There is probably no marketing term more overused or more misunderstood than “branding.”

by | Dec 5, 2020 | News

In the last 15 or so years, innumerable experts, ad agencies, opinion leaders and consultants have advanced countless theories on brands and created a multi-billion-dollar industry in the process.

For every brilliant piece of true branding work, there are hundreds of examples of tweaked logos, updated slogans and new colour palettes passed off as brand strategy.

When it comes to destination branding, the landscape gets even more complicated. It’s one thing to brand a product or service, and something far more complex to capture the history, culture, environment and people of a city, region, province or country.

But it’s important to get it right. In many cases, branding can be a critical solution to your business problem or opportunity.

So, what is a brand? Google the word and you’ll get 1.4 billion hits. No wonder there’s confusion.

I’ve been to many a conference and had many conversations where the topic turns to an organization’s new ‘brand strategy’. Out comes the new business card with rebuilt logo, colours and tag line.

But when asked about what’s being done about organizational branding, there’s often a blank stare.

It seems to me there’s a common misperception between “visual identity” and “brand” and that updating visual identity somehow fulfills a strategic branding initiative.

Visual identity works hand-in-hand with branding, and both are important, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are the same thing.

In the travel industry, I also see confusion between destination branding, destination marketing and economic development.

Think of it this way: destination branding is about defining who you are and what you are not; destination marketing is how you communicate that. And economic development is using both to attract and stimulate new businesses and economic activities.

Among the sea of brand definitions out there, a couple I like are:

· Branding is all of the ways you establish an image of your company in your customers’ eyes. (

· Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. (

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. If you do it right.

So, how do we sort through all the smoke and get started on determining whether you need a visual identity update or a true brand strategy?

Start with your end goal. What business problem are you trying to solve? What opportunity are you trying to capitalize on? What does awesome look like?

Identify your audience and get to know them. Is it locals? Visitors? Business? All three? But you can’t be everything to everyone.

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Clarify your expectations. Are you truly trying to change or re-position the DNA of your organization, destination or service in order to stand out to your target customer? Or do your colours, logos and slogans simply need refreshing?

In today’s crowded world of infinite choices, a strong brand is an important strategy for connecting with customers. But before you spend time, effort and money on branding, make sure you truly understand what it means for your business, destination or organization. And, remember, your brand isn’t your logo.

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