Brand v. Branding | What's the Difference?

Like so many things that appear to be simple, it can be a challenge to understand the distinction between brand and branding.

Why is this important? Because in today’s shifting marketplace, a strong brand identity can be vital to success.

How do you build brand identity? Through effective branding.

Think about it too much, and it turns into the chicken v. egg dilemma. Let's break it down.

What is a Brand?

A brand identifies your company, products and/or services to the world. The Old English word “brand” means “flame” or “torch,” and the Old Norse word “brandr” means “to burn.” Many early cultures branded animals with a distinctive identifier to show ownership, and this practice continues today. Think of ranches, horses, cattle and the American west.

Today, a brand serves the same aim, but it may contain multiple elements, such as your company or product name coupled with a symbol to create a logo. The best brands communicate something about your business and your purpose, and they’re tailored to appeal to your primary target audience or customer group.

What is Branding?

Branding encompasses all the materials and actions you undertake to create a recognizable brand in a complex business environment. These actions range from the initial phases of logo concept and design to website creation and ongoing promotion and presence in multiple venues.

Branding also includes your ability to deliver on the promise, a facet often overlooked in the brand v. branding discussion.

What's the Connection?

Your brand is a collection of elements designed to claim or identify your work. Your company name is at the core, and perhaps you have recognizable product or service names, as well.

Your brand includes the visual representations of these identifiers, along with any consistent imagery and slogan. All these things blend to create your brand identity (more on this later).

Branding is the result of every action that establishes reputation and builds recognition and recall.

Displaying your logo on a crisp polo shirt is a branding activity. The same logo emblazoned on a beat-up van is a branding activity.

Maintaining a website – cluttered or organized, vibrant or subtle – is a branding activity. Providing quality content is a branding activity. Writing a company blog is a branding activity.

All your marketing, sales, public relations, presentations, success stories and speeches are branding tools. How these tools are handled, distributed or delivered is a branding activity.

What Works?

As media options multiply, it’s ever more challenging to create a brand that’s relatively unique. It's equally challenging to find and execute effective branding activities that genuinely build your business.

What branding actions have worked well for you? What actions haven’t worked well? Share your best tips and insights, and perhaps together, we'll find meaningful ways to build stronger brands.


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