A brand is a promise. It communicates the essence of who your company is, what it stands for, and what customers can expect from it.

Despite its simplicity, many people misunderstand what branding is – and what’s it’s not. Others don’t give branding the attention it deserves. If you ask 10 different people what branding means to them, you are likely to get 10 different answers.

University of Indiana marketing professors, for example, define branding as “the process by which the true character of the company or organization is communicated.” But Ashler Hotels defines branding as “obtaining a franchise brand name for a hotel such as Holiday Inn, Hilton, etc.” And marketing communications firm Brady Communications defines branding as “the identification of a product or service with the parent company; it usually means the inclusion of the corporate signature in the ad or product.”

Indeed, branding is all that and the some. Regardless of how you define branding, though, there is one common thread upon which marketers from all walks of industry agree: Branding is vital to successful marketing. Just how important is branding, you ask? Well, a 2006 study conducted by market research firm Yankelovich estimated that a person living in a city sees up to 5,000 ad messages a day. Consider the odds. If your brand doesn’t stand out from the pack, it could get lost in the fray.

“Your brand strategy defines your company’s intent. In essence, it’s a promise – a promise that defines what your organization intends to deliver to its customers and the marketplace,” says Scott Glatstein, President of Imperatives, LLC, a marketing consultancy in Minnetonka, Minnesota. “Articulating a good strategy is only the beginning. It’s the strategy’s execution that determines whether an organization can turn good intentions into profits.”

Stay tuned for part two of Branding Power, where we look at branding with customer service.