by Intersectionist

Everyone wants a brand these days. It’s usually thought of as your visual identity—the “look and feel” your customers judge you by. Or, a brand is equated with a logo. Just slap it on your products, and you’re legit.

But people often miss the fundamental reality of branding: it isn’t so much something you do as something you are.

Branding campaigns—logos, ads, taglines, etc.—just tell people who you are. That’s valuable in its own way, but what it doesn’t do is change who you are. If I always have a bad experience when I go to Kinkos (which I do), then no amount of “branding” (great identity design, slick presentation, etc.) will solve the fundamental problem: they just don’t seem to care about me or my printing needs. I’m sure there are great people who work at Kinkos, but based on my experience, their beautiful logo just puts a face to a bad name. On the other hand, if I always have a great experience when I go to Trader Joe’s (which I do), their visual branding reminds me of that experience and increases my loyalty.

As much as it pains me as a designer, I have to say I’d rather have a great experience tied to a bad visual identity. In the end, customer loyalty will stand or fall on the experience they have when they interact with you, your employees, or products. Shouldn’t “branding” start with making sure your customers’ experience is one you’d want to have?

You already have a brand. The question is: do you have a good one?