Contrary to what you may think, branding goes way beyond your logo design, your color palette or your brand tone of voice—and its importance can’t be overstated. Branding is mnemonic, meaning that it enforces a consumer’s association with your company to solidify it in their memory. How can you harness this power and build a brand that leaves a lasting impression on your audience? In this guide, we will define branding, discuss its importance and offer tips for how to build a brand.
What is branding?
In a nutshell, branding refers to the deliberate actions you take to influence people’s perception of your product or service. To quote author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” In other words, branding consists of every opportunity you have to influence those decisions—from the way you come up with a brand name, design your logo and advertisements to the way you build your website and layout your store.
Types of branding
Because every type of business involves different interactions with customers, they each involve different branding opportunities and challenges. Let’s define the different types of branding and discuss their particular nuances:
Product branding refers to the design, quality, functionality, packaging and pricing that form a product’s identity. Product branding aims to make an item stand out in the marketplace, so consumers can easily identify and choose it among others.
Service branding is less tangible than product branding and involves many more variables, making it a much more difficult endeavor. A service business has to ensure that its operating environment, the employees and company policies create a unified identity.
Online branding focuses on the way a company represents itself online. Social media marketing, email marketing, blogging and website design offer opportunities to strengthen your brand.
Offline branding is the way a consumer interacts with a brand in the physical world. It’s your brick-and-mortar signage, interior decor and scent. It’s the lighting, the playlist and the affect of your employees. It’s the events you host and the outdoor advertisements you utilize. Basically, it’s the vibes your customer gets from an in-person experience with your business.
Offline branding is not as easily tested or monitored. You have to pay attention to your customers and their mood while in your store. Furthermore, you should ask for feedback whenever possible.
Although the branding strategies differ from those used online, your offline branding should complement your online branding rather than exist as something distinct.
Think of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dog: their personal brands are strong on their own, but together they've created an unstoppable joint brand. This clever marketing strategy is called co-branding, or a collaboration between distinct businesses. The strategy enables the involved businesses to share their target audience and broaden their reach.
Corporate branding emanates through everything the organization sells and how it operates. By providing an umbrella identity, the corporation links all the brands that live underneath it.
Some corporations, such as Unilever—which owns hundreds of brands, from Dove to Hellman’s—enable the brands that live underneath it to develop unique identities. On the other hand, corporations like Alphabet—which owns Google, Android, Nest and others—prioritize continuity over distinction.
The latter type of corporate branding follows the Vision-Culture-Image model, which calls for all brands to align across these three components. Whether a corporation’s distinct brands maintain a tangible through-line matters less than whether they all stay within the organizational ethos.
Personal branding encompasses your reputation and your personal and professional image. You emphasize your personal brand via tools like your CV, social media posts, website design and business cards. For inspiration, check out these business card ideas, or create a business card of your own.
Why is branding important?
People form their first impressions of someone before they even realize it—researchers at Princeton found that people can get a read on someone in fewer than 100 milliseconds. Thoughtful brand strategy makes the most of those milliseconds and influences the impressions a consumer forms of your business.
Let’s dig into the ways branding affects your business:
It introduces your business
Brand awareness refers to the ways in which both the market and consumers perceive your business. Ideally, you want customers to have a positive impression of your brand and your offered service or products. Strong brand awareness encourages your target audience to select your brand explicitly, even over cheaper or alternative options.
It set you apart from the competition
Regardless of your industry, competition is always fierce. Whether you’re opening a bike repair shop, selling CBD-infused products or becoming a social media consultant—branding allows you to differentiate yourself from your competitors. By highlighting what you offer, you can distinguish why your brand is the better choice.
It creates a sense of familiarity
A key component of brand awareness, brand recognition applies more pointedly to the ways in which consumers remember your product or service, also known as brand recall. Visual branding assets, like brand colors, a logo or a catchy slogan, can prompt this brand recall. For example, imagine you’re on a road trip, and on the highway in the distance, you see golden arches—without even thinking about it, you already identified McDonald's.
It builds trust
Brand trust is important both for impressing potential customers and your industry at large. According to Intelligence Node, “over 60% of online adults in Canada, the US, and Europe want the companies they buy from to be transparent about their business practices.”
A company with a strong brand not only presents itself as more professional and polished, but also evokes trust through transparency and authenticity. Beyond this, outlining your brand values and keeping your brand promises can encourage prospective and current customers to believe and support your brand.
