What is Branding?

What is branding? Branding is trust. Branding is the proof that demonstrates the authority and the uniqueness of your business.

What is Branding?

“What is Branding?” Pages and pages have been written about the topic. And yet it still isn’t entirely clear what branding is.

It’s your identity. Your reputation. It’s your logo. It is not your logo. Boring blah blah, and every word ever written about branding has done very little to convince the average person that they really need a brand. So here’s another take…

What is Branding?

It’s all about the trust, dummy.

“Branding is all about trust.”

I could put up a one-page website or a social media profile telling people I’m the world’s greatest opera singer. But anyone, and I mean anyone, who knows me, knows that’s an out-and-out lie.

Once you start to dive into my opera singing credentials, which would be pretty slim, you’d pretty rapidly figure out there’s a disconnect between my brand statement (world’s greatest opera singer) and my credentials (no video, no experience, no talent, no ability to carry a tune), it would be pretty obvious that I have no brand as an opera singer.

None. Nada. Zilch.

Let’s Make Some Noise

On the other hand, if I wanted to convince you that I’m pretty good at helping people find their brand voice, or making some noise, as my brand statement says, well now that’s another thing. I can’t carry a tune on my own, but I sure can help others find their voice.

I’ve helped hundreds of clients build their content, marketing and brand strategies. I’ve met with them and obsessed with them, and strategized with them over who their audience is, how they will reach that audience, and what elements their business strategy needs to make those connections seamless.

Importantly, we define how they will SPEAK to that audience.

What is Branding? The Three Elements

If you’ve been reading between the lines here, you’ve already noticed that I’ve identified three key elements to the question, What is Branding.

  1. The Brand Statement: This is the sweeping, “I am amazing at this one thing, and this is how I will use my amazingness to help you transform your life, your work, your profits, etc.”
  2. The Brand Strategy: This is the strategy I will deploy to prove to you that my brand statement is, in fact, not just a house of lies.
  3. The Brand Voice: This is HOW I will share my brand strategy. How I will share my brand statement. Am I loud? Quiet? Jovial? An expert?

The Brand Statement

If, as an entrepreneur, you’ve spent even five minutes on social media, you’ve been inundated by “gurus” telling you how much you suck.

Fortunately for you, you’ve stumbled on their ad, so now they can help you solve your terrible problems for a mere $997. Or, you can take their free “educational” webinar. And by educational, what they really mean is an hour-long, aggressive, high-pressure sales pitch.

The Brand Strategy

If you dive deeper though, you’ll learn a few things.

By the way, you DO dive deeper right? Please tell me you don’t click subscribe, or attend, or heaven forbid, buy, something from one social media ad without doing the tiniest bit of research.

Because when you DO a little research, you’ll see scant evidence that they can actually accomplish what they’ve promised. But, no, they are hoping they catch you in the gut. And you feel that urgency, that, “Oh my goodness, they so understand me, I must book now.”

Not All Brands Are Scams

Of course, social media gurus are low-hanging fruit. They are an easy target for me to write about just because SO many of them are scammers. Or at the very least, they under deliver on their promises. They hide the legalize (results are not typical and may vary), and meanwhile you are left waiting for their promised, but often missing gold rush.

The Best Brands Are Motivational

There are many, many amazing brand that ARE living up to the promise they make in their brand statement and their marketing messaging. Just a few, include:

Ben & Jerry’s

We believe that ice cream can change the world. We have a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national, and international communities by integrating these concerns in our day-to-day business activities.

City University of New York

Where else would you find the world’s greatest urban university than in the greatest city on earth? There’s a statue in our harbor that welcomes the world, promises hope, opportunity and a better life. And there is a unique institution in our city that helps all New Yorkers achieve just that. The City University of New York. It has lifted generations of families. Educated millions of people. A recent study showed that CUNY propels almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League colleges—plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago combined. It is one of the most noble, worthy and just creations that this city has ever constructed. It is one of the wonders of this city and the envy of the world. Use it. Support it. Brag about it. But never underestimate it.

Hawai‘i Tourism Authority

Mālama Ku‘u Home: A State of Mind and a Call to Action: Human beings have an inherent capacity to feel rooted to and responsible for their home. This foundational principle is embedded in our individual being and collective DNA. In ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) we call this state of mind Mālama Ku‘u Home, or caring for my beloved home, and therefore our beloved home. Mālama Ku‘u Home is also a call to action, because if we are committed to caring for the place we call home, all of us must do our part to realize the promise of regenerative tourism: seeking to balance the economics of tourism with the wellbeing of our communities, natural resources and culture.

Distinct Brand Voices

Not only are the above companies distinct in their messaging, but they all have a distinct brand voice. All of them are looking to inspire change, but all are doing it in their own way.

Ben & Jerry’s uses a playful yet socially conscious voice that reflects their commitment to social justice. City University of New York employs a proud and aspirational tone that highlights its transformative impact on students’ lives. Hawai‘i Tourism Authority embraces a culturally rich voice that emphasizes the importance of caring for the land and community.

For all three, the caring is not just a marketing message. It is a deep-seated belief of the world as a better place. An ethos.

Does a Brand Need to Motivate?

Not necessarily.

I would argue McDonald’s is not a brand that is necessarily built on the idea of motivation. Their brand mission is, “to make delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone.” I don’t believe this is motivational, per se, although the execs at McDonald’s might argue otherwise. After all, isn’t the purpose of any McDonald’s ad to motivate people to hit the drive through? To pick up some world class French fries before they face the pressures of thee day.

To Motivate You Need a Voice

If you do set out to motivate people or businesses to become better version of themselves, you need a voice.

A strong, distinct voice makes it much easier to inspire a person, a business or a community. A strong voice explains why this is a movement and WHY they should be motivated to follow you and your movement..

All Movements Need a Voice

The difference between a brand statement and a brand voice is similar to the difference between a script and an amazing movie or TV show.

The script is the outline.

The actors bring the voice to life.

So, whether you’re an ice cream company advocating for social justice, a university transforming lives through education, a tourism authority promoting sustainable travel, or a creator advocating for an easier path through entrepreneurship, your brand is not just the statement you make.

Your brand statement is the transformation you promise. Your brand strategy is how you demonstrate your ability to deliver on that promise. On that transformation.

“Your brand is trust.”

Your brand is trust.

And your brand voice? That’s the powerful tool you use to make some noise. To lead a movement.

Let’s Make Some Noise

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