What is a Brand? Definition and Examples

What is a brand? Let’s explore its core elements and the importance of a brand in changing consumer perception and building business success.

Written by RamotionJun 28, 202413 min read

Last updated: Jun 28, 2024

Defining Brand

You’re strolling down the grocery store aisle, casually eyeing the shelves packed with products you’ve never heard of. Suddenly, there it is. That’s what you’ve been looking for. But you barely had to look. What made you reach for this product instead of the one next to it? Was it the logo, the memorable slogan, or maybe a positive experience you had as a kid?

All of the above could be possible. This is the world of brands. A world where perception is everything, where 82% of online shoppers click on the product they recognize first.

In this article, we’ll run you through all the basics of what a brand is, including its basic components, and why understanding the true value of branding is nothing short of business crucial.

What a Brand is Not

Contrary to traditional beliefs, a brand is not just a logo, a product, or a service. It's not the ad campaigns or the packaging design. Although these elements contribute greatly to a brand’s failure or success, a brand is more than its design.

A brand is the values and personality of your company and its people, the trust it builds, and the promise it makes to its audience.

It’s not a fleeting trend or a short-term marketing strategy — a brand is a long-term investment in your company's identity and reputation. Brands succeed by consistently and continuously working on their core values and promises to both employees and customers.

These things are built over time through continuous efforts and clear visions of what you stand for—real brands are not simply “made up” by your marketing team.

The Importance of a Brand

A strong brand is crucial in influencing consumer perceptions and behaviors. It can be the deciding factor in a competitive market where 88% of consumers who trust a brand will buy from them again. As brands create emotional connections with their audience, building loyalty and trust, having an authentic one can strengthen a company's market position and drive business success — sometimes even on its own. 

When customers feel an emotional connection to a brand, they’re much more likely to choose it over competitors, even if it means paying a little extra. To build this emotional connection, your audience needs to consistently create positive experiences with your brand. As brands keep delivering on their promises (while also providing value), they cultivate trust and loyalty, which turns into long-term success.

The Key Components of a Brand

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Visual Identity

Your visual identity is the design element that helps build your brand’s appearance. These are things like the logo, color palette, and typography. The visual elements create a recognizable image that helps customers connect with the brand. Just visualize the golden arches of McDonald's or the iconic swoosh of Nike, maybe even Nivea’s memorable blue color or the Disney font. These key visuals represent so much more than just a name. They embody these brands' values, promise, quality, and even memories.

A great visual identity is a strategic tool that allows you to communicate your brand's personality and values visually. The choice of colors, fonts, and other design elements should always align with the brand's identity and resonate with its target audience so that when they’re consistently used over time across all touchpoints, you automatically build brand recognition and trust.

Verbal Identity

The verbal identity includes the tone, voice, style, and slogans a brand uses. It emotionally connects a company and its audience, making the brand more relatable and memorable. Take Apple's "Think Different" slogan as an example.

It speaks volumes about the brand's innovative spirit and positions it as a leader in creative thinking. Using a specific tone of voice across all communication channels over time strengthens the brand's identity and builds a much deeper connection with your audience.

A verbal identity is both about what and how it’s said. The tone and style of communication should reflect the brand's personality and values.

For example, a brand targeting young and tech-savvy consumers might use a casual and fun tone, while a luxury brand might choose to be more formal and smart. The key is always ensuring that the brand's voice is consistent and resonates with the audience you’re trying to talk to.

Interaction Experiences

Customer interactions with a brand, whether through customer service, social media, or at an event, have a heavy impact on brand loyalty. Positive interactions cement trust and satisfaction, but negative ones can damage a brand's reputation.

Think about it: A friendly and efficient customer service experience can turn an angry customer into a loyal advocate. But bad service can push your customers straight to a competitor.

Every time customers interact with your brand, you have a chance to reinforce (or damage) its values and build positive relationships. This includes everything from the ease of navigating your company's website to the tone of voice used in social media.

Values & Positioning

Core brand values define what a brand stands for and what it’s prepared to fight for. Clear positioning differentiates a brand from competitors by spotlighting its unique strengths and offerings. One example is Patagonia’s commitment to environmentalism, which 1) defines its values and 2) positions it distinctly in the outdoor apparel market.

This alignment of values and positioning allows customers to identify with the brand, fostering loyalty.

A brand's values are the guiding principles that influence its behavior and decision-making. They should be reflected in everything you do, from product development to customer service.

Positioning, however, is more about how the brand is perceived in the market relative to its competitors. It involves identifying the unique benefits and attributes that set your brand apart and communicating them effectively to your audience.

