What Does ‘Brand’ Mean for Small Business? Branding is Growth

Cynthia Bartz • August 24, 2016

At some point every business owner has come across articles and podcasts that talk about branding, controlling your brand, branding your business, and on and on. The word “brand” is thrown around so much that it has lost meaning. And, there is the assumption that if you are interested in learning about branding, you already know what it is. But, if you’re like most business owners, you sit quietly in the back of the internet classroom and wonder: What does ‘brand’ mean?


What Does Brand Mean: A Base Definition

According to Dictionary.com “Brand” is defined as:

 Brand  /brænd/ (noun):

  1. a particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product
  2. a particular kind or variety
  3. an identifying mark made by a hot iron

This definition does not help to answer the question What Does Brand Mean? Especially not in the context of a business.

So, in the context of building a business, the traditional definitions of brand boil down to these 2 questions: What makes your business unique? And what sticks in your client’s minds about your business?

Here’s the deal. Your brand is the sum of all the parts of your business. It’s not just about your name or your marketing. A brand is the core of your business and how people perceive it. This means that every single thing you use and do in your business shapes the definition of your brand: your contract, your logo, your sales pitch, your reputation, your website, your social media marketing. Everything. Your brand is made up of everything.

Your brand is the sum of all the parts of your business.

I think most people who talk about branding, talk about it in the context of design and visuals. But that is just one part of your brand, and, honestly, it’s the easiest part. Understanding your market and the personality of your business are way more difficult than picking a color or writing copy for an ad.

So, let me say it again. Your brand is the sum total of your whole business. It is the personality of your business, coupled with a target market.

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A Logo is not a Brand

I know this is what confuses people the most. A logo is not a brand. Just because you have a logo doesn’t mean that you have a strategic brand or brand identity.

To make this clearer, let’s think about your business as a person. Your business has a personality. There is a certain way that your business gets things done. You have your own processes and ways of talking about things. Your business likes to wear certain types of clothes and hang out at specific places. That is your brand. Your brand is your business’s personality.

Your logo is your business’s face, the core of what it looks like. Your personality and your face pretty much stay the same. And, whether you are dressed up for a fancy dinner or wearing board shorts on the beach, you’re still you. Your logo works the same way. It’s the face of your business.

Your business also has certain types of people that it likes to hang out with and people that it attracts. This crowd might be diverse or really narrow. But your business likes to do business with certain types of people. Those people are your target market.

When you add up all of those things – the crowd, the clothes, the name, the face, the way of talking – you get your brand.

You as a person are not just your face. So, your business’s brand is not just its logo. That is not to say that your logo is not important, it is your face after all.

Brand is All About Identity

In keeping with our business is a person analogy: The first 2-3 years of your business are exactly like middle school. You don’t know the personality and identity of your business when you first start out. You might have an idea of how you want your business to be, and who you want to work with, and what you want to sell. But, if you’re like most businesses, all of that will change and morph in the first two years or so.

So, if you have just started your business and you aren’t sure what your business is all about yet, it’s ok. And it’s OK for your brand and your logo to change multiple times over those first few years. Just like middle school you are trying things on and trying to figure out your identity. Just really understand that branding is all about identity. If you haven’t figured out your identity yet it will be very difficult to effectively brand your business.

Why Should You Care?

Your prospects are making split second decisions about your business. At any given moment someone is looking at your website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, business card and making a decision about whether or not they should buy from you or someone else.

If you are not putting time and thought into how you present yourself, you will lose business to someone who is using branding strategically. Branding is not just for big companies anymore. Branding is for business owners who want to stand out so they can grow their businesses beyond referrals.

Choosing to ignore branding will ultimately hold your business back. As your business grows larger and more complex, your prospects and clients will get confused if you don’t have a strong identity. If you’ve never thought about design and are about to launch a new product, service, or expand to a new area; now is the time to start thinking about business identity and brand.

Now that you understand the answer to what does brand mean, you can start thinking strategically about your business’s personality.

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