Many people assume that branding is a more difficult process than it really is. This is probably because we are so inundated with branding each and every day. Branding is so pervasive in our modern society that we, as consumers, learn to accept it almost subconsciously. It’s only when we take a step back, and look at the process at a whole, that we see what a common force branding is in all of our lives.
Taking this necessary step back, we see that branding is based on the idea that humans are designed to see patterns and to associate those patterns with certain expected results. This process of pattern recognition and association developed as a way for us, as humans, to conserve precious calories by not having to waste energy deciphering situations we had already repeatedly encountered. When we saw an edible plant that we had seen before, we didn’t have to decide again whether it was safe to eat. When we saw a dangerous predator, we didn’t have to decide again if it was time to run.
Branding takes advantage of this evolutionary predisposition to allow us to associate a business, and its products and services, with certain concepts. These concepts can be anything – a musical note, a shade of color, a shape or a phrase. The idea is that the business and the concept become wielded together in the minds of the general public through repetition. Our brains operate as they were designed, and save energy by not having to consciously associate the concept with the business.
This unconscious branding process becomes apparent when we look at a couple of examples. If someone shows you a picture of a generic set of yellow arches, what comes to mind? Alternatively, if someone shows you a stylized apple with a bite taken out of one side, what do you immediately think of? We all know the answers to these questions; we just might not want to admit that we do.
Branding requires that the business behind the brand know exactly who it is, what it does and who it wants to attract as a customer. It is this steadfast and focused clarity on identity that makes the world’s best brands instantaneously identifiable. The companies with the most potent brands know who they are and know who their customers are. This clarity is what drives the brand and also what makes the brand successful.