understanding branding

A lot of people assume that branding is just having a strong and uniform visual presence and getting your “logo” to be known. So they come looking for a nice logo, with matching stationary and posters, all things that are part of “branding” but fail to realise that they are only telling a small part of the real story.

Branding is not about pushing yourself onto others and shouting about who you are, but rather, it’s about pulling others towards you and maintaining that connection.  It’s about establishing commitment to a cause, or loyalty to your products and services.  It defines the essence of who you are, as an organisation or a business or a service provider, because it takes your personality, your promise and your attributes, and explains who you are to the outside world.  It’s about being authentic and true to your values.

Say you are selling leather shoes made from organic farms and you have a strong belief in ethics.  You may decide to advertise that you run a paperless office because you are environmentally conscious, or use leather imprinted business cards, or use leather only from a 50km radius.  All of these decisions, show that all the parts of your values are represented in not only the way you look, (eg your logo) but also they way you run your business.  Customers are then attracted to your brand, because they can trust it to be good, and honest, from beginning to end.

Another example could be a cause that an NGO working on sustainable livelihoods issues, want to better design their interventions.  They could decide to choose a local radio show as a platform to host an interactive show where communities themselves call in and give their perspectives of the issues they are facing.  The NGO would then be able to incorporate these findings into their programme design, knowing that these are the issues that communities need help tackling. The NGO itself would then be able to develop a more effective program, creating more impact, because it responds directly to the needs of that community.  Their effectiveness in solving social issues would then be a core part of defining and maintaining their brand: simply because they listened before they acted.

So, how do you figure out your brand?  Ask yourself the bigger questions… Who are you? What are you trying to do? Who are you doing it for? How are you going to do it? How do you want people to feel about it?

And then talk to a branding expert, who can help you put all of this together!