There are a million definitions of the word branding, each one trying to emphasise its importance. Kotler and Keller (2015) defined branding as endowing products and services with the power of a brand. Jay Baer expressed it as the art of aligning what you want people to think about your brand with what people actually do think about your brand. Lisa Buyer identified it as being more than a name and symbol. She further elaborated that a brand is created and influenced by people, visuals, culture, style, perception, and so much more, especially social media. All these definitions are rooted in its history which is attributed to have begun with the practice of branding livestock to show ownership in ancient Egypt around 2,700BCE (Saif and Owais, 2007), but modern day marketers use to convey a promise.

Likened to a conversation, branding always involve two active participants. The listener and the narrator, and the focal point is always about the brand being narrated. As stereotyped as the word is, branding is one of those concepts that is still a bit vague and get quickly confusing, even for experts of the field. Yet, we are surrounded by numerous brand every minute and each calling for our attention with a promise expected to stand them out. A perfect example is Pepsi and Coca-Cola which is said to taste very similar, but for some certain reason, people perceive them different all because of the different defining promise attached to each of them over time. Though a product can look the same, or even replicated (e.g. Instagram introducing insta-stories in 2017 a feature which is a direct replica from Snapchat). But though replicated, can still be carved out as unique because of the defining promise of that brand and the combination of physical and emotional cues they have associated with their name, logo, visual identity, or even the message communicated.



Firstly, understand that branding is a continuous process. Hence, defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. To get started, you need to have:

  • A product or service to render,
  • A vision backing up your existence, and
  • A unique selling proposition (USP).

To achieve these three key tasks, you need to dive into research. Analyse your target market, learn their needs, habits and desires. Never rely on what you think they want, this is often the biggest mistake in branding.

Once you’ve defined your brand, you need to communicate who you’ve defined yourself to be with the objective to attract and retail loyal customers. This can be a daunting task, but a good place to start is by creating your visual identity. As Annie Crawford explains, it is hard to shake a bad first impression. Princeton researchers found that within 0.1 seconds, people form judgments about the likeability, trustworthiness, competence, attractiveness and aggressiveness of faces in photos they were shown (Janine and Alexander, 2006). Imagine what judgement people form about your brand within the first 0.1 second of exposure to your visual identity. Analysing this reaction time, marketing expert Leonard Kim stated,

you need a clean and crisp visual representation of your brand otherwise, people may associate your brand with being cheap, unreliable, or even untrustworthy (Annie Crawford, 2018).

A visual Identity by definition is the “visible element of a brand, such as colour, form, and shape, which encapsulate and convey the symbolic meanings that cannot be imparted through words alone” (Business Dictionary). Most often, a logo is regarded as the epicentre of a visual identity and this is one of the most valuable communication asset of your brand.

Another step to building your brand is to create a ‘voice’ which is known as verbal communication. How you answer client phone calls, the tone of your voice when speaking to clients, your choice of words, etc. should all come together to enforce your brand rather than invalidate it. Business dictionary defined verbal communication as the “sharing of information between individuals by using speech” which lumen extends to include written communications also. Some people even call it the “language” of your brand. In the present age of the social media your brand can go viral for communicating an unintended message that does not align with you or what customers should perceive. A recent example is the back lash H&M received earlier this year over a hoodie with the phrase “the coolest monkey in the jungle” which was modelled by a black young boy. This action was tagged by the general public as an attempt by H&M to promote racism. That’s how important the verbal communication of your brand is.

Understanding branding is an extensive topic, but in order to restrict this article to a 3 minute read, here are more insightful aspect of branding you can explore to shape or create the brand aura you want your customers and the rest of the world to associate you with.

  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • In-store experience
  • Pricing
  • Social media engagement
  • Feedback system

Final thoughts, whether a multi-national, local business or start-up, branding is that x-factor you can’t do without. On the long run, it largely influences your profit margin. If you strip away all the hype, noise, and marketing, all you’re left with is your brand, not the product, so make it count.