Would you brand an athleisure clothing line the same way you would a portable dog groomer, or a keto cookie company? Although you could try, you’d likely miss the mark. Whether you’re creating a brand for a product, service or person, understanding the specific types of branding and the unique differences between them will help you strategize better.
While there are certain variables that remain constant across all types of branding, like knowing your target market, building a brand identity, or creating your own logo, you must pay attention to the specific nuances of your field. Recognizing these subtle differences will not only help you build a more purposeful brand, it will make the experience for your customers more authentic and relevant.
Here are the most common types of branding to help you craft an unforgettable brand:
01. Product branding
Products are all around us, each with its own identity or persona and purpose. Using strategic brand colors, thoughtful logos, memorable slogans and creative package designs, product branding works to not only identify specific products, but to influence perception both in the marketplace and in the mind’s of consumers.
Well-executed product branding can help create brand awareness and may encourage buyers to select your product simply based on aesthetic. Of course, looks aren’t everything. Product branding is also rooted in emotion, and the feeling that consumer’s get from using your brand.
Ensuring that you’re reaching the right audience is vitally important to developing a successful brand strategy. Furthermore, understanding the psychology of color, the power of typography and the experience of thoughtful design and real-life interactions, should shape your product branding decisions.
An example of great product branding can be seen in Jeni’s ice cream, a premium Philadelphia-style ice cream company. Using grass-fed milk, no eggs and no synthetic flavors, Jeni’s is known for their high-quality ingredients. Even more, with exclusive flavors like brown butter almond brittle and fluffernutter pie they are truly one-of-a-kind. Jeni’s also practices an inclusive fellowship model that empowers “growers, makers, producers, suppliers, customers”, the company basically paved the way for the artisanal ice cream trend.
Beyond the high-quality ice cream, the product is easily recognizable by its packaging encased in bright, playful and Insta-worthy pints that make eating them even more enjoyable. The unique packaging immediately makes an impact and stands out in any ice cream aisle or freezer. With some 44 Jeni’s Scoop Shops located across America, the same design is echoed throughout the brand website and their brick and mortar locations, which all contribute to the dependable consistency of Jeni’s product.
Furthermore, Jeni’s offers direct order ice cream delivery boxes with custom ice cream packages, including branded swag and ice cream extras like sauces and sprinkles. Jeni’s has certainly made the experience of eating ice cream at home just the same as eating in a shop. The product's taste, visual identity and experience all remain consistent and that is precisely what keeps Jeni’s loyal customers coming back for more.
02. Personal Branding
When you think of branding, you likely associate it with products or services, but a specific individual can also be considered a unique brand. Personal branding is just that. It is the combo of your one-of-a-kind skill set and the experiences that shape exactly who you are and how you interact with the world. It might also be sometimes referred to as individual branding.
Personal branding takes place in all industries but is most common among politicians, musicians, athletes, fashion designers, actors and influencers. However, it is not just reserved for the rich and famous. Successful personal branding will make you stand out from the crowd, and give you a competitive edge, to not only advance your career, but also shape people’s perception.
Like other types of branding, cultivating your own unique personal brand will help build trust, shape your reputation and open new and exciting opportunities. Having a professional online resume website, and using thoughtful social media graphics can help build your online persona. Being active on social channels, networking with other professionals in your industry and most importantly, staying true to yourself is the best way to build an authentic personal brand.
Perhaps one of the best basketball players of all time, LeBron James, also known as “King James”, is a perfect example of personal branding done right. While many other athletes are experts at marketing themselves, none rival the skills that James brings both on and off the court as a master of personal branding.
James, whose illustrious career began back in high school, had every sport analyst and expert in a frenzy over his impressive playing. What made (and continues to make) his talent so magnetic was also his personality, intelligence, sportsmanship and passion for the game. How many kids are told at a young age that they are destined to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, and not only live up to this expectation, but exceed it?
Ripely plucked from his high school team, James was drafted to play for his home state, the Cleveland Cavaliers at just 18 years old. From there, the rest is history. King James has gone on to surpass Michael Jordan as one of the top NBA scorers (and followed his steps as a Looney Tunes buddy in the reboot Space Jam: A New Legacy). While his playing is undeniable, it is James’ strategic branding, and his brand extension efforts, done outside the game that makes him so impressive.
