05 Oct 2015 20:44 IST

Branding, a jargon maze in itself

A quick guide to explain the big bad world of branding

Everyone knows what branding is. It isn't some obscure jargon. Yet, it is a jargon jungle in itself. Not convinced? Following are some definitions of branding. They range from textbook type to mystical, from poetic to hard truths, from philosophical to manipulative, from abstract to graphic. Take your pick:

A unique promise kept over time.

An exaggeration of the truth.

Uncovering a human truth and then creating something that speaks to that truth.

Branding is a means of manipulating identity in order to manage perceptions.

A brand is whatever your consumers have in mind about you.

The ratio between leadership, vision, communication, culture and user experience.

A “brand” is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Convincing that voice in someone’s head to be on your side.

Myth-building for commercial purposes.

At worst, it is the communications equivalent of searing an ironclad message into the hide of your unwilling audience. At best, it’s the authentic creation of a meaningful and lasting impression on the people most important to you through an interaction they value.

A visible representation of our invisible desire to self-actualise.

The things that make me different are the things that make me.

Creating a consistent point of view within a given market that utilises trend and consumer awareness.

Branding is like cooking, in that it requires a bit of skill, a lot of intuition, and the right ingredients. You shouldn’t always follow a recipe, and if you’re lucky, people love what you make.

The process in which the black box of creativity is rendered safe for the risk-adverse.

The process, tactics, and result of creating connections in people's minds between an organisation, product, or concept and a set of characteristics. Some branding is intentional, but much of it is not. The job of a marketer in branding is to align the desired associations with the actual ones and amplify the associations’ reach.

Branding is establishing values and differentiators around a company, product or service. If branding is successful, potential customers associate the company with the values they wish to stand for. Brands need updating over time or they tend to lose resonance with clients and potential clients.

What goes behind a brand

Isn't that a 'Jargon Jungle' indeed? The simplest form of branding is a logo, a name and at times a short line (also called a tagline or a punch line). In some cases, there may be a customised colour palette that is designed to give brands a visual presence. A brand’s visual signature may be carried on various forms of a company’s communication, such as its letterhead, business cards, brochures, web sites and advertisements.

For most people, branding means advertising. For marketers, branding is an investment. For sales people, it is a sales campaign (hopefully funded by an extra budget), which offers a chance to be one up on competition. For accountants and auditors, branding is an expense.

Launching into the digital age

However, all of the above are traditional viewpoints. Today, digital media and digital sales channels allow tracking of response and conversion in sales. These days, branding is nothing if there is no 'viral' effect. Downloads or eyeballs within the first 24 hours of release has become an important parameter, much like the opening weekend box office collections of a new movie.

In today’s start-up economy, most of the branding is done through introductory offers, heavy discounts and celebrity endorsements. These are funded by investors’ money. Nobody plays by the conventional rules of branding anymore.

Where do you go from here?

Traditional definitions of branding may not help much. Shorter product life-cycles and fast-changing buyer behaviours means that even big brands don’t tend to live long. Even when they do, they are seen to be past their prime. Consider brands like Coca Cola and Microsoft.

Instead of asking what branding is, it is better to ask what one expects from branding.

To answer the question, you need to drill down to some basic parameters:

  • Branding for whom? (customers, employees, investors, public)
  • What would you like to achieve and by when?
  • Are there any ways to get public interested?
  • What are you willing to do?
  • What is the budget?

Whether you are in the corporate wonderland or in a start-up’s Neverland, navigating the Jargon Jungle of branding is easier when you have a clear destination.

To read more from the Jargon Jungle section, click here .