What makes you who you are? How are you different from your peers, family, and any passing stranger you see on the street? The answers to these questions comprise your identity. And in a very similar way, businesses have their own distinct identities.
Brand identity is one of those buzzwords thrown around freely and, at times, incorrectly. Given the enormous role it plays in shaping a strong brand, it’s crucial that we fully grasp its meaning.
To get a sense of the significance of brand identity, one only has to take a look at the world’s most valuable brands. A mere glance at each and every one of the household names is enough to spark specific feelings and associations we have formed with those brands over time.
So, brand identity is important, but what exactly is it? This article will answer that and many other burning questions about brand identity. Here’s what you’ll find in his blog post:
- What is Brand Identity?
- Brand Identity Key Components
- How to Build a Strong Brand Identity
- Influential Brand Identity Examples
What is Brand Identity?
Brand identity is what you wish your company to look, feel, and sound like. It’s all about how you express your brand’s essence to the world and, in doing so, shape its perception of you. Brand identity mainly revolves around the visual aspects of your brand that determine how the audience sees you.
Your brand’s identity is what sets you apart from all competition, even if they sell the same product or service as you. While it’s useful to be aware of the commonalities between you and your competitors, brand identity centers on the differences. It finds and accentuates the unique aspects of your brand and strategically communicates them to your audience.
Brand Identity vs. Brand Image
The two dangerously similar terms are easy to confuse, but we promise you they’re even easier to tell apart once you come to understand what they refer to.
Brand identity is the aggregation of all the elements unique to your brand that distinguish you from other businesses — e.g., logo, name, visual style, voice. Brand image is the brand identity crystallized in the minds of consumers. It’s the opinions they have formed of you based on their experiences with your company.
In a nutshell, brand identity is all about you and how you present your business, whereas the brand image is about the audience and how they perceive you. Hence, brand image stems from the brand identity. When the two align, we have a case of a successful brand.
Brand Identity Key Components
Now that you have a somewhat vague idea of what brand identity is, it’s time to clear away the fog by discussing its constituent elements in detail. As mentioned earlier, brand identity is composed of all the assets that give a specific look and feel to a business. Let’s see what those assets are.
Name is perhaps the most intuitive ingredient of any brand’s identity and one of the first things entrepreneurs strive to establish for their businesses. In a perfect world, a brand name is short and memorable and hints at what the business is about.
Overly descriptive brand names can appear bland and generic, so it’s a better bet to go with a suggestive rather than a descriptive name for your company.
The second most obvious and observed brand component is logo design. A brand’s logo is present in almost every interaction with clients; thus, it has quite some leverage over how the brand is perceived.
The most-celebrated logos have been crafted deliberately in order to convey a specific message to the public. If you’re eager to learn the stories of the most iconic logos, have a look at the video below:
Not entirely visual but still very impactful is a company’s tagline. It’s a short line that usually accompanies the logo in advertisements. Among the best-known taglines are “I’m lovin’ it” by McDonald’s and “Think Different” by Apple. The quick and memorable phrases characterize their respective companies brilliantly without elaborating on the specifics — that’s exactly what a great tagline should do.
You can learn more about taglines and how to create yours with this in-depth guide.
Should your logo be blue or green? Color psychology interlaces with branding far too often to be ignored while building a brand strategy. Colors affect our perception of the world, and successful businesses have learned how to turn this to their advantage.
A brand’s color palette usually includes 1-3 primary and few more secondary colors. Those hues should be applied not only to the logo but also to the company’s website, packaging, advertising materials, and so on.
Website and Social Media Graphics
To help customers identify your brand online, it’s crucial to develop a visual style that’s consistent across your website, social media pages, and any other online platform where you have a presence.
Whether it’s by using the same illustration style, animated characters, or similar icons, it’ll help preserve the overall look and feel of your brand, making it recognizable at a glance.
Other Visual Elements
It’d be unfair to disregard the power of typography in shaping a strong brand identity. If you have a wordmark logo, you most likely already know that your choice of typography can make or break a design. The same goes for designing a brand.
If the typefaces and fonts of your choice are random and inconsistent, not only will you lose the opportunity to influence your audience, but you might also damage the brand image you’ve been working so hard to construct.
Shapes are another interesting and underutilized part of brand identity. From your logo to your package design, the shapes you use will impact the impression you leave on people. Round figures, for example, will give a soft and creative air to your designs.
On the contrary, sharp edges and pointed angles will create a sleek, disciplined look that our minds will translate to reliability, stability, and power.
All the visual elements of brand identity should work cohesively to be effective. Similar to a band, whether you play classical music, heavy metal, or K-pop, the instruments should be in tune with one another to produce a harmonious melody. Brand identity is built on the very same principle.
How to Build a Strong Brand Identity
Whether you’re working on laying the foundations of your new business or going through the laborious process of rebranding, this step-by-step guide will help you along the way. Building a well-thought-out identity might seem like an intense process, but it’s perfectly manageable with these five actionable steps.
Set the Foundation
Want to build something that lasts? Start with the foundation. You can’t make up a perfectly sensible identity out of thin air. It has to be sourced from your brand strategy. Brand strategy is the path to your business goals.
