The Value of Branding

Branding refers to what takes place in the mind of your audience whenever it thinks about you. When your audience has reason to think of you—maybe people see an ad, maybe they touch a business card, maybe they visit your website—its held idea about you is either reinforced by consistent visual and verbal cues or confused by discordant ones. 

Consistency is key to a brand's success. Discordancy is doom. 

I see consistency or its nemesis every single day in my day job as a brand strategist and in my work as a coach for high school seniors writing their college application essays (yes, I do that for fun.) As a communicative species, we've practiced branding—the idea of strategically building consistency and believability and trust in a story—since we were children. 

And yet, in the fast-pulsed world of commerce or B2B interactions or college admissions, we take shortcuts. We think the problem with our flatlining would be solved by speaking louder, adding product features, or aligning with whatever trend is hottest for the sake of its heat because those are quick action items that feel productive at first. 

That's like editing an essay without a thesis. That essay is weak. 

"Strategic brand identity works across diverse audiences and cultures to build an awareness and understanding of a company and its strengths. By making intelligence visible, effective identity seeks to clearly communicate a company's unique value proposition. The coherence of communications across various media sends a strong signal to the customer about the laserlike focus of a company." –Alina Wheeler, Designing Brand Identity

Brand strategy is like writing an essay about your identity. It requires a central idea about your purpose. That central idea drives clear and consistent arguments—made via things like websites, photography, messaging—that convince your audience you have principles and you can be trusted. Brand strategy is the foundational work that allows you to demonstrate, not just talk about, what you stand for. When you do that, people trust you. And trust is a funny thing: trust is the quiet driver in our industry. It comes before what you say about what you do. It's sensed in cues that must be rooted in truth. If cues are scattered or inconsistent, trust has no chance. And when people don't trust you, they don't invest in you; when people do trust you, they do invest in you. 

When your semiotics are lazy, people can tell. And, as the popular adage says, "no one likes lazy semiotics."

Is that not a thing?... Just me? 

Anyway. 

The lesson for any teenager: start with an authentic thesis.The lesson for everyone else: start with brand strategy. 


Cara Cambardella