The concept of branding often has the connotation of being strictly for corporate brands. Most of the iconic logos of the 20th century are for a range of capitalist industries from sports brands like Nike or drinks like Coca-cola. It’s a natural response to feel a little cringe or be worried that branding means “selling out.”
However, like many other things, branding is simply a set of tools. Those tools can be used for any purpose. Branding is a way of approaching the contours of a business, project or organization recognizing that an endeavor has both an internal characteristic (people, products, business structure) and an external characteristic (presentation, marketing, media presence).
Branding on the surface appears to only be concerned with the external appearance, but to make that supposition already assumes a level of artifice that comes with the idea that marketing is somehow inherently an exaggerated or false representation in some way.
If we instead dispense with this notion and rather begin with the idea that branding is an external representation of a internal reality, the whole process becomes not only about effective communication but also about ensuring parity between the inner and the outer. Branding is rather about how to best share the core vision and ideals of a project.
Developing the internal mission and vision and finding the best and most inspiring characteristics of an organization means that branding is the work of expressing that in the most effective way possible. Branding becomes about finding authenticity and voice that can resonate with an audience.
Using this core foundation of a clarified mission, stylistic choices like colors or design (encapsulated most fully in a logo) can become aesthetic and functional vehicles for building trust and recognition. In other words, design and digital content flow naturally from a project with clear mission and values.
From this, the more obvious features of branding take the forefront including things like copywriting and branded content. In today’s digitally saturated society, confronting these challenges can often feel daunting. But with a clear mission and vision, everyone involved in the process (from creatives to content authors) has an understanding of what to build upon.
Translating these foundations into visually rich material is another core feature of branding which is to ensure visual consistency across platforms. While the visual aspect cannot be overstated, it comes with its parallel in consistent language like taglines, SEO terms, and social media content and voice. When these two work in tandem, a project has arrived at the culmination of good branding: authenticity.
With this arrival, other challenges take the forefront including staffing and developing the products or offerings of a project, but while these are outside the purview of branding, having a clear brand means that when these are working successfully, the pathway to representation has been established and these internal characteristics face no obstacle to being recognized.