Toward a branding groundwork, part 1: Communication

As we’re relatively early on in this endeavor, it might help, before we go any further, to define our terms.

We’ve observed elsewhere that there is no shortage of definitions for what branding is. It’s not that any of those definitions are wrong; it’s just they’re incomplete, either containing one aspect or another of the reality, or missing the heart of the issue in one way or another.

In its essence, branding is communicating who you are + what you do, to your target customer, in a way that is clear and compelling.

There’s something to each component of that definition, but let’s start with the first.

Branding is communicating. All design generally, and branding specifically, exists to communicate. Branding is not art in the proper sense, and its meaning can’t be subject to anyone’s interpretation.

In other words, an artist may want you to interpret her painting any way you want; she may or may not care if you “get it.” There may be nothing to “get.” Branding, however, is not like that at all. Unlike art, branding is trying to say something specific to a specific set of people about the organization (product, person, event, thing, &c.) it represents. If it doesn’t do that, money is left on the table, and it has failed at the singular thing it exists to do.

Branding is fundamentally communication. If it’s not trying to communicate something specific, it’s just art. And there’s nothing wrong with art, but there is something seriously wrong with approaching branding as if it’s art.

Posts in this series:

Part 2: Who you are + what you do
Part 3: Your target customer
Part 4: Clear
Part 5: Compelling