It gives your business an identity
Just as each person has their own unique identity, so does your brand. Imagine you’re setting up two friends on a blind date, and you need to describe each person to the other. How might you identify or characterize them? Try to think of your brand as a person rather than a commodity or an object. Known formally as “brand anthropomorphism,” this idea challenges you to visualize your brand like a human to better define how the brand acts, speaks, dresses, communicates or impacts the world.
It establishes employee pride
Employees who stand behind their brand and take pride in their work are not only good for business, but they also shape your brand’s public perception. This can influence the ways customers identify your brand, but it can also encourage prospective employees to seek out your company. A well-branded company should make workers feel a sense of belonging, overall satisfaction and pride. This will encourage them to authentically promote the brand across all types of channels and platforms.
It enhance your business value
Whether you’re a small business owner or an established corporation, branding plays an important role in validating your financial value and building your brand equity. Your company’s growth can depend on successful branding when attracting new customers, generating business or breaking into new markets. Even more, in regard to expanding your venture, an expertly-branded business can attract potential investors.
How to build a brand
You can read our full guide on how to build a brand for more in-depth steps, but let’s get started with a brief overview:
01. Build a strong brand strategy
To develop a strong brand, you need to strategize each step along the way. Your brand strategy serves as a roadmap to guide each aspect of your branding efforts, from your design to your customer service. Through research, analysis, planning and preparation, you can outline long-term goals and achieve great branding results.
02. Figure out your ‘why’
Before you can dive into color palettes and logo design, you must first identify your core purpose. Your brand manifesto—or the statement that represents the motivation behind your brand—should thread your brand together. It’s your brand’s raison d’etre. Make sure to include these elements in your brand manifesto:
Mission statement: A mission statement is a vital part of your branding efforts, expressing your brand purpose and brand values. In no more than a few sentences, this branding element should let anyone who encounters your brand (from your customers to your investors and competitors) clearly understand what you’re all about. Think of your brand mission statement as a ‘why’ explanation that guides not only what your business offers but the purpose behind it.
Vision statement: Like your mission statement, your vision statement clearly and concisely articulates your strategic business goals. It serves as a roadmap to guide your company’s initial stages and your brand’s future. Your brand vision can evolve over time and grow with your business, but should always remain consistent with your core brand values.
Brand values: Consumers crave transparency and authenticity and want to connect with brands that uphold similar values. Your brand values are the foundation of your business and trickle into each aspect of your branding. Imagine these values as a compass directing and supporting your brand purpose and story as well as your decisions and actions. When it comes to defining your brand values, think of how you want your business to influence and impact the bigger picture.
03. Sculpt your brand identity
Once you’ve defined your business’s intrinsic value, you can start crafting its identity. A brand identity is its personality. It’s the full picture that your brand messaging—or the visual and non-visual ways your company communicates—represents. Not sure what personality fits your brand? Check out these brand identity examples for inspiration. Also keep in mind how your brand identity differs from brand image—or the ways other people view your brand.
04. Write your brand story
Stories captivate, engage, intrigue and connect. Your brand story should set the tone for all content and branding assets, from your social media posts to your marketing campaigns—even when deciding how to design a business card. This means staying consistent and authentic. For example, a brand story can introduce company founders and the origin of the business, or highlight a tale of passion and purpose behind why a brand exists. Whatever the approach, your brand story offers an opportunity to create connections and highlight the qualities of your brand with your audience.
05. Design your visual branding
Because people tend to judge a book by its cover, your visual language is your best weapon in building brand recognition. The most important visual branding aspects include your:
Logo: When it comes time to figure out how to design a logo for your brand, keep in mind that this branding element carries significant importance. And with power, comes great responsibility. This small symbol is a visual representation of your company. Your logo can evoke emotion, persuade or inspire your customers just from a single glance. Take the time to craft an authentic design that represents your brand identity.
Brand colors: When it comes to brand colors, there is more than meets the eye. While it is often subliminal, color conveys messages, triggers emotions and ultimately affects your brand perception in the minds (and eyes) of consumers. Consider how color psychology can influence your consumers’ buying decisions. For example, red is an attention-grabbing hue associated with passion, energy, excitement and danger, while blue is a much calmer color, linked to trust, peace and stability.
Typography: Typography refers to the letter forms including their design and layout that are used in various branding features. Similar to your brand colors, the typography you choose shapes your brand and helps get your message across. In general, when it comes to typography, branding experts recommend you stick to three or fewer font styles. Whether you use it in your logo design, website content or product packaging, keep everything aligned and cohesive to develop brand consistency. For a branding typography example, check out Madefor, the custom digital-first typeface by Wix.
06. Build a branded website
A professional website is an essential branding asset and a critical part of your digital marketing strategy. The type of website you create will depend on your industry, but nonetheless it will attract new visitors, generate leads, promote and sell products, educate and inform customers and most of all—communicate.
