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Branding Research: Part 1 of 2

For those who need to see the big picture, this will help you to understand how branding works to better in creating, curating, monitoring, and maintaining your brand.

Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part blog post. In this post, I will be giving an overview of this peak into branding research and discussing what a “brand” is, which is more than just a logo.

The notion of a brand can seem amorphous partly because of the ubiquitous use of the word. This makes it hard for people to think about their own brand. I’ve talked with a lot of solopreneurs and indie writers who are at a loss when they are trying to create their branding plans. I think that part of this is because there’s confusion about what a brand is. 

I think that looking at an overview of the research is good to understand what a brand is so that you can create and curate your own brand. This is especially true for people who need an overview before they can delve into creating or enacting an action plan.

This is by no means comprehensive, but more introductory look into the research.

I talked a little about what a brand is in my post Marketing: A Primer and in my post Branding: Starting from Scratch. Both posts were informed by research, but I didn’t discuss what that research was. So far, I’ve described branding as the story of your product, service, or company as told by you, your community of customers, and as individual customers. In this post, I’m going to go a bit deeper into what a brand is.

Let’s start with a little bit about why we want to look at brands – because the brand is often why a consumer buys a product or service and not just because of what the product or service does; it’s function.

What consumers are buying

“A world without brands would be a very boring world indeed.”[i] ~ Jill AveryAnat Keinan.

Meaning Based Assets

Brands can be called “meaning-based assets.[ii]” When people use products or services, those products and services become much more than just the needs and wants that the product or service fills. Embedded in the brand itself there is a story. That story becomes part of the life of the person who uses the product or service.[iii] Part of who they are becomes associated with that brand. Not all brands and not all products. But the point is that products and services can have a deeper meaning for the person consuming it, than just fulfilling a need. That added meaning is sometimes just below our awareness. Why do you pick one brand of toothpaste over another? Are they really that different? 

The meaning is the story that is embedded in the product’s brand. You may buy one cleaner over another because the company that makes the cleaner donates some proceeds to the wildlife fund, which is something that you support. So, you feel good about buying that cleaner because you are helping wildlife. Everytime you use the cleaner the thought that you’re helping wildlife may be a tickle of a thought in your mind.

The term “assets” refer to brands are a thing. I lightly touched on that in in my post Branding: Starting from Scratch. Calling a brand an asset also emphasizes that this thing has value. There is a value that it has for the product seller, and there is a value that the brand has for the consumer.

The value that a brand brings is that “brands are not about what you do, but what you enable people to do. Brands are about people, not products.”[iv]

The most important value of a brand is what it does for the consumer. Whatever it is that makes a product or service unique (because of what you do) is what makes the product or service uniquely valuable to the customer

When you create your brand, you are creating a story that will resonate with those who are purchasing your product or service. Those who become repeat customers or fans, what they are saying is that they are embracing your story on a very personal level. In this way, your brand becomes a part of their story. This highlights the very personal nature of branding, which is in part building relationships with your customers or clients.

This is one of the reasons that it is so important to tell your story through your promotions, so that those who will resonate with your story are able to find you to connect with you. 

Keeping in mind that your brand becomes a part of your consumers’ lives shifts the focus from just your business to your customers. Your business, then, becomes an act of service to those your brand resonates with. When you see taglines that include “serving your neighborhood since … “ that tag line is speaking to that service. Yes, you are making a living selling your product or service, but you are also doing it to enhance the lives to whom you are selling.

Branding to help showcase differences between similar services and products

Branding helps consumers to tell the difference in similar products or services that may be a better fit. 

Let’s say that there are two life coaches that have very different ways of asking questions. One is more matter-of-fact, which may appeal more to some. The other is more spiritual, which may appeal more to others. One coach is going to be a better fit for a group of potential clients, which the other coach will be a better fit for another group of potential clients. This also circles back to brand position. You can create a market, a niche market, based on your unique approach, even if the service or product is similar to another. I will talk more about brand positioning in future blog posts.

As product and service sellers, the more nuanced of an understanding we have on what a brand is and how that leads to the very pragmatic question of sales, the better we are able to create and curate our brands, and differentiate ourselves from others.  

The Research: Preview of Part 2

In the part 2 of this post, I’m going to talk about four different perspectives of branding in research, a little about the history of that research, and gives some hints on how that applies to you. Some of the perspectives will resonate more with you than others. Each time we look at the same thing from a different lens, we add information. They add to the nuance of understanding. In the second part of this post, I’ll give a framework on how to put those perspectives together.

So how can we unpeel the layers even more about what a brand is, so that we can be better creators and curators of our brands? Let’s look at the research.

There are four areas of research that I have find to be clarifying on what a brand is and the power of branding. These perspectives are from,

  • cognitive psychology,
  • social psychology,
  • cultural sociology,
  • and neuroscience.

In my next blog post, I’ll be giving a brief overview of these four areas of research.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.


