5 branding basics that you should know

Written By:
Peter Gould, Founder & Dreamer

Consider this: On average you are hit with over 5,000 messages a day, and 25,000 new products a year. There are around 40,000 brands alone in your supermarket.

Yet, many of us never take the time to understand how branding & marketing really works. I believe that if we just get familiar with a few basics, we can be aware of the tools being used on us daily. Even better – we can instead use them for good with our own beneficial brands and ideas.

1. The logo is not the brand, it is the gateway to the brand   

When talking about brands people often think of the logo as the brand. Instead, think of brands as a collection of feelings towards certain products and companies. When I see LEGO advertising, it makes me think of playful experiences, I don’t think “Wow, what a great logo, I’ll buy that!”

Tip: Many small companies and organisations make the mistake of investing in a logo or website without thinking about how to strategically and emotionally engage customers through the right messaging, imagery and a compelling brand story. A unique & memorable design visual identity is important, but only part of what is needed to make a brand compelling. There is a huge difference between “logo design” and “branding strategy”.

2. The product is not the brand either

You will never see an advertisement for Coca-Cola saying “We sell sugar-packed black liquid!”   Instead, they will try to create a story or campaign message. For Coke, it might involve trying to make the product ‘cool’ – a beautiful beach scene with people smiling and drinking Coke. This it’s a typical coded message that our nafs (ego) may subconsciously decode as “If I drink Coke I will be happy like them!” even if our conscious knows better. It might even by association with certain celebrities or product placement in movies (think Volvo in Twilight) – over time all of these have an effect on our feelings towards a brand, regardless of the product itself.

Tip: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (facts and features).

3. Positioning is the heart of branding

I remember this lesson form my first year of design school many years ago. You’re thirsty and need to buy a bottle of water. Do you buy the cheap brand or the more expensive brand with the cool bottle? Hmmm… alright, let’s save the money. DING!  It doesn’t matter what you choose, both are owned by Coca-Cola and they’ve got your money either way. One brand is intentionally designed to look ‘cheap/value’ and the other one designed to look more expensive – it’s just the one company using positioning to differentiate in our minds.

Did you know that the Unilever corporation that owns Dove, famous for its advertising celebrating ‘normal’ females, also uses terrible stereotypes of females when advertising it’s Axe brand? Both are hygiene products with similar functional purpose but the brands arepositioned very differently for different audiences.

Tip: Clearly define and communicate your brand’s unique offering and personality. What makes you different?

4. Brand experiences win

Did people go crazy for Angry Birds because it had a great logo or great advertising?  No, it was because it was a fun, simple and addictive gaming experience (and did you know that company had over 51 failed games before it was a hit?).  When you walk into an Apple store, do you feel this is a bargain basement shop for cheap computers? No, it’s full of cool-looking stuff, young people and products that make you feel differently about the Apple experience. “We are not in the business of making boxes” Steve Jobs said, in one of my favourite videos, driving the brand with a remarkable vision.

Tip: Successful brands will think hard about every single touchpoint their potential customers might interact with, and try to make it a memorable, enjoyable and engaging experience through the entire journey.

5. Authenticity wins  

People trust the brands that resonate with their values best, they believe in them, and build relationships over time. A brand like Hadith of the Day was created to inspire people every day with wisdom, not to make huge profits for shareholders at the expense of others.

Tip: People will see through shallow marketing efforts. An honest, personal approach to business has always worked for me alhumdulillah.


What is your favourite brand, and why?