Brand vs Branding – What’s the difference?

‘Brand’ and ‘Branding’ are big words. They are often referred to as one in the same thing but actually have quite a different meaning. One is an emotion or set of emotions, and the other is a business tool, but is it really as simple as this? Here’s my take on it.

What is a ‘Brand’?

Your brand is not owned by you, it is owned by your customers. This is because your brand is a set of ideas, associations and feelings in your customers’ minds. Your brand is the perception of a crowd, shaped by your company’s actions, culture, and visual style.

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. […] When enough individuals arrive at the same gut feeling, a company can be said to have a brand. A brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” – Marty Neumeier

A brand’s goal is to get more people to buy more products, for more money, for longer. Brands achieve this by making people feel good about a product or service by purposefully connecting it to a bigger idea. In doing so, they help us create value and meaning and give us a sense of identity and even belonging.

One of my favourite brands is green energy provider Bulb. Their big idea is to revolutionise the energy industry by selling affordable green energy. As an environmentally conscious person, Bulb allows me to reduce my carbon footprint. Of course, they are earning money through my custom, but I don’t just get energy, I also live my values through their product and service. I am purposefully saying no to ‘dirty energy’ and actively contributing to saving our planet. And that, makes me feel great!

Brands are of social and commercial importance and create value for the consumer and positive brand equity for the business. In fact, on average, a third of all corporate value in the world comes from brands.

What is ‘Branding’?

Branding affects every single department within your organisation. It is the continuous process of shaping your actions, culture and visual style to influence how people think and feel about your brand. It is the attempt to close the gap between how you are being perceived by your customers to how you want to be perceived. The smaller the gap, the more focussed and successful your brand.

But to get your brand to where you want it to be, your branding efforts need to be based on a focussed plan of action – your brand strategy. This long-term plan helps you to clearly position and differentiate your business, to define and reach the right type of customer and to establish a culture that aligns internal stakeholders and customers alike.

Branding also encompasses the style of your brand – your brand identity. Design elements, tone of voice, and messaging make your brand tangible. This is so that it can be felt through all the senses and be recognised through a consistent distinctive style. A focussed brand strategy also gives clear creative direction for your design assets and brand touchpoints, such as your website, marketing literature, advertisements, retail spaces etc. Our article 5 Reasons why Strategy is key to building a successful brand explores this in more depth.

So, to sum up: ‘Branding’ is the combination of your business’ brand strategy and the culture and unique style resulting from it. Your ‘brand’ is the effect of these efforts.

If you haven’t already gathered, we’re rather passionate about brands and branding. If you’re looking to refresh your brand or would like to learn more about how a brand builds trust and credibility, simply drop us an email or give us a call.

About Franzi Scheithauer

Franzi is Creative Director at Studio Brand Up and specialises in brand strategy and identity design.