The biggest misconception I encounter in this business is that a brand = a logo. Or that a logo = a brand. Both of these statements are false. Yes, you can hire a logo designer and give them ideas and receive a logo - this is a straightforward logo design, not branding. When you commit to branding your company should be prepared as it is a lot more involved. In this post I hope to give some insight on what branding is and why it is maybe the most important investment in your business.

There are many different definitions of branding, and here is mine.

Branding is the process of creating the right perception with the right audience.

This is true whether or not you are a business or working on your personal brand. Let's put it in the scenario of your personal brand. Anything you say and do, your body language, and the way you dress will influence peoples' perception of you. If you are trying to get a job, you will carry yourself in a more professional manner and be aware of your language, dress and even posture when you show up for an interview. The same concept applies if you are meeting your spouse's parents for the first time. You will likely act a bit different than when you are home alone or out with your friends on the weekend.

Now put this train of thought into your business. For example, Joe is a plumber and is trying to grow his business in his neighbourhood. He can go a traditional method, putting up yard signs, maybe taking out an ad in the paper or posting up flyers that simply say "Plumber for hire", his rates and his phone number. He shows up in dirty clothes, maybe 10 minutes late, does the work and leaves. If this is the route Joe chooses to take to grow his business, he may achieve some success through word of mouth or people hiring on price. Now, let's think about this in a different way. What if Joe decided to create a plumbing company and create a brand strategy to set him aside from every other plumber in the neighbourhood? Say he called it "Joe's Neighbourhood Plumbing" and had a strong recognizable logo to use for his marketing. Joe could have a website created with images of himself and his team, maybe his tools, and photos of work he has done for clients. He could also include testimonials from happy clients about the level of service and value they received for their money with his company. In addition to his website, Joe has a Facebook page with regular updates about the company, upcoming promotions and specials, and links to his blog with tips about plumbing. Maybe he's posting a video tutorial about how to fix a leaky toilet. Joe might have a brand colour, for example a bright green. He could show up (always on time) to meet clients in a bright green polo shirt embroidered with his logo, or drive around a bright green van with his logo as a decal. People in the neighbourhood would come to notice the unique van driving around and keep his company name in mind if they ever needed a plumber. At the end of a job with a client, Joe might thank them for their business and hand them a fridge magnet listing his services and phone number, so this can go right on their fridge for future needs. He'll follow up with them in a week to ask if they were happy with the service and ask for a testimonial if they feel obliged.

In these two scenarios, which business do you think would be more successful? In the first approach, Joe pursues customers in the same way that many trades people do, with a simple announcements of the word "Plumber". In a very small town, this might still work. But in the age of the internet where potential customers can be online comparing companies, looking at Yelp, Facebook and Google for reviews, and asking their friends for recommendations, it would be hard to stand out if you are simply known as another plumber. In the second approach, Joe names his business, comes up with a distinct brand identity (logo and use of bright green), outlines his services and experience and has glowing testimonials on his website. He has a social media presence giving his audience a more intimate look at the business and showing his expertise about plumbing. He's also created branded collateral with the use of the magnet, a simple thank you to his clients but a cleverly placed marketing piece to always keep his company in mind. With the second approach, Joe has differentiated himself as more than just "Plumber", instead he is the owner of a successful plumbing company with a professional appearance, expertise in his field, and an excellent reputation among his clients who will rave about him to their friends. Because Joe's company delivers so much value to his customers, he is building brand equity, which will lead to more clients and enable him to grow his team and charge higher rates than his competitors.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?! This example showed the difference branding can make on a business, and this can work for any service or product based business. Consider Joe's story - yes he had a logo and a website, but these were two pieces out of a much larger picture. This is the exciting world of branding.

The branding packages I offer are made up of a special branding formula which includes the following:

  1. Purpose and goals: we get to know your business REALLY well and help you get to know it better as well. We find out the history of the business, who the owners are, how it started and where it's going.
  2. Value and audience: we find out what makes the business different than its competitors. What can clients expect from your business and what will you deliver beyond your products and services? Then we help you identify your ideal audience - the potential customers and clients who will inspire everything we do.
  3. Brand identity: we create a unique, memorable and timeless logo as part of a full brand identity which also defines brand colours, fonts, key taglines and graphic standards.
  4. Visual assets: using the brand identity, we create visual assets such as websites, collateral (stationery, marketing pieces, branded products, etc.), advertising and signage to build visibility.

The logo is one part of what we do, and granted, as graphic designers, it's an important part of our business. But the brands that we develop for clients are what deliver the value behind those logos. The visuals are simply a means of communicating that brand to the public and getting noticed. Take a look at the chart below for some clearer definitions:

Brand

The perception you create among your target audience 

The value behind your business

What clients and customers can expect

Brand Identity

Logo

Brand colours & fonts

Graphic elements

Brand Assets

Website

Collateral

Signage

Advertising

I hope this was helpful in explaining the difference between a brand and a logo. As an exercise, look around your home or office and pick up 5 objects with logos or tags on them. Examples include: food products, clothing, brochures, electronics, decor, cleaning and bath products, etc. Now cover the logo of each and think about the brand of the business. What does it stand for? What do you visualize when you say the name? What have you come to expect from this business? Why do you choose their products over others? Who else do you know who is a customer?

If you can answer those questions, the company behind the item you have picked up has done a great job with their branding and as a result, this product has ended up in your life. This is the power that branding has on business and their audience, so it is certainly one of the most important investments you can make.

If you're starting your business and ready for some incredible brand strategy that will set your company apart, OR want to make your current business more than just another "Plumber", we'd love to hear from you! Contact us so we can help your business create the right perception with your perfect audience.

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