Commercially, brands came from the product world and have encompassed the organization. Branding is no longer for cattle owners or just big corporations. Today, sole proprietors, non-profits and even nations are viewing themselves as brands.
Perhaps the easiest way to define branding is to make it synonymous with brand development with this simple equation: Branding = Brand Development. Just as advertising is defined as “the business of producing advertisements,” the definition of branding could be as simple as “the development of brands.” Imagine if the answer to the most frequently asked question (what is branding anyway?) could be this short.
A brand must be realized from the highest levels of management down, because it affects more than just sales, it shapes the internal culture of an organization. A properly defined brand will have a positive impact on every department within an organization.
This is why a brand can no longer belong to the domain of the marketing department or the advertising agency or design studio. Branding is not a marketing event, but an ongoing management process.
Unfortunately, too many clients and practitioners are still using an old formula where branding becomes a marketing/advertising campaign or graphic design project. They are quite content to fall back on the old “ad agency + graphic design firm + Web firm = brand” equation.
The ultimate goal of any organization is to deliver a unified verbal and visual message that is understood and identified by all of its stakeholders, using their brand as a leadership tool. Yet the above equation undermines that goal. As each creative agency strives to reinvent the wheel – expressing the brand in its own way and in its own medium – cohesiveness is lost, ultimately diluting the message.
Advertising and branding are two very different ventures with very different expiry dates. To really take, brand identity must be consistent over many years, but advertising or marketing campaigns should change regularly, or else their audiences will tune out. Too often people confuse brand identity with brand campaign.
Graphic design is a discipline that contributes to the development of a brand, in the same way it contributes to advertising or architecture. However, “graphics” are only part of the equation. Many designers make the mistake of viewing branding as only a "look-and-feel" exercise when it involves many other tasks, such as naming, positioning and legal work, including searching and securing trademarks.
Branding is a specialized area of expertise. It takes many years of experience working through various brand scenarios to be a true brand ‘guru.' Like any discipline, branding requires total dedication and focus to achieve professional status. Brand development is a balance of both strategic and creative ability. Currently, most practices are either strong on the strategic (business) side of branding or the creative (design) side. Too much strategy yields elaborate rationales with no tangible result and too much creative turns brand development into a beauty contest.
Today’s practitioner must combine both skill and talent. Not only must he or she be a strategic thinker, but must also possess the creativity needed to come up with the big idea. No longer can consultants declare themselves ‘brand strategists’ and farm out the creative thinking. On the other hand, ‘artists’ who are looking to express themselves using someone else’s brand should find another canvas. A brand and especially a brand consultant must demonstrate, not just promise.