Your Brand vs Branding

by | Jun 15, 2016 | Strategy

Do you know the difference between your brand vs branding?

There seems to be some confusion among online business owners about the difference between the two—namely, that your brand and your branding are one and the same.

Nope! They’re different beasts, so let’s take a look at the difference.

Your brand is your reputation. It’s what people think about you, people’s perception of the final result of your branding efforts. It’s not something you control in the same way as your branding.

Branding is what you’re doing to cultivate and influence the way that people see your business. It’s an active process of asking tough questions, getting super honest, refining, and working deeply on these four areas: your vision, your people, your style, and your process.

So, given that you have more control over your branding than your brand, let’s break down your branding. Here are four elements of your branding that you can start refining and strengthening…


Your Vision:

This is your story, who you are, your values, your WHY. Here’s my why: I’m a passionate feminist, I have worked on crisis lines, have a degree in Indigenous studies and visual anthropology, live in East Van with my bearded husband and our beloved vintage vacation van Turtle, and am obsessed with the colour black, tattoos, and head-turning hair. I believe in supporting women to stand out online in their own way. I believe that women are the experts of their own lives and am not interested in secret formulas or gimmicky marketing tricks. Integrity and having a woman-centered approach are central to my brand.

Take action: What’s your WHY? What is your story? What do you believe in and why do you do what you do? What is your rant about your industry? What do you want to be known for?


Your People:

These are the people you serve with your business. Think about five people you’ve worked with recently who: you most loved working with, was most ready to work with you, benefited most from your work, and did the most good with the work you did together. Getting clear on who your Most Valued Customer is is a crucial component of your branding.

Take action: Go through my MVC exercise here. Changing direction with your business? Online research is your new best friend.


Your Look:

Effective branding requires you to pick an aesthetic style and stick to it. Think about your favourite online entrepreneurs: when they pop up in your Instagram or Facebook feed, you instantly recognize them before your brain processes the text. Why? Because they have a refined style and a set of rules that they follow when representing their brand online, in everything from photographs to social media cover photos to Instagram feeds. And that look? It evokes the feelings and creates emotional responses that are super aligned with their vision.

Take action: Open up all your social media feeds, put them in separate windows and compare them. Is the aesthetic consistent and recognizable? If not, what can you do to get your business’ style to that place? Start a pin board for inspiration and specifically add images to it of things that are totally unrelated to your industry. What draws you to these visuals? Can you see a common style, colour, tone, or feeling threading through them all?


Your Approach:

When you feel overwhelmed by the 987 million health coaches, gurus, and marketing yahoos that pop up online every day touting six figures, one of the strongest assets you have that sets you apart is WHY and HOW you do what you do. Don’t think you have a process? You do! And once you get clear on your process, your branding is that much more impactful.

Action step: The next time you start a project with a client, write down all the steps you take, from start to finish. That’s the beginning of documenting and defining your process! Now you can go back to these notes and flesh them out, or revisit them each time you start a new project. Happy dance for documenting your process!

To reiterate: you have more control over your branding—actively cultivating your vision, people, style, and process—than your brand—the perception people have of you and your business—so consistently refining and strengthening your branding will yield the biggest results for you.

Want help defining your branding so that it stands out from the sea of competitors online? Download my Getting Started Guide today to learn more about my Signature Design Service.