How To Talk About Brand, Identity and Marketing

Today’s guest post comes from Patrick Armitage – Enjoy!

Brand, identity and marketing. These are not obtuse concepts only expensive agencies and high-end graphic designers understand. They are three very real, very actionable components of a healthy business. And it’s the belief, buy-in, and execution of each that attract customers and grow business.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons, Mustafa Khayat

It’s likely that each person in your company has their own definition of brand, identity and marketing. Some may use these terms interchangeably. To get your brand, identity and marketing strategy off the ground, make sure everyone knows the purpose and meaning of each.

What is a Brand?

The idea of a brand started with people literally burning an identifying mark on a product (or cattle). But that classic definition of brand has changed. A brand is no longer just a logo. It’s a belief — a belief in a world your company creates, a world that your customers want to live in. Today, successful brands endure because of a core belief that translates into a distinct value system, personality, and purpose, which all influence how they do business.

Jason Fried, founder of 37Signals and author of ReWork, explains the importance of defining your brand’s core belief: “When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”
A strong belief builds a strong brand. Instills conviction. Attracts and retains talent. Influences product design. Affects customer service. Every single element of a great brand spawns from a belief and its value system. Zappos believes that “your culture is your brand.” From there, Zappos created 10 core values, and every decision the company makes goes back to that belief and those values.

Or consider Whole Foods’ core values. Their first one: “We sell the highest quality natural and organic products available.” It makes questions like “Should we sell Coke?” easy to answer. That’s the effectiveness of a clear, well-articulated brand.

When considering your company’s brand, ask yourself:
-What do we believe in?
-Can our products, personnel, service and resources realistically deliver on this belief?
-How will we deliver on this belief?

If you can’t deliver on your belief, you don’t have a brand. There are companies talking about their brand and then there are companies living their brand. The brands that “live” beat the brands that “talk” every time.

What is an Identity?

Just as a logo is not a brand, it’s not an identity either. However, it is central to all the stylistic elements that comprise an identity.

A company’s identity is all the materials that represent the brand: the logo, yes, but also the color palette, typeface, font, website design, marketing collateral, tone of voice, iconography, newsletter, packaging, business cards, trade show booth design, the “hold” music, and any other point of contact between your brand and everyone else. Your company’s identity, in a nutshell, is how it communicates your brand to the world.

A strong identity is distinct and maintains a level of consistency from tradeshow floor to website to marketing materials. Consistency creates an innate level of comfort and trust with customers. Each piece should communicate elements that support your brand. Creating and defining a brand identity for your business eliminates ambiguity when designing landing pages, product sell sheets, or any promotional pieces.
Brand identities don’t need to be as comprehensive as Google’s. These minimal brand identity style guides provide a solid starting point.

What is Marketing?

Hint: it doesn’t just happen in the marketing department. Everyone is responsible for marketing. Successful companies and brands understand that every member of the organization plays a role in representing and promoting the company brand — they’re part of the identity, even if they don’t interact with customers. Those employees behind the scenes still need a reason (a belief) to come into work every day. And that reason should motivate them to do everything they can for the people, products and initiatives that do reach the customer.

Think about every customer interaction throughout the day: every sent email, every phone call, every product, every feature, and any other communication or experience someone on the outside has with your company. Add all of those things up. That’s marketing.

That’s a lot to think about. But consider the quote from Jason Fried on brand: “…when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.” So what does your company stand for?

Pat_ArmitagePatrick Armitage is the Director of Marketing at BlogMutt—a content writing service helping businesses and agencies get their blogging done. Follow his miscellany (@Pat_Armitage) and all things BlogMutt (@BlogMutt) on Twitter.