Brand Development vs. Branding Firm: Which is Right for You?

May 25, 2018 10:15 am

Brand Development Firm or Branding Firm?

Yes, There is a BIG Difference.

When we tell people we’re in the brand business, or to be more precise, the B2B Brand Development business, they sometimes jump to the conclusion that we provide branding services like logo design, corporate identity systems, visual templates, and so on. Many firms exist solely to satisfy these needs. And while we also provide these services, we do so as a component of an overall brand development strategy designed to achieve a far more important goal: greater prosperity for our clients. When comparing branding firms to brand development firms, there is a significant difference.

Simply put, a firm that provides “branding” as a service does not necessarily have “brand development” expertise. Branding initiatives typically follow a brand development process. “Brand development” is a strategic initiative, while the term “branding” usually refers to the tactical byproduct of that strategy. To engage in branding without brand development, in many cases, is the equivalent of building a house without using blueprints. Sometimes, brand development firms like ours will include branding components and as part of an overall brand development solution containing both strategic and tactical deliverables: Discovery, Analysis, Positioning, Messaging, Visual Expression, Logo Mark, Corporate Identity, Website, Selling Tools, and Corporate Communications.

What is “Branding?”

First and foremost, Branding – in marketing speak – is about creating a look.
It defines how a business (product, service, or individual) wants to distinguish itself, through its name, logo, graphics, website, marketing and all other visual elements. Branding establishes consistency in the manner in which an entity wants audiences to visually recognize it, and not necessarily how it is actually understood or emotionally perceived.

Branding Firm

CORE FUNCTION:
Tactical
GOAL:
Satisfy you, the client
FOCUS:
Deliver solutions that you like
SKILL SET:
Create visual alignment and uniformity
APPROACH:
Deploy the logo mark, brand colors, typography and visuals consistently across the marketing spectrum
FACTORS:
Personal taste; your likes and dislikes
CONSIDERATIONS:
Functional benefits that your brand provides

What is “Brand Development?”

In contrast, brand development is much more. It is a strategic process designed to create, maintain and grow relationships between target audiences and brands. This foundational process seeks to identify and establish meaning among ideal prospects through emotional connections and communications that are both authentic to the brand, and relevant to key purchasing drivers. Vital to this effort is the development of original content, messaging and storytelling that creates distinction and preference for the brand with it core audiences.

Brand development involves discovery and analysis of brand heritage, vision, customers, attributes, culture, competitors and other factors as a formative knowledge base. Branding then, is one of the components derived from the brand development process, but certainly not the sum total. Brand development encompasses much, much more, and the process itself yields valuable insights that tie directly to near- and long-term revenue and margin growth.

Brand Development Firm

CORE FUNCTION:
First, strategic . . . then, tactical
GOAL:
Satisfy your target audience; generate growth for your brand
FOCUS:
Deliver solutions that will attract ideal customers
SKILL SET:
Establishing absolute distinction for your brand in the eyes of your audiences, through messaging and visual alignment of your brand with the customer through systematic uniformity and uncommon insight
APPROACH:
Identify and magnify unique brand assets, with careful consideration to decision-makers, influencers and users that comprise ideal target audiences
FACTORS:
Customer desires, competitive environment, unique brand attributes and offerings
CONSIDERATIONS:
Emotional mindset, perceptions and motivating desires of key buying audiences

Which one do you need? And when?

The right answer really depends on the circumstances of your business, and where you are going as an organization. Typically, clients recognize a need for Brand Development when faced with one or a number of these circumstances:

  • Charting a course for a bigger future; “next level” growth
  • Pressure from emerging competitors
  • Commoditization of its business sector
  • Feel that they compete solely on price
  • Coming in second behind competitors with lesser capabilities
  • Being consistently misunderstood by the target audience
  • Foundational changes in their business or business model (merger, expansion etc.)
  • Changes in leadership (and vision)
  • Achieving milestones (10 years, 25 years, etc.) and setting new ones
  • Viewed as “too small” and losing on basis of size vs. ability

On the other hand, executives who are relatively satisfied with the state of their organization, its place in the market, and how it is currently being perceived by customers, may not require brand development, but may engage in Branding services under circumstances like these:

  • The brand is dated, or visually out of style
  • The company name has changed, however the core competencies remain the same
  • The organization is in a state of flux, and not ready to commit to brand development
  • Graphic appearance has become inconsistent over time, with little attention to brand standards
  • The sales team needs better tools to communicate the brand, its products and services
  • Long-standing discontent with the current visual brand identity
  • The current image lacks the look of professionalism, undercutting the company’s true capabilities
  • Newly enhanced capabilities merit a brand identity “re-fresh”

There are many fine firms that provide branding services. There are significantly fewer companies that provide a true, proven process for brand development. And even fewer still are those that are fluent in both, along with deep B2B brand (or the Brands Behind the Brands) expertise.

Delia Associates is one of these, the fewest of the few.

To find out if your company is a candidate for brand development or branding, call 908-534-9044 or fill out the form below. We will listen to your goals, and help you determine the best brand path for your organization.