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SMU 101 - Session 1: Why start with branding?

branding wordle image

Purpose/Aim of this session

In this session you will be exploring the general concept of a brand. This session acts as an overview before we delve more deeply into specific aspects of branding over the remaining sessions.

Learning Aims for this session:

  • You will be introduced to the basic concept of what a brand is - and what it isn't
  • You will explore some basic aspects of a brand
  • You will explore some basic components of that make effective branding stories

Learning Outcomes for this session:

At the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • Define what a brand is
  • identify some of the basic elements of a brand
  • Distinguish between a brand and a product/service
  • Explain the importance of strategic storytelling in the branding experience

How this Session Works:

  1. Read through the Overview that accompanies this session. This provides an overall context for the session.
  2. Work your way through the items on the Preparatory section that accompanies this session.
  3. Listen to the Lecture that accompanies this session.
  4. Work your way the branding scenario in the "Scenario" tab.  The scenario is a practical exercise activity to develop your initial understanding of the branding concept.brand.
  5. Work your way the template in the "Template" tab.  The template will support you as you take the first steps in developing your understanding of your brand.
  6. You can browse through some carefully selected material in the "Reading Room" tab. These materials will build upon your initial Brand concepts.
  7. Familiarize yourself with the key industry terminology via the "Glossary" tab.

SMU 101 Session 1 Study Activities

  • Overview
  • Preparatory Activities
  • Lecture
  • Scenarios
  • Template
  • Reading Room
  • Glossary

what is branding image

So what is branding? It is the foundation upon which all of our marketing efforts and strategies are built.

Branding is the art of strategic story telling. We craft a narrative in order to give our brand a personality, a character, in order to make deeper connections with audiences. These stories need to be strategic. In other words, they need to be crafted in such a way that leads to action - namely engaging with products and services.

Looking at branding in this light, a brand acts as our ambassador, speaking on the behalf of products or services.

Ignoring this basic building block - or getting it wrong - results in, well, basically going round and round in ever diminishing circles. So in the words of Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music - let's start at the very beginning...and begin with the Preparatory activities that accompany this session.

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The short video below, from the Financial Brand's YouTube Channel, provides an excellent overview of branding, examining what it is and what it isn't (something we'll focus on more fully in Session 3).

Joseph Hedges' brief video below builds upon the points outlined in the first video. As you watch it (if you hate the music, feel free to mute!) think about your gut reactions and thoughts to each of the logos, colors, images, etc that appear on the screen. Don't over think it. Make a mental note for whatever pops in your head. We'd even suggest pausing the video to give yourself more space to process the words, feelings, images and associations that pop into our consciousness.

Think about why you responded to the brands featured in the video in the manner that you did. Think about why you had those associations rather than others. One last thing - think about how you respond to these brands online through their Twitter feeds, Facebook company pages, websites, etc.


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 Work your way through the lecture video below, which builds upon the introductory concepts outlined in the videos above.

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Scenarios have been provided to prompt you to demonstrate your understanding of the concepts introduced in this session. It's an assignment designed for you to reflect on your own brand. This reflection will inform the answers you'll be providing on the Template that accompanies this session.

When you have completed answering the scenario questions, please go to the Template section for this session.

When it comes to branding, we like the cut of Yo Santosa's jib. In the video below, she introduces some subtle yet powerful introductory components of branding. The video is a natural fit and good follow-on from our introductory lecture.

One you have viewed the Yo Santosa video from the training provider, please go on to the scenario activity which appears below.

Yo Santosa, Branding Expert from on Vimeo.

Scenario Activity:

One of the easiest ways to get you thinking about branding is to get you to think about yourself. Your personal brand, in other words. In short, how you perceive yourself and how the world perceives you – are these two views congruent…or not?

Helping you understand how your personal brand helps shape career opportunities, let’s explore some areas of your life. This can help you consider how your reputation is helping—or hurting—your efforts to launch your career.

