What is the Purpose of Branding?
Branding vs Marketing
Before jumping into branding's purpose, it's worth understanding the difference between branding and marketing.
The job of marketing is to make something look good to people. The process involves:
Listening to the market to learn what the market wants (or wants to hear)
Finding a way to connect what the market wants with the something you're selling
Telling the market how your something is just what the market wants
Knowing who you are
When marketing is unclear about the brand it's supporting, there are all sorts of temptations to be who the market wants you to be, rather than who you are. This doesn't work in business any better than it works in dating (not that any of you will have ever tried to be someone other than yourself for the sake of impressing the object of your affections). Neither people nor organizations are much good at building relationships until they know who they are, and what gifts they have to offer others.
The purpose of branding is knowing and consistently living from a true identity, from a real story, so that executive leadership, sales, marketing, product, support, operations, and corporate culture all align and mature in a compelling manner that is meaningful to anyone who encounters the collection of people who make up a brand. A brand is the story of people headed in a direction, inviting you to journey with them.
A bottom line reality
Whatever you're doing with your days is, by definition, what you're doing with your life. If a brand cannot express why their employees (or customers) should give a portion of their lives to journey with the brand, the brand is inherently underperforming. What's worse, that brand's negligence asks people to trade their lives cheap.
Your life matters. A good brand knows this, and will work to be the "so what" or the "why" story of its community in action.
Silence = passive branding
You don't have to do branding, and you don't have to be intentional about addressing meaning for people, but that doesn't mean your brand won't be formed anyway, or that people won't infer clues about life and substance from your silence.
If you don't do branding intentionally, you'll do it passively, and you'll see a variety of mercenary factors fill the void:
You'll see your product or services slide to commodity.
You'll see the costs of recruitment and retention rise.
You'll see leaders abdicate their positions and become embittered passengers.
You'll hear customers nit pick and view you in an ever-diminishing light.
You'll find short-cuts and temporary fixes.
...but over time you'll have to confess you're drifting slowly out onto a sea of mediocre staleness on a barge that only grows heavier and harder for you to ever steer back to someplace worth being.
Branding adds meaning and clarity
The purpose of branding, done well, is to honor people's sacred value, to add meaning and clarity to their lives (employees and customers alike), and to harness capitalism - which is designed to be agnostic at best, and brutally cruel in soulless hands - for good and justice in ways that only quickened expressions of liberty enable.