What is hiding behind the mysterious term 'branding'? There are lots of good quotes, books and other resources on what branding is, as well as what it isn't. If you are working professional living in city chances are that you hear someone talking about branding or perhaps you might use the branding vocabulary yourself. With the growing number of brands in all sectors of the economy, it's no surprise that everyone is talking about brand and branding. Out of all the people talking about branding, how many people know what branding truly stands for and how many misuses this term? I guess we'll never know but if you want to find out for yourself, what branding is and what it isn't, I recommend to read this article.

Growing up in a small town in Poland I didn't know much about the terminology of branding. What I knew instead was; which local school was the best and which farmer had the tastiest potatoes. A postman - the same guy during my childhood personified the whole representation of Mail in my head: neat, with a professional smile and always in a hurry. I grow up far away from big brands and people shouting about their branding on every corner on the street.

Didn't branding exist 20 years ago?

Of course, it did exist. Branding can be intentional and unintentional. Good school's reputations 20 years ago was an effect of good teaching and great facilities rather than great visuals or marketing. As for the potatoes - it might have been a combination of branding, reputations and other aesthetics. The case of a postman is a good example of branding.  As a kid, I didn't pay that much attention to branding as I do nowadays. Living in London I'm exposed to so many different brands. I have my favorite shops and events I go to. I can tell I feel a magical connection to some products and stay away from others. Whether we notice it or not branding is around us. In terms of visuals: look around yourself and count how many brands you interact with every day. Think about why you use this product vs other, what it's about your favourite band that you could listen to the music non-stop and consider the people you inspiring to as a brand: what makes them so special?

A good branding let people sense the brand

Everything around it: product, environment, communication, behaviors should manifest the core idea of the brand. Another good explanation of what branding is can be found in people. Each of us is different, has an individual character and a unique personality. Just like brands: there are no two identical brands. Let's look closer at two brands from the same marketplace. Apple and Samsung are both brands from tech, making and selling computers and phones. Through their products might have similar features - they look different, they attract different consumers who also have a point of view on both of those brands based on their experience and their thoughts with the products, the service and their feeling towards the brand.

People will compare brands to various factors

The logo encapsulates the brand. It's in the center element, next we have other visual triggers like colour, typeface, and slogans. Visual elements act quicker than words and will help the brand position itself correctly and build strategy and branding around it, but they will not carry the brand all the way through. It takes more for a brand to succeed than great visuals. One of the golden rules is to have a great product in the first place. 

Now that I talked more loosely about brands and branding let's get straight to some facts.

1. Branding is not a logo. A logo is part of the visual identity which together alongside strategy it's the foundation of branding but a logo on its own it's not equivalent to branding.

2. Branding does not follow a clearly defined path, brands need to walk along consumers to find its own destination. - Larry Mayorga. What this means is that branding can not happen in a vacuum. It's what people make of the brand.

3. It's not about you. Great branding is about people. How it makes them feel, think.

4. Can a graphic designer make branding? Yes and No. A graphic designer will help you create a brand identity design: a logo, color palette, typography, brand guidelines, and other elements of visual identity such as business cards, t-shirts, website, etc. A strategist/graphic designer will help with brand positioning, defining personas, core values, target audiences, etc. A graphic designer can work in branding but can't build the whole branding for a company - branding is the perception of the brand which will be unique to every individual.

5. “Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception” — Ashley Friedlein. In branding everything matters, from the way a consumer is greeted to the smell of the shop. 

Branding is essential to your company. It’s what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. Brands who get branding well are also brands that do well. If in doubt just look at Apple, Coca-cola, Ben&Jerry's, Google and Netflix. I hope that you learned something from this article and if you are a designer who is just starting out, it will inspire you to learn more about branding. If you are a business owner if gave you a solid understanding of what branding is, what it isn't and how to call the design elements you need. Please remember - a logo  - though it's on almost every piece of the design identity design - it's not branding.