Like most industries, branding is full of jargon that can leave you scratching your head. Use our real-world definitions of common brand terminology to better understand the vocabulary of the branding world.
A mix of tangible and intangible attributes, symbolized in a trademark that can be managed to create value for organizations and customers. It is the physical representation of a company’s offerings and values, but can exist subjectively in a person’s mind.
Your brand is a mix of the perception you want people to have of your business and the perception they actually have. More than just a logo, it’s a “living business asset” that includes the full experience a customer associates with your organization. These intangible memories are intentionally triggered by the repeated use of your tangible “brand assets.” (See definition below)
How a company defines the relationship among its brands to help people understand what the company offers, and how to choose the brand that best meets their needs. The brand architecture organizes brands and products to create clarity for the customer.
As a business or non-profit grows, it may find itself managing a collection of products, services, and initiatives with their own sub-brands. Brand architecture is the system you use to show the relationship of these separate pieces. Think of a university made up of many colleges, each with a unique name, or a city government with many departments and divisions. Someone has to decide how to handle the names and logos for each division.
Two common forms of brand architecture:
Monolithic or “branded house”
Amazon.com, Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo, etc. all share the Amazon name and the iconic smile in their logos.
Freestanding or “house of brands”
Walt Disney Co. owns ABC, Marvel, Pixar, and ESPN, but each has its own brand unrelated to the original Disney look.
The individual elements that come together to form the outward-facing brand…that must work together in order to forge the distinctive appearance of a brand. While each element can stand alone to spark recognition of the brand, the union of all these elements is what creates a cohesive brand identity.
Your brand assets are the intentionally developed visual pieces of your brand that work together to trigger a positive connection with your customer. This includes your logo, fonts, colors, and graphic elements. “Brand assets” often refers to the actual files for these items, for example: Has the client sent over their brand assets yet?
A brand audit is a comprehensive and systematic examination of a brand involving activities (both tangible and intangible) to assess the health of the brand, uncover its sources of equity and suggest ways to improve and leverage that equity.
Periodically, an organization should conduct a brand audit to be sure everything is still in alignment. This involves a thorough review of all the ways your brand is being communicated: your website, social media, print campaigns, and internal communications, to see if you’re sending a clear unified message. This is often the first step of a rebrand.
Extent to which a brand is recognized by potential customers and is correctly associated with a particular product. Expressed usually as a percentage of target market, brand awareness is the primary goal of advertising in the early months or years of a product’s introduction.
Brand awareness is simply how many people in your potential market are familiar with your business. Many small businesses struggle to grow their brand awareness and lose business because of it. If you have a small but loyal following, meaning those who try you like you, consider prioritizing brand awareness in your marketing strategy and budget.
The visible elements of a brand (such as colors, design, logotype, name, symbol) that together identify and distinguish the brand in the consumers’ mind.
Your brand identity includes the ideas that turn into your brand assets. Your brand has both a visual identity—colors, style, logo—and a verbal identity—name, voice, messaging. Both should be well thought out and handled with consistency throughout your organization. (See brand standards)
Human traits or characteristics associated with a specific brand name. The brand personality gives consumers something with which they can relate, effectively increasing brand awareness and popularity.
Is your brand edgy, traditional, approachable, or elite? Your brand personality informs how your company looks, sounds, and acts. A distinct brand personality can help you stand out from the competition. Think of the very different personalities of Evian and Propel Fitness Water. Sometimes brand personality can also be known as brand traits or brand attributes.
A comprehensive document or rulebook affirming the principles of a brand and providing guidance for understanding its legacy, vision, mission, personality and attributes. Brand standards inform staff, external agencies and vendors of the code under which the brand operates.
No matter who is designing for you or writing for you, the look and sound of your brand should be consistent. Brand standards, aka your branding guide or Brand Bible, are an internal resource used to keep your brand aligned across all applications. This should include verbal standards, visual standards, and your brand strategy (see below).
The long-term strategy that guides a business in the development of a brand and its implementation in every aspect of marketing and operations. It serves as a guidepost for internal stakeholders and partners and clarifies a company’s value to its customers.
Brand strategy is often a collective term for your mission statement, positioning statement or unique selling proposition, and core values. However you package them, these are the pillars of your brand that rarely change. You come back to these elements to be sure your decisions align with who you are and why you exist.
Creating, selecting and blending attributes to differentiate a product, service or business in an attractive, meaningful and compelling way. It works to illustrate the brand using consistent themes that align with brand promises to build the preference and loyalty of the consumer.
Branding is everything you do to create and manage your audience’s perception of your organization. From marketing to PR to social involvement, branding encompasses all the actions taken to communicate who you are to your customers.
A firm that specializes in creating and launching brands, and rebranding. The role of a branding agency is to create, plan and manage branding strategies for clients, including support in advertising and other forms of promotion.
Kettle Fire definition
We’re here to help you present yourself in the most consistent, authentic, authoritative way possible. Though a branding firm may take similar actions to a marketing agency, our focus in on identity not promotion. Our underlying question will always be: Does this communicate who you really are?
What other brand terminology are you encountering? Share in the comments are we’ll help clear up the branding jargon.