What I talk about when I talk about branding

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First, a small note about the title. It is clearly inspired in the fabulous book “What I talk about when I talk about running”, written by Haruki Murakami. Certainly one of the best books I have already read (thanks Erico Assis for giving it to me a couple years ago). I really recommend it for those who like to run.

Now, talking about branding, I’m sure you have already seen this word before, right? It’s everywhere and different people think differently/similarly about it. Here you can find a compilation of 100 branding definitions.

So what is my point here, is it to present a new definition? To question previous ideas on branding? No way, who do I think I am to do such thing? I want to participate and discuss together, of course.


I became interested in branding in the end of my graduation in Graphic Design. One of the first books I read on the topic was “Building Strong Brands”, by David Aaker. Despite the catchy/airport literature title, it’s such an interesting book and I really recommend it.

Nowadays, I’m developing my doctoral thesis at Aalto University — School of Design, on this topic. Also, I’m relating it with another topic that I have interest: Graphic design. My goal is to understand how graphic designers are contributing with branding.

But the reason why I’m writing here is just to express a little bit about what I have found until now. Or, as the title suggests, what is this branding that I’m talking about.

Branding is the discipline responsible by taking care of a company’s image, product, service and even a person.

When I say image, I’m referring to how people build the brand image on their minds, that is, what they’re expecting when they hear the name of the brand. For instance, when I say “Apple”, I’m sure that most people will think in design, technology, expensive/cheap (depending on the country), etc.

Building a good brand image on people’s mind, or better yet, a feeling on people’s heart, is not an easy task. There are several options for every kind of products and services you can imagine. Why should I select your brand instead of another?

But at the same time, it’s a challenging task. And graphic designers, together with other professionals, are developing visual touch points to create this image on people’s mind and hearts. Can you imagine buying an iPhone without the Apple’s symbol on its back? Or without the characteristic interface? Not at all!

I really like the idea that Branding is developed through the creation of touch points. In other words, you only get in touch with a brand through its physical/digital manifestations. For instance, when I go to the supermarket and spend 1 or 2 minutes just staring this product’s packaging, it’s a (good) touch point. When I access the website of a company and it’s really really ugly and bad designed, again, it’s a (bad) touch point.

So, touch points are intrinsically connected to branding. Nevertheless, some companies seem to forget one or another touch point to take care of.

Which of these packages would you keep and which
would you easily discard?

Maybe the power of brand can be measured through this previous question. What are the brands that we’re strongly attached? Which one we see as easily replaceable? But more important than this, why are we so strongly attached? Using the packages above as an example, I would certainly keep the iMac box with me. Why? Because it’s nice, of course. But what else? When keeping an Apple product package with me, what message am I communicating? In other words, what does it tell about myself to have an Apple product?

So maybe Branding is not only about design, products and packaging, but it goes further. Choosing a brand is a way of expressing our ideas: what we agree and what we disagree on. What kind of group of people we want to be seen as?

These are some questions that are popping up to my mind now, I would really like your help to answer them. ☺

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