What is a brand? And what is branding?

Leoni Janssen
Here at the BaaS Company we do ‘Branding as a Service’ but what does that even mean?

Here at the BaaS Company we do ‘Branding as a Service’ but what does that even mean? Branding has so many different connotations; no two people will give you the same definition. We are aware that when people use the word ‘brand’, some might mean ‘name’,  ‘logo’ or a ‘color palette’, and we will keep a straight face while our heart aches in those conversations. We typically start by getting the definitions straight; the jargon is quite confusing. We know.

 

Bear with us is while we share what brand means to us and how that corresponds with what we do and offer. 

When we say ‘brand’ we mean the customer's or the public's understanding and gut feeling about a company, product and/or service. It is the emotional and psychological connection that customers have with a particular company or product. Jeff Bezos said ‘A brand is what they say about you when you’re not in the room’, which is a functional street-way of defining it.

You immediately see that this can apply to a lot of things. People are, or can be, brands, companies have brands, but also countries and regions and even materials like gold or water have a clear connotation beyond the description of what they are - they create a clear mental image of luxury and solidity and ‘life source’ independent of who you ask. 

Brand is all encompassing

A brand has a shared meaning, a visual/actual representation, and the part that is often discarded is that it includes a tangible  experience. The brand experience is probably not a necessity for a brand to exist but it is a massive reinforcement. When experiences are created and felt by people*, that is where brands become substantiated; where they achieve depth. Which translates to the “A brand is a promise kept’-definition.

I am sure you have seen people on LinkedIn saying that ‘With ChatGPT they can create a brand in an hour, which sounds great, but is utter nonsense because companies do not make brands. Brands are created in the minds and hearts of people*, customers, partners, employees. Companies, their leaders and marketing (but also sales and HR teams) stimulate and influence the brand through their behaviors, through their products and product experiences, through how their leaders treat people and the world, how they position (massive topic on its own - different blog post)and talk about their product and services and even their sense of humor. 

This is how we approach branding at The BaaS Company - it is not (just) a messaging exercise, it is not (just) about the brand assets, it is not (just) about how companies show up on socials, it is not (just) how to talk to media, to analysts, partners and clients and it is not (just) about the user experience with the product. The brand is built throughout. 

The model below - by Marty Neumeier - shows the cycle of brand building. It clearly shows that companies generate clients, who in turn - through their experience - ‘build’ a brand. And then the brand sustains the company, that invests in customers etc.

Our approach to branding projects

If the above is the set of definitions we work with then you won’t be surprised to hear that no two projects that we do are the same. We undertake projects in which we help companies reposition, rename or rebrand (which are not synonyms - another blog post), create clarity in their messaging, build visibility or brand experiences. Also, often we assess the current state of the brand and marketing machine, what is there and what is not, to get it in the right shape for the next big milestone, which could be a new Go-to-Market strategy (product, industry or Geo), deep need to hire better and faster, an acquisition (series), investments or an IPO on the horizon. 

The phases of our projects are below, and only sometimes can we jump in at phase 4. The speed at which we usually do 1 and 2 varies between 3 weeks and 3 months (dependencies on that will be a separate blog post).  


  1. Discovery 
  2. Brand Strategy 
  3. Brand Fundamentals
  4. Brand Building
  5. Brand Experience 

In the 1) Discovery Phase, the focus is on understanding the depth of a client’s real problem(s) or asks. Before setting course to B, we’ll make sure we fully understand A.  Often this includes ‘current state review’, interviews with people who know the company and/or data analysis that shows current effectiveness. At the end of this we have a clear scope and approach. 

In the 2) Brand Strategy Phase, the focus is on developing, testing or fine tuning the (new or renewed) brand's positioning, messaging, narrative creation, mission, and vision work.

In the 3) Brand Fundamentals Creation Phase, the focus is on creating the brand's visual identity and other assets when needed, including logos, typography, color schemes, and other design elements, if needed. 

These elements alone are not very interesting! Logo’s hardly ever  make a real difference.  Assets only become (in)valuable when the visual style is a (new) recognizable world that binds the people in the company, the product and the experience in a way that can amplify the psychological experience that people* have. 

In the 4) Brand Building Phase, the focus is on executing the brand's building plan, and strategizing on all different channels including PR, social media, analyst relations, advertising, events, and other activities, to create visibility and experiences for different audiences like media, analysts, and end-users/customers.

In the 5) Brand Experience Phase, the focus is on ensuring that the customer experience is consistent with the brand's messaging and positioning, and continuously collecting feedback from end-users to improve the brand's messaging and positioning. This part is also called Go to Market execution. And the work in phase 2 and 4 are needed for a good Go to Market as well. 

The model is a circle for good reason - there is no end or start. Go to Market feeds into brand and vice versa. We touch both.

*Who likes to be called ‘audience’? I don’t… hence: people)

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