When you build a Wix website, you can customize it to suit your business needs with a range of free templates and advanced free tools. Make sure your customers instantly know what your brand is all about and what it offers. From your homepage to your blog posts to your email marketing campaigns, your website should showcase your brand in the best possible light.
07. Develop a style guide
Branding is a strategic and critical process that requires creativity. Since you’ll consider many branding elements, it is wise to create a strong and cohesive brand style guide to catalog both visual and non-visual elements. If you're looking for a little inspiration, you can explore these style guide examples to help you get started.
08. Manage your brand
Branding is an ongoing process that requires thought, awareness and conscientious brand management. Even the most successful brands are always evolving to grow authentically. When it comes to successfully managing your brand, keep in mind the following:
Consistency is key: In the pursuit of recognition, trust and brand loyalty, consistency is a vital aspect of branding. Customers will return time and again to the dependable companies that maintain a unified and consistent brand across all their platforms.
Reputation is everything: We all know a person or a place that has a bad reputation, and we avoid it at all costs. We even avoid things based on what others say, without even experiencing it firsthand. Sometimes companies can go through a rebranding process to overcome potential challenges, but it’s better to strive for a positive brand reputation right from the start.
Stick to your promises: Keeping your word and delivering on your promises is an essential aspect of brand management. This includes the brand promise you make to your customers, employees and stakeholders, as well as the actions you take to uphold it.
Keep the conversation going: It’s important to develop and open a continuous dialogue between your brand and your consumers, both on and offline. However, you must take it one step further to not only engage with your audience but also ask questions, actively listen to criticism and implement changes based on the genuine and credible feedback.
Build meaningful relationships: The best customers are loyal—the ones who not only love your brand but keep coming back. Whether they are your brand ambassadors or life-long customers, it all boils down to differentiation, engagement and loyalty. Make sure you take good care of these vital relationships—that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it?
09. Expand your brand
As your brand grows and expands, you will find new ways to stretch your offerings through brand extension. You know how Dyson now makes hair dryers or Hyundai Motors makes electronics? This is a perfect example of how businesses with established brands can extend their offering into new markets. When done right, it can be an excellent strategy for increasing brand awareness and revenue. But beware: When done wrong, it can lead to brand dilution and confuse loyal customers.
Brand guidelines cover ever aspect of your branding efforts. They set the style, tone, colors and messaging of each of the elements that make your your brand. These include:
Logos including icons, primary and secondary brand logos
Color palette, primary and secondary colors
Typography, font sizes, styles and spacing
Other imagery and media, including photos, designs and illustrations
Tone and voice
4 branding examples
Need some inspiration? Let’s look at four examples of effective branding:
If we had to choose one business that gets Gen Z branding right, it would have to be Oatly. The company—which makes milk, ice cream and yogurt out of oats—stands out in the crowded dairy-alternatives market with lighthearted copy and a visual language to match. To really hit the Gen Z sweet spot, they are as serious about their commitment to sustainability as they are playful.
Take a look at Kylie Jenner. Known as the one of the youngest billionaires in the world, Jenner is a prime example of personal branding done right. Having started her career on Keeping up with the Kardashians, Jenner has leveraged herself on social media and with her lucrative makeup business, Kylie Cosmetics.
Beyond her companies, Jenner has used her personal life to iconically brand herself and promote her products. For example, when she first launched her famous lip kits, she shared videos of herself using them on social media and as a result they sold out within hours. She also models all her own products on her website and in her ad campaigns.
Furthermore, Jenner’s personal branding approach is strategic, and constantly evolving by paying attention to (and setting) trends targeting her loyal followers. Jenner lives and breathes her products with authenticity, focus and shares her real experiences (even when they fail).
From the goofy flight attendants to the egalitarian open seating policy, Southwest distinguishes itself as a friendly, down-to-earth airline that is honest and reliable. It uses a heart logo and a quirky, pun-forward brand voice (the “Transfarency” ad campaign has been running for the past seven years) to emphasize its identity. Whereas most low-cost carriers are seen as the last-ditch option, Southwest has successfully used “The Everyman” brand archetype to build a brand image (or reputation) as “the good guys” in the eyes of their fiercely loyal customers.
A MacBook is the pièce de résistance of product branding. The unboxing experience is supreme: You open the smooth, modular packaging to reveal a gleaming device remiss of sharp corners. When opening the computer for the first time, the screen automatically boots up with a gentle gong sound—sonic branding at its finest. All of it adds up to a humanistic and forward-thinking brand personality.