Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away (It was actually on Twitter) I was engaging in a chat about branding. I was having a ball. It was the highlight of my life.

Well, okay, maybe not. But still, I was having a lot of interesting little side conversations, only a few of which were about pixie dust. Suddenly a person tweeted to me that they thought their logo was just fine, or something along those lines. I said, “Well, that’s great. I’m sure your logo is very nice too. But we are talking about branding, which is a lot more than your logo.” The person responded with something along the lines of, “Oh, I didn’t realize that.”

I have seen other people with the same kind of misunderstanding about what branding is. Some people feel that a person can be a brand if they have a website in their own name (like I do). Some people feel that branding is the color scheme you use to represent yourself. All of these may be small pieces of the branding pie, but it’s not the whole story.

Branding Defined PSM (Pre Social Media)

A lot of marketing definitions have changed since people not as familiar with marketing began to engage heavily in social media marketing. To help balance this, I decided to look back to a resource from 2004 – a webinar by William Arruda for MarketingProfs from November of 2004. Twitter didn’t exist yet, Facebook didn’t exist yet, and blogging was still rather new. How did we define branding back then?

General Definition

Branding is essentially defined thusly: A Unique Promise of Value. This means that you know what you can expect from this brand. You will always have a consistent experience because the value being offered and the message that is being focused on will forever be the same. This is one reason why being a “personal brand” is sort of counter-intuitive. We’d get kind of creeped out if a person acted the same way every time we encountered them, right? Or if they said the same thing every time we talked to them (generally)? Yikes.

Brand Discovery

The first people that need to define your brand are the ones behind the brand. Discovering your brand encompasses all of the following:

• Knowing your competitors

• Knowing your peers

• Identifying your target audience AND knowing what they want

Once you define the boundaries of your brand, you need to determine your brand’s mission, your values, and your vision. You also need to be open to the fact that after defining these things, your audience, your competitors, and your peers can impact your brand. Your audience may alter their expectations or desires of you, for example, or your competition may offer a new product or change pricing.

Communicating your brand

Letting other people in on what your brand is about can only be done once you, well, know what your brand is about. Now, when you communicate your brand, things like your logo can help, especially in terms of helping people recall what you’re all about. But they aren’t (hopefully) just recalling that your logo has a bird in it. Hopefully they’re recalling that they’ve heard really good things about you or, “Oh yeah, that’s the company that always says they’ll honor pricing from any other store.” Your logo, your marketing, your communications always revolve around your mission, your vision, and what people can (or should) expect when they work with you.

Branding in the world of social media

One thing it’s important to remember – as you build your brand in the online world, you don’t want to send out messages that completely confuse people. For example, you don’t want to use your Twitter feed to talk about how great vegetarianism is and then pepper your Facebook wall with the delectable rack of lamb you served up for dinner (well, I don’t know what kind of brand would send out both of those messages, but you get the idea). Moreover, you want to make sure that your social media communications aren’t contradicting what you’re saying in other marketing channels. If you have a true grasp of your brand value, this should not be problematic, of course.

What did I miss?

How else would you define branding? In what other ways does the concept of branding expand beyond your logo? I’d love your input!

Don’t forget, this is part of a series called Alphabet of Marketing Myths (this is letter L). You can catch up on the whole series here.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mpmb/63668994/ via Creative Commons