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Brands vs. Companies

The words “brand” and “company” are often used interchangeably. Many people will refer to one when they actually mean the other, which leaves us with blurred lines between the two. It can get confusing. 

So what exactly is the difference between a brand and a company? Is there a brands vs. companies contest, and if so, who wins? Why do some entities choose to be referred to as brands rather than companies, and vice versa? And if you have more than one brand within your company, what does that mean for your Key Messaging?

Proof is here to answer all these questions and more. Stick around and we’ll help you get to grips with everything there is to know about branding.

What is the difference between a brand and a company?

A brand refers to the image and identity of a specific product, service, or business that distinguishes it from its competitors. It is a combination of the name, logo, design, and the perception it creates in the mind of the target audience. In comparison, a company is a legal entity formed to engage in business activities. 

A brand goes beyond the tangible products or services your company offers. Essentially, your brand is the intangible essence that sets your business apart. Think of it as your company’s personality – the feelings it evokes, the associations it triggers, and the stories it tells. A brand encapsulates the emotional connection consumers have with your business.  

Let’s look at some examples:

Microsoft is a brand and a company. It also has several brands under the Microsoft umbrella which aren’t companies. These include Microsoft Office and Bing. The reason these are branded separately is that customers need simplicity in messaging. They want to quickly understand what a product or service can do, how it can work for them, and why they should buy it. Adding some of the halo of the larger Microsoft brand means they can become better known, while keeping their separate personalities. 

General Motors is a company and a brand with relatively low brand awareness compared to the brands it owns. These include Cadillac, Chevrolet, and Buick. 

Luxottica is a relatively unknown company because it doesn’t have a brand. It does, however, own some pretty famous brands, including Ray-Ban, Oakley and Persol. 

Let’s go deeper. On the face of it, HubSpot is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that assists companies by providing one place for all their sales, marketing, content management, and analytics materials. But its branding is all about eliciting an emotional response and convincing you that HubSpot is the best and only solution to growing your business. 

We see this on the company’s homepage where the tagline reads “Grow better with HubSpot”. This simple phrase demonstrates the company’s confidence in its ability to provide this service, and creates a subtle association in your mind with HubSpot and success, leading you to conclude that HubSpot is the only solution.  

So in short, your company is the legal and operational entity that manufactures, distributes, or sells your products or services, while a brand adds a layer of emotional value. A company provides the framework for delivering that value. This means it isn’t a matter of brands vs. companies; it’s more about how a brand can convey a company’s ideals. 

What is branding in business?

Branding isn’t just about designing a snazzy logo or creating an eye-catching colour palette for your website – although this is part of it. Branding is a comprehensive strategy that encompasses all the emotions, perceptions, and experiences that consumers have whenever they think about your business, or interact with it. Branding carves out a sticky Position for your company in the market, and then creates the design and wording that cement it in your audience’s mind. 

Through branding, you can create a distinct identity that deeply resonates with customers. Essentially, your brand is how others perceive your company or business. An effective brand not only builds recognition but also fosters trust and loyalty. Why? Because it creates consistency in your content, products, and any way you interact with your customers and prospects. And when they do it right, some brands attract loyal customers who feel they’re part of a wider community of like-minded thinkers. 

How to brand your business

To start branding your business, you need to determine your value proposition and understand your target audience. You can then begin crafting a compelling brand message. This message should encapsulate your company’s mission, values, and the commitments you make to your customers. 

Consistency is key. Every touchpoint, from your website copy to your social media, reinforces your brand’s image and fosters a cohesive customer experience.

  1. Determine your audience: Understand that your audience is the bedrock of branding. Find out every detail about your potential customers – who they are, what makes them tick, what they care about, and the problems they face that your business can solve. Dive into market research to gather insights to guide your branding efforts.
  2. Define your value proposition: What sets your business apart from the competition? What Position in the market can you own? This is the core reason that customers will choose your products or services over the competition. Your VP should be clear and compelling, and showcase what you have to offer. 
  3. Craft a brand message: Your brand message is your voice in the market. It should be simple, easy to remember, easy to understand and easy to keep consistent throughout all of your communications. 
  4. Develop a visual identity: This isn’t just your logo. Your website, newsletters, blog posts, social media profiles, advertising and more should all follow and use the same colour scheme, imagery, and typography. These elements need to visually represent your brand message and create a memorable image in your customers’ minds. 
  5. Create consistency across touchpoints: Consistency is the key to effective branding. Your brand’s visual identity and messaging must be consistent across all of your business’s customer-facing touchpoints. This includes your social media profiles, website, and marketing materials. 
  6. Foster a cohesive customer experience: While aesthetics and messaging are key, it’s also about the overall experience you offer. Each interaction a customer has with your brand should be consistent with the last, reflecting your brand’s values and commitments. Whenever you develop new products or services, your brand promises should be front and centre. 
  7. Measure and adapt: Branding should be an ongoing process. Use metrics like brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty to measure the impact of your branding efforts. Be prepared to adapt and refine your branding strategy according to changing marketing dynamics and customer feedback. 
  8. Build brand advocates: Happy customers can become your brand’s biggest advocates. Whenever they have a positive experience, encourage satisfied customers to share everything great about your brand. Use the potent branding tool that is word of mouth. 
  9. Maintain brand integrity: As your business grows, it’s essential to maintain a level of integrity. Ensure that all employees understand and uphold your brand’s values and messaging. Long-term brand success hinges on this.
  10. Evolve with your audience: As consumer preferences and market trends change, your branding may need to evolve as well. Keep your brand strategy adaptable by closely monitoring your audience’s evolving needs.
  11. Find out more about our Positioning and Key Messaging process

