invented. We did so with many things like paint,carvings, earrings, etc. but most known through “branding.” We used a heated Iron rod or a burning stick to draw a symbol on the body of our livestock, marking them for life. Even today, it still happens in some areas of the world, although technology is catching up quickly with chipping animals instead. It’s no surprise that it’s pretty painful for the animals; therefore it has been banned in many countries, and rightfully so.

Even back then, branding was used to show and claim ownership of that animal. Sadly it didn’t stop with our livestock; we branded other humans too. Our history holds many cruelties; branding of slaves and prisoners was common in the old days. Even today, we still brand people; we even do it willingly, not with hot iron through a small needle and ink replaced it. Yes, I’m talking about tattoos. Some people even found themselves turning to technology and became the world’s first Cyborgs.

I, however, prefer branding from a more modern business perspective.

My Branding perspective

In today’s society, branding has a more peaceful and less harmful meaning and execution. We use it as a collective name for all the visuals, audio, and overall feeling we get about a company or product. As a Brand Strategist, my job is to guide and define the visuals, audio, and feelings of many different companies and their products.
It gave me a unique perspective on branding. It made me aware that we all have a reason to like and buy something, whether it’s a service or a product. It all starts and ends with emotions and, to no one’s surprise, the positive ones. When something makes us laugh, happy, experience luck, joy, a sense of belonging, a purpose, etc., either indirect or direct, we are more likely to buy that product or service.
Branding is the guidance of those feelings about a product or company. Which, as mentioned, is done through visuals and audio. When we see an advertisement, its goal is to give us a certain feeling, so we are more likely to buy what they sell. Today most ads we see are videos; they contain both stimulators and thus work quite well. There is more to it though, because throwing some sound and moving images together isn’t going to make us feel anything yet.

The secret of branding

This is where strategy comes into play. If I want to make you feel happy, I first need to know what makes you happy. Reading this blog could make you happy, but I won’t know that until I ask you. Still, I can make you feel happy regardless of knowing. All I have to do is tell you to think about your most cherished moment with a loved one. There you go, happy!

We, humans, have a base code for our emotions; certain thoughts correlate with certain emotions. We can get these thoughts by just looking at an image, making my job a little easier. We could even break it down to a single color; a small experiment:

Let’s picture the color orange.

What thoughts pop into your mind?

Probably something along the lines like this: fire, warmth, the sun, sunset, …

Now which products or companies pop into your mind?

Most likely things like oranges, orange juice, cocktails, Fanta, Nickelodeon, KTM, Orange, TNT, The Home Depot, …

All those companies picked orange as their primary color to give you that warm feeling or link it to an ingredient they used, oranges in this case. We automatically link colors to our emotions and feelings; when we feel cold, we link it to blue; we start to feel sad when we're looking at darker colors. We might even go crazy looking at bright colors; when it becomes too much. 

How to use branding in your business?

 So what do we know so far?

  • Branding comes from leaving your mark on something you own.
  • Branding has everything to do with giving people different positive emotions, so they are more likely to buy what gave them those positive emotions.
  • Colors are linked to our emotions and thoughts.    

The basic idea of business is to solve a problem for your customer. It can be anything, from a shovel to dig a hole to the service of removing snow. The product or service doesn’t matter in branding. What does matter is who your customers are and where your customers are.
You can’t sell a soccer ball to a basketball player or a Mercedes car to a Volkswagen lover. You also can’t sell your soccer ball on The Grand Slam Tournament but will be sold out in the Champions League. The products and services change depending on who and where your potential customers are.

Now that we know who and where our potential clients are, we can start planning. As a business you solve problem X, but why is your solution “better” than your competitors?
This is the part where your vision and mission become part of your branding. Remember that “sense of belonging” I mentioned. We all love to belong, to feel welcome, to feel loved. Your mission and especially your vision will give other people the chance to find similarities between them and you and provide that sense of belonging. Someone who thinks like you, have similar beliefs, similar interests, and hobbies; are more likely to connect with you.
What I always ask my clients when doing Brand Strategy is to name their 2 to 5 most profound feelings, emotions, or values they want their customers to get when they think or see their company and/or product. For Pixel Brand, those are trust, curiosity, selflessness, joy, and eagerness to learn. Then We make a small list of correlating colors; when we look at Pixel Brand’s brand colors, we have five.

  •  White for selflessness, pure and honesty
  • Orange for joy, energetic and Optimism
  • Purple for curiosity, creativity, and mystery
  • Navy blue for trust, learning, confidence
  • Dark Gray for stability, elegance, neutrality

Our next step is to determine the tone of voice, and with that comes audio, choice inmusic, sound FX, and of course, the text itself. How we write, say, or hear something does have quite some impact. As an example, I COULD START TYPING IN CAPS, but you probably won’t like it because it looks like I’m yelling at you. With audio and music, it’s the same, loud electronic music will be more loved by younger people, while classical music might please our elders a bit more. It comes back to knowing your potential customers are and what they like and prefer.

Once we established our boundaries in messaging, know who we are dealing with and where they are, we can start thinking about how we will reach them. Today we have so many channels to pick from that we can use to brand our company. Social media is a good start these days; however, there are many more options out there … Events, workshops, tournaments, billboards, TV shows, email marketing, networking,magazines, papers, promo stands, etc., the options are endless.

So how do we know what to pick?

We start researching. Yet again, knowing where your potential customers spend their day is the key element here. Today a lot of people spend quite some time on their phones and social media. So if I were to sell those soccer balls, I could make targeted ads on social media to people that “like soccer.”
It helps for sure, but is it enough?
Probably not, because our competition selling soccer balls does the same. This is where we introduce content marketing. When you start putting out content regularly, you are more likely to be in front of the eyes of your potential customers.

Last but not least, consistency. Putting out content has no use when you don’t do it regularly, but most of all, your content has to look consistent. We can achieve visual consistency by defining a clear brand identity, like having a logo and placing it on everything your brand owns. It should sound familiar because we “marked” what we own for millennia. When we add colors, a logo, messaging, imaging, fonts, and a clear understanding of our potential customers together, we have our brand Identity.

So what is branding?

The process of planning and creating an identity that triggers the positive emotions of potential customers, so they are more likely to buy from your company.

Thanks for reading! See you in our next blog post!

Wouter S.
Branding, Creativity, Business
May 16, 2021

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