Brand Archetypes

Brand archetypes are universal characters that help represent a brand’s personality. They can influence how a brand is perceived and be a good base for creating a strong, relatable identity.

Most people would say that there are twelve different archetypes. One is the Hero archetype, like Nike, which inspires courage and achievement. Or the Caregiver archetype, like Johnson & Johnson, which promotes nurturing and care. Understanding and leveraging brand archetypes can help your business align messaging and visual identity with the expectations and emotions of your audience.

Each brand archetype has its own characteristics and emotional appeal. The Explorer archetype is adventurous and seeks new experiences. The Ruler archetype is authoritative and values control and order.

They all have very specific characteristics, and as you’re identifying and embodying a specific archetype, you can lean in a little bit extra towards a certain direction and create a more uniform identity that resonates with your employees and your audience.

Competitive Advantage

Your brand's competitive advantage sets you apart from competitors. This could be exceptional customer service, innovative products, or a unique market position. Conducting competitor analysis regularly helps you identify their unique strengths and use them to either try and outshine them in that area or completely go the other direction and own your personal space — leveraging the knowledge to gain a competitive edge.

Take Amazon as an example. Its competitive advantage is probably its massive product selection, quick delivery, and customer-centric approach, which contribute to its dominant market position.

Using your competitive advantage starts by identifying what makes your brand unique and valuable to customers. It's why people choose your brand over another as they walk down that famous grocery store aisle.

You must continuously innovate and adapt to changing market conditions to maintain a competitive advantage. To do this well, you need a deep understanding of the landscape and the ability to anticipate and respond to competitors' moves at all times.

Additional Elements

Other elements like sonic branding, scent signatures, and mascots add further depth to a brand’s identity. They enhance the overall brand experience and create lasting impressions. Think about Intel's five-note sonic signature — it’s instantly recognizable and reinforces Intel’s brand identity. 

Brand mascots like the Geico gecko, the Duolingo owl, or the Michelin Man also provide a friendly and approachable face for a brand. These things can all be super effective in creating an emotional bond with customers.

The Main Types of Brands

Personal Brands

Personal brands revolve around individuals and their general reputation. Examples include influencers, entrepreneurs, and public figures. Personal brands are built on the individual's personality, expertise, unique qualities, and what they do for the world around them.

These people can also use their personal brands to collaborate with businesses, essentially lending their reputation to the corporate brand in question to help strengthen its position. Think about Michael Jordan and Nike or Taylor Swift and Diet Coke.

Building a personal brand requires a consistent and authentic presence across various platforms, from social media to public appearances. Personal brands can be incredibly powerful, allowing individuals to leverage their reputation and influence to achieve their goals, whether building a business, advancing a career, or positively impacting the world.

Corporate Brands

Corporate brands represent entire companies and their overarching values. These are the Apples, Googles, and Amazons of the world. Corporate brands help unify all the products or services offered by the company and reflect the mission, values, and reputation of the wider business and its people.

A really strong corporate brand can boost the credibility and value of its products, driving customer loyalty and, ultimately, business growth.

Corporate branding is about creating a unified identity that reflects your company's values and mission. This requires consistent messaging and use of your visual identity across all touchpoints, from the website and marketing materials to your corporate comms and customer interactions.

Strong corporate brands can enhance the company's reputation, which improve business and helps attract top talent.

Product Brands

Not to be confused with corporate brands, product brands are specific to individual products. They often have their own identity separate from the parent company (e.g., Tide from P&G or Doritos from PepsiCo).

What’s so useful with product-specific brands is that larger corporations can use them to target different market segments with tailored branding strategies depending on the product instead of always having to lean on their corporate brand. This helps create a unique identity and appeal for each product line, maximizing market penetration and customer reach.

Product brands can be especially effective in competitive markets because they allow you to differentiate your products and appeal to specific customer segments with each product or product line.

You can develop a distinct visual identity, messaging, and positioning that resonates with the target audience for each product.

8 Essentials for Building a Strong Brand

1. Define Your Target Audience

Understanding your target audience is the first step in brand building. Conducting a competitive analysis to identify your competitors and potential customers and what they need is the baseline for understanding who your audience is looking to for answers. 

How: When you start defining your target audience, you’ll be conducting market research to understand who your potential customers are, what they need, and how they behave. This includes analyzing demographic data, psychographic profiles, and buying behaviors. Once you understand your target audience, you can create a brand that resonates with them and meets their needs.

2. Develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

A USP differentiates your brand from competitors. It will be your primary statement(s) describing the benefit your products or services offer. FedEx’s promise of guaranteed overnight delivery is a powerful USP that sets it apart in the logistics industry. A truly compelling USP attracts customers and gives them a reason to choose your brand over others each and every time.

