After discussing an article about Oreo's new branding strategies with some colleagues recently, one thing became clear: people have many different ideas on what your "brand" really is. My first instinct was logos/graphics: your brand is something I recognize immediately when I see it on TV or in a store. When I see this:
...I know I'm looking at Pepsi.
But product mix is part of your brand, too, others pointed out. The Oreo article points out that they've become known for creating unique versions of their classic cookie (I'll pass on the candy corn flavor, though). Somebody else offered an even more nebulous explanation of what a brand is: a company's brand is how it makes you feel.
Ask anyone in business and you'll get dozens of additional answers - it's your company's personality, it's a promise, it's your reputation, etc. So which is it? Well, really, all of them are right. Your brand, essentially, is everything people think of or associate with your business when they see your logo, hear your name, use your products, etc.
So, great. A brand is everything you do or say. But how do you "build" it? Again, we could come up with dozens of different opinions here, but I always focus on one thing when it comes to branding: consistency. Be consistent in every aspect of your business:
This really only scratches the surface of what you can do to build your brand. Above all else, though, I think it's important to remember that a well-established brand lets customers know exactly what to expect. This expectation might come from seeing a logo, hearing an advertisement, using a product, or something else entirely. But when I think of your brand, I should know exactly what I'm getting.