So what exactly is a brand?
Marty Neumeier got to the heart of the matter in his masterwork, The Brand Gap. HIs definition is this:
Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.
This simple statement points to the profound insight that a brand lives in the hearts and minds of an audience, rather than being implicit in the thing being branded.
Your brand is not what you claim it to be, but rather, it is the perception people have of you (ie: your reputation).
Marty goes on to explain that brands are intimately linked with the subconscious, irrational and intuitive aspect of being human:
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.”
So, brand building is actually the art of perception management.
When we create aesthetics, messaging and everything else that’s involved with brand building, we are merely suggesting to the world how we would like to be perceived.
By recognizing that our brand lives in the hearts, minds and guts of our audience, our approach undergoes a radical shift. We no longer try to “force” anything or try to convince the world that we are who we say we are – but instead we take a more subtle and intelligent approach.
We learn to engage with both the conscious and subconscious minds of our audience, working toward harmony and cohesion between what we say we are and what they think and feel we are.
This also means that the core of your brand is not only you, but your audience as well. Your brand is equally centered around yourself and your audience.
Instead of trying to convince people (traditional branding), we invite our audience to create our brand with us (the new branding). It is a conversation; a relationship – not a one-way broadcast.
In the same way that you can’t instantly achieve your desired reputation for merely looking the part, your brand doesn’t arise from merely creating a nice logo.
Branding is a long game, and it has no end.