When talking about a Brand, there's a lot covered under that one word - 'BRAND'. It can get rather confusing to define brand, branding and brand identity under one umbrella. As a designer or someone looking to start a brand, it is important to know the difference between these terms to position yourself better.

When starting off with a brand, it is very likely that you'll focus more on the product/services because that's what defines your brand. Isn't it? But it's equally important that you BUILD YOUR BRAND, and not just the product/service.

Why do I say that? Let's dive in.

What actually is a Brand?

When we hear the word BRAND, our minds often give us the picture of a logo, a visual element, advertisement or sometimes, it could even be an experience we had with a particular brand.

Notice how there's a mix of elements. It's not just the logo or just an advertisement or visual identity. Rather, it's everything put together.

To simplify it, in his book 'Brand Gap', Marty Neumeier has defined it perfectly,

"A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It is not what YOU say it is, it's what THEY say it is."

For e.g., when you say PREMIUM SMARTPHONE, it's very unlikely that you'll think of Xiaomi or Oppo or Vivo. But APPLE & SAMSUNG are what immediately spring to mind.

Does that mean Xiaomi/Oppo/Vivo are bad companies? Absolutely not! Are they not doing good in market? They're doing quite good. They've not positioned themselves as a PREMIUM company, but have focused their efforts towards being the best in the budget midrange phones.

Apple and Samsung however, have a very different approach. Regardless of numerous complaints about their products being exorbitantly priced, they're still sticking to their strategy of focusing on the premium market. They don't call themselves a premium company. It's the consumer that has defined it.

Which brings us to an important factor - how you position yourself is in your control. In simpler words:

You have control over 'HOW' people may define you as a Brand (Also known as brand positioning). But you don't have control over 'WHAT' they define you as.

What do I mean by control? Read the next part to know.

What is Branding?

It's true that you don't have control over what consumers define you as a brand, but you definitely have control over shaping the perceptions that consumers have, about your company.

All the steps that you take to build awareness and reputation around your company and its product or services, live in the realm of branding. Your branding efforts may not always fully translate into your customers’ minds, but the more deliberate and cohesive they are, higher the chances of success.

In simpler words:

"Branding is the action you take to build an image of your brand"

To easily understand this, let's take Apple's example again. Pay close attention to their stores, their online stores, their events. You will find that everything is strategically carried out to convey 'PREMIUM'. It's just not the product that is premium, but the whole experience you get, interacting with the company.

What they offer as a product/service is easily available with their competitors. But it's the trust and the experience that makes them stand out. That is what BRANDING is.

How is branding applied?

There are certain ways to apply branding effectively, to your brand. And it is different for every brand, but there some general factors involved in Branding. This includes:

  • Brand definition: Purpose, values, promise.
  • Identity: Name, tone of voice, visual identity design (Check the next segment for more details)
  • Advertising and communication: TV, radio, magazines, outdoor ads, website, mobile apps
  • Brand positioning statement : Your definition of who you are
  • Product and packaging design
  • In-store experience
  • Workspace experience and management style
  • Customer service
  • Pricing strategy

What is Brand Identity?

Any idea, without a product or execution, is dead. The same is with a brand. There has to be something visible, for a brand to work. Something tangible, something to relate to.

Imagine a world of products without any logo/color/typography. From medicines to eatables, all in the look alike packages. How would it look like? It'd look something like....

Let's say one fine day, you feel like having doughnuts with extra chocolate syrup, because who doesn't likes extra chocolate, right? You take your doughnut and you take the bottle of chocolate syrup (or so you think) and pour it all over your doughnut, and with all your tastebuds pumping, you take the first bite..... only to realise it was chocolate flavoured moisturiser all over that doughnut. RUINED!!!!

This is how the world without brand identity would look like.

Brand identity is the visible elements of a brand; which includes the color, design, and logo; all of which help identify and distinguish the brand amongst others, in consumers' minds.

Photo : One of the recent brand identity I designed for ZAIVA

Brand identity includes anything and everything that helps the consumer to identify the brand. Which mostly, are visual elements. How you define your brand identity system is how the consumers will know you by. What you offer is what's seen by people.

When I design brand identities, I make sure to keep all these aspects in mind. There has to be a perfect balance of the brand position and the identity system for the branding to work together. (See an example here)

Don't confuse BRANDING & BRAND IDENTITY. I've seen many designers referring to themselves as a BRANDING DESIGNER when what they do is solely design logos. A logo design is not a brand. Hence a designer exclusively designing logos alone, is not a branding designer.

Designers role defined:

  • LOGO DESIGNER - Designs just the logo with the logotype and slogan (If any)

  • BRAND IDENTITY DESIGNER - Designs the identity system for the brand. Includes Logo, colour palette, typography, stationary design, packaging web design (if applicable) and so on.

  • BRANDING DESIGNER - This is more in-depth. It includes everything from brand definition, brand positioning to identity system, strategy, messaging and a lot more. This is a complete package for your brand.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the difference between BRAND, BRANDING & BRAND IDENTITY.

Being a subject that I've vastly studied to try and get the right insight, all that is mentioned above is what I've gathered over time. Some others might have a different way of defining these terms.

Feel free to reach out to me if you'd like to discuss this further.

Do you have a brand that needs identity? I'd be happy to work with you. Check my portfolio or contact me for project enquiries.

See ya soon.