Dispelling common myths

Myth #1: Only big corporations need a brand

Branding isn’t reserved for multinational giants. Small businesses can benefit immensely from effective branding, too. It helps them carve out a niche, connect with their target audience, and compete in saturated markets.

Myth #2: Branding is just about aesthetics

Visual elements like logos and colour schemes are a key part of branding, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Branding involves shaping perceptions, eliciting emotions, and maintaining consistency across all touchpoints. It means making sure everyone who comes into contact with your brand knows exactly what you are offering. Your customers should be able to identify what makes your brand stand out, and it’s important your employees can easily articulate this. 

Myth #3: Companies can’t be brands and vice versa

This is untrue: for example, Coca-Cola is both a company and a brand. As a company, Coca-Cola is a soft drinks manufacturer that produces many different flavours and products, including Sprite, Fanta, Costa Coffee, and innocent. As a brand, Coca-Cola is marketed as the original soft drink – a refreshing taste enjoyed around the world. 

The power of branding a company

Effective branding is a potent tool that can completely transform your company’s image, value proposition, and even your bottom line. It’s a strategic advantage with the ability to elevate your company in several different ways. A great brand can: 

Create an emotional connection

Think about the brands that really resonate with you. What’s a common thread among them? Odds are, they’ve managed to strike an emotional chord. Take Nike as an example. Its tagline – “Just do it” – builds an emotional story of inspiration. It aims to empower its customers to pursue their goals, no matter what. 

This emotional connection is what branding aims to cultivate. When a company focuses on branding, it strives to create a narrative that resonates with its audience on a personal level. This narrative is built through consistent messaging, compelling storytelling, and aligning the brand with values that matter to consumers. 

Build trust and loyalty

Branding a company isn’t a one-time task; it’s a continual dedication to upholding promises and preserving a consistent experience. This unwavering ability to deliver on its value proposition and maintain quality fosters trust between the brand and its customers. This trust, in turn, nurtures customer loyalty. When products or services are similar, consumers tend to favour a brand they trust over competitors. 

Drive recognition and differentiation

In a saturated market, standing out is critical. Branding a company ensures that it is recognisable amidst the sea of options. A strong brand identity, including visual elements like logos, colours, and typography, creates a distinct visual impression and makes your company memorable. When consumers remember and recognize your brand, they’re more likely to choose it over lesser-known alternatives. 

For example, Red Bull has differentiated itself from all other energy drinks by aligning itself with extreme sports, creating a sense of adventure and excitement whenever you hear the name. Its tagline “Red Bull gives you wings” further stresses this idea of going further than others for the adrenaline hit. 

Expand brand equity

Brand equity is the value a brand contributes to a product or service beyond its practical advantages. Companies with high brand equity can command premium prices and often enjoy stronger customer loyalty. A strong brand can lead to increased customer retention, repeat purchases, and even brand advocates who recommend your offerings to others. Over time, this translates into a competitive edge and greater financial stability. 

Rolex, for example, has built such a strong brand around precision, durability, and meticulous craftsmanship, that people are willing to pay a premium for its luxury watches. 

Showcase the best of your company with branding

It’s important to recognise that branding is integral to a successful business. A company or business provides the foundation and structure; a brand adds the emotional dimension that resonates with consumers. 

So, whether you’re starting a new venture or reevaluating an existing one, remember that effective branding isn’t an optional add-on – it’s a strategic imperative. It’s the art of creating a narrative that lingers in consumers’ minds, the science of building trust that endures, and the secret sauce that transforms transactions into relationships. 

As you navigate the complex landscape of business, embrace the power of both a strong brand and a solid company to pave the way for success. In the end, it’s not about brands vs. companies – it’s about creating a brand that best represents everything your company has to offer. 

Want to find out more? Contact us and we’ll help your company to become the beloved brand it was always meant to be.

Brands vs. Companies

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