[i] The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (p. 209). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

[ii] The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology) (p. 211). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition

[iii] Levy, S. J. (1959). Symbols for sale. Harvard Business Review, 37(4), 117–124.

[iv] Fisk, P. (2015). Brand innovation: Embracing change to innovate your brand and accelerate growth. In K. Kompella (ed.), The Brand Challenge. London: Kogan Page, 41–82.

©2020 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved. Copyright notice: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

You can get started here on developing your marketing plan, or email me with any questions.

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Branding: Starting from Scratch

You have aspirations. You want to be known as an expert of something. Maybe you want to start a blog. Maybe you want to write a fiction book. No matter what  it is, in the beginning, you’re not what your aspiration is. 

You may even think that this is a Catch-22, where to establish yourself as the thing, you have to be that thing to establish yourself as that thing. How can you be an author if you haven’t written a book yet?

At this point, it may feel like you have to be a magician to conjure your aspiration into existence before anyone recognizes that you ARE who you want to be.

You can start establishing yourself as a writer even before you’ve finished the book.You can establish yourself as an expert, a blogger, or something else. I’ve done it, not once, not twice, but multiple times in multiple venues. I’ve even helped other people and groups do it.

It’s generally the same process no matter the venue and for whatever thing you’re trying to conjure.  At first, the thing (acknowledgement for your expertise, your identity as a writer, or your identity as … you name it) doesn’t exist and then you conjure it into existence. So how do you do it?


The first thing is that it starts with your mindset. What is a mindset? 

According to Dr. Aparajita Jeedigunta, a Certified Professional Coach and Social-Personality Psychologist, your mindset is simply your internal framework — the core beliefs and assumptions that you make about yourself that dictate not only how you see yourself and your future potential, but also how you show up in all the spaces in your life and interact with the world around you. 

One problem you may run into is imposter syndrome, which can get in the way of fully realizing your mindset. “Imposter syndrome is something that afflicts all of us at some point or another in our lives, usually when we are about to do something that’s out of our comfort zone. It is that inner voice of doubt that tells us that we may not be good enough, or that we are just faking our competence until we get called out on it,” Dr. Jeedigunta explained. 

What are ways you can overcome imposter syndrome? 

  • Recognize when you’re having thoughts of self-doubt.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on what you can do.
  • Reframe your ideas of failure as learning moments.
  • Acknowledge your own growth and accomplishments.

If you don’t believe you’re an expert or writer when you do have the knowledge or have the skills, no one else will. 

It exists and it has a name

The second action step that you need to take is to create content that shows that the thing exists. You do this by naming it. If it’s a business, then you can use the name of your business, but if there is something different about your business, like your customer service, you have to name your customer service something.

There’s power in naming things. Naming something is the first step in making something exist. You also have to show that it exists.

How do you show that your thing exists? You provide evidence. You post pictures of your doing the thing. You write about it. You show people that the thing exists. For example, if you own a car washing business, post photos of your washing cars, of the line leading up to your car wash, of your employees, of your customers. 

If you build it … you have to build it

If you build it, they will come … eventually. You have to be patient while you’re building your thing. You have to give yourself and your thing time to gel.

It’s not enough to promote something and name it, you also have to build your thing. What do I mean by that?  Building means doing the thing that you want to exist for long enough for people to see that you are doing it.

If you’re an expert and are just beginning to establish yourself, you have to show people that you are an expert by being an expert and creating expert content. You might ask, how?

I’ll tell you. Answer questions posed on social media. Write articles for platforms like Medium or on your own blog. Show that you know what you’re talking about. 

And, not just once or twice. The number of times depends on a lot of things. How much a person is paying attention to you when they see your name. How much what you said aligns with what they know, so that they don’t easily dismiss you.

If you’re establishing yourself as a writer and want to show people that you are, post about your process and use hashtags that will get your posts noticed by the right people. Who are the right people? Other writers, bloggers, and readers.

And most importantly, get other people to say that you’re the thing.  The expert.  The writer. The thing you’re trying to establish yourself as. This is actually the most potent persuasive tool that you have, getting testimonials either in comments or as posts or whatever. Other people saying you’re something is more powerful than you saying it, because you might be exaggerating about yourself to make a sale.

Building something requires not only showing people the thing, but also giving people enough time to know that it wasn’t a one-of. Part of building is allowing time for your thing to establish roots to grow. 


1. Mindset. You must believe that you are your aspiration. 

2. Show others you are your aspiration by doing what you aspire to be. Promote yourself by showing others that you are doing what you aspire others to see you as. 

3. Get others to endorse you. This is the most important thing, because it’s the most powerful. Other people saying you are your aspiration will carry more weight than anything else you can do, especially if that person is trusted in your community. 

You can start where you are marketing yourself. If you’re just starting, you can market yourself. The best time to market yourself is right now. 

©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED and held by Michelle Raab Writes, LLC.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

Originally posted in on March 23, 2020.

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