With all the hoopla surrounding Gap's recent rebranding turned publicity stunt, it felt like an opportune time to answer the question:
What is a brand and why is it important?
...And not just for giant corporations, but for small businesses too?
To take the most powerful component of the brand, shape it, and start to cull it down - and cull it down again - to its barest and most spectacular minimum. And even when the story you're trying to tell is broad, it must fit on the size of a postage stamp with all the bravado and ta-da of a pop-up book. And yet the best logos do so much more than represent the company or mission well. They reach into the heart and appeal to an audience's sense of cool. Logos actually give people something to belong to.
So in a world with infinite choices, what inspires brand loyalty? What motivates a repeat customer? Surely it's not McDonald's golden arches or Nike's swoosh... but rather what they represent - a product, a service, an experience, a met expectation.
Branding for Small Businesses
Many people equate a brand with a logo. While it's a major component, a brand is born from the mission/vision of a small business - knowing what product/service you provide and what differentiates you from your competitors, then consistently communicating that message to your target customer base.
Branding = Consistency
Branding means using the same logo/color scheme/fonts/message on all marketing materials, whether it be letterhead and business cards or a web site and advertisements - providing your customers with a clear/dependable representation of your product/service/business.