April 9, 2021
Written by Scott Lancaster
Read Time 6 Minutes

What does branding actually mean?

Branding articles, how to build a brand, building a brand, starting a brand.

Do you truly understand what brand means?

Over the years working with hundreds of small businesses, I’ve found that many smaller brands really struggle to understand what branding really means. They often get branding and marketing mixed up, so I want to set the record straight and explain in really simple terms.

In this article, we’re going to do a few things. By the end, you’ll know exactly what branding is and also how to emotionally connect with new and existing customers to create a more powerful brand over time. 

First,  I’ll define branding and break it down to its very essence so you understand it perfectly. Also, I think it’s important I share a quick story to show make it clear what the difference between marketing and branding is, as some clients often get mixed up.

Secondly  I’m going to share 3 simple but very powerful methods to connect your brand with your customers emotionally, giving you a distinct advantage over your competition (unless they’ve read this article too I suppose).

Defining Branding

Let start by defining branding first. The best (in my humble opinion) and truly simple definition of branding is by Marty Neumeier, where he states:

“Branding is simply a person's gut feeling about a product, service or company.”

The question is, what does this mean for you? What does that mean for the person trying to build a brand?

This is often why branding and marketing are often confused. However, I created a simple story which is going to ensure that you will never confuse branding and marketing ever again.

The story goes a little like this:

Nike has developed a new type of running show which makes the person feel like floating, therefore improving performance and comfort. 

If Nike then posted pictures of it in the paper or online suggesting its benefits, this is advertising.

Then if they set up a fun mini running track in a city centre, encouraging the public to get involved and test their speed to promote the shoe, this would be promotion. 

If they welcomed the evening news cover the event and interview the winners, this would be publicity. 

If a member of the public happened to injure themselves participating and Nike gives them a free pair of running shoes and made them laugh about it, this would be public relations.

Finally, if Nike conducted specific adverts certain types of people on instagram and Facebook advertising, this is market segmentation. 

All of these efforts are marketing efforts. 

However, everything makes your customer feels and says about you as a result of everything your company does, this is branding.

So if branding is based on how a person feels about your company or what someone is saying, you may be asking what you need to do to make sure customers feel good enough to purchase your product or service.

Now we fully understand what branding is,  I want to share 3 key rules that are essential to ensure your brand is making a positive impact on your customers. These tips are simple, but very powerful when used together.

Rule One

Stand for something bigger than your product. 

Like Nike stands for winning and Starbucks stands for inspiring the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time. Your product is simply something your company offers and sells. Your reason for existing is why you make the product in the first place. For example, Nike creates products to help their customers win. Starbucks serves high quality coffee to warm communities and inspire their customers. 

This is the first rule to help your customers connect with your brand emotionally. You need to stand for something bigger and more than your product. You need to stand for something people can feel inspired by. 

Rule Two

Always deliver on your promises

This one is really simple, but so many business owners forget it. If you promise 2 day delivery, make sure your product is there when it should be. If your brand promises to care about the environment, make sure everything your company does backs that up. For example, using biodegradable plastic or recyclable packaging which can be used again after the product has been delivered. 

By following up on your promises, even the small ones, you are reminding the customer that you are trustworthy and here to stay. In short, they feel like you’re credible enough to provide the service to the standard they expect. 

Rule Three 

Create little relationship building memories.

This can be done in many ways. 

This could be a little gesture like a free gift when a customer orders or even a personal email on their birthday with a discount code. 

It doesn’t have to be life changing. The trick is lot’s of little tiny positive impacts all build up and compound to create memories. From these memories, your customer will begin to associate your brand with positive emotions and trust will begin to form. This is a method many brands fail to take advantage of, but it is also one of the most powerful.

So in this article, we’ve learnt quite a fair bit.

We’ve learnt what branding is, what makes it different to marketing and also how to make sure your brand connects with your customers emotions. We will be developing more videos and articles going into each specific topic in more depth, but for now our job here is done. 

Key Takeaways

  • Branding is how you make your customers feel. It is how your brand is perceived by others, not what you say or do yourself.
  • Many different aspects of running a business make up your marketing efforts. Marketing and branding should not be confused.
  • Always deliver on your promises.
  • It is important to stand for something bigger then your product. Something others can be inspired by.
  • Lots of little positive gestures build up to strengthen the relationship between your brand and its customers.

Key Resources


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