If a brand is not a logo or a tagline or a color scheme, then what, exactly, is a brand, you ask?
According to Block Club partner Dave Horesh, who recently sat down with me to discuss the esoteric side of brand development, the short answer is really quite simple: a brand is a feeling.
“That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “Everything else that surrounds a brand is instrumentation to make that feeling manifest.”
By “feeling,” Horesh is referring to the emotional response a company or product invokes in consumers. Ideally, that feeling is not happenstance but a response that has been strategically cultivated by a brand’s owner to align with their vision for the brand. And it’s in that strategic cultivation that this simple concept gets a little more complicated.
Identifying and Building Your Brand
Whether you’re a new business with no brand recognition or an established business with a shaky brand foundation, self-awareness is key to developing (or refreshing) a brand that serves you and your goals.
“You need to be able to identify the position you want to occupy that’s different from your competitors, the messages you can deploy to support that position, and who you are talking to,” Horesh said. “If you don’t have those things in place, then you can’t create a strong brand. Period.”
To get there, you can work with a branding agency like Block Club, or you can start by asking yourself these questions:
- Why are you in the business that you’re in? What motivates you and your team on a daily basis? (Money is not a good answer.)
- Who is your target audience? What are their characteristics?
- How does your company or product improve the lives of people in your target audience or help them achieve their goals?
- How is your company or product different from the competition?
- If your company or product was a person, how would you describe its personality?
This list isn’t exhaustive, and just responding to it isn’t enough to build a brand. But your answers should get you thinking in the right direction.
Branding Is an Ongoing Commitment
The work doesn’t stop once you’ve built a strong brand. Even well-established brands invest tremendous resources in maintaining that ideal feeling with customers.
“You can think of maintaining a brand as being in a relationship,” Horesh explained. “The feeling can be really positive or really negative, and it can change over time. People get bored. And so, the conversation with your brand always continues, whether you want it to or not. You constantly have to invest in that, because people who once loved you can lose interest.”
That’s critical, because liking or not liking your brand and the people who represent it can be a tipping point in an economy where the majority of products and services are a commodity.
“If company A designs websites and company B also designs websites, customers are going to pick the brand and people they like better,” Horesh said. “Most of the time, people make a buying decision because they get the right vibe.”