Everyone has a brand. Google your name right now, and the results will show your online brand to anyone interested in your person or business. But have you actively tried to shape and optimize that brand for a specific audience?
The above example perfectly sums up the core difference between brands and branding. But especially if you are looking to establish a foothold in a specific market or for a specific audience, a deeper understanding of the two concepts can be beneficial.
What are Brands?
Brand is an almost ubiquitous term in marketing and advertising. As it turns out, it’s also one of the most misused. It does not stand for your company or its products. Instead, marketing experts understand the term as
Market identity—who they are, what they do, what kind of quality they provide, their reputation for trustworthiness, and more.
A brand, at its core, is based on your audience’s perceptions. When consumers or business customers think about your company and the products they provide, what comes to mind? What do they associate with its quality and reputation? The above definition sums it up perfectly: a brand, ultimately, is your company’s identity as perceived by your audience.
The Definition of Branding
Contrast that definition with branding, which describes a company’s efforts of establishing, reinforcing, or reinventing that identity. Branding, in fact, describes the active process of engaging in marketing efforts in order to shape your market identity.
You can accomplish that process through a variety of tactics. Your company and product’s name, along with its logo, will play a core part in how your audience perceives your business. Owned, paid, and earned media all play a role in reaching out to your audience and trying to shape the way they think about you.
Branding is Targeted
You cannot decisively shape how audiences perceive your brand. But you can reach out to the portion of that audience that matters, influencing their views of your company.
Effective branding, in other words, is targeted. Rather than focusing on trying to change your identity to everyone who may or may not come in contact with your company, you focus on the core audiences that matter most: your current and potential customers, employees, and other internal and external stakeholders.
Branding is Strategic
Another unique component of branding is the strategy required to be successful. To effectively embark on a branding initiative, you need to first know exactly how your audience feels about your brand. Then, you should determine the channels that would be most effectively in either reinforcing or changing existing perceptions.
After these initiatives take place, evaluate their success by taking stock on your updated brand identity in the eyes of your audience. If they don’t match your expected results, the cycle can begin anew.
Branding is Active
As you may have guessed from the above paragraphs here’s the sentence that perhaps best describes the difference between your brand and branding:
Branding is the active process that allows you to influence your identity in the market.
In other words, one is active, while the other one is passive. For your business, that means an invaluable opportunity: you can use one to shape the other. By embarking on a strategic branding process, you can ensure that over time, your audience gains an understanding and perception of your business that is closely aligned with your intended identity.
Do you know your brand identity, especially as perceived by your target audience? Are you using strategic branding initiatives in order to shape that identity? If not, it may be time. To learn more about the concept, and how to engage in strategic and successful branding, contact us.
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