The concept of BRANDING is complex and difficult to define. Because branding encompasses all the characteristics and public (or visible) actions of a brand.
But in this article, we’ll try to describe everything as simply as possible, so that by the end of it, you already know what branding is, how to do a brand manual correctly and understand all the reasons why it can help you.
Let’s start with a definition:
Branding is the continuous process of identifying, creating and managing all interactions with the target audience – which define the perception of the brand in their eyes.
Branding is a mosaic of every public action we take. Advertisements are a form of branding, the website, the quality of customer service, the experience of our customers, the recommendations of people who have interacted with the brand… and all the other actions that can be assimilated by the general public.
Even the way you respond to comments on social media platforms is considered branding because absolutely every action a company takes in the public environment adds another brick to branding.
And I’ll tell you something else.
Even companies that haven’t thought of a branding strategy and haven’t done anything in that direction have branding. Because people perceive that company in one or more ways: is it a serious company or not, is it a company that communicates funny and freely or formally, etc.
Some of these aspects are, of course, more important than others, and the importance of each may differ from case to case.
To clarify the situation a bit, let’s look at the above definition by component:
1. A continuous process
Branding is a continuous process because it never stops. Even impeccably done branding can be turned upside down almost overnight by an unfortunate event or PR crisis.
2. Identification, creation and management
When it comes to branding, you must first identify what “image” you want to project to your target audience, create that image through all the means at your disposal, and then maintain and adapt it (management) as time goes on.
3. All interactions with the target audience
The target audience will interact with a brand directly (through visual identity, content, products, advertisements, etc.) and indirectly (through recommendations, reviews, news, etc.).
The totality of these interactions will define your branding.
4. Defining brand perception
Brand perception is brand reputation. Reputation is formed in the minds of your audience based on all your direct or indirect interactions with the brand – as a result of the branding process, or even lack thereof.
I repeat: There is no business or brand without branding. The absence of a branding process will still result in a brand, but a poorly defined or inconsistent one.
No one can avoid the branding process, just as no one can avoid having a reputation – good or bad, whatever it may be.
Branding is important because this process fixes a business, product or service in the minds of consumers and all other stakeholders (investors, competitors, etc.).
Through well-crafted, effective, concise and convergent branding around missions, values and principles, businesses can accelerate their growth at an almost incredible rate.
To take an example very fresh in people’s minds, what Ukrainian President Zelenski did at the beginning of the war with Russia is a powerful example of branding done right.
Zelenski – a former comedian – did very well as Ukraine’s image vector, and mobilized public opinion to give him very substantial war aid. A less charismatic man, it’s almost certain he couldn’t have gotten as many resources had he been thrown into the same situation.
Another example of branding is Coca-Cola, which has become the best known commercial soft drink globally.
How did they do that? By associating them with positive feelings, with Christmas, with fun and “good vibes” with family and friends… and all this persistently supported by constant campaigns over the years.
When the brand is strong, people’s trust is also at an all-time high, and that brand’s products or services will be in constant demand.
Spoiler: absolutely every action we take is branding communication – as long as customers or investors can see it, any action will affect (positively or negatively) your reputation and can be considered part of branding.
Obviously, some actions can have a major impact and others can be minor or even negligible
However, branding is made up of the sum of all these actions, and a lot of minor failures can accumulate into a crisis for the brand that is not careful and does not treat its customers (and other stakeholders) with care and respect.
Before we go through the elements, you should know that a brand manual, must contain two components:
- Visual identity.
What the brand manual contains on the communication side:
The mission is a concise explanation of why the organization exists, i.e. it describes the purpose of the organization and its overall intent. It serves to communicate purpose and direction to employees, customers, vendors, etc.
Basically, a brand must stay true to its mission so that it can guide its direction and decisions in line with that mission.
Let’s look at some famous missions… 👇
unosoft: Growing People and Business.
Patagonia: We’re in business to save our home planet.
American Express: Become essential to our customers by providing differentiated products and services to help them achieve their aspirations.
IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
TED: Spread ideas.
As you can see in the examples above, they clearly lay out the brand’s mission and how they work to make the world a better place, for the long term.
A brand’s vision details where it wants the organization to go. What it hopes to achieve in the next few years…
As another example, unosoft vision is:
We want to become the Romanian Growth Hacking ecosystem that cultivates the next generation of entrepreneurs, marketers and professional freelancers.
We want to build a successful, sustainable and functional Growth Hacking industry, whose members have in their blood the desire to pass on their knowledge. With our help, they learn to create their own business and scaling opportunities, master the concepts, strategies and mindset governed by Growth Hacking.
🔹 What’s important to understand here is that the vision is focused on tomorrow and what the organization wants to become.
🔹 The mission statement focuses on what the organization is doing right now. It focuses on how the brand’s current actions contribute to a better world.
A brand’s values are the principles by which it is guided in all decisions.
They’re very much like a person’s values, and they’re things enough basic that your target audience can identify with them.
Values can be anything from honesty, innovation, friendship, charity… to social justice or a certain political vision (though we don’t recommend going too deep into political and/or highly controversial areas).
To repeat the examples so far, the unosoft values are:
Growth Hacking – We focus only on what really matters and makes a quick and measurable impact. We measure, we prioritise, we act, we evaluate, we adapt.
Integrity – We always do what we promised, no matter what. Our word is our currency.
Enjoy the ride – We believe that if people don’t have fun, they can’t do a good job.
We are PEHB (professional empathic human beings) – For us work has a human face. We do not separate it from the human behind it, because they are interconnected.
