Branding Demystified


The other day I was asked to provide a perspective on why logos/brands are so important and why people connect with them. The problem with this question is that a logo and a brand are two very different things and unfortunately they’re often used interchangeably. But this question prompted me to think that a post might be in order to demystify common words often associated with branding.


What is a brand?
The definition of branding has evolved quite rapidly over the past couple of years, mainly due to the advent of social media and the decline of the influence of traditional media. No longer are brands manufactured in board rooms and no longer are perceptions shaped primarily based on what corporations tell us to believe through advertising. Today a brand can be defined as your reputation built off of both your promise to your customers and the sum of all of their experiences with you.

In order to build a successful brand, and ultimately a loyal and energized consumer base, a brand needs to start from the inside out. That means having a clearly articulated Brand Positioning, Personality and Promise, a passionate team of partners / employees who are singing off of the same hymn sheet and an organization that runs in support of what your brand stands for.

Brand Positioning

What is Brand Positioning?
A brand positioning is a statement that should answer why your target market should satisfy their need with your brand instead of your competitor’s. This is derived through:
1. A thorough understanding of your target market and their needs, wants and desires
2. A concrete understanding of your competitors and how they are positioned, and
3. An immersive review of your brand’s benefits and values and ultimately how you provide a unique and meaningful solution to your target

There is structure to a good positioning statement: Your compelling point of difference + Your segment + Your validation + Your target market + Their need

How is it used?
It’s not a slogan or a tagline, it’s an internal statement. And, unlike your promise (below), it may evolve over time as the market changes.

Brand X is the coffee cafe that is a third place between work and home providing indulgence and escape to urban working women.

Note: This may have been close to Starbuck’s positioning statement when they launched. As you can see, the relevance of this statement now, with the growth of the coffee cafe market and the growth of the Starbucks chain, has diminished the uniqueness and relevance of this statement.

Brand Personality

What is Brand Personality?
This is the tone of your brand’s voice communicated as human characteristics. Often times, when working on an existing brand for a client, we start by asking: "If you were to describe your brand as a person, what traits would they have?" I can tell you that in my 15+ years asking clients this question, I almost always hear ‘trusted’ as one of the descriptors. It’s important to understand that the personality traits you use to define your brand should not be ‘earned’ traits.

Some examples of brand personality traits could include: quirky, rebellious, authoritative, pragmatic, shocking, engaging, warm, flirty, carefree, adventurous.

How is it used?
It’s easy to see that personality can translate to the visual, verbal and written style of your brand’s communications. It’s also critical to how a brand behaves and often influences hiring strategies, service training as well as processes. Brands with personalities tend to feel more relatable, strike an emotional chord with consumers, differentiate themselves, and generally feel more exciting.

Examples of brands with big personalities: Zappos, Apple and Virgin

Think about how these brands convey their personalities through communication style, logo, packaging, service, products, etc.

Brand Promise

What is Brand Promise?
A brand promise is the heart and soul of the functional benefits and emotive values a customer will receive when they experience your products and services. As Seth Godin once said: "Make big promises and overdeliver". Just imagine what would happen if every brand lived by this credo… Promises, and more importantly kept promises, build loyalty.

A promise should be unique, meaningful, believable and consistently attainable (with effort). Since a critical component of the success of a Brand Promise is keeping it, it needs the passion and support of your employees.

Ultimately your Brand Promise needs to answer: What compelling benefits / values can only you offer to your target market?

How is it used?
A promise is not usually conveyed in advertising but it should be the driver behind everything you do and communicate.


  • Disney = magical family entertainment
  • Volvo = safety
  • Harley Davidson = complete freedom on the road and the comradeship of kindred spirits
  • Starbucks = indulgence and escape