Like most marketing concepts, branding has evolved significantly over the last few decades. And it’s gotten darn complicated.
Every year, new branding buzzwords make the rounds in marketing circles. New branding roles are created in corporate marketing departments. And branding agencies and consultants promote the latest branding tactics.
Businesses looking to level up their branding efforts face a variety of confusing options. Should they focus on brand awareness? Do they have a brand positioning problem? Will they need a branding agency to help?
Brand theory brings clarity to the guesswork and uncertainty that inevitably arises.
Brand theory refers to the strategic use of branding not as individual tactics, but as the foundation for company growth. It's about aligning the core principles of messaging and positioning to fuel smart growth marketing.
Before that can happen, it's important to define the many subsets and nuances of branding. That's just what we'll do in this article, so you can identify the areas your business needs to build the right foundation, and single out the best branding services to help.
Brand theory is the methodical alignment of all branding concepts with a company's growth goals, including:
- Brand awareness
- Brand experience
- Brand loyalty
- Brand strategy
- Brand personality
- Brand positioning
- Brand recognition
- Brand reputation
Before diving into the many subsets of branding, let’s cover the basics...
What is a Brand?
In business, the term brand refers to a concept, symbol or ideal that represents a company, its products or services. A corporate brand can embody a mission, promote an image, convey a message, or otherwise portray an organization through a defined set of characteristics.
What is Branding?
Branding is the process by which a company defines and develops a marketable identity. Corporate branding includes the concepts, messaging and visual aesthetics that will support its identity, both internally and externally, in a strategic and consistent way.
What is Brand Marketing?
Brand marketing is the strategic promotion of a company’s products or services across marketing channels with the intent of establishing and increasing recognition. Rather than short-term sales or marketing goals, brand marketing looks to build awareness, reputation, and loyalty over the long-term.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of brand theory, let’s get into even more nuance. What is the difference between brand awareness and brand experience? Is brand strategy the same as brand positioning? It can seem like splitting hairs, but it will help to understand the various disciplines within brand theory when building your brand.
What is Brand Awareness?
Brand awareness refers to the level of familiarity a target audience has with a company. But it’s much more than recognizing a business’ name, logo, or colors. It’s how well a brand’s image, messaging, and values are understood in the market. In a sense, it is a measure of how well a company’s brand marketing is performing. If it is performing well, a brand should be clearly differentiated from competitors and alternatives.
What is Brand Experience?
Brand experience describes the sensory, emotional and tangible aspects of a customer’s interactions throughout the process of researching, considering, purchasing and using a company’s product or service. In theory, the more favorably a consumer views a brand at each stage of the buying journey, the more likely they are to purchase, promote and otherwise demonstrate loyalty to a brand.
What is Brand Loyalty?
Brand loyalty is a customer’s personal allegiance to an individual company, its products or services. An increase in purchasing behavior is one of the primary goals in earning brand loyalty among consumers. However, buyers may express their brand loyalty in many ways – by recommending a brand to others, promoting brand content on social media, frequenting brand-sponsored events, leaving positive reviews, and even wearing branded apparel.
What is Brand Strategy?
Brand strategy is a long-term plan that aligns brand marketing activities with business objectives. Successful brand strategy will focus on improving competitive positioning, generating awareness among a target audience, and driving customer acquisition to achieve revenue goals.
What is Brand Personality?
One of several features of a well-defined brand, brand personality refers to human characteristics or traits associated with a company’s name. Designed to influence buyer perception of a brand and encourage loyalty through shared values or ideals, brand personality attributes can convey trustworthiness, responsibility, youthfulness, quirkiness, sophistication, and a range of other human qualities.
What is Brand Positioning?
Brand positioning is how a company positions itself in the market and in the minds of its target customers. The most successful brand positioning articulates a value that is greater than anything the market currently offers, differentiating from competitors and alternatives in a way that creates a category of its own. When done right, brand positioning is a company’s competitive advantage. It employs all the principles of brand theory to render competitors and alternatives inadequate in solving buyers’ needs.
What is Brand Recognition?
Brand recognition and brand awareness are closely related, but have different objectives. While the goal of brand awareness is to clearly communicate a brand’s values and attributes to its target audience, brand recognition looks to maintain that awareness over time. Brand awareness is successful if buyers can easily understand what a brand represents. Brand recognition is successful if buyers can easily recall those ideals when they encounter a company’s logo, messaging, packaging, or other brand elements.
What is Brand Reputation?
Brand reputation refers to the perception of a brand’s image among the general public, in the media, or within an industry. A brand’s reputation is closely associated with the level of trust and confidence earned from its target audience and can be influenced by many factors. Brand reputation management is the practice of monitoring and exercising control over the variables that influence customer loyalty and confidence as it relates to a brand’s social status.
Finding the Best Brand Marketing Agency
Now that you've explored the many concepts brand theory embodies, it's time to put it into practice. Avoid the mistake most businesses make in underestimating the importance of branding and get it right before committing to a website redesign or marketing activities.
Whether you’re tackling brand marketing yourself, or looking for a brand marketing agency to help, keep one thing in mind: The goal of branding is to grow your business. This is done by connecting with buyers, differentiating from the market, and consistently delivering more value than others.
A company that masters brand theory is positioned to grow. Grow traffic. Grow leads. Grow customers. And scale revenue growth.
A company without a successful branding foundation will always find itself in a side-by-side comparison with competitors, struggling to grow while selling similar products with similar features, at a similar price point.
If you’re tired of wasting time and money on branding and marketing guesswork—and ready to invest in real growth—schedule a 30-minute, no-pressure introduction to Brand Theory and get a free growth plan tailored to your business goals.
You’ve got this.