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Branding Explained

I’ve written this because I meet a lot of small business owners and marketing managers who don’t really understand what branding, and brand, actually is – and what it can do for their organisation.

This branding jargon can be confusing stuff, mainly because of the extensive meaning the word ‘brand’ has to describe, but also because of our industry using the term interchangeably.

In this post, I aim to talk about brand and branding from a Yorkshireman’s point of view.


Branding Agency Yorkshire


A short history of where it all began
Branding first started when farmers used to literally ‘brand’ their cattle. This type of branding was to show ownership.

The word brand was used in the most literal form and actually derived from the Viking word brandr; which means to ‘burn’.

In the 18th Century, branding moved onto products. Visionaries like George Cadbury, the founder of the chocolate brand Cadbury started branding his name on his products; this was to mark the association of the Cadbury company, and signal that it was a quality product that you could trust.

With the rise of mass media and mass production in the 20th century, branding then moved onto another stage, factory owners realised that they could not only signal ownership of their product by utilising branding, but they could also associate their products with bigger ideas. Cadbury’s promised purity, Coca-Cola promised happiness in a bottle and Wheaties said it was ‘the breakfast of champions’.

Branding had moved away from just stamping logos on products and to creating differentiation by assigning ideas to products.

In the 1960s branding then evolved, where companies were producing messaging that no longer advertised their product, but what the product said about you to the outside world.

Advertising pioneer Bill Bernbach flattered audiences with the ‘Think Small’ campaign for the VW Beatle. When everyone was driving big cars, this implied that if you were to choose a Beatle, then you were different from the crowd; this style of advertising transformed VW’s fortunes.

Up to this period, branding was very much about products and the business to consumer market.

In the mid 20th century branding then moved from products to service businesses. Branding then became about branding an intangible service; think airlines, banks and telecom businesses.

Companies used a corporate brand for multiple reasons, they could attract investment, staff – or to differentiate themselves from the competition.

All of the different types of branding are still in use today – in various ways, and can be applied to any industry or organisation.


Jargon explained


Branding Agency Huddersfield Yorkshire


The term brand has been used to describe so many things, and because of that – it has lost its meaning.

At Aye! – when we talk about brand, we mean the ideas that are associated with that company. Or in short – we call it a brain tattoo.

Like the initial stage of branding where farmers literally branded their cattle, we see the word brand, as tattooing ideas onto people’s brains.

Or as advertising legend John Hegarty says – “a brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world, a corner of people’s minds”.

If you think about it, companies can offer the same products and services – but the ideas that are associated with that company, are what can make it different.

Some businesses assign ideas bigger than their products, to build loyalty, create interest and to differentiate themselves from similar companies.

A good example of this is Virgin. Virgin use their brand as a competitive advantage, in whatever industry they move into.

In summary – a brand is the intangible aspects that you associate with your organisation; a set of ideas.


Branding is then the process of reinforcing those brand ideas, through a communication.

Take this example of Lloyds. What Lloyds are doing in this advert is trying to brand ideas into peoples minds, as the bank who backs British business. They aren’t selling you a mortgage, a current account, or the latest loan deal; they are selling their heritage. This is an example of branding.


Example of branding


Brand identity
Brand identity – is bringing those brand ideas to life, in the form of a visual identity. A brand is something intangible (a set of ideas) but then the identity is what brings these to life.

This could consist of a logo, colour scheme, icon style, image style, illustration style, messaging, tone of voice and font (typeface).

A brand identity is all the things you see of the company.

The iceberg analogy is a good explanation for how brand, and brand identity work. According to science, only 10% of an iceberg is seen, and the further 90% is underwater.


Aye! Agency Branding Design Agency Huddersfield


This is similar to a company; you might only see a small part of that company, their logo and various communications. All the touchpoints that you see need to reflect the intangible stuff that makes your organisation different.


In summary
Branding is a powerful tool and can be used in any organisation whether it’s cultural, or commercial.

Years ago creating brands for museums and galleries was frowned upon, but today all the large institutions are using their brand to attract investment and people.

Today, even charities leverage the power of branding to tell their story and attract donations.

At Aye! we believe every business can prosper from having a strong brand. We find that most SMEs aren’t 100% clear on what branding can do to help their business, so if you want to find out more about how this process could help your organisation, then get in touch.

We offer an initial FREE presentation on the power of brand, and how it could work for you.

December 6, 2018

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