Brand 101 – On Brand (and Identity, and Branding)

We know what a brand is, right?

We’re all certainly able to recognize a brand, but do you know how your brand informs and amplifies your business strategy? Do you know what your brand is, and how to take advantage of it to engage your customer or client base?

When we’re putting a creative brief together with a client, we discuss brand, brand identity, and branding. On the surface, these terms may seem interchangeable.

 In reality, this isn’t the case, but they are closely interlinked. And when you see how they’re connected, you’ll understand how to make a much stronger impact with your audience.

So, let’s briefly talk about brand, brand identity and branding.

What is brand?

Let’s get this out the way from the start – a brand is not a logo!  A logo should definitely be a strong representation of your brand. But it’s not the brand itself.  

Brand is the relationship you have with your audience. It’s the values and characteristics of your business. It reveals an authenticity that makes customers trust and fall in love with your products or services.

Brand is how you are perceived by others. In a sense, it encapsulates the personality of your business. That’s a small part of the overall picture. An attribute or characteristic may attract someone to you, but how do you capitalize on that connection? How do you maintain customer loyalty, and foster a belief in your brand? 

“A brand is a shorthand for the customer’s expectations. What promise do they think you’re making? What do they expect when they buy from you or meet with you or hire you?”

from This is Marketing, Seth Godin

Remember – a brand is a promise, and trust is fickle. The image your audience has of you must be consistent or they’ll lose faith in your offer. How do you present yourself consistently and authentically? That’s where brand identity comes in.

What is brand identity?

Technically, you don’t see a brand. You see its identity.  It’s how you are perceived, the physical elements that create your unique visual language.

We’re talking logos and marks, color palettes, typefaces, choice of imagery, the tone of your communications. It’s all the assets that come together to represent a unified look and feel for your brand.

The joy of designing a visual identity is in creating a language that encapsulates a client’s values, vision, and personality. These guidelines help define an authentic business persona that will resonate with their intended audience for years to come.

A warning. Always remain true to your brand identity. Your audience expects it, so always keep your brand guidelines close to hand. Glaring inconsistencies, like using a different typeface, or messing with your logo, grabs the attention in the wrong way. It erodes trust, and at worst, it’s a sign that a brand isn’t interested in its customer relationships.

Brand identities must be consistent, but that doesn’t mean they can’t evolve. If you’re stuck with an outdated look, or your business strategy isn’t reaching its intended audience, don’t panic. This is where your friendly, experienced brand guru can help (he said, modestly).

What is branding?

Simply put, branding is the process of attracting and retaining an audience by consistently delivering on what the brand promises. Branding is the big picture, the long-term objective that builds and maintains awareness.

This is different to marketing, which comprises short-term campaigns with specific goals to get people interested in your company’s product or service.

Branding is the whole story, starting with translating a company’s vision and mission into a strategy. It’s designing the brand identity from those ideas and goals, finding the best ways to communicate with its audience, and maintaining the brand along its journey so it’s consistently aligned with the strategy.

Branding requires long-term planning and effort to pull off, but when it works, it really reaps rewards.

Why bother?

Your brand has meaning to your customers, you can’t avoid that. If you ignore it, you’re limiting your potential and could risk losing the customers you have

We live in an age of fierce competition, and we’re all looking for a way to stand out. Branding is what differentiates us from the competition. It helps define our voice in an increasingly crowded marketplace and helps us to find our tribe – the people who are listening out for what we, uniquely, have to offer.

Let’s talk a little more about brand

I hope this hasn’t scared you away from investing in your brand! It takes work, but help is on hand.

If you’re starting a new business, repositioning, or simply need a brand refresh, then let’s talk to each other. That’s how we start a trusting relationship.


Howdy! I’m Rick, a brand expert and seasoned graphic designer in NY’s Hudson Valley. For more than 40 years I’ve been creating remarkable brand solutions for individuals, companies and nonprofits here and beyond.

I want people to understand why brand is essential to their business, share a few personal experiences, and explore what goes into a good (or bad) design.