But to achieve those goals, you’ll first need to define them.
Here are a few of the most critical questions you need to answer to make sure you fully understand your brand and help customers do the same:
- Why does my brand exist? What does it aim to accomplish? This is the purpose, the big vision behind your brand. Develop a clear mission statement that briefly sums up the aim of your business.
- What is your value proposition? What can customers expect from you?
- If your brand was a person, what would s/he look and sound like? What personality would s/he have?
- What are a few short and long-term goals you want to focus on?
Study the Industry and Competitors
Once you know your brand, you have to get to know its surroundings and competitors as well. Thorough research of your market and competition is unskippable if you want to position your brand smartly.
Run a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to obtain a fuller picture of where your company stands in relation to its competitors, industry, and primary objectives.
Research Your Audience
Your audience can be a great guide to shaping a relatable brand identity. You only need to throw an inquiring look to find valuable cues. Investigate your target audience or that of your direct competitors if you don’t have an existing customer base yet.
Who is your target audience? What are they looking to receive from a company like yours? Pay attention to any patterns in the demographics, psychographics, and buying behavior of your target.
Based on your research, define your brand values, brand’s personality, and create your brand image. Analyzing your audience will give you a much bigger chance of crafting an identity that resonates with them.
Get to Designing
Time to turn all the gathered information into visual designs! Here’s a good starting point — condense all the data into three descriptive words that best characterize your company. Now, try to depict those words through designs.
For example, if your brand’s descriptive words are “positive, youthful, fresh,” yellow is the color the best reflects those qualities. Think of symbols or typefaces that give off the same energy and will look good in yellow. Google Fonts will help you with typography.
You can use an online logo maker to find a suitable design for your logo and tweak it until it looks perfect. Just type in your keyword in the search bar, and you’ll have dozens of options for your brand mark.
Once your logo, color scheme, and typography are set, you have a good base to start designing your website UI, social media graphics, product packages, emails, brand merch, etc.
If you have an established brand and want to rebrand it, analyze the effectiveness of each branded asset. Chances are, you’ll find a few elements that fail to connect with your audience or aren’t congruent with the rest of your brand.
Using the data you have compiled from the previous steps, reroute and refine the components that are underdeveloped. You might find that your logo no longer portrays your brand essence or that you need to change your tone of voice to attract a particular audience.
Due to the fluid nature of brand identity, rebranding is not uncommon even among the best-known companies. eBay, Instagram, Microsoft, Google, Mastercard, and many others have undergone noticeable changes in their appearances on more than one occasion.
Nurture Your Brand Identity
Building a consistent brand identity is similar to growing a plant — you can’t just plant the seed and call it a day; it’s just as crucial to make a consistent effort to sustain and grow it. Lack of consistency in the way you present your brand will undermine your authority rather than consolidate it.
It’s important to have a brand style guide that highlights your key stylistic choices. It’s especially crucial for large teams where everyone has to be on the same page in regards to maintaining brand integrity.
Here’s a sneak peek of Apple’s brand guidelines for the use of the Apple logo. You can find all the guidelines here.
Monitor your brand identity on a regular basis through surveys, polls, social listening, etc. This will allow you to keep an eye on your brand’s reputation and prevent any possible miscommunication.
Influential Brand Identity Examples
One can learn a lot by simply studying successful cases of the very task at hand, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Below are examples of brands that have not only created iconic identities but also greatly influenced their industries and the art of branding.
Imagine it’s a hot, lazy afternoon, and you find yourself needing a refreshing drink to get your energy levels up. Do you tell your friends “I’m going to get a Coke” or “I’m going to get a soft drink”? We bet it’s the former. Wonder why?
It’s because Coca-Cola has smartly and very diligently established an identity that’s synonymous with refreshment, energy, and enjoyment. Subconsciously, we gravitate toward a Coca-Cola bottle when we want to stimulate those feelings. Needless to say, this is a brilliant execution of brand identity building.
Have you ever noticed that we tend to feel a sense of motivation and empowerment after each encounter with Nike? You don’t have to dig very deep to understand why we feel this way. Have a look at the company’s logo and tagline — they’re designed to reinforce speed, confidence, and motivation!
The beloved swoosh, initially valued at $35, has now become a universal symbol of power and athleticism. It’s no coincidence that the company name originates from Greek mythology, where Nike is the goddess of victory. The victorious theme is persistent across every Nike post, product, and commercial.
When it comes to bringing together tech geeks, sports car lovers, and eco-conscious consumers, no one does it better than Tesla. You don’t have to see the logo on Tesla’s electric vehicles to recognize them; the futuristic, sleek design speaks for itself.
Tesla’s revolutionary products and unique approach to marketing have positioned the brand as one of the most innovative, exciting, and forward-looking companies in the auto industry and beyond.
Brand identity is that which separates your business from all the rest, highlighting what’s original and special about you. Knowing your brand’s uniqueness is one thing, but effectively communicating it to the public is another. That’s why you need a clear intention and smart strategy to build your brand’s identity.
At its best, brand identity is always consistent but never rigid. Consistent brand identity fosters brand recognition. Carefully weigh each aspect of your brand and make sure that it all ties together beautifully to create a balanced identity.
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