Clients come to me all the time to create logos, websites, and anything related to graphic design. Many of them want me to come up with something that stands out so that their companies will look branded and different from others.
“I want to build my brand. You are the creative gal, please come up with a logo to make my brand stand out,” some clients say. Yes, I’m a creative gal, but no, I can’t make your brand for you. Certainly, I can’t come up with a logo and suddenly you have a brand that stands out.
Big brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Apple, and many others surely didn’t become big just because of their logos. What they did was they figured a way for us to go back to them again and again.
Design ≠ Brand
Things like logos, websites, your YouTube thumbnail images, and everything that’s put out in public are important. Design is important. But these deliverables are not your brand. They are collectively known as your brand identity. They are just the face of your brand.
So what is a brand? A brand is more than your logo, your website, your features, what you do, what you wear, or what you look like. It is what distinguishes you from your competitors.
There may be hundreds of companies offering the same thing as you. Businesses use branding to make it clear for potential customers to choose them over others. Here’s my take on what a brand is.
Your Brand Is Everything
In my experience helping hundreds of clients work on their brands, brand identities, and design work, to me, a brand is everything. It encompasses everything of a person or a company inside-out, including things you see as well as those you don’t see.
“A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” — American Marketing Association
There isn’t one tangible thing for you to hold and touch to say, “This is branding.” Let’s take you as an example. Who you are today doesn’t just happen today. It may seem like it to some people because that’s what others see now.
But what you say and do today was shaped by your past. That includes your personality, character, how you were brought up, who you’ve been hanging out with, and anything that influenced you from the time you were born till now. That’s part of your brand.
How You Make People Feel
Developing a brand is about building trust and relationships with people. They share similar values and beliefs as you that make them genuinely excited to work with you and buy what they see from you.
“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. “— Seth Godin
I run a company that makes working with designers fun. Our customers are busy and value their time. We understand that and make their lives easier by being thoughtful and caring about their needs. On a daily basis, they receive deliverables like logo designs, websites, and artwork of all kinds, just as any designer can give.
The difference with us is that besides giving them what they asked for (logos designs and all), we take the proactive steps to find out what they actually want without them even asking in the first place. This makes them feel they are being cared for and that we are not just designers who are simply order-takers.
It’s About the Experience
We figured that what they want is more than just a pretty design, not even a design that can bring in sales. What they want is to save time and hassle of checking the work and showing us the mistakes we’ve made or what to improve on.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos
We realised they find it tedious to keep checking the artwork and to use computer tools to make markings on the artwork file to show us the mistakes we’ve made. They want someone to help them with that. Our vision is to reduce back-and-forth changes in the artwork by 90%.
That means there’s a chance of each piece of artwork being approved on the first round of presenting to the customers. This practice improved the customers’ and our productivity by more than 50%. The experience we want them to have is to enjoy work, not dread it, and that’s how we’re building our brand. This experience is part of our brand, more than just the artwork.
It’s the Perception of Others
I find that branding is a complex practice of art and science. It takes time for a business or a person to define and develop their brand. Knowing your brand comes from discovering yourself and your business. It’s a never-ending journey.
“Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time. Sometimes it will be ahead, other times it will be behind. But brand is simply a collective impression some have about a product.” — Elon Musk
You can copy someone else’s offerings, features, systems, and processes. But there’s no way you can copy the brands of other businesses or people because every business and every person goes through different circumstances. And it’s what customers say about you that reflects back as your brand.
That said, you should never look the same as your competitors in the eyes of the customers. You’d want to leave a memorable impression on people and stand out from your competitors and be the chosen one. That brings you business.
I would say that everyone has a brand, and it’s up to us to figure out what that is. The next challenge is to communicate this to your target audience so that they see what you want them to see. Your brand is fundamentally how people look at you or perceive you, whether that’s good or bad and whether you like it or not.