Everybody talks about your “brand”, but what does it actually MEAN? In today’s episode, I’ll tell you what you need to know about brand elements, brand attributes, and perhaps most importantly, Old MacNamara’s cow.

What does Old MacNamara’s cow have to do with anything? All this, and more, will be revealed. Give me less than 10 minutes, and I’ll explain… your brand.

Just click play, and I’ll meet you there.

Transcript & Shownotes

Naomi explains... your brandHello, and welcome to the very first inaugural episode of Naomi Explains Marketing. In this show, we’re talking about important marketing and business concepts – specifically, the ones that everybody talks about, but nobody ever… explains. So, give me less than ten minutes, and I’ll tell you what you need to know, and what you don’t.

We’re starting off with a series on fundamentals, five integral concepts that get a lot of buzz. What’s important? What’s not important? We’ll make sure you’re all taken care of. So without ado, further or otherwise, let’s start with our first topic – your brand.

Let’s do this.

Brand! Branding! Brand elements! Brand attributes! Brand awareness! There are a whole lot of buzz words buzzing around here, and it can be hard to keep things straight. But your brand is actually a lot simpler than it can seem sometimes. Most of the advice, dogma, and rhetoric that surround these concepts are directed at companies a whole lot bigger than yours and mine. So let’s simplify a bit. You ready?

There are two main elements of a brand, or branding. The first, and most visible, is comprised of your branding elements. The second, and less visible, are your brand attributes. We’re going to start with elements.

Once upon a brand…

To do this, we’re going to take a look at where the concept of a brand originates. Originally, a brand was a hot piece of iron. It had a symbol on it, usually a letter. That’s brand, the noun.

What were those brands used for? Great question! They were used for… branding. Farmers and ranchers took their brand and… wait for it… branded their livestock with it. That’s brand, the verb. You had a plain old generic cow, you branded it, and now it has what we would now know as… a logo.

Once an animal had been branded, forever more, people would know that the cow belonged to you. (Fun fact: before iron brands, people marked their livestock with paint. Because of course they did.)

So how did we get from a hot piece of iron identifying the rightful owner of a cow… to something consultants are charging you five figures to figure out?

Fast forward…

Well, let’s scoot forward a thousand years or so and look to the origin of brands as we now know them.

Back in the day, when stores were called mercantiles, literally everything you could purchase was generic. You went to the store and you bought stuff and god only knew where it came from or who made it. Statistically speaking, it was probably the shop-owner’s wife. That is how all things were bought and sold.

However! Having your wife shove some peaches in a jar and trying to hawk them to any rando who passes by is not the way to build an empire. So around the end of the 19th century, a few enterprising individuals – most notably Coca-Cola, although the actual oldest brand credit goes to Lyle’s Golden Syrup – decided it might be a smart idea to package their stuff in a consistent way so that everyone would know their thing was, well, their thing.

Cow with an M on it? Soda with two Cs on it? They’re the same thing!

That’s what branding is. Done right, it means that one look at something – a book, a blurb, a song, a witty aside, a blog post, a social media picture, whatever – one look at it and we know it’s yours. Whether it’s the thumbnail on your latest YouTube video, a jar of golden syrup, or old McNamara’s cow that’s gotten out yet again, your brand says “this is mine”.

Your brand elements are always sensory – they refer to the parts of your brand that can be objectively perceived by the senses.

Your logo is a branding element. The bell at the beginning of this podcast is a branding element. The font you use for your headlines, the jingle on your videos, the colors on your business card – these are all the individual sensory components that make your brand look, sound, or even smell like yours. (Seriously, smell is a thing. KFC pumps its smell out into the air. That’s branding. The Hyatt Place has a proprietary scent in their lobbies. That’s branding, too.)

So your branding elements are the things your audience can objectively observe with their senses that mark your work as yours. The key word here is objectively. You don’t need to think the Hyatt smells good. You need to think the Hyatt smells like a Hyatt. Branding. Boom. Done.

Your brand attributes

So that’s your branding elements. What about the other side of the equation, your brand attributes?

Well, when we talk about a brand these days, we’re not only talking about pictures and colours and logos. We’re also talking about what your products or your company or your marketing are like. What they feel like. What the experience is like.

Jeff Bezos said it best when he said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

I like Staples, it’s easy. I hate Disney, they’re too wholesome. I dig Tesla, they’re bold. Patagonia is progressive. The Onion is irreverent. These are brand attributes. Love them or hate them, we generally agree on them.

The words we use to describe what a brand is like, those are your brand attributes. Oh my gosh, I love that Naomi woman. She’s so funny! That’s a brand attribute. Good god, I can’t stand that Naomi woman. She thinks she’s so funny! Still a brand attribute. Like with branding elements, people don’t have to like a brand attribute. In general, it’s enough to collectively agree that it’s there.

In a perfect world in a large corporation, your brand elements are chosen to align with your brand attributes. That’s what us marketers would have you believe you have to do. But the truth of the matter is, it’s a work in progress, and there’s only so much you can do.

If you’re quirky, yeah, it’s a good idea to try for quirky music on your videos, rather than the same old, standard issue corporate motivational jingle. If you’re going for ultra-serious and professional, lime green and fuschia are not good choices for your brand colors.

But at the individual, solopreneur, or ittybiz level, most of this is common sense. We don’t need to give $15,000 to a marketing agency to be told to lay off the lime. Most of the time, asking yourself, “Is this on brand?” gets you most of the way there. And if you doubt yourself, ask someone else. They can see you – and the way you’re seen – with a little more distance.


What if you’re not clear on your brand attributes yet?

If that’s the case, a few quick exercises can help. We have a figure out your brand in 20 minutes exercise, a 3-word branding exercise, and a Karma Store product called Plug & Play Branding in the show notes for this episode that can get you started. Usually and fortunately, what comes out of those exercises can last you a good, long time, meaning you’re not going to have to think about this again for a good, long while.

So that’s your brand – a pretty even split between elements that people can see and hear, and attributes which we can sense and feel.

Up next in our fundamentals series is USP. What is it? What isn’t it? And… most excitingly, do you even need one? Until then, give yourself a pat on the back for learning something new, and I’ll see you very soon.


Resources mentioned:

Next Episode: 002: Naomi Explains… Your USP

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