What is branding?

Written By: Cherry Lao

What is branding?

Let’s talk branding.

As one of the founders of Citizen Best, I talk a lot about branding in my day-to-day life. And I’ve noticed that people tend to ask me two important questions: What exactly is branding? Is it different than a brand?

First of all, yes! Branding is different from a brand. But to understand branding, you first have to understand the definition of a brand. To me, a brand is the perceptions and beliefs of potential, present and past clients. Branding, on the other hand, is the process of creating those perceptions and beliefs.

Here’s the thing—branding is an essential step in developing a successful business. It’s about figuring out what makes you, you. It’s about uncovering the standout aspects of your company and discovering the driving force for what you do.

When we work on branding at Citizen Best, we focus on two things: finding your uniqueness, and helping create authentic customer connections. These key components put us on the road to building an effective and memorable brand.


Find your uniqueness.

When we focus on uniqueness, we think in terms of a client’s value proposition. Why should someone believe in your brand? What makes you stand out from your competitors? Is it your innovative product? Your outstanding approach to customer service? A competitive pricing structure? These conversations help us uncover your brand’s special something that we’re going to want to highlight, elevate, and celebrate.

At times, the questions go even further into the personal values of the business owners and founders. We believe your set of values is the cornerstone of your creation. What drives you to innovate and create. When clients have clarity around their values, that clarity extends into their business culture, other aspects of their work, and the customer experience. These things matter and can become key differentiators between you and your competitors.

Between a client’s value proposition and their personal values, a picture starts to form around how a brand is different, how it’s going to shine, and why customers are going to care.


Create authentic customer connections.

To establish a successful brand experience, it’s necessary to develop authentic customer connections. How are you going to establish brand trust? Returning to what I said at the beginning of this blog: How are you going to create a set of perceptions and beliefs for your customers?

There’s no question that the transactional approach to clients is the old way to go. Instead, we’re going to look at the customer as a whole person, listen to their wants and needs, and show them that their insights influence the brand. This can be done in a variety of ways, from how you share information that values a customer’s time, to how you communicate clarity and honesty in the entire customer experience.

When I think about customer relationships, I try to remember an anthropological theory called Dunbar’s Number. It suggests that the human brain can maintain a limited number of meaningful human relationships. Because of attention span, time and energy, humans can only have five inner-circle relationships and 150 outer-circle friendships. I believe the same parallel can be drawn to a brand and its customer relationships. A customer only has the ability to be loyal to a handful of inner-circle brands. That’s why it’s so important to provide the type of personalized experience that a customer can believe in and that promotes a strong relationship over time.


Watching a brand come alive

To sum up, branding is the crucial process in developing a strong, standout brand. It helps you discover your uniqueness and determine how you’ll create authentic customer connections— two things that form the perceptions and beliefs of your customers. Personally, I love the work of branding because it’s when a brand takes shape and comes into its own. It’s an exciting, fulfilling and sometimes unexpected process.

In an upcoming blog post, we’re going to look at one of our main resources for branding: the development of a brand strategy. We’ll explore some of the tools we use and the questions we ask. For instance: What problem are you solving for? Who are you solving it for? When will your product or service launch? Why do you do what you do? Feel free to kickstart your own brainstorm with those questions, or check back for our post when we take a deep dive into the brand strategy.


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