What the H is a Branding Person?

Recently, I sat down with a new client for a branding consult. She came to me because her business coach said she needed it. But she said, “What the hell is a branding person?” Good Question. Let’s break it down.

What is branding?

You’re now entering the subjective zone. You’ll find as many answers to this question as you find branding consultants.

Although the etymology of branding is varied, we can all imagine a rancher using a hot iron to brand his livestock. Each ranch had a distinct logo that made a permanent impression. Though originally intended to distinguish ownership, the logo reflected on the rancher, whether good or bad.

In many ways, branding is the connection of your sensual experiences to your company. People remember how they feel about you (affinity) and that is reflected back on the brand in the form of loyalty — and buying power.

Branding is the persona your business has consisting of logo, colors, and reputation which all affect and reflect consumer affinity and loyalty. Click To Tweet

My good friend Robert Nissenbaum says,

“Branding is the practice of creating the look and ‘feel’ of your brand. Brand marketing is the practice of establishing your image, voice, and persona which identifies and differentiates you from your competitors.”

What is a branding person?

A branding person can be anything from a graphic designer who creates a brand standards document that has your logo, color palette, fonts, and usage, to a person or company who protects your reputation online. And that can range from brandyourself.com to identity protection.

If you need a brand standards document, I recommend the following people, Jayman Pandya, Chris Ford, and Cheryl & Sherie LaPrade (who created mine).

While venting on Facebook about needing to work on my elevator pitch I got a few suggestions. One of them was from Chris Lema.

“Hi I’m Bridget Willard and I help companies with their online brand and reputation management by taking care of both social media monitoring and posting. I help your online brand by reinforcing your differentiated value on the social channels that are right for your business and your prospects.”

Sarah Pressler wrote: “Listen, I create magic. There’s no other way to put it.”

To me, a branding person is someone who understands the voice and tonality that you would like to project to the public. A branding person emulates that voice, replicates that voice, and protects it.

A branding person may even be a guide to your own self-awareness, helping you figure out what really is important to you and what values you’d like to elevate.

A branding person helps your business find its voice to harness your power, to elevate your brand. It's that simple. Click To Tweet

Why do you need a branding consultant?

A branding person is more like a counselor in my view. Their job is to help you dig out of your person the essence of your passion. You’re too close. You’ve talked to too many of your friends. You have lost objectivity. You may have lost focus.

This is why many business coaches suggest meeting with a branding person. A brand is a persona — an organic, living thing. It needs life. A branding person gives your persona life. And life needs to be protected.

A branding person helps you find yourself in the brand. It's very similar to a counselor. Click To Tweet

Can’t you just wing it?

You can. But you’ll fail and in a hard way.

People who wing it, without boundaries, are likely to fall prey to trending hashtags. They are easily distracted by the lure of humor. Not to mention starting endless projects that are so scattered that the company lacks focus — inwardly and outwardly.

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Protect Your Brand. It’s Not a Joke.

Humor. It’s tricky in person — with your intonation, delivery, and body language. It’s even more precarious when it’s written. Your brand isn’t a joke, don’t treat it like one.

It’s tempting to react to political news from your brand on Twitter. Unless your brand is Saturday Night Live, don’t do it. You’ll be fueling trolls and undermining your brand. It’s your brand. Protect it.

KFC and Nuclear Buttons

I rarely call people out. In this case, I’m doing it. Firstly, I grew up at the end of the cold war and don’t find nuclear jokes funny. Secondly, the situation in North Korea is serious. Thirdly, regardless of the behavior of the current President (who frankly embarrasses me), your brand should be above that.


Sure, at the time of this screenshot (in my tweet below), 6 hours in, KFC got 606 comments, 24,000 impressions and 49,000 likes. It’s a mistake.

The fact that KFC is calling itself KFC instead of Kentucky Fried Chicken shows that they have a history of branding issues. They had to fight fried food, are they really going to alienate the demographic that mostly enjoys it? Seriously. I’m a Republican. I get it. Let’s be serious.

In fact, I’d argue that the cheap laugh and blog posts that will be written on Mashable, Tech Crunch, and BuzzFeed might be worth it for a day for attention. But will it help sales? I doubt it.

Your brand isn't a joke. Don't treat it like one. Use restraint with current trends. Click To Tweet

The Danger of Trending Hashtags

The same advice goes for Trending Hashtags. Lazy social media managers try to jump on a trend. If you don’t totally understand why the trend is happening, you have another “Why I Stayed” scandal.

