johanna mcclain

Brand -vs- Branding

There is often confusion about the difference between Brand and Branding.

Branding is the visual representation of a company; think Apple, Nike, or Starbucks.

Brand is a company’s promise to it’s customers. Successful brands state and deliver on their promises.

A brand promise is exactly what it says…what the company promises to the people who interact with it; customers, employees and vendors alike.

It’s a representation of the company’s character, essence, core values and commitments.

Companies with strong brands take their brand promises seriously and so can you. You don’t need to be a national company or have a big budget to build a strong business brand.

You’re never too small to build a strong company brand that makes a promise and keeps it. The increased value to your business is then measured not on price but on value.

Let’s look at some examples that you’ll recognize and will hopefully inspire you:

Here are the brand promises for Apple, Nike and Starbucks:

  • Apple’s brand promise is two-sided – their guarantee to create products based on seeing the world a little differently, and their promise to inspire their customers to do the same.
  • Nike’s brand promise is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
  • Starbucks brand promise is to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

It’s important to note that smart, sustainably branded companies take their brand promises and express them as brand attributes: The core values and beliefs that are the driving force behind keeping their brand promise. These brand attributes are used as the filter by which decisions are made.

  • Apple: imagination; liberty regained; innovation; passion; hopes, dreams and aspirations; and power-to-the-people through technology.
  • Nike: performance; authenticity, innovation and sustainability.
  • Starbucks: creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome; acting with courage, challenging the status quo; being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.

Do the work, get inspired, make a promise (one you will keep) and use your promise and brand attributes as your North Star, the authentic guide that drives your decision making. If you do this the odds of disappointing your customers, employees and vendors is all but eliminated and the value of your company increases exponentially.

Sometimes, delivering on brand promises means that you’ll have to make challenging decisions for example an opportunity might look great from a number of angles—but not fit within your company’s brand promise. Do you go ahead and move forward anyway or do you kill the idea to protect your brand?

If you have with faith in your brand and are committed to keeping your brand promise you’ll kill the idea to protect your reputation and honor your commitments. You got this!

Johanna McClain is a certified business coach and business brand strategist.

Johanna McClain | | 775-771-3426