How: Developing USPs means identifying what makes your brand unique and valuable to your audience. To do this, you would need a deep understanding of your target audience. Ultimately, your USP should be clear, compelling, and relevant to your audience, highlighting the unique benefits and attributes that set your brand apart.

3. Create a Memorable Visual Identity

You should always invest in a strong visual identity that resonates with your employees and target audience. To many people, this is the most fun part of brand building. This is when we get to play around with your logo, color palette, and overall design aesthetic.

A consistent visual identity helps build brand recognition and trust. For example, Coca-Cola's red color is instantly recognizable and evokes happiness and nostalgia in its patrons. 

How: Creating a memorable visual identity involves developing a cohesive and recognizable design language that speaks the language (visually) of your brand personality and values. Consistency in visual identity across all touchpoints over time is key here, from your website and marketing materials to your social media profiles and packaging. Be consistent.

4. Define Your Values & Mission

You must clearly articulate your brand values and mission and communicate those to your audience and employees. These elements should align with your audience’s and employees’ core beliefs and expectations, provide a sense of purpose and direction for the brand, and help build an emotional connection between all parties. 

A great example of a mission-driven brand is TOMS Shoes. Their mission to “improve lives through business” resonates with socially conscious consumers and differentiates them from other footwear brands. TOMS knew that each pair of shoes sold gave one pair away to people in need.

How: Defining your values and mission involves identifying what your brand stands for and what it aims to achieve. Your values should reflect the core principles and beliefs that guide your brand's behavior and decision-making, and your mission statement should articulate your brand's purpose and goals.

5. Be Consistent

Consistency is king. Your brand message and visuals must always be uniform. Inconsistent branding can confuse customers and weaken its impact, resulting in brand deterioration. Consistency helps build trust and recognition and ensures customers have a positive and seamless experience with your brand.

How: Staying consistent means maintaining a clean and cohesive brand identity across all touchpoints, from your website and marketing materials to your social media profiles and customer interactions. This includes using consistent messaging, visual identity, and tone of voice. The key to success here is communication. Always make sure your team(s) know how your brand should be used.

6. Tell Stories

You can always use storytelling to connect with your audience emotionally. Share stories that reflect your brand values and mission, making your brand relatable and memorable. Storytelling is a great tool for humanizing the brand and creating deeper emotional connections with the audience. For example, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign tells stories of real women, promoting body positivity and authenticity. These stories work because they resonate with customers on a personal level.

How: Stories like these should always be authentic and emotionally engaging. By telling relatable stories, you’re more likely to attract like-minded people to your brand mission (making them customers). Big and small stories can be particularly effective in marketing campaigns, social media content, and customer communications.

7. Interact with the Audience

Chatting with your audience through social media, customer service, and whatever platform you have at hand is always a good idea. Interactive, responsive, and personal engagement shows that your brand values your customers and that you’re listening to their wants and needs.

We all love it when we get answers quickly or get a ‘like’ from that brand we look up to. So, it’s probably not surprising that brands that actively respond to customer inquiries and feedback on social media tend to build stronger, more loyal communities, too.

How: Interact with your audience on various platforms, from social media and email to customer service and in-person events. You should always be ready to respond to questions and feedback, participate in conversations, and provide valuable content and support.

8. Measure Results

You need to regularly measure and analyze your brand performance, using tools like SWOT analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and market share helps assess the effectiveness of branding efforts, and regular analysis enables brands to keep perfecting their strategies and staying ahead in the market.

How: To properly measure results, you must track and analyze key metrics that reflect your brand's performance. These include brand awareness, customer satisfaction, market share, and other relevant KPIs.

Regular analysis helps you identify what's working and what's not and focus where you see the most potential. Remember that a brand is never finished — it’s an organic thing that moves with your company’s development and changing market, so being open to change based on your results is always a positive.

Some Branding Tools & Tips

To stay on top of things, you and your teams can leverage branding tools like Canva, Adobe, Frontify, and social media management platforms to create, document, and maintain your brand over time. Consistent use of these tools will improve your brand’s visual and verbal identity and help you seamlessly communicate changes in your brand internally and externally as they happen.

Branding tools allow you to create and maintain a strong and consistent brand identity as long as your company invests in its brand. If you ever need help building or expanding your brand, consider contacting a professional brand design agency to help you take the right steps.

If you want inspiration or assistance, contact us today to take your branding strategy to the next level. Our team of experts is always ready to help you build a strong, memorable brand that stands out in the competitive market today and in the future.