And then we’ll apply the knowledge you gain from this activity when you start working on the business branding template for this session.

The questions I’m going to ask you below can be explored in a variety of formats, such as a journaling exercise, an essay, a mood board, a lookbook – you can record your answers in a way that is most meaningful and relevant to you. You can also address these questions by creating a physical display of your developing personal brand using images clipped from magazines or other sources.

The Questions:

Relationships. Are you known as a helper? A leader? A trend-setter? Are you the one they turn to when they need to figure out the bill at the end of a group dinner? Do people want you around when they need a laugh? Do others look to you for information on certain topics, and, if so, which ones? Describe how your relationships impact your reputation.

Activities. What activities are you known for? Do you spend your time reading, writing, playing computer games, training for a sport, participating in social events, or other activities? Describe how your activities impact your reputation.

Lifestyle. What kind of lifestyle have you adopted? Are you studious, a partier, an organizer, or something else? When you think about your lifestyle, consider how you spend your time as well as how you would prefer to spend your time. Describe how your lifestyle choices impact your reputation.

Appearance. What is your style? What do you wear? How do you style your hair? Do you wear jewelry, piercings, or body art? Are you neat or messy? Do you describe your style as tailored and conservative, dramatic and flamboyant, or would you use other terms? Describe how your choices regarding your personal appearance impact your reputation.

Overall Brand. Do you feel your relationships, lifestyle, activities, and appearance reflect an accurate representation of the “real” you? Is this reflected in your reputation? How is this reflected in your resume, job search materials, and career interests?

Once you have answered the scenario questions, please continue to the template.

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The template below has been provided for you to reflect on your own brand, or a brand you manage for a client.

Working through it will help you initially identify:

  • What you feel the top five aspects of your brand are -what does your brand stand for (one word answers)
  • The five adjectives that best describe your brand
  • How do you demonstrate/illustrate your passion for your brand?
  • The five best things about our brand
  • The five worst or misunderstood things about your brand

If we can't be honest and transparent with ourselves about our own brands - how can we get our audiences to believe our stories?  Honesty and transparency are important factors in brand building and brand communication.

There are no right or wrong answers for this activity: only honest and truthful answers...and those that aren't.

Keep this activity in a safe place. If you prefer to print it and complete it, keep your completed printout in a file or folder. If you complete it electronically, keep it in a specific directory on whatever device you'll be using regularly throughout this course. We'll be asking you to return to this template at the end of the course to complete it.  We can almost guarantee that you will change roughly 50% of your answers when you return to complete it.

Identifying your Basic Branding Elements Template

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The Reading Room for this session provides carefully selected resources for you to further explore the basic components of brands.

Barez-Brown, Chris. 2014. Feeling vs thinking – the secret to creative genius, The Wall, 24 June 2014.

Campbell, C. 2005. The Craft Consumer Culture: craft and consumption in a postmodern society, Sage.

Driving the Future: Positioning your brand to create desire in the new automotive reality, Sense Perspective.

Evans, J. and Bridson, K. 2013. Branding the Arts, Branding the Public Art Museum Sector: A New Competitive Model, Asia Pacific Social Impact Leadership Centre. February 2013.

Fournier, S. (1998), Consumers and their brands: developing relationship theory in consumer research, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol.  24,March, pp.343-73.

Kylander, N. and Stone, C. 2012. The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector, Stanford Social Innovation Review. Spring 2012.

Schroeder, J.E. 2005. The artist and the brand, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 39 No.11/12, 2005 pp.1291-1305.

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 Like any industry, marketing comes complete with its own language and jargon. While we will largely avoid using jargon in the lectures - sometimes jargon puts barriers where you don't want them - you should familiarize yourself with the basic industry terms. You will see many of these key terms in the reading, and hear them in the videos, that are included in this course.

With this in mind, we highly recommend the marketing terminology glossary provided by Brand Channel:

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