Don't fall for easy. If you don't understand the hashtag, do not use it. It's that simple. Click To Tweet

People make mistakes because of inexperience and a lack of discretion. They don’t think things out strategically and see how it will affect their brand. This is why you should never hire a cheap Social Media Manager.

It’s Your Responsibility to Protect Your Brand

Your brand is your reputation. It’s all you have sometimes when funds are light. It’s your job to protect it and assemble a team of people who have the same vision.

Levi Saunders

What is branding and why does it matter to your business?

Branding has an allusive attraction — like a magic word a SEO professional will use that you know is important but don’t fully understand.

Not having a MBA in Marketing myself, I had often pondered this question as well.

What is branding?

Branding is listening to a thirty-year old Michael Jackson song on the radio and recognizing the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo.

Branding is making a decision between using a restroom at a gas station or the restroom at a Starbucks.

Branding is being reminded of your beloved uncle when you smell pipe tobacco with a hint of cherry.

Is Branding A Logo?

Yes and no.

In many ways, branding is the connection of your sensual experiences. When I see a Diet Coke can, I become thirsty. Why? I remember the feel of a cold can in my hands, the sound the can makes when it pops open, the tickle down my throat, and the taste afterward. All of those memories are tied into the Diet Coke logo.

Human history is full of seals, rings, flags, coats of arms, and crests used to distinguish families, tribes, and nations. The human condition is curious; as much as we long for group acceptance, we still desire to be distinct and recognized.

Although the etymology of branding is varied, we can all imagine a rancher using a hot iron to brand his livestock. Each ranch had a distinct logo that made a permanent impression. Though originally intended to distinguish ownership, the logo reflected on the rancher, whether good or bad.

A Logo is Your Behavior

Your behavior as a company will be associated with your logo. In this regard, the branding is the logo and the logo is the brand.

In my presentation, “You Are What You Tweet,” I gave the example that the Caltrop logo had no meaning to me until I met one of their employees, Mark DeSio.

When you have a relationship with a person, the logo has meaning. Click To Tweet

In our day, branding makes a permanent impression, too. These impressions are based upon a person’s experience interacting with your company (brand) and there’s only so much of it you can control. With the introduction of social media, individual impressions gain a much greater audience.

“Every employee is your brand ambassador, your marketer, and the face of your company.” Scott Stratten: The Book of Business Awesome

Case in point. Twenty years ago I went to a pancake restaurant and there were cockroaches crawling on the table. Regardless of how many coupons they offer, how many all-you-can-eat pancake events they hold, I will never go to any of their restaurants again. That one experience made a lasting impression. Their advertising (branding) is no longer effective with me. My experience at their store made a permanent impression (branding).

Big brands, like Diet Coke, are often used as an example because we all recognize them, making the lesson relatable to a diverse audience.

How is online behavior branding?

The question always is: how will that translate for me and my business on social media?

It’s simple. Behave online the way you would want to be perceived. If you want people to think that you’re professional, behave professionally. If you want people to believe you do quality work, produce quality content.

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*Adapted from an article I wrote while working at Riggins Construction and published here.

Ten Things I’ve Learned Building the Riggins Brand Online

In 2009, with businesses closing all around us, day and night, I went out on a limb. Though I was officially the Office Manager, I, being me, couldn’t just sit at my desk and do nothing.

Start now. Start with something.

There is a Chinese Proverb that says,

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best is today.”

Here are some lessons I learned while building the online brand for Riggins Construction & Management, Inc. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Also, it’s long. But this is as short as I could make it.

1. Something is better than nothing.

Screenshot of the Riggins Website in 2011
Yep. It’s pretty ugly now but black sites used to be cool.

When I started working at Riggins Construction & Management, Inc. as their Office Manager in 2006, they had a one-page website with a single image.

I took enough classes to be dangerous at HTML and rebuilt the site in Dreamweaver. No, it was not awesome. But it was better than what we had before.

In 2010 I started our blog on wordpress.com. Was it ideal? No. But something is better than nothing.

In 2015, I rebuilt our site in WordPress. I tell that story here.

Is it better than if we’d hired a professional? No. But something is better than nothing.

2. If you don’t try, you’ll fail.

The year 2009 was scary. I was driven to find a way to let people know we were still in business. So I started the @RigginsConst Twitter account and Facebook Page. I was sure it would fail, especially Facebook (which, honestly, has way too few likes). But you learn. Twitter is better for B2B relationship building. Read more Ten Things I’ve Learned Building the Riggins Brand Online