Defining Brand and Branding

Updated: Jul 15

I've heard many definitions for what a brand is.

"A gut feeling", "a promise", "a person's perception", "what others say about you when you're not in the room".

But these have never felt like they quite cut the mustard for my brain to rationalise. Even if they've come from people who have tremendous experience in brand building, like Jeff Bezos and Marty Neumeier. So I've come up with my own.

Now how did all this come about? Because it's a pretty freakin' audacious claim to just rebrand the terms 'brand' and 'branding'. But it's something people have been doing for decades and for me, it comes down to the need of positioning these concepts in my head and articulate that to my clients to be able to best communicate what we're both working towards for their business' success. So that they're in my own words, sound authentic and I can back myself.

A week prior to the end of the financial year here in Australia, which finished up on June 30, I was having a bit of a freakout. About my business structure, cash flow, who I was attracting for my services and things were just swirling in my head constantly.

This is when I basically said to myself, "enough!". My wife and kids were at my in-laws for the day and I became a man on a mission to position my brand with the clarity I'd not yet bothered to fully execute on my own business. I know, hardly walking the walk, huh?

At about 9:30-10am I turned on Spotify, turned up the volume and wiped off a heap of shit from my whiteboard (not literal shit). With a blank canvas, I put up a heading "THE G'DAY FRANK BRAND" - which you can see in the image below. I've just blurred the goals section because there is only so much leg you show below your skirt on a first date 😉

I started with the column I titled, "WHY FRANK". It probably should have said something like "THE FRANK IDENTITY" to sound cooler. But there you go, that's what it was and included Positioning, Purpose and Values beneath it as sub-sections.

Under 'Positioning', I started with the phrase "Branding with Frank personality". To me, thinking about what I offer and how I'm different, is that I do branding and I communicate that with my own unique personality. Now granted my first name isn't actually Frank (it's Reagan - Frank is my middle name), but it's the persona I've taken on as part of my brand to be a little bit of a Jester, a little bit of a Magician and ultimately a Creator if you were to bucket it me into archetypes.

I've since realised that this is a better fitting definition for my Purpose and that my Positioning is something a little different. So I just wanted to point that out for those of you who are in branding and are going, "huh? That sounds more like a...".

However! What I did write in that Purpose section on the whiteboard was something that changed the game for me.

Firstly, under the words 'Branding', 'Frank' and 'personality' in my positioning section, I wrote down 3-4 attributes that these 3 words represented for the existing brand people know me for.

Branding = Connecting, Distinctive, Considered

Frank = Direct, Unmistakeable, Diligent, Clear

Personality = Energy, Vibrance, Thriving, Captivating

You'll notice that I boldened 3 words above. Yep, they are the ones I circled to become the Core Values of my brand:

- Clarity

- Captivate

- Connect

Why these and what do they mean?

  • Clarity is a key outcome of any branding exercise. Having clarity helps identify your goals, why you exist, who your consumers are, why they should choose you, how you communicate with them and how you can captivate their attention to form a long-standing connection between you and them.

  • Being able to captivate your consumer's attention as the stand out brand over others is what helps drive sales and hit business goals. Because you have seconds to catch someone's eye, let them digest what you've said and have them form a first impression that becomes a connection. If it positively captivates a consumer, you become seen, heard & remembered.

  • While there are reasons why consumers choose a brand over others, like nostalgia, habit, referral, alignment and price that are emotional decisions. These are caused by connections from brand experiences and even the trusted word of others. These connections can influence one's desire to choose your brand now and over time.

The best part is that I can use this to describe not only what I do for my own brand, but also how I help my clients with their brands. This is why you can see I put them together into a Brand Purpose phrase that became:

Creating captivating moments of connection from clarity

It was at this moment I knew I might have something. I paced around the room, around the house and later in the backyard where I continued this strategy session, saying this out loud over and over like a mad man discovering the word 'moist'.

That said, I pressed on with the rest of my whiteboard sesh and noticed a pattern emerging that you might have recognised. I'm doing things in 3's. Positioning, Purpose and Values. In that initial positioning statement, I had 3 keywords and chose 3 core values from those keywords. This then played out in my targeting as I selected three industries I can best serve. They're quite broad but include, Tech, Home & Living and Health & Wellness.

Before I get off my side-track - choosing and limiting things to 3 improves recall, which is something I'm now doing for my clients as of this year. Because 1 and 2 things are easy to remember, 3 gives more context. Any more and you start forgetting. I'll never forget that I could never remember the 4th 'C word' of my previous employer's values (and no not that C-word). All I can remember is Creativity, Collaboration and Commercial. The fourth is a mystery. So let that be a quick reminder to whittle down your values because your team will then remember them.

Anyhoo, it wasn't until I got outside with the whiteboard, that I got to my Brand Messaging. In other words, what voice and message was I going to consistently communicate? Just like the core values, this was a big one for me because I chop and change my dialogue about branding as much as a pack of 24 rolls of toilet paper apparently runs out in a pandemic.

I still love my "Say G'day Today" call-to-action and my brand statement "Be more than what you sell" in reference to what a Brand Purpose is known as "why you do it beyond making money". So those things weren't going to change.

Now when it came to my tone of voice, I wrote down things like 'Clear', 'Direct', 'Frank', 'Challenging' and 'Passionate'. Yeah not too bad. But it then lead to writing down what a brand is to my clients.

  • What you're remembered for

  • How you're recognised

  • Why people talk about you

  • Why people come back

  • It's not the only reason they buy - but it can be a contributing factor

  • It's a reflection of your people (your team/your consumers)

  • It's a captivating moment of connection

And that last point right there is when it CLICKED! Not just the sound of me snapping the whiteboard marker lid back on to mark a job well done.

A brand is a captivating moment of connection

Closely followed by:

Branding is creating captivating moments of connection