Branding vs. Identity

What is branding? Your company name, your logo, and your tagline are not your brand. Like the clothes you wear, they are important visual indicators to others about who you are. But they are not you.

Your sales pitch is not your brand either. Neither is your latest press release, your homepage, or the bio of your founder. One customer testimonial is not your brand. However, one thousand testimonials begin to define your brand.

Simply put, your brand is how your audience feels about you. It’s their gut reaction – a list of feeling words that describe you, your company, your product or service.


Knowing your brand begins by knowing the answers to three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter?

Once you know the answer to these questions, you can endeavor to shape your brand. But know that guiding and shaping your brand is all you can do. Ultimately, it’s your audience who will decide.

You Don’t Define Your Brand, They Do.

You should strive to make trust the foundation of your brand. Establishing trust in your brand is a matter of consistency.

Customers trust your brand when their experiences consistently meet or beat their expectations. Sounds simple, right?

Everyone knows Coca-Cola, Apple, and Nike. These companies have astronomical advertising budgets and huge teams of people whose sole job consists of shaping their brand. You likely don’t have the capital, capacity or resources to shape your brand at the same scale. That’s ok. Let them spend the billions of dollars in research and marketing effort to establish what works and what doesn’t. Then take a page from their books.

Coca-Cola Nike Apple Logos

If you take a close look at each of these companies and their advertising, you will find that their branding is consistent. You can take away their name and logo from a piece of their advertising and still know that ad is theirs.

Try the same experiment with other brands you like. Then try it with your own brand. If your branding is strong, you can remove your name and logo from your marketing efforts and still recognize the company behind it. The look and feel and the tone of voice are the same across all of your efforts.

With this in mind, let’s look at the power of consistency.

The Power of Consistency in Branding

In 2005, Matt Harding did a silly dance, filmed it and put it on his own website for his friends and family to enjoy.

The video got passed around via email and soon his server was getting 20,000+ hits a day. That first video is now on YouTube with 3.5 million views. Matt made another video in 2006 doing the same thing. It gained nearly 20 million views. Then he did it again in 2008 and got over 50 million views.

To understand the significance of this number, imagine everyone living in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio… then double it. That’s quite an audience for a silly dance.

Obviously, Matt had charisma and the audience he achieved was phenomenal. But the principle behind the success of “Where the Hell is Matt” is obvious: consistency.

Another, more recent (and more reasonable) example of success is the Instagram feed @whatimholding. The feed consists of over 1,000 photos of a hand holding various objects ranging from cookies to shoes to sand. In November of 2016, the feed has nearly 31,000 followers.

Is your company, service or product more interesting than someone holding a boot? We hope so. Even if it’s not, one of the legendary greats of advertising, David Ogilvy, maintains, “There are no dull products, only dull writers.”

You would be hard-pressed to find a product more commoditized than iodized table salt, yet you immediately recognize the girl with a yellow dress and umbrella that represents Morton.

In marketing, you want your brand to be as recognizable and consistent as Morton’s umbrella girl and her yellow dress. Spend the time to figure out who you are, what you do, and why it matters. Craft your brand’s identity and tone of voice around it and deliver the message you’ve crafted with applied consistency. It will pay off.

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