The Meaning of Brand Article

Brand vs branding (and why it matters)

What is the difference between brand and branding – and why does it matter?

Recently, the B2B Institute tested brand recall of 300 brand assets from 59 brands across six B2B categories.

Peter Weinberg, Head of Development at The B2B Institute, concludes:

“Most B2B companies do not have any distinctive brand assets, which is the foundation of effective brand management. We estimate that brand mismanagement is costing B2B firms billions of dollars in potential sales every year.” [source]

Why do brand assets have such poor recall?

Fundamentally, it stems from a misunderstanding of brand and branding.

Here’s the critical difference.

Branding generally refers to the creation or refresh of visual assets.

However, this mostly accomplishes an update to their ‘look and feel’ which doesn’t ensure memorability or relevance.

Brand strategy, on the other hand, gets to the essence of the organisation and helps you define a broader and unique identity that helps you make deeper connections and achieve your goals and objectives.

Adam Concar, Creative Director at RBL explains it this way,

“Bad branding is a bit of a whitewash, it’s a superficial layer added to what’s there. Good brand is a beacon that inspires you to aim for something. It helps you find your way.”

Let’s dig into this further.


The Meaning of Brand

For brand to serve its purpose, it needs to be a true expression of your organisation as a whole – not just your visual preferences.

According to our founder and Managing Director Rebecca Battman, brand is multi-dimensional and needs to consider your:

  • vision and strategy
  • product or service offer
  • perception and image
  • culture and ethos

It’s a more holistic approach that brings together all the key aspects of your organisation to create something truly distinct and memorable.

This distinctiveness resonates on a number of different levels with the right audience and compels them to act.


The Meaning of Branding

On the other hand, when marketers speak about branding, they are often referring to the superficial application of the visual identity.

For example:

  • Logos
  • Campaigns
  • Templates
  • Activations

Each of these is focused primarily on design.

By skipping brand strategy, assets fail to be distinct and can end up looking like a lot of other companies.

This leads to poor recall and brand performance.


Differentiating Brand vs Branding By the Problems they Solve

Perhaps a more meaningful way to illustrate the difference between brand and branding is by the problems they solve.

Branding can help bring fresh energy to a tired or worn-out visual system.

Brand strategy helps you tackle larger, more fundamental challenges in pursuit of a radical shift in performance and impact:

  • Clarifying purpose or mission
  • Defining product/service strategy
  • Deepening customer engagement
  • Changing culture
  • Consolidating mergers & acquisitions
  • Improving talent acquisition/retention
  • Attracting the right strategic partners/investors

To tackle these challenges, you need more than a visual refresh. You need a perfectly aligned business and brand strategy which transforms your organisation by changing the way people think, feel and act. The ensuing identity system is the visual manifestation of this deeper approach.

For example, David Grevemberg CBE, ex CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, initiated a rebrand when he realised the historic brand of the CGF didn’t enable their primary goal to drive societal change.

Here’s how he put it:

“At an important time to galvanise and drive the positive impact of sport on society, we have updated and launched an exciting new Commonwealth Sport brand to keep pace with our ambition.

This means we aren’t just unveiling a new logo and emblem but actually linking our narrative, positioning and meaning. It is about putting the emphasis back on our vision, our values and our athletes.”

You can view the full case study here.


How to Create a Transformational Brand

Rebecca highlights the critical issue that stems from misunderstanding the meaning of branding vs brand.

“Many people think you can deliver transformational change by just changing visuals – they think this is a solution to far more fundamental issues.

[Brand strategy] needs to be a deep and broad process”.

What does this look like?

Listening carefully to employees, customers and partners.

Collaborating to define and articulate a brand strategy, ensuring this is fully aligned with your strategic ambitions.

Only then creating an insight-led, transformative identity system that has reach, salience, and longevity.

And finally, bringing the brand to life across creative content, campaigns and communications.


About rbl

Has your marketplace changed? Have you changed? Are you ready for a strategic rebrand?

rbl helps you succeed in a brand-led world by collaborating with you to discover, define, design and deliver transformational solutions.

In the process, you will discover the true health of your current brand and the insights you need to move your organisation forward.

This helps you to shape a unique brand VOICE that will better engage your employees, customers, partners and more.

We can then create the content, campaigns, and communications to cut through the noise and change the way people think, act and feel.

To discuss your specific challenges or opportunities please call Karen Newbold our Director of Growth on 01926 678368 or email her here.