Branding 101: What Does Branding Mean?

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 18 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

At Letter Jacket, we do more than just make great-looking, high-quality envelopes. We also work with organizations like businesses, nonprofits, government offices, schools and everyone else under the sun to help them come up with the best possible way to approach people during correspondence and direct marketing campaigns.

You could even say that this advisory role makes us “brand consultants.” While we would never charge you the ridiculous sums that usually go along with that job title, we figure we might as well own it and deliver extra value to our clients in the form of sound advice.

To kick things off, we want to explain what branding actually means and why it is important for organizations to think about. Consider this the first lesson in Branding 101.

Branding Defined

“Branding (n.) — The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. Source: ”

Branding encompasses many things to many people, but the above definition puts it all into perspective. At its core, a brand is a unique identifier. Just like the original idea of branding cattle with a hot iron and a recognizable logo, branding establishes ownership over a particular product along with the concept and the set of secondary ideals it embodies.

The key difference is that branding cattle symbolizes the end of ownership — that cow is the farmer’s property from now until it figuratively kicks the bucket. Modern branding is more like using the burned-in symbol to sell the cow to someone else. They see the farmer’s logo and they know that it is a good or bad cow based on what they know about the farmer.

For this reason, branding in the consumer/marketing sense has changed more from a sense of “this is mine now” to “this could be yours, and my good reputation should help convince you.”

Why Branding Is Everything These Days

Because reputation is involved and a sales transaction is the ultimate goal, consumers must perceive branding in a certain way to convince them that buying a product or service is worth the price.

The best branding even convinces potential customers that they are getting so much more than the asking price. For instance, car commercials may imply that buying a luxury car makes a person more attractive and respectable. A deodorant branding message may imply that bouts of public embarrassment can be avoided. A natural food company can use the fact that they donate proceeds to communicate that buying their product does not just fill your belly but also helps save endangered species.

These related values, emotions or ideals are actually becoming the main “product” that groups sell, with the physical good or service as a mere means to access that product. This shift has led to a change in the definition of branding. “At the heart of all killer brands is the promise they commit to delivering to their clients,” writes marketer Mark Schultz, “and those promises represent what the brand stands for.”

Schultz’s expression of branding as a promise represents the change in marketing philosophy that has forever altered the way branding is approached. Great brands now think about the promises they make to customers, both stated and unstated, and how every aspect of their logo, color scheme, ad copy and other elements can reinforce the ideals within the promise.

Let this initial concept be your food for thought as we guide you further into the realm of quality branding through our Branding 101 series. If you have any questions or you just want to know how we can help you directly, do not hesitate to contact us.

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