Small Biz Branding 101: So what is a brand, exactly?

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As an entrepreneur, you probably hear the word “brand” or “branding” quite a bit: “Brand positioning”, “Brand management” “Brand Strategy”, and so on. And while you probably have some idea as to what it means, you still wonder: what exactly IS a brand, why is branding so important to the success of my business?

Let’s clear the fog, and help you gain a better understanding of “branding”. Starting with the basic definition, as stated by’s 21st Century Lexicon:

BRANDING: In marketing, the sum total of a company’s value, including products, services, people, advertising, positioning, and culture.

Going a bit further, Wikipedia states:

Proper branding can result in higher sales of not only one product, but on other products associated with that brand. For example, if a customer loves Pillsbury biscuits and trust the brand, he or she is more likely to try other products offered by the company such as chocolate chip cookies.

Brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or combination of them) and how it relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners, investors etc.

Official definitions aside, the way I think of branding is this: It’s how your audience (customers/prospects/etc.) perceives your company. It’s the way people experience the principles, characteristics, and values of your business, through your products or services, your marketing, your visual identity, social media, and so forth. All the channels of communication your consumers receive from you, plus their experience with your products or services, customer care, and so forth, all converge to form an overall impression of your company – for better or for worse. THIS IS YOUR BRAND.

Why should you care? Well, you probably want to have some influence on this perception, to boost the likelihood that people will buy from you (and buy more, and more often). Let me give you a few examples:

  • If your #1 priority is to provide completely natural products, but people have the impression that your products are anything but, that’s a potential hit to your revenue. So you’d want to take steps to clarify that being 100% natural is an indisputable part of your brand, right?
  • Say that your company provides the most trustworthy financial services around. You make sure that it’s seen as straight-up-honest and approachable, to give potential customers the impression that your brand is built on trust (rather than letting them assume anything else).
  • If you pride yourself in using the highest quality materials for your products, but your website gives the impression of being just another knock-off from China, how is that helping? You would need it to exude the same high-quality feel that your products have, to leave no doubt in your customers’ minds that “high quality” is a key characteristic of your brand.

In a nutshell, whatever the core identity of your business is, you want your consumers to accurately perceive that. So, you work to communicate it to them, through brand positioning, marketing, and outreach.

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About Barbara Austin

As the graphic designer & founder of Sweet Dreamz Design, Barbara loves working with women entrepreneurs to brand their businesses. She shares a variety of small business advice and anecdotes here on the blog. Check back every week for new tips, inspirations, and how-to articles, or subscribe to get regular updates in your inbox each week!

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