What’s A Brand?

When it comes to marketing, the term “brand” gets thrown around constantly. And if you’re from a corporate background, you’ll know it’s often used in reference to those activities that are most challenging to prove ROI on, yet are somehow the most expensive. 

What was once a word that meant to mark cattle, “branding” is now used as a blanket term to describe everything from a company’s logo to the ads encasing streetcars. 

Clearly, the times have changed, and branding is now at the forefront of every single marketing decision. But have our thoughts and feelings towards brands changed over time as well? And what does branding mean for this year and next? We spoke to the co-founders of Carte Blanche Studio, Amir Azimi, Creative Director and Ahmed El Dani, CEO, to find out. 


Branding 101 – but make it 2022 

While the delivery method may have changed since the days showcased in Mad Men, the heart of a brand remains deeply embedded in its story. But, according to Azimi, getting consumers to understand and relate to the story you’re trying to convey remains paramount – and is still an exciting challenge. 

“In this day and age, we’re oversaturated with the same products and services,” said Azimi. “People can choose what they identify with and that’s what creating a strong brand is; creating a connection with your customer through your product or service’s story.” 

El Dani chimes in with one of the most successful brand stories to date – the iPhone. Even though we don’t get to touch, feel, smell, or use the iPhone before purchasing, we assume it’s going to be better than the last because of its commercials, branding, and proven track record of quality. 

“Brands are about intimacy and trust,” said El Dani. “We have psychological connections to brands, to colognes, apps, and certain foods, which may not even come directly from the brand, but because of a story that resonates with us.” 


How has branding changed? 

Before the 1990s, businesses wouldn’t need to worry about much beyond print, TV, and radio ads and the physical look of the product on the shelf. But these days, marketers need to think about web design, full stack development, and digital strategy and how all of these things communicate the overall brand message. 

“As time goes on, things become very outdated, very quickly,” said Azimi. So while branding has grown and expanded in general, the trends brands follow constantly change, so you’ll see companies trying to adapt more and more.” 

Every business wants to be cutting-edge. So what’s the solution? Azimi says it’s to focus on what’s timeless, avant-garde even, because if you’re going to be investing thousands of dollars on your brand – you don’t want to completely overhaul it every year trying to stay on-trend. 

Azimi references the greats, like Pepsi and Coke, and how even they have changed their logos several times. 

“I don’t think Chanel will ever change their logo,” said Azimi. “Branding is always evolving – it’s not really about how branding itself has changed; it’s more about how your brand can remain relevant, trendy, and relatable for the next five to ten years.”


So, how do you create an impactful brand? 

We know what you’re thinking – this all sounds fine and dandy in theory. But how are you supposed to check all these boxes and achieve your goal from the outset in practice? 

“Trusting an expert in the field can enhance your product and help you with the tactics and tools needed – that you may not have even thought of – to utilize to reach your target audience,” explained Azimi. 

Azimi says he starts by asking clients for things like mood boards to really understand the brand, and then develops a theme, vision, and colour palette. 

“I make sure I have a 100% grasp on their vision, and that I can speak the brand to them by finding that underlying theme that ties everything together,” said Azimi. “Once I’ve identified that underlying message, I find a unique way to approach it, starting with typography.” 


How can you measure the success of your brand? 

It’s the age-old question – and it’s one that brand managers typically hate. But with Azimi and El Dani, everything is out in the open when it comes to brand success, which is incredibly refreshing. 

“A lot more goes into a brand’s success than the initial brand itself,” said El Dani. “A lot of people will say you can measure the brand success by the business success, but I disagree, because there are a lot of poor brands out there that still run successful businesses.” 

Of course, reaching your ideal customer and meeting your KPIs are all important and necessary ways to measure brand success. But, the pair are more concerned with the cohesiveness of a brand, and think it’s a more accurate reflection of their branding efforts. 

“It’s about how effective and coherent your message is throughout your platforms,” said Azimi. “Everywhere you exist, are you unified? How singular is the idea you’re trying to convey in your tone and imagery?” 

It’s an interesting way to look at things, because those are challenging questions to answer. But, the answers could offer a slightly different perspective than your typical brand study. 


Learn more about Carte Blanche Studio

Carte Blanche Studio is Toronto’s leading creative agency. We’re passionate about the world around us and helping brands authentically express themselves to build a more connected future. Visit us online to learn more.

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