Just like your personal identity, your brand identity makes you who you are. It differentiates you from the crowd and gives you a unique outlook; personality and design speak for themselves.
Although a key factor, a brand is not defined by its logo. A brand is a rather emotional and experiential concept. Once set, it promises what your brand is and what it will deliver to the customers as well as the employees. You can dive deeper to learn everything about what is branding here.
What Is Brand Identity and How Is It Different From Brand Image?
Brand identity refers to the elements of a brand that together form the identity of the brand in the minds of the consumers and differentiates it from its competitors.
Let’s get this straight. Many believe they understand what brand identity truly means, whereas most confuse it with ‘brand image’.
The difference between brand image and brand identity lies in the point of view. If it’s the consumer’s opinion about the brand based on their experience, judgements then it is referred to as brand image. Similarly, if we are talking about the collective efforts taken by a brand to convey a message and shape a consumer’s opinion, it is called a brand identity.
A brand identity constitutes tangible brand elements. It could be the logo, image, typography, packaging, tone, etc. While it is easier to control and alter from your end, a brand image roots from your customer’s end; Thus, it is difficult to control. What companies can do is use brand identity as a means to frame the desired brand image.
Why is brand identity important?
Your brand’s identity reflects the face and personality of your brand. The stronger your brand identity, the stronger people can recall and connect with your brand.
- Benefits with Price Premium– A strong brand identity creates a set of customers prepared to spend more.
- Helps with brand differentiation– A unique brand identity helps cut through the noise and carve a market share for you.
- Perception of quality– A strong brand identity can influence the customer’s perception on quality.
- Brand recall and loyalty– A memorable brand identity has the power to induce recall. Remember Nokia’s ringtone? McDonald’s golden arches? The stronger the recall , the better the loyalty towards the brand.
- Builds brand trust– A strong brand indicates a strong leadership. It enhances brand reliability and helps build trust from the customers.
What makes a brand identity strong and memorable?
Unique– A unique brand identity captures attention. Mailchimp is a good example of how a unique brand identity can set your brand apart and stick with your customers.
Scalable – The brand identity should be flexible to evolve with the brand. Strong brand identities are consistent. They retain the same meaning and essence on digital as well as physical brand communications. Remember that scalability means retaining consistency along with the brand evolution.
Easy to remember– Take Nike’s swoosh for example. The logo is simple yet powerful. Easy to remember and communicates the brand message as well. It is also easy to remember and recall.
Now that you know about the power of having a unique brand identity, lets get down to building one.
Below we discuss a 6 step strategy to develop a unique brand identity that will stick with your customers forever.
How to develop a unique brand identity?
- Establish a clear brand purpose
- Define your target audience
- Create your brand’s visual identity.
- Develop and nurture a brand voice
- Create a brand style guide.
- Be consistent with your brand identity.
1. Establish a clear brand purpose
Okay, so you’ve got a brand. Are you driven by a purpose? Even so, have you clearly labelled the purpose?
One of the most effective methods is to think inside-out. What it means is to start from the ‘why’ and not the ‘what. This can be done using the concept of ‘The Golden Circle’ as coined by Simon Sinek.
According to Simon Sinek, most brands know what they are doing but only a few know why they are doing it.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it” –Simon Sinek.
As a founder, you might have your vision and mission set in your mind, but that seldom reaches your customers as intended through your communication and marketing efforts.
Sometimes, when you are too close to your business, you are so fascinated by the idea that you fail to completely understand how the brand is perceived from the customer’s point of view.
For your customers, you are just another brand. So, what you need to do is over-simplify the message for the customers to comprehend.
This is where a brand strategy comes in. A brand strategy helps align your intended message with what is actually communicated out to your customers. It is a comprehensive study of the market, the target audience, and an analysis of your competitors.
Marketing and branding agencies like us help companies realise and optimize the strength of their brands effectively and communicate messages with an authentic flair.
Your brand’s purpose fuels your brand by justifying pursuit. Once your purpose is laid out clearly, it’s time to build on it.
How to pin down on your Brand Personality?
Brand personality shapes the foundation of your voice, tone and marketing efforts. To determine your brand personality ask yourself: If your brand were a person, what would they be like? What kind of lingo would they use? Which popular personality can they be associated with?
Once you answer these, you’ll have a personality for your brand in itself. Just like human beings, your brand should reflect its personality in every marketing effort and message. You can get a comprehensive idea about building a brand personality here.
How to Set your Positioning game right?
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read Coco-Cola?- ‘Happiness’? How about Volvo? -‘Safety’? This is the power of positioning. Coco-Cola sells happiness and Volvo positions itself to have the ‘world’s safest car’- they own a word in the minds of the customers.
Positioning is all about finding a specific spot in the minds of the customer. It is not about
creating something new and different but manipulating what’s already in the customer’s mind.
2. Define your target audience
Your brand needs to provide for a specific set of audiences. Do not go about saying your products/services are for everyone. Narrow down on a particular target group and understand who they are and why they should care about you.
Look at your current customer base, check out your competitor’s customers and analyze your product/service offerings with the demographic, psychographic and behavioral characteristics. Clearly define your target market and target audience