Everything An Executive Needs To Know About Branding But Was Afraid To Ask


Have your eyes ever started to glaze over as people threw around a bunch of marketing jargon? You’re not alone. This is especially true in the realm of branding. I mean, how many terms can you possibly make with the word “brand?” Turns out, a lot. stellapop-click-to-tweet

So if you’d like a quick-and-easy guide to branding terminology, keep this post handy and you’ll sound like an expert in no time.


Let’s start off with the base of everything: a brand. Back in the day, a brand was simply a company name and logo. But now it’s blossomed into something much more complex. Seth Godin has a great definition:

“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.”

It’s the sum of everything about your company — both tangible and intangible. A brand is both what your company does and stands for, as well as how people perceive it. Think about Coke. Their brand is about more than just soda. It’s classic. Truly American. Always relevant — never out of style. It’s these attributes that make it special and different from any other soda company.

Brand Identity

We all know that those golden arches belong to McDonald’s. When we see a “swoosh,” there’s no doubt it’s a Nike product. Our ability to immediately recognize these companies just by their logo means they have an excellent brand identity. That is the outward expression of a brand, including its name and visual appearance. Brand identity is the tangible elements that create the intended image of the brand, make a brand recognizable to customers and differentiate it from competitors.

Brand Differentiator

This is the thing that makes you stand out from the rest — the one or two characteristics of your company that set you apart and give you a perceived advantage with your customers. For example, if you wanted to purchase a product online and have it delivered quickly, you’d likely choose Amazon. Similarly, if you wanted a powerful vacuum, you might choose a Dyson. Why? Because these companies are known for their respective differentiating qualities. We often ask our clients, “Why would someone choose your company over one of your competitors? What is it that makes you different?” In today’s world, with more options than ever, it’s often good practice to lead with your differentiator.

Brand Positioning

This is related to a brand differentiator. Basically, you take your brand differentiator and then create a marketing strategy around it to position yourself in a way that ensures your target audience thinks of you when they want your particular product or service. Brand positioning involves the careful manipulation of every element of the marketing mix.

Brand Promise

Your brand promise is what’s born of your brand positioning. It’s the expectation that your company will deliver on the things you’ve declared make it different. For example, McDonald’s delivers on its promise that you will experience a fast, inexpensive meal no matter which location you go to. When FedEx declared that it was the only choice “when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight,” they had to follow through with that promise.

Brand Story

Your brand story goes beyond your company history. While this can be an important component, your story should be something bigger. As ECHO Storytelling describes:

“A brand story is a cohesive narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand. Unlike traditional advertising, which is about showing and telling about your brand, a story must inspire an emotional reaction.”

A story about your company will exist with or without your input, so putting work into shaping your story is worth it.

Brand Strategy

After you’ve developed everything from your brand identity to your brand promise, it’s time to create your overarching, long-term brand strategy. Your brand strategy includes everything from your company’s competitive position, messaging, website experience, campaigns, employee interactions and more. It will help you identify and work toward specific goals, as well as develop plans to create sustainable growth.

Brand Activation

NOW – it’s go time! You have everything in place, and it’s time to make your brand come to life. Brand activation simply means making your brand known to people through interactions and experiences with your customers and the public. You can breathe life into your brand in several different ways, such as branded experiences created through an app, event, website, pop-up store event, ad campaign, etc. Think about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. This is a great example of well-executed brand activation. From billboards to TV ads to online videos, this campaign did more than just get Dove’s name out there – it started conversations and evoked emotional reactions. To jumpstart your thinking on brand activation, check out 9 of the top activation strategies driving brand engagement, courtesy of the American Marketing Association.

Now that you have a solid understanding of some of the most common brand terms, go out there and make your brand the best it can be. Remember, if you need help beefing up your brand, we’re happy to help!

Here’s a great starting point for any growing business – How To Create A Brand Survival Bag


See Also:

How To Tell Your Brand’s Story

Is Your Brand A Living Asset Or A Liability

Less Is The New More

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