The Brand Nebula

"Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time."
-Elon Musk

What is "brand"? Everyone in the creative space has their personal definition of the term, and everyone has an explanation that varies slightly from person to person. Some view it through the lens of color palettes, logos, and typography (this is an identity system, not a brand), and some consider it through the lens of tone in website copy and social media communications. Some, when asked the question "what is brand," resort to a blank face stare and a swiftly spoken sequence of buzz words that leave you more confused than when they started.

We have our own definition that we operate on, but before I give it to you, follow me through this mental exercise.

Gas stations. They're everywhere. They more or less offer the same products and services wherever you go. However, how they package and present those products and services differentiates between the good and the bad, the ones you vouch never to visit again and the ones you shop at most often.

In this scenario, we have gas station A and gas station B.

Gas station A is always clean. They have cool neon lights surrounding the top frame of the building that elicit faint feelings of nostalgia, and the premises of their grounds are well lit and well kept. The grass is trimmed, and when you pull up to rehydrate old Bessie, there's not a single piece of garbage you can find. The cracks between the concrete are weed-less. The fuel pumps look freshly painted and unscuffed. You say to yourself, "these guys take care of this place."

You walk inside to grab a bottle of water and some skittles. The front glass door is pristine and without a single fingerprint. You take a few steps in. The floors are spotless, and the shelves are organized to a T. Do you see where I'm going with this?

Everything about gas station A feels like a good gas station should. Clean, professional, and evidenced of care. All of these tiny details work in unison to lead you to the conclusion, consciously or subconsciously, that this is a solid gas station.

Let's take a look at gas station B now.

Well, for starters, you almost didn't stop at gas station B because you could barely see it. The lights on their signage are too dim to be visible,  and the parking lot has a flickering bulb reminiscent of a horror movie scene. You get out of the car, and garbage is strewn about the grounds. The fuel pumps are covered in scuffs. You walk inside to ask the assistant why your card is being declined by the payment processor and notice a big red sticky puddle near the soda machine, which looks like it's been there for more than a day. The floors are dingy, the aisles of items are all disheveled, and the place smells of rancid fish.

You tell yourself, "this is the last time I ever step foot at this place," and walk out the door, never to be seen again.

The scenario above is not about gas stations - it's a metaphor that illustrates the meaning behind the word "brand." To us at Fra Mauro, a brand is not a single thing but the imprint left by the combination of different aspects of your business. Put more succinctly; it's the gut feeling people get when they think of your business.

Does this definition include logo, website quality, content quality, level of product/service, customer service, and color palette? Not directly, but they all shape what a prospect or customer thinks of your business at an instinctual level. All these individual pieces form the orchestra of how people feel about your offering, and you need to be the maestro.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when talking about "brand" because so many variables are at play, each one critical in guiding how individuals judge your product or service. Areas of business like advertising, marketing, and sales are easier to track because there is usually a clear ROAS when working to improve your systems in these fields. However, enhancing your brand and influencing customers' potential attitude towards what you provide? This can get tricky, and it's not always directly trackable.

Believe me when I say this: improving your brand is essential work that must be done. If you are looking to take your business to the next level, if you are set on overtaking competitors and differentiating yourself from the field, working on your brand, more specifically the gut feeling individuals get when they hear your name, will pay off big in the long run.

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