Pragmatic idealists – We are ambitious in defining the goal, but pragmatic in achieving it. We want the impossible because we know we can achieve it.
Values are central to all company decisions. If you want every team member, from small to large, to be able to make smart decisions… then you need a clear set of values.
It’s important, however, that there not be an inordinate number of values. You only want to highlight the core ones, because if you have ALL the values, then it’s like having none.
👉 Central Promise // UVP
UVP stands for Unique Value Proposition.
This is just a more formal and shorter way to define the promise you make to customers… what you promise you can deliver to them, UNIQUE and DIFFERENT from the competition.
The UVP is a short text (of a few sentences) that must communicate very clearly the following things about the product/service/company*:
- What is the product
- What the product helps the customer with (value)
- Who the product’s target audience is (to help them identify themselves)
This definition of your business needs to be clearly established, because depending on the UVP you will shape your communication and offers.
Almost every communication/claim gesture must convey this unique value, because you want it to be very clear to your customers what differentiates you from the competition.
“Welcome home, rent unique accommodations from local hosts in more than 190 countries.”
With Airbnb you can rent unique accommodations from local hosts in over 190 countries. Welcome home!
This PVU directly conveys that it’s a travel intermediary (like a travel agency), but one that focuses on authentic, local, and beneficial experiences for locals.
We all know what Uber is. But how do they manage to convey that through PVU? Very neat…
“Tap the app, get a ride.
Uber is the smartest way to get around. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. And payment is completely cashless.”
Tap the app and you get a ride. Uber is the smartest way to get around. Just tap your phone and a ride comes straight to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. You pay directly from your card.
Tells you everything you need to know in no uncertain terms.
Attention! The UVP is not just about the Google description, it should be everywhere. In every aspect of our communication.
On the website, in ads, in emails, etc. Google description is just one of dozens of places where UVP should be used.
👉 Customer profile
You always need to know who you’re talking to!
Every business needs to have a clear picture of their customers. The customer avatar is like a robot portrait of the ideal customer. Be careful though, don’t make the mistake of stopping at demographics.
Just because someone is a 28-year-old male from Cluj does NOT mean they are your client.
You have the ideal client profile when you know:
– Who the customer is (demographics);
– Where his attention is;
– Why he buys (motivation/psychographic data);
Once you establish who your customer is, it’s much easier to sell them your product or service… and communicate as a brand in a way that is relevant to your customers.
If you want to see how you too can profile your customer correctly, read this article.
👉 Communication channels
Another important aspect of branding is establishing communication channels. It’s not only important what you communicate, but also the communication mediums you choose to use.
It is said that “the medium is the message” precisely because your presence on TikTok says something about you, as does your presence on Instagram, on YouTube, what kind of communication you do on eMail… or even your absence from these communication channels.
Well done branding clearly establishes which channels a business is present on and how it communicates on each of them.
If you want to find out how you can promote your business through online marketing, we’ve put together a free comprehensive guide here.
👉 Tone of voice
Just like any person, every brand has a tone of voice.
It can be formal, informal, friendly, polite, irreverent, sexy, provocative, or any combination of these.
The tone of a brand’s voice is closely related to its mission, vision and values. It should be a natural extension of the core messages. The tone through which we convey our messages is a message in itself.
One specific form of branding is the already-famous “Personal Branding”.
Famous people and – with social media – influencers, have their own brands that they need to keep consistent.
An Influencer is more than a brand: it’s almost a product in itself. That’s why it needs to have a mission, a vision, consistent values and all the necessary characteristics of a brand.
So all the steps you go through in creating a company brand should also be found in creating a personal brand.
A brand manual is a, as the name says, a manual that contains all the rules of communicating a brand.
The brand manual includes how the brand speaks from a communication point of view (what I described above), but also how it communicates visually, i.e. Visual Identity of the brand and this is where
If you don’t know where to start with your logo, here’s an article where I wrote about all the free programs that help you build your own logo.
– main colours used
– other representative visual elements.
It also includes what makes and what does not a brand, core messages and all the details needed to communicate on all levels.
The purpose of this document is for anyone involved in the communication and marketing process of a brand to be able to communicate “in the voice of the brand” by following the guidelines in this manual.
What is rebranding anyway?
It is simply an organisation’s attempt to re-brand/re-new its branding.
Even excellent branding will often be outdated after a few years. Some organisations retain their branding for decades, in exceptional cases. But after enough time has passed, rebranding is needed.
A brand may only need a visual refresh of communication (e.g. logo)… but over time its mission, vision, values, or core messages will probably change.
It’s a perfectly normal process that comes with the evolution of a brand and its adaptation to a world in perpetual change.
And you know, in my opinion, the rebranding process is much more difficult than the process of creating a company’s brand from scratch, and that’s because it has to be thought through extremely well from the beginning.
It’s very difficult to change people’s perception of a company that they’ve been familiar with for decades or maybe even decades.
That’s why rebranding also requires a very well thought-out strategy.
But that, in a future article.
Branding is essential, but it doesn’t have to be a constant concern for an entrepreneur or business.
As I said at the beginning of the article, branding happens with or without our will…
So the secret is that the brand has all these fundamentals (described in the previous paragraphs) established, so that by following them, branding is always correct and consistent.
With these strong fundamentals, branding becomes an asset, and communication and marketing become considerably easier and better calibrated for customer satisfaction.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to invest a fortune in branding your business, you don’t urgently need a brand manual… But you do need to know what the soul and uniqueness of your brand is, because you need to be consistent in your interactions with your audience.