What is a Brand?

I am officially adding a podcast format!

I love the magical powers of audio to bring me into your world, and you into mine. I’ll still publish abbreviated versions here on the blog, but to get the FULL story, listen to the episodes!

In the very first episode, I dive into what a brand really is, and why it matters for your career and your business - and even your life!

It may sound basic, but this is important groundwork before we dive into the really juicy topics I have planned for the months ahead. So take a listen and enjoy!

Oh! And be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify, so you always know when a new episode is out!

Abbreviated transcript below


A lot of us first encounter the idea of what a brand is through the visual side: really clever logos, really beautiful colors, attractive visual branding, and a visual aesthetic that draws us in. And that makes sense because that's kind of the part of a brand that you can see at the very first glance, but branding goes deeper than just the visual representations of a brand.

what is a brand?

Here’s how I normally define a brand in super super simple terms:

Your brand is what you mean to people.

It’s how they feel and think about you or your business - and like I said before, it's about more than just the visuals. Those are kind of the symbols in the icons for your brand, what's underneath the surface, but what do the symbols represent?

If you think about someone maybe in your industry who is a leader in your field, how would you describe what that person is doing in the world? Would you talk mainly about the way that their visual branding looks, their logo and the colors in their color palette, the patterns and the textures that you find on their website?

Or would you talk about what they mean to you, what they stand for what their mission and their purpose are, what they talk about what they have to say? And how they have impacted you? More than likely, those are the things that you're talking about when describing a person or an influencer that you really admire and that has impacted you in some kind of meaningful way.

Because your brand is the way people perceive you, how you make them feel, what you mean to them, what you stand for. It's what's underneath the hood of your business - the heart and the soul of your business or your career as a professional - that people can sense and feel, and that is memorable and it draws them into your world.

For example, Apple would still be Apple if it had a different logo. It would still stand for thinking differently and being creative and getting outside the norms of what's expected - even if the logo was a banana.

Because the real power of your brand is about what's on the inside, what you're here to say, and what you believe in.

your brand exists in people’s minds

It’s not something that can be uploaded or downloaded, or copied or pasted. It's not something you carry around in your backpack or your purse or on your hard drive. Your brand exists in people's minds - in other words, it's about the way that you show up in the world and the signals that you're sending to people about who you are that is your brand.

And it builds up in people's minds, based on the impressions that you leave and experiences that you deliver. Think about how you build a reputation: by making an impact on people, leaving impressions, showing them who you are, through what you do and how you do it, and what you say and how you say it. How you treat people, how you treat yourself, the culture that you're building.

The way that you show up is going to amount to the brand that you build.

why your brand matters

So why are we even focused on building a brand? Why does it matter at a strategic level?

1. your brand gives you an edge.

The job of your brand is to increase the perceived value that you're offering by delivering emotional benefits beyond just the product itself.

So when Chris, my husband, and I were looking for a wedding photographer, we looked at it looks at a time of wedding photographers portfolios in the Boulder area. There were so many talented, skillful photographers, and it was really hard to decide.

So we started looking at who we felt like we would connect with, who really delivered an experience that feels right to us, a positive emotional experience.

We chose a husband and wife wedding photography team who delivered an experience of fun and adventure. Their website did a really great job of personalizing them and letting people into their world, and that created an emotional experience for us. They got our business, and we paid a premium for them, because that emotional value was really, deep down, what we were looking for

And that's really what we're all looking for! Even if you buy a product that has a really great functional value, you're still at the end of the day buying what you think that's going to do for you and your life emotionally.

If you're investing in a business coach, yes, you see the functional outcome of that business coach: a better business. But why do you even care about that? Because it gives you some kind of emotional value, and it's gonna be fulfilling to you to have a more successful business.

If you go out and buy an Apple watch, that is obviously going to have a lot of functional benefits for you and your life, and your daily productivity, but why those things matter at all?Because they improve the emotional quality of life that you have as a person.

So we are all, deep down, buying emotional value, because we all want to be happy, safe, loved, fulfilled. We all want to feel good about who we are as people. We all want to feel like we have a positive standing and a positive reputation among our peers. We all want to feel like we are becoming a better versions of ourselves.

keep it honest!

Let me be clear that I am not advising you to make up an emotional value that isn't there. What I'm encouraging you to do is, when you dig deep and you look for what you really have to offer, pay attention to the unique emotional value that you can offer the world.

And we'll get a little bit more into how to really provide the emotional value that your ideal client your target market are looking for, but for now, just note that it's not about being cynical. It's not about manufacturing or creating a facade of emotional value.

It's kind of like, having magic powers that you can use them for good or for evil. You can be Harry Potter or He Who Shall Not Be Named. What I'm talking about here is using branding and marketing yourself strategically for good, by reaching an and finding out what you have to offer the world, and just bringing it out so that other people can see it and can benefit from it.

Debbie Millman, one of my personal heroes in the branding world, says that branding is not about inventing some kind of facade or a shiny exterior to trick people. It's about digging deep, finding what you really have inside, and then bringing it out and shaping it into something that can help people.