An entrepreneur, philanthropist, actor, producer and incredibly involved father, LeBron James’s name is synonymous with leadership. Unlike many other players, James is not afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believes in. He is an avid supporter of Black Lives Matter and gender equality, and not only opened his own free public elementary school in Akron—he even pays for every student’s tuition.
Using the leverage of just his name, James went on to forge one of the most iconic collaborations, signing a lifetime agreement to Nike. Rather than seeking sponsorships or endorsements, James cultivates partnerships (like Blaze Pizza) that he truly believes in, which ultimately shape his personal brand in the most authentic way.
What makes James’ personal branding so approachable is not only his genuine character, but the influence he has on those around him. He operates his brand without fear and always pushes for projects that are true to his heart. He is also active on social media channels, posting engaging content on Twitter, and showing his family life on Instagram and TikTok, solidifying his public persona with his brand values through and through.
03. Corporate branding
Similar to product and personal branding, corporate branding is the creation of a brand identity, but for an entire corporation. It is the total sum of parts of a corporate entity rather than just individual products or services. Corporate branding requires a great deal of strategy because it must account for every aspect of the company (or companies), which includes all products, customer service, employee culture and impact on the market.
When corporate branding is done well, it can make lasting impressions and foster brand recognition. This is why consistency is key in order to cultivate brand trust while also shaping perception. Things like your brand values, brand messaging, brand voice and visual brand style guide play an essential role in developing an authentic corporate identity.
A great example of corporate branding can be seen in the company e.l.f cosmetics (stands for eyes, lips, face), a low-cost, 100% cruelty-free vegan makeup line that has made waves in the drugstore cosmetics industry. The brand was founded on the basis of creating affordable products for customers who have expensive taste.
Co-founder Scott Vincent Borba explains in a CNN interview, "I saw all these women with Louis Vuitton purses, and they were just buying truckloads of lip balms and nail polishes, and I thought there's a major market here." And so the company was founded to create inexpensive good-quality makeup that also happens to be totally vegan-friendly (which of course opened up another market).
What makes e.l.f. 's corporate branding so impressive is their very identifiable and authentic brand values, which can be seen in their brand messaging, unequivocally promoting diversity, inclusion and a commitment to cruelty-free production. They proudly declare on their website, “e.l.f. stands with every eye, lip, face and paw”.
Not only do they uphold these values in their products, but they truly practice what they preach by partnering with a myriad of non-profit organizations and donating profits from their sales to these worthy causes, that are perfectly aligned with their values.
Each detail from their logo and package design to their Instagram posts and influencer collaborations serve to identify who they are, and what they stand for. Perhaps the most noteworthy mashup was between e.l.f and Chipotle, where they created a limited edition palette most specifically targeted at Gen Z, which sold out in just 4 minutes.
On the day of the product launch, Chipotle also sold a special vegan dish, further emphasizing their initiative. E.l.f’s corporate identity is unmistakable, which lets current and prospective customers already have a deep understanding of their product's purpose, quality, price and reliability.
Another example of corporate branding is employer branding. This is a process of establishing and promoting a company's reputation and image as an employer. It puts to work various strategies and activities aimed at creating a positive perception of the organization among current and potential employees, as well as the public.
Employer branding involves creating a unique value proposition that sets the organization apart from its competitors, and effectively communicating that message to target audiences. This can include showcasing the company culture, values, benefits, career development opportunities, and other aspects that make it an attractive place to work. For example, employees posting about work gifts or training on social media, or LinkedIn.
04. Retail branding
Most of us know the familiar feeling of walking into an Anthropologie store. The immediate relaxation of lit candles, bright whimsical furnishings and thoughtfully styled mannequins—even the playlist is meticulously curated. What’s more, it doesn’t matter which location you walk into, all stores are consistent and create the same ambient experience. This is strategic and this is retail branding.
For brick and mortar shops, creating an experience within the physical space of the store can sometimes feel more important than the products you’re selling. Why? Because this experiential association develops brand recognition and positive (or negative) associations with your brand. It all boils down to emotion and the feeling customers get when they enter your store, something that can’t be mimicked anywhere else.
