What is branding?

Welcome to my blog. I look forward to exploring the popular subject of branding with you. From 35,000 feet and through a microscope, we’ll discuss the state of branding today and how it is evolving. To set the stage, let’s take a look back.

Branding: What is it, anyway, and where did it come from? Today there appear to be more branding definitions, variations and experts than one can count. This morning, when I Googled the word “branding,” I received 110,000,000 results, including nation branding, personal branding, faith branding, accidental branding and even no-brand branding.

In America, we all seem to believe that branding was first adopted to differentiate one rancher’s cattle from another’s. In fact, the word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse word “brandr,” meaning “to burn,” and from the early Scandinavian practice of burning insignias into products. So, that’s where the cowboys got their idea. With mass production in the 19th century and the advent of packaged goods, factories would literally brand their mark on the barrels used for shipping — inadvertently turning the meaning of branding into the idea of trademark. So, while many of us today as well as our predecessors over the past century have been busy defining and re-defining what a brand is and how it functions, we have all been engaged in the evolution of a rather ancient idea.

As the discipline of branding has evolved so has the basic nature of business transactions — from sales to marketing to branding.

What is sales but an activity? It is selling a product or service in return for money or some other compensation. The seller provides the product or service, passes ownership and settles on a price. So, it’s a one-way transaction.

Marketing is a process and a two-way transaction — communicating the value of a product or service to potential or past customers so that when they’re ready to purchase they are predisposed to buy what the marketer offers. Sales is part of the marketing process, along with other activities we’re all familiar with —  such as packaging, distribution, advertising, public relations and the management of customer relationships.

Today, branding is a collaboration between a company or any entity and all the people out there that the entity depends upon for success. It was in the 1940s that companies began to take note of how consumers were developing relationships with their brands in a social, psychological and anthropological sense. These rather clever companies began to proactively manage their brand’s identity and define its personality. Since then we’ve seen a wealth of concepts arise that contribute to the branding discipline, including brand awareness, experience, identity, trust, parity, extensions, dilution, loyalty, equity and many more.

As every industry and marketplace continues to change at an accelerating rate, along with the way in which marketers communicate with consumers and consumers communicate with each other, a clear understanding of why one should thoughtfully, proactively brand your own enterprise — and how — is no longer an option. It’s a necessity.

I hope you will engage with me on this fascinating topic. Send me your questions, comments and success stories as we learn to be more “brandwise” together.