Nov 17, 2020 | Agency Blog, Branding

Do you know how the term “brand” first emerged?

Unless you are a branding nerd like me, I’m guessing you don’t. The word “brand” dates back more than 4,000 years ago and refers to a practice that farmers used to identify their livestock. They would mark, or “brand,” the animals to differentiate them from the generic competition. Yep, that’s right. A “brand” – the sophisticated, complex concept that some businesses live and die by today – began with farm animals. 

Over the years a “brand” evolved from being thought of as just a mark or a logo to representing a robust personality and identity for organizations. There are many different definitions of brand but Marty Neumeier, director of CEO Branding at Liquid Agency, wrote one of my favorites:

“A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”

Personally, I think this definition makes my job as a marketer more challenging. It means my job is not only to get a customer to buy or adopt a behavior, but it’s also getting a customer to feel and connect. With that understanding, I have adopted a few beliefs about brands over the years and use them to influence the way I work with them.

Here are five important things I want you to know about your brand:


Your brand is more than just a pretty face.

A brand is more than a logo, a font or a color scheme. Although you may be tempted to put your logo design on a pedestal – don’t. Your logo means nothing if it is not a true reflection of the mission and values of your business. As an agency, we do not design without context, especially when it comes to a logo or complete brand identity. This means that before we put pen to paper, we want to get to know and understand your target audience, business strategy, product offering and anything else that influences your brand’s personality. If you are at a point where you think it is time to move forward with a new or refreshed face for your brand, Vela’s Jeff Thomas has a few things he wants you to know about logo design.


Your brand should inform the way you do business.

Can you think of a business that told you it was one thing but when you actually got involved with it, turned out to be something else (and not in a good way)? It’s probably not hard to think of one. Unfortunately, businesses do this all the time. They craft and execute a beautiful brand promise that gives you all the feels, and then the business doesn’t deliver.

For example, if your competitors have restrictive hours of operation and your brand promise is to do things differently, then your hours of operation must reflect that. Don’t say you will do business differently and then operate just like everyone else. If you do, your brand is making a false claim and your customers will be upset. Let your brand inform how you do business.



Your brand isn’t just about your business.

It is a little bit, but it’s mostly about who you need to be for your customers. Think about it – are you your organization’s only customer? Of course not. So why would you want your brand to speak only to you? Find a way to bridge the gap between what you want your brand to be and what your customers need it to be.

When I’m working with brands I like to start with two lists. The first list identifies the “cons” or challenges that the target audience has with similar businesses or products. The second lists the “pros” or differentiators about the brand I’m working with. Then I compare the lists side by side and see which of my brand’s “pros” can address the audience “cons” and hopefully have a handful of matches. In doing this, I am connecting the brand directly to the fulfillment of a customer need.



Your brand is only as good as the perception your customers have of it.

That brings me to my next point. Your brand may be received and interpreted differently by the market than you intended. This is OK, especially if you listen and adapt. This has been common for businesses during the pandemic, as customers have found new uses for everyday products in an effort to keep themselves safe and entertained. I’m not encouraging you to accept an outright inaccurate or negative perception of your brand. If that’s what is happening, you should absolutely work to change it. But if your brand is being positively accepted by the market, even if it is different from your original intent, go with it. Use your customer’s perception and feedback to help your brand evolve.



Your brand will evolve.

Your customers will exceed your expectations on providing unsolicited yet valuable feedback about your brand and business. If you listen to them and use their feedback to inform the future of your brand, then it will undoubtedly evolve. This is what a brand should do. A brand that is open to evolving and that nurtures the process will always be relevant. And to bring things full circle – evolving your brand takes more than just a logo refresh, as I shared with you at the start of this article.

As someone who has worked with a variety of brands, I absolutely understand how easy it is to push the weight of a brand to the side when making operational, budget and even engineering decisions. It’s difficult to always make sure your business and products are living up to your brand promise. Just as hard as that may be, it is just as easy for your customers to choose your competitor.

If there is one thing that I hope you will remember from this article, it’s that a brand should run deep and be considered in all business decisions. If you need help figuring out how to do this, give Vela a call.



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