“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You must earn it by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, knows a thing or two about brand, branding, and brand identity. As one of the “Big 4” tech companies along with Google, Apple, and Facebook, Amazon dominates many people’s online lives. That’s because it gives us what we need when we need it – quickly, conveniently, and easily. Amazon is innovative yet reliable, good value while offering a wide choice, and a complex global organization that makes it simple for consumers to understand and use. It’s probably not easy being Jeff Bezos, but he does make it easy for us.
One of the things Amazon (and Jeff) does well is put together three core components a company needs to succeed: brand, branding, and brand identity. In this article, we’ll break down what each of them is, why they’re important, and how they’re used. Let’s start with an overview:
- Brand: the perceptions and feelings people have toward a company
- Branding: a deliberate process used to shape perceptions
- Brand identity: what we can see and hear, the design and voice of the brand
What is a brand?
Let’s start with what a brand is not. It is not a logo. A brand goes a lot deeper than a colorful identifying label, important as a logo is. It’s also not a word to use interchangeably with “company” or “business”.
A brand is a set of perceptions, ideas, and feelings that a person has about a company and its products or services. It’s intangible. It’s how we feel emotionally, whether that’s positive or negative. As Jeff Bezos said, it’s the equivalent of a reputation for a person – what they are known for and known to be.
If a company can connect on a strong emotional level with a customer, they are building a brand. This connection is key; it’s what makes people trust, believe, and love you. It’s why there are Adult Fans of LEGO (“AFOLs” – yes, they have their own acronym), why people queue to buy the latest iPhone, and why Google has almost 90% market share.
Why is brand important?
Brand is important because it’s the customer’s perceptions and expectations of your company and what you’ll deliver – specifically, what you’ll deliver to them. Delivering on brand expectations will mean you can retain a strong customer base and create customers who will advocate for your brand – and therefore inspire more people to buy your products or services.
What is branding?
Branding is the active process of shaping the perceptions that people have about your brand. It’s what you do, not how customers feel about you. Branding encompasses all of the actions that you take to build awareness and reputation around your company and its products and services.
It’s a business process that involves using the elements of your brand identity (see below) to shape what your customers think and how they feel, and to proactively build a connection with them. It gives your company or its products and services an identity. Think of MacDonald’s golden arches, Airbnb’s incredible storytelling, and the best Superbowl commercials – each of these elements shape our perception of their brand.
Why is branding important?
Branding is important because it:
- Creates an identity – it’s what you’re known for and what identifies you, and enable a connection with your customers
- Builds consumer preference – it makes you stand out from your competitors
- Builds company value – it’s a tangible asset (for example, it’s how Apple can charge more than its competitors who offer very similar products)
- Creates trust – it has a professional appeal, and also means you provide quality, value, and service
- It’s the basis for your marketing strategy – there can be no marketing strategy without branding in place
What is brand identity?
Lastly we come to brand identity, which is the tangible expression of your brand. It includes common elements like your brand’s name, typography, tagline, logo, colors, and tone of voice. It’s what your customers can see and hear…it’s the design and voice of your brand.
The stronger and more cohesive your brand identity is, the better chance you have to shape a brand that is recognized and trusted. Being consistent will win out.
All the elements of a brand identity come together in a brand guide, which contains your visual brand assets such as logo, fonts, and color palette, brand narrative, messaging, and differentiators, amongst other things.
Why is brand identity important?
Ultimately, brand identity should come with a set of guidelines to use so that you are consistent across all your branding. These guidelines will unify what you do and make sense to your customers no matter where they see you. In fact, they’ll make so much sense that your customers will connect with you emotionally…and so we’ve come right back to where we started, with brand. Brand identity supports the brand perceptions your customer has.