Let’s take a look at a cutting edge example of retail branding seen with Canadian athletic apparel brand Reigning Champ. The minimalist brand highlights on their website, “Our process is guided by our principles: Respect the details. Master simplicity”. And just like the neutral tones (just black, gray and navy) of their clothing line, the store mimics the same restraint.
Their store locations are impeccably clean, bright and light, and put the clothes front and center. The Canadian brand recently opened their first flagship store in Los Angeles, with notable design touches like moveable clothing racks situated along wheeled tracks. Paired with clean concrete floors and their signature white tiled walls, the store exudes refinement while also evoking the spirit of a gymnasium.
This is a perfect example of how every aspect of the retail branding experience can influence consumers while holistically representing the brand down to the last detail.
05. Geographical branding
While this type of branding is often specific to the hotel and tourism industry, there are no hard and fast rules. Most commonly, geographical branding can work in two ways. The first is reserved for specific locations (cities, towns, countries, regions) who want to promote and boost tourism to support their local economies. On a national level, it may be referred to as nation branding or a more micro level, place branding.
The second is for very niche products that are only produced in specific locations, like avocados from Mexico or cigars from Cuba. These are known as geographical indications (GI) and authenticate the source and quality of specific products by legitimizing the reputation of the specific location.
Take a look at Helsinki, the capital of Finland, an excellent example of geographical branding. Updated in 2017, the seaside city got a fresh new brand identity, one that communicates the vibrant flare of the city known for its sustainable practices, unique architecture and Nordic culture. According to Scandinavian design studio Werklig, who was responsible for the new look, “The Helsinki logo was designed based on the most recognizable Helsinki symbol, the traditional Helsinki crest”.
They further explain, “The new logo was designed to be adaptive and responsive to various content. The graphic wave motif (and its variations) used as a graphic element was also derived from the coat of arms”. Paired with a bright color palette and a sans-serif type font, Helsinki’s “city brand” reflects both modern progressiveness with traditional roots that makes it recognizable around the world.
06. Service branding
Compared to some other types of branding we’ve covered in this article, service branding does not necessarily have a material or tangible product—rather, a service that is provided. Since many services do not have an immediate outcome, or instant result, they can be harder to brand.
Let’s say you want to start a tutoring business, offering various teaching services. You must find a way to convince prospective customers that your services will help them pass their test, get into college or learn a new language (depending on which kind of tutor you are). But if you don’t have any pupils yet, how can you build your reputation? This is where service branding requires creativity and strategy.
Since service branding is very experiential, it almost always involves customer relationships. Going above and beyond to offer first-rate customer service will not only help your brand, but also its reputation. Integrating a live chat feature into your website is just one way to give real-time responses and boost engagement. On the same note, keeping an active social media presence can bring awareness to your services in innovative ways.
Let’s take a look at an amazing example of service branding from Go Clean Co, a Canadian-based residential cleaning company that has totally changed the game. Founded by Sarah McAllister, the home cleaning business started out as a relatively small operation and now has over a million Instagram followers, an extensive product line and a flawless reputation.
Furthermore, McAllister is known as the “Quaranclean Queen” — referring, of course, to the deep cleaning activities achieved during quarantine. Not only does Go Clean Co offer top-notch services with their now famous # cleanarmy, a team of meticulous cleaners, they’ve gone above and beyond offering cleaning hacks on social media, and even thorough handbooks that include how-tos for every kind of stain, mess or surface.
Go Clean Co’s Instagram is chock-full of satisfying before and after stories, and honest how-to’s showing the team removing the most stubborn stains and reorganizing the most chaotic messes. Her mantra of “Bleach Pray Love” has even extended into branded merchandise, all available on the company’s online shop where users can purchase apparel, gift cards, and even artfully curated digital prints of laundry labels.
With the company’s logo, catchphrase, hashtags and even a custom cleaning solvent, Go Clean Co shows that when done right, service branding can be very lucrative. If your reputation precedes you, your customers will certainly be lining up for your services.
07. Online branding
Online branding refers to the way in which a company positions itself in the marketplace using websites, social media platforms and anything that takes place on the internet. With this in mind, your online branding efforts must be consistent and in-line with your brand identity. Online branding may also be referred to as digital branding or internet branding.