And if you've ever bought, let's say, a self help book, or if you've ever invested in a dating website, or if you have ever gone on a spiritual retreat, or gone out to dinner with your friends, then you know that you are willing to pay money for emotional value.

And that's really at the heart of it. Branding is about taking that intangible quality that you have deep down that nobody else can replicate, because it's your vision, it's your purpose, it's the way you look at the world, and packaging that up in a way that allows you to attach it to your product or service, or who you are as a professional, or business, and let that influence the person who's making a decision.

So in addition to getting that wedding photography package, we were also getting emotional value, and so we were willing to pay more for that experience.

So that is basically how your brand increases the perceived value of your product or service.

2. Your brand shapes your future.

I know that sounds kind of intense, but it's definitely true!

Imagine that you have a a big ship, and you can go anywhere in the world with it. The Maldives, South America, Australia… it's got to be a pretty big ship right? Like it's gonna be a cruise liner to get to all those places.

But you're not going to get there unless you have control over the rudder of your ship. You need to be able to turn the wheel and tell the ship “go in that direction.”

Your brand is like the rudder of your business. You can build any business or any career that you want! But if you're not paying attention to the brand that you're building, it's gonna be really hard to get there.

Because your brand determines the people that you attract and the opportunities that you get, whether and how people interact with you and engage with you and buy from you.

Think about it like again like your reputation at work. If you have a reputation for being a really great team member, then you're likely to get invited to participate on some really interesting team projects, and you'll have your pick of which teams you want to be on. Because people think of you as being a great team member!

Or if you have a reputation among your friends for being really easy to talk to and really understanding, your friends are going to come to you when they need someone to talk to who is going to be understanding and easy to talk to.

Those are the opportunities you are attracting, that's what you're putting out in the world, and that is what's coming back to you.

So in the long run, the signals and the energy that you are putting out in the world are gonna shape the opportunities that come your way. The people who become your fans and your loyal followers and the kinds of opportunities that are attracted to you.

It's kind of like how you have evolved as a person - what you put out in the world, the energy that you put out, and what you project into the world, determines what kinds of opportunities come your way, what kinds of people are attracted to you. Those things influence the kind of person that you become, and so the cycle continues.

Your brand evolves over time.

Just like you, your brand is iterative. You are not a static person, you do not stay the same forever. So this doesn't happen overnight.

You don't build a brand, and then plunk it down into the market, and then it's just static permanent, and that's the way it is forever.

The business or the career that you're building right now is gonna look totally different a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now. It's going to evolve over time.

And yes, there is deep down within you, a permanence to who you are. You are going to always be essentially the same person, you're gonna have the same kinds of values, and the same kinds of things that you care about. Your same vision for what is important, and what you want to create for your life, and for the world. What kind of impact you would like to make.

But along the way, things change - the way you think about yourself evolves, you change interests, you change jobs, you change relationships… but deep down, there is a permanence.

There's always that common thread throughout. And the trick of really good branding is to get down beneath the surface. It’s getting to the heart of what you believe in, no matter what, the kind of person you are, and what you want to create for your life, and for the world, that's really where the deep down magic happens.

Episode recap

So to bring us all the way back home, and recap we've covered here:

Your brand is what you mean to people, and it exists in people's minds. It's the reputation you’re building by making impressions, and by showing up in a certain way in the world.

Your brand gives you an edge. As you develop the brand, as you show people how you're different, how your unique, how your special, and what you are here to stand for, that gives you an edge. Because you're delivering added value on top of your product or service.

Your brand shapes your future. It shapes your business, who's attracted to you, what kinds of opportunities come into your orbit.

Your brand evolves over time. Your brand is not static, it's not going to be the same forever. So I always encourage people when they're figuring out their brand, that it's not like deciding right now “this is who I'm gonna be forever.” It's about deciding, “this is what I want to become, this is who I am, this is what I care about,” and starting from there. And over time, it's going to evolve.

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed about all this, please don't worry. Yes it does take some self-reflection some getting honest with yourself about what you believe in, and what you want to create, and that's where all the really good stuff happens. As you find clarity about yourself, about your audience (which we’ll dive into another episode), and clarity about what you want to build. And that’s what we're gonna do on The Brand Cure; we're gonna explore all those things, and much, much more.

If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review - we are brand new here on the interwebs! Your review would mean the world to me, and also help others find the show. And if you think you might want to listen again, be sure to subscribe so that new episodes show up in your episodes queue.

Thank you so much for listening to The Brand Cure! This is Ashley Chymiy, reminding you that you have something awesome and special to share with the rest of us, and the world is waiting for you.

Don't forget to be awesome! Talk to you next time.


Hey! I’m Ashley.

If you’re looking for tips and strategies for growing a strong brand, you’re in the right place!

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What is a brand anyway? It’s not a logo or a tagline! Read the post, plus download the free Brand Blueprint + email course. #brandstrategy // Hellohappen Brand Strategy
What is a brand anyway? It’s not a logo or a tagline! Read the post, plus download the free Brand Blueprint + email course. #brandstrategy // Hellohappen Brand Strategy

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