What is a brand?

When I speak with most people about branding they instantly think of logos, websites, letterhead, and other “stuff” that people see. They aren’t completely wrong—branding elements do include visual aspects—but what they often miss is the meaning and purpose of a brand. To quote Amy Cosper of Entrepreneur magazine, “Your brand is the connection and emotional bond you have with your customers.” A brand is a feeling and emotion, something much deeper than just the visual appeal.

To further quote Amy Cosper, “A logo is merely a symbol of what you stand for. And if you don’t stand for anything, not only will your logo fade into irrelevance, but so will your company.”

Logos and other visual branding elements must be generated from a deeper purpose behind the brand. Most people feel they can skip this step and jump right into designing something. Now don’t get me wrong, sites like 99designs do a great job of generating lots of ideas for pretty logos, but if you haven’t taken the time to figure out your company’s core values, purpose, and message- every logo you look at isn’t going to be totally true to your brand.

When you decide you want to build a brand you need to first start with the core values you have. Stevee Heimback does a great job at this by asking people, “What values do you feel your kids must learn?”

These values are your rocks. What most people don’t understand is that people identify with values far before they identify with look. Think about it: are you more willing to buy from a company who stands for something or a company that just has a good looking logo and advertising?

This is the shift in our marketplace today. People today want to know more about the brands they buy from; it is no longer enough to just have pretty packaging.

One of the companies getting this right is Red Bull. When you pull up their site you don’t see advertisements for their product all over. You see pictures and videos of people doing amazing things in different sports. This is their brand. Red Bull is about people achieving amazing things. Think about their recent sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Freefall from 128,000 feet. It has drawn over 34 million views on Youtube and was broadcast on TV around the world. Red Bull’s brand is all about promoting greatness and the amazing ability of individuals. This is why Red Bull owns half of the energy drink market.

What does your brand stand for? Have you crafted a set of core values, purpose, and messages that every aspect of your brand can draw upon? If not, I challenge you to start there. Brands that last and make an impact have deep roots in meaning and people identify with them for that meaning, not just how they look. Yes visual branding is important, but don’t miss the opportunity to connect with a customer on a deeper level and lock them into an emotional connection with your company, because if you don’t…someone else will.