What Branding Isn't and How To Fix Past Mistakes

Terone Allen
Aug 30, 2022

Photo by Antonius Ferret

It’s easy to get mixed up by the millions of ideas on branding. Many focus on surface-level items like logos, fonts, colors, and marketing assets. You may have even been sold a branding package and thought your brand was all set. 

But you ended up with a bunch of visual assets like your logo, business cards, menus, brochures, retractable banners, vehicle wraps, and maybe even a style guide. These are all wonderful and necessary pieces, but that’s just the thing: it’s only pieces of the branding puzzle. 

So when it’s packaged and delivered as your solution to “branding,” it doesn’t quite cut it.

Things Mistaken as Branding 

When considering what branding is, you would explore the brand strategy, the brand values, the brand promise, the processes, the creative expressions, and the customer experience. All of these together are the building blocks of how your brand will represent itself and establish its reputation. 

Unfortunately, several things are presented as the sum of your branding when they are only a fraction. Let’s look at some of the culprits. 

The Name
Arguably one of the most important decisions when establishing a business is choosing what to name it. Even though it will be one of the key things people will recognize and remember, it won’t be the brand. 

When you think of a popular brand name, what comes to you immediately is the feeling you have about that brand. The name alone did not give you that feeling; it only triggered it. 

The name is not the brand.

The Logo
Your logo is another primary tool for helping people remember your brand, but it is far from the most important thing when it comes to your brand. 

Once you decide on the logo, you'll have to be patient with people anyways, as it takes 5 to 7 times to see a logo before a customer remembers the brand. Like the name, it is another trigger.

The logo is not the brand. 

The Designs
The design elements that communicate for your brand are vital ingredients to helping with recognition. The logo, colors, fonts, graphics, photography, and design styles show what your brand looks like.

Again, this is another trigger. While they help identify your brand amongst the competition, they do not make up the whole brand. Much research and strategy should take place before any designs are created, which is a huge chunk of the branding foundation.

The designs are not the brand.

The "Branding Package"
A collection of assets labeled as a “branding package” is often pitched as the Holy Grail for all your branding needs. This highly curated group of items act as the starter kit for businesses looking to start being recognized in the market.

Using a branding package is an excellent way to get business going quick and easy. But truly building an impactful brand is never a quick and easy task, and it really takes some effort in areas beyond where a branding package can nurture. While it does contain some of the key things you can’t go without, it consists of items that fall directly under visual identity. See “The Designs” above. And so…

The branding package is not the brand.

The Marketing
Marketing campaigns and advertisements are closely connected to branding and help promote your business and build brand awareness. They can often be full of catchy taglines, slogans, and songs that people can immediately associate with memorable brands. But they still fall short of actually being branding for a few reasons. 

Display of marketing data with colored graphs. "The marketing direction can change with trends. The brand direction doesn't change."

Photo by Stephen Phillips

Primarily because a brand is never what you say it is. It is always going to be what a customer says it is. Whatever your campaigns say about your business is an attempt to influence people’s perceptions of your brand at best. But what they say about your business is what counts in the end.

Secondly, any good marketing strategy uses an established brand strategy as its guide. This means that marketing and advertising work ends up being a product of prior branding work.

And, C: The marketing direction can change with trends, platforms, seasons, or even the ad agency at the helm. The brand direction, on the other hand, doesn’t change. The brand’s identity will remain constant, and marketing will speak about the brand’s identity accordingly. There is the exception of a rebranding. But this just establishes a new guide for any future marketing to follow. 

The marketing is not the brand.

Correcting Past Branding Mistakes

Taking control of your branding goes far beyond – and before – any of the design assets that represent your brand. There are few business practices better than being intentional. And there are zero business practices better than being intentional with your branding – aside from being intentional with your money, of course. 

If you find your brand isn’t making the mark you know it can, here are some things you can look at to strategically make a difference and create that brand you can be proud of:

Have we developed a brand strategy?
Make sure you are not just saying what your brand is. There should be a framework for how you brand identifies and expresses itself. There’s no better practice than being intentional, remember?

How consistent are we with our assets?
Once you get your brand assets put together, make sure you use them consistently. Stick with the colors. Use the fonts religiously. Follow the style guide. If you don’t have one, work with a professional to develop one. If you bought that branding package, use it!

Are we managing our customer experience?
This is not just practicing good customer service. It is having an understanding and a literal plan to how customers will engage with your business in every way. It involves advertising, merchandising, logistics, point-of-sale, supply chain, reviews, and every other part of your business that impacts customer outcomes.

A group of people in a meeting room with laptops open. One person standing in front of a screen projector. "Evaluate if the mission, vision, and values are exhibited throughout the company."

Photo by Campaign Creators

Are we being consistent with our brand promise on a holistic level?
Evaluate if your mission, vision, and values are exhibited throughout the company. They should not only be showing in your marketing, but be sure they are showing in your internal communications as well.

Does our staff feel and understand our brand promise?
Ensuring that your employees know what your brand represents is a sure way to solidify your brand’s standing. Also, keeping the promise with them first and foremost is the key to keeping it with your customers. The old adage “if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers” rings true.

The Clean Up

As you can probably tell, what makes a powerful brand is alot more than what you see and hear. It involves creating a solid foundation for what your business stands for, how it speaks to the world, and how it treats other people. 

It’s what creates the reputation you have with your customers. When you work diligently to help influence that reputation, you are on the path to building the brand you can be very proud of.

The branding package just won’t do all that.

Are you struggling with developing your brand’s story to connect with a faithful audience and keep your business growing? Book a complimentary brand consult with Cater Verse today to Deliver Your Truth, Deliver More Food™ and control your narrative.

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