Brand vs Branding:

What’s The Difference & Why Does it Matter?

As a beauty pro trying to make it in this industry, you know that your success doesn’t begin and end with having top-notch stylist talent, wow-inducing people skills, and a knack for knowing what’s on-trend and what’s not.

You gotta be good at the business part, too. And that’s where this blog about brand, brand identity, branding (and any other brand-related words you can think of) comes in.

The conversation surrounding your business brand can be a confusing one. On its own, the whole “brand” thing can be kinda complex because of how it fuses all sorts of tangible and intangible elements to create a specific, unique identity for your business.

So, we’re going to try to cut through all the confusion and simplify this in a way that’s direct and simple.

Here’s the first thing you need to know on the journey of building your beauty pro biz.

A brand is not branding.

Read that again. A brand is not branding.

Those two words might sound similar, but they’re different. Understanding the key difference between those two words is going to be the fresh start you need on your trek to fully comprehending what your brand is all about and how to go about promoting and feeding that brand (and your business).

It sounds confusing, but we promise, if you dig into it with us right here, right now, it won’t be.

What’s a Brand (or a Brand Identity)?

Like we said, we’re going to make this as simple as possible—because we recognize how tricky it all sounds. So, let’s be direct.

What exactly is a brand?

A brand is a specific, unique-to-you identity for your business that fuses intangible and tangible elements to accurately reflect your company’s own aesthetic visual, its ethics, its morality, its “vibe,” and its goals.

To put it differently, a brand is what gives a customer a gut feel about your business. Sure, it’s a logo and an aesthetic, but it’s more than that—it’s the emotional relationship between you and your customers, it’s the guiding light that shows your customers how to emotionally navigate your business, it’s what shows people how to think and feel about you even when you’re not standing there in the room talking up your business.

Your brand is that intangible piece of the puzzle that gives people thoughts, feelings, and emotional connections to you.

Your brand identity is what supports that emotive part of your brand in a hands-on way, typically it’s the tangible, visual things that people can touch, hold, hear, and watch to fully “get” your brand and make those emotive connections.

Let’s piece this out even further.

Brand is:

  • The way a customer perceives you
  • Emotional & focused on building relationships
  • The gut feeling customers get about you
  • The intangible pieces of your identity, such as your morals, ethics, values, goals, big ideas
  • An emotional connection that explains intangible who you are, what you’re doing, and why you exist

Brand identity is:

  • The tangible, real tools that customers can hear, touch, see, and use to fully understand your intangible brand
  • Real, visual tools that fuel recognition, show your customers what makes you different, and makes the intangible parts of your brand accessible
  • Visual language, typography, logo, colors, aesthetic, graphics, packaging, social media presence, web design, etc.
  • A consistent style or aesthetic that conforms to form a cohesive brand and sets guidelines on how to portray your desired perception

What is Branding?

Okay, so, we covered both brand and brand identity. Are we feeling good about those? (If not, don’t be afraid to take more time on those and review—it’s hard to differentiate between the concrete and non-concrete aspects of this stuff).

Now, we’re onto something else entirely branding. We know, we know, it sounds exactly like the other two words we’ve been dissecting, but trust us, this is different, too. Here’s how.

If brand and brand identity work together to create a visual and a feeling about your brand, then branding is the process of creating a unique name, image, and getting the brand you’ve created out there.

Think of branding as an internal strategy your business concocts— it’s an investment and it takes a lot of work, but ultimately, it’s set up to help you outpace your competition, reach your customers, and communicate your values, characteristics, and show what your brand is and isn’t.

The entire point of branding is to seize as many opportunities as possible to show people why they should choose your brand over another brand. And, to make things even more confusing, it can be both tangible and intangible.

Why? Because branding is a process that covers real things you can touch and see (like packaging, images, and digital campaigns) and real things that you can’t touch and see (like reputation, how you advertise, and even price history).

Like we said, branding is a process, and to create the best strategy for it, you need to completely understand how you want your audience to see you, feel about you, and think about you. This is going to help you in your process of creating a branding strategy (through advertising campaigns, presence,  reputation, and more) that encourages customers to choose you over another brand.

Brand, Brand Identity, and Branding—They’re One Big Happy Family

Even though brand, brand identity, and branding are all very different terms that mean very different things, you need all of them in order to develop a cohesive, successful business.

They all work together— fitting your business plan together like pieces of a puzzle—to craft that perfect gut feeling, that perfect relationship, and that perfect image of what your business is, does, and what it stands for.

Those these pieces can technically exist separately, the real success is when you create a cohesive brand made up of unique, distinct brand identity pieces that help you with the big plan and process of branding your business.

See how they all work together in harmony?

At the end of the day, any type of conversation about brand is going to be tricky—there’s no one thing you can pick up and hold in your hands and say, look, this is a company’s complete brand.

But by understanding that brand is a relationship, that brand identity is what people can pick up or see (the design of the brand), and that branding is the actual process of using those elements to build awareness and create relationships, you’re several steps closer to creating a brand that’s all your own (and most importantly, successful).

Have more brand questions? Interested in leaving some brand advice for your fellow beauty pros? Just want to have a deeper chat about brand in general? Good—do all of those things!

We’ve got a comment section for a reason. Drop your comments, inquiries, and conversation starters below and get the ball rollin’ on the brand talk with your community!

For more brand-related biz chat (as well as other tips, tricks, advice, and insight for the beauty industry) keep up with our regularly updated blog here!