How to Become a Brand (When You're Still Just a Business)
Erik Quigley

Think you know what branding is? We recently became aware that the idea of branding is still a mystery to some. We thought (silly us) that everyone just knew what a brand was, how to create a brand and what they should be doing to maintain it. The opposite seems to be the case.

The truth is, there is a lot of confusion about what a brand is.

While many business owners believe they have built a brand, in reality they’re actually still in the company realm. Here we’ll clarify the differences between a brand and a business and what you should be doing to create a brand that propels your business into the hearts of your audience.

The difference between a business and a brand

First off, let’s define some things:

A business refers to the organization that produces products or services.
A brand is how customers feel about you - it’s the company personality.

What most businesses believe to be branding is actually marketing.
Marketing is not branding. Marketing is the promotion of your brand - but that’s for another day. For now, repeat this: “Marketing is not branding.”

Here’s a list showing the differences between a brand and a business:


Sell a lasting impact that goes beyond the product or service

Have long-term vision

Consistent Image
Complementary visual assets

One initial designer

Complete brand strategy

Defined business goals

Understanding of consumer

Defined niche

Obtain repeat business

Stand out in the marketplace

Have a basis for marketing

Relate to consumers

Build relationships with consumers


Sell a product or service

Limited long-term vision

Inconsistent Image

Disparate visual assets

Multiple designers (potentially)

No strategy (unless in business plan)

Unclear business goals

Limited understanding of target market

Attempt to appeal to everyone

One time buyers/ little repeat business

Get lost in market mix

One-off marketing campaigns

Experience brand confusion

Be unrecognizable to consumers

While a business plan can most definitely keep you on course for running a business, only branding will take you to the next level.

The problem with building a business

Let’s take a bird’s eye look at a potential business building experience.

What a business does:

Forms business > chooses a logo > builds a website > creates more marketing materials > changes everything 3 or 6 or 12 times > thinks about branding > creates more marketing materials > confuses their audience > business plateaus

You see where this is going. Maybe it even sounds a bit familiar.

The Good News: This approach will continue to get you repeat business with a modest customer base (usually about 10%).

The Bad News: New business will likely trickle in or will plateau completely.

Now let’s look at what branding does for a company:

What a brand does:

Forms business > discovery/strategy/identity aka branding > creates marketing materials > connects to their audience > builds audience trust > converts brand advocates > tweaks brand over time > business grows

This is, of course, simplified and looks much easier than it is, however, this shows what setting yourself up in a brand mindset can do over time.

A brand is your foundation, your source of truth.

The dangers of not becoming a brand

A business must graduate to the level of brand through the continued act of branding. By branding your company, you tap into the deeper, more significant wants, needs and problems of your audience.

By not branding and moving straight into marketing your company, you risk:

How to become a brand

Know Your Company

Take the time to understand who you are as a company and why you got into the business in the first place. Find your roots, what you value and your reason (beyond making money) for carving out your company in the first place.

Know Your Audience

Your target audience holds the answers to so many of your unanswered questions. Get to know them; their demographics as well as their psychographics. This will help you tap into their subconscious and relate to them as a human.

Define Your Personality

Knowing what you know about your company and your audience, work on connecting them to a brand archetype and creating your brand voice. These two tools will help guide you in clearly conveying your brand to your audience.

Be Consistent

After you’ve established who you are as a brand, every piece of content, interaction, and image needs to be saturated with your personality. Creating brand guidelines and a brand voice chart can do a lot to keep you and your employees on track. Consistency is key in building and becoming a brand.

Why? Branding creates consistency. Consistency builds consumer trust. Trust becomes advocacy.

While some of the examples shown are to the extreme, and you may very well have a booming business without taking on the conscious effort of building a brand, the fact remains that the consumer world has changed. Prospects are no longer swayed by an “awesome deal” or a simple price drop - at least not for the long term.

Consumers need something more from the companies they choose to do business with. They want to know that there are shared values and beliefs, that companies care and that their money is going to a business that sees the world the way they do.

So what do you want to be, a business or a brand?

Are you ready to be Uncommon? Apply to work with us.

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For media or press inquiries, skip the line and email us directly at