July 18th, 2012
I hate the word “branding” for 2½ reasons, all of which have everything to do with popular usage and connotative meaning….
1.) When Branding is used as a verb, it typically refers to the isolated one-time or occasional applying of tactics to improve brand image. “Branding” typically reduces brand identity to a weekend renovation or a new coat of paint. Brand isn’t a logo, it’s an identity. It’s what your organization does, how you do it, why you matter, what you stand for, and why you exist.
1.5.) Branding as a noun typically refers specifically to that new coat of paint you applied during that weekend renovation. “We’re investing in our branding” is usually code for splurges on social media, logo refreshes, awareness campaigns, or guerrilla engagement campaigns in whatever style happens to be going around at the moment. Branding as a noun is typically used to explain or boast about an organization’s attempt to buy, fake, or contrive relevance; and it rarely involves cohesive strategies for return on investment.
Branding typically refers to altering an external, and is rarely used to talk about relevance.
2.) Branding, and re-branding, often refers to making something look like something other than what it is. Branding, for example, is how everyone is talking about the Corn Refiner’s Association campaign to rename High Fructose Corn Syrup as Corn Sugar. Once upon a time, a brand’s name and logo was how we knew the product we were buying would work, was safe, would live up to our expectations. Americans now live in a fairly disillusioned world. Big Ag is full of theoretically well-branded companies, but if you’ve seen Food Inc or read the Omnivorse’s Dilemma these logos don’t likely inspire much confidence. Now, the very expensive logos of Big Ag food brands help me avoid brands that I know aren’t authentic, are guided solely by profit rather than values, aren’t invested in my best interests, and don’t play by the rules.
Names and logos are important, but they’re just packaging. Brand shouldn’t ever be a term for manipulative spin or a quick-fix image refresh. Brand is what you stand for, who you are, what you do, why you matter. The logo is just the image you use to identify your organization- it’s how we know who made something and what that something stands for. A logo is a visual cue; a proverbial shortcut. A Logo is a business asset; it is not a brand. You can slap any label on it you like, but what your customers really care about is what’s inside. What are you really made of? What are you passionate about? What are you committed to? Why do you exist, besides just making money? What are your values- because that’s what’ll determine what ingredients you will and won’t use, what lines you will and won’t cross, how you’ll treat your employees…