Branding shouldn't be seen as an overlay to a business but needs to run through it like a golden thread; at the core of the business and vital to its success.
I heard someone on the radio talking critically about Donald Trump's reference to the USA as a brand. They thought it was wrong as they see a brand as the 'veneer'. For them a brand is on the surface and therefore lacking substance underneath. Here comes the shocker: they are totally wrong! Please allow me to explain.
Strong brands have depth as well as impact. This is because they are built from the ground up not added at the end of the process. The branding process starts with an understanding of the core values and ethos of your business not with creative design; that comes later when the business direction and goals are understood and captured within the brand strategy.
It is easier to understand where a brand strategy fits if you think of it as a key component of the business strategy alongside the financial and operational strategies. If it is not integral to your business plan then it is going to be superficial, the proverbial veneer.
Part of the confusion about brands comes from the interchange of brand with logo. They are not the same. A logo is an element of your brand but only one element. See the Siegel & Gale article which explains very well what a brand is all about.
The other confusion is between branding and marketing. Your brand strategy and identity has to be defined first and the application of your brand across your website, communications and social is your marketing. My pet hate is a business that dives into a new website and then wants to add branding, usually dressed up as a rebrand. Wrong way around! To quote Ghandi, "if you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there." If you create websites and marketing campaigns without defining what makes you different, how you are positioned in your market and what is distinctive about your character, you are more likely to be part of the crowd of competitors competing on price.
So your brand is not a veneer, it is the heart and soul of your business, understood by your clients and prospects in a way that none of your competitors are perceived. Your brand is core to your business success. So let's hear no more talk of veneers, or doing what it says on the tin ...