Branding has become such a popular word online. But the terms “brand” and “branding” are heavily misused these days. Understanding how brand, visual identity, and branding are different is the first step to building a brand that stands out.
Well, let us explore the differences of a brand, visual identity, and branding.
This might be the one we are the most familiar with. A brand is a business. It is the face and persona we create for a business. And that is, actually, why some marketers didn’t accept “personal branding” well when it first became a thing. The conflict in the concept was that: creating a brand already meant making a business more human and personal, so personal branding makes no sense! And I get it. It makes no sense, but it does. We will talk about personal branding in another post.
Back to business branding. Can a brand NOT be a business? Possibly. But I’m yet to see someone create a whole brand image without being for a business of some sort. Even when it is a personal brand, it is an image created with the purpose of converting and promoting something (products, services, etc.), therefore generating income. Business.
Visual identity and branding are always seen as one and the same. The way I see it, visual identity is indeed one of the most important parts of a brand. It could be a biased opinion, as I am a branding designer. But to prove my point, if you stop and think, the most popular brand elements are usually the logo, patterns, business cards, website, social media templates… Design! Always seemed to me like the “heaviest” part of developing a brand’s visual identity falls on the designer. The designer tends to become the creative director and the strategist. The quarterback of the brand’s visuals.
Sidenote: And that’s why, dear friend, choosing the right designer for your brand is so very important! Although illustration is its own thing, I’ll throw it in the design mix, just because they usually go hand-in-hand most of the time. Sorry (and thank you!) illustrators.
But not only from design lives a brand’s visual identity. If photography is not a big part of your visuals, fix that today. We are highly visual beings, and seems like the younger we are, the more we process things through imagery instead of text (whenever possible, of course). No wonder stock photography places like Unsplash and Pexels are extremely popular nowadays. Finding (developing!) the photography style that fits in and complements your brand’s visual identity is a must.
And, of course, you don’t need to be a Youtuber to hold on to the importance of a video in a brand (making of, small tips and tricks, vlogs, etc.). It’s the most powerful medium to show our humanity and help people connect to the brand. And when you release those videos, they better be “on brand.” Please don’t have a website where the designs are green with Oswald font in blue, just to have a Youtube video opening with a pink and orange background, with the text in italic Playfair Display. Did you hear the despair in my voice? Stay on brand, cultivate a cohesive identity, and ensure your audience KNOWS where they are.
How simple or complex your visual identity is, will depend on your audience’s needs, your goals, your skills, your budget, and several other factors. In general, you can achieve your goal by using several different mediums (design, photography, video, audio, and more!) or with only one (maybe two. Aim for two.). This takes time, takes planning, and will develop as your brand grows. I’m a firm believer that done is better than perfect. So start with what you have and develop from there!
Branding is everything involved in manipulating how you want your business to be perceived by your audience. As you probably know by now, let me reinforce that visual identity and branding are not the same thing.
Let’s say I open a scented candle store. I certainly didn’t invest time, money, and tons of dedication in creating my business, just to be another scented candle business in town. I want to be unique. I want to be perceived as unique. I want to connect with the right people and I want the right people to have a certain experience when interacting with my business. From my fonts and colors to my product packaging, to the emails I write during the communication process, to why I chose each scent, to the colors that will go with each candle, to the feedback form I will ask my client to fill out, everything… when everything is together, it is branding.
Branding is how I go beyond being just another business; it is how I become memorable!
The wonder of having someone buy my scented candle because they are infatuated with my brand, a brand I carefully crafted to cause that exact effect, on that exact person. This is branding.