Whether this means the specific website design approach you take, the style of your email marketing campaigns or even the domain name you use, they must all carry the same brand persona in order for customers to recognize your brand and get the same kind of experience—even online.
Let’s take a look at Artipoppe, the avant-garde baby carrier brand that has completely updated the concept, putting a hot new spin on baby wearing. Created with the notion of ‘The New Motherhood’, founder Anna van den Bogert is trying to shift the paradigm of parenthood and says, “Artipoppe has always been about empowerment and freedom. Freedom to listen to your inner voice and freedom in the way you move through this world”.
With stylish leopard print, velvet, silk and even vicuña wool (the world’s most expensive wool) these baby carriers can run you up to $7,800. Artipoppe’s Zeitgeist baby carriers have been spotted on celebs like Chrissy Teigen, Shay Mitchell and Jessica Alba, and they even did a collaboration with The Rolling Stones. The brand has successfully built a persona as the fashionable choice amongst trendy millennial moms, becoming both a status symbol and must-have accessory.
Artipoppe’s name, logo and unmistakable baby carriers are easily recognizable and sold almost exclusively in their online shop. Their online branding can be seen on their modern website which showcases hip dads and stylish moms going about their busy lives while also looking good and holding their little ones. It can also be noted on their Instagram, which showcases super cool parents looking au courant in black and white stills and picturesque environments, effectively shaping the feeling of what it’s like to wear one. While it may not be the best baby carrier on the market, they’ve successfully made it one of the most fashionable ones.
08. Offline branding
In contrast to online branding, offline branding simply refers to everything that takes place offline. Although we live in a digital era, attention must be paid to tangible branding assets and materials like merchandise, packaging, print ads, billboards, direct mail, bus or subway ads or benches.
Offline marketing can also be loyalty rewards programs, contests, events, pop-up sales and face-to-face interactions. Sometimes offline branding can also be supported by guerrilla marketing tactics, using out-of-the-box marketing strategies and attention-grabbing stunts to bring your brand to life.
Offline branding crosses boundaries because it is relevant to all other types of branding, from personal to corporate, and requires some creative thinking to truly reach customers in an authentic and meaningful way. This type of branding can help bring attention, and visibility in real-world environments and help consumers make connections to your business.
You know the iconic holiday cup from Starbucks? People wait all year for the specially designed cups that mark the start of the festive season. While the coffee tastes the exact same, the experience of drinking out of the joyous cup pushes sales and Instagram posts every year.
However, these nostalgic cups are not always embraced with good cheer. They came under fire in recent years, sparking controversy over the cup design, which polarized views and shone a light on American values, religion, inclusivity and diversity. Regardless of the backlash, the cups have become a part of American culture. Love them or hate them, you can expect to see them each year as they continue to be a part of the coffee chain’s offline branding.
Who doesn’t love when two good friends get together? Now that you have a better understanding of different types of branding, let’s explore one more approach that combines two different brands together—co-branding.
Co-branding is when two (or more) brands come together in a strategic partnership, in order to bring more brand awareness to all parties involved. What’s more, sometimes when two unlikely brands pair up, they introduce each other to new audiences. By using their coveted brand trust to essentially vouch for the partner brand, this type of branding is beneficial for everyone.
An amazing example of co-branding is when British online retailer ASOS paired with The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, also known as GLAAD, to create a unique seasonal collection. The ASOS DESIGN X GLAAD line which is made up of mostly unisex apparel also donates 100% of the net profit to support LGBTQ communities.
The colorful kaleidoscope of clothing was launched strategically in June during Pride Month, which served to not only give back to marginalized communities, but solidify ASOS as a choice for all. ASOS is known for promoting body positivity, using diverse models in a range of sizes, and selling pieces that fit all shapes. Beyond this, they are committed to sustainability, ethical employment and innovation, hosting an annual competition where young new designers can submit garments.
This strategic partnership serves both ASOS and GLAAD to promote their causes, bring awareness to their shared passions and support their mutual communities that they support. A match made in fashion heaven. Very often co-branding also makes use of celebrity branding, using a well-known face with their own brand to partner with a product or service for branding and marketing purposes.