Branding 101: What Is a Brand?

What is a brand?

Brand: It’s not a big word, but it causes a lot of confusion.

Your brand is your business and website colors, it’s your logo, and it’s the products or services you offer. It’s the feeling someone has when they hear your business name in passing, and it’s what they think of you as they browse your website. Your brand is all of those things, and yet, put them all together and they still don’t fully answer the question, “What is a brand?”

Your brand is the summation of every single touchpoint a customer can have with your business and how they think about you. This includes your website, your social media profiles, your products, your logos, the way you speak to your customers in blog posts, and more.

You can influence and affect your brand, but ultimately, it lives and dies in the eyes of the consumer.

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Consistent customer experience is at the core of your brand.

Let’s explore a large, international business to get a better understanding of their brand and different tactics they’ve used to grow it. Whether or not you’ve had their coffee, (with over 28 thousand locations, we’re betting you have) chances are good that you’ve heard of Starbucks. How did they get to be so big and such a well-loved brand?

The intelligent minds at Starbucks realized that their brand, their business persona, was in the hands of their customers. Understanding that, they’ve done everything they can to positively influence their customers’ perception of them. Starbucks trained its partners (what they call their employees) to greet you when you walk in the door and know that it should only take 3 minutes from that moment until you get your drink. I don’t know about you, but a cheerful greeting and expedient service are likely to make me think more fondly of a business.

Starbucks provides a consistent experience. You’ll find similar menus across most of their locations, all of which are easily identifiable by the green siren logo. Not to mention, that logo is one of the world’s most recognizable logos. Their locations are comfortable, inviting, and positioned as a “third place” — a place between home and work that’s welcoming and relaxing.

The Starbucks' logo — a vital part of their brand.

Starbucks’ logo — a vital part of their brand.

In fact, Starbucks’ mission statement is, “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” They live this mission in their stores, and it’s reflected in the materials they choose to share on social media. They do such a good job of living their mission statement that it’s how their customers think of them, it’s the heart of their brand.

What would happen to the Starbucks brand if they decided to double all their prices, increase the wait time for drinks, and hire only surly service workers? Those wouldn’t be changes to the material goods they offer, but changes that affect the customer experience. Their brand would undoubtedly suffer because it lives in the eyes of the consumer.

Have you ever been to the Starbucks website? In our original definition we said that, “Your brand is the summation of every single touchpoint a customer can have with your business and how they think about you.” Websites are definitely customer touchpoints and Starbuck’s site is designed to reflect their commitment to their mission statement and for ease of use.

We understand that you may not have a Starbucks-sized budget to run and market your business, but you can still cop a few of their tactics to grow your own brand. Put your customers first, provide a good and consistent experience, and live your mission statement.

How does a name affect a brand?

How did you decide on your business name? Are you still in the process of finding the right one? Your business, or brand name, is one of your company’s most valuable assets so any old name isn’t going to cut it. A good name lends trust and credibility to your business.

Going back to our earlier example, have you ever wondered how Starbucks got its name? (Hint: it wasn’t from Battlestar Galactica.) Starbucks co-founder, Gordon Bowker, tells the story in an interview with The Seattle Times. He says, “We were thinking of all kinds of names and came desperately close to calling it Cargo House, which would have been a terrible, terrible mistake. Terry Heckler [with whom Bowker owned an advertising agency] mentioned in an offhand way that he thought words that begin with ‘st’ were powerful words. I thought about that and I said, yeah, that’s right, so I did a list of ‘st’ words.

Somebody somehow came up with an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo. As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville’s first mate [named Starbuck] in Moby-Dick.”

There you have it — Starbucks was named, in large part, due to the perceived strength of the “st” sound that begins its name. It’s true that words can cause people to feel different things depending on the sounds in the word. Christopher Johnson, PhD, a verbal branding consultant known as The Name Inspector, discusses these sounds or “rhythmic contrasts” in words, in his book MICROSTYLE The Art of Writing Little. Did you know that business names can be thought of as either feminine or masculine depending on the sound, or rhythm, of the word?  He uses the examples of Chanel, a feminine brand name, and Black & Decker, a masculine brand name.

The name Chanel is an iamb, meaning it consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one (shə-NEHL or chaNEL.) “Iambs tend to sound lighter and softer,” Johnson writes, while “… trochees tend to sound heavier and harder.” Black & Decker is an example of a trochee; those consist of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable (BLACK & deck-ER.) He notes that, “Most people ‘feel’ this difference even if they find it hard to pinpoint.” Keep in mind, that means people will feel a certain way about your business name, probably without realizing it, so put some extra thought into naming your business.

Here at BuyDomains we love names. We have over a million premium domain names in our portfolio — all of them brandable and perfect for businesses. If you’re struggling to come up with a good business name then take a look at what we have available. Search by keyword to find a multitude of domain names perfect for you.

Search for a premium domain name to match your business and brand name.

Search for a premium domain name to match your business and brand name.

Branding 101: What have we learned?

Your brand is many things: It’s a logo, it’s a name, it’s an experience. A brand is the summation of every single touchpoint a customer can have with your business and how they think about you. That’s a pretty broad definition, but your brand is no small thing.

While you may not have a big business budget, there are things you can do right now to influence your brand for the better. Provide a consistent experience for your customers both online and off, use consistent marketing messages, and name your business something people can easily remember and spell. The way your business name is pronounced can affect the way people think of your business — use words that provoke the feelings you want your customers to have when they think of you.

If you want to build relationships with your customers and increase your brand, consider purchasing a premium domain name to match your business name. If your customers can’t find you online, where they spend a great majority of their time, you’re missing out. A large part of your brand is providing a consistent experience for customers, so if you want to name your business “Rica Tica Café” and sell coffee beans online, but can only find r1ca-t1ca-c0ffee(dot)com as an available domain name, think twice before purchasing. The confusion you will cause your customers can damage your brand and lead to lost revenue.

Do you have any branding tips or tricks you’d like to share with the rest of us? Comment below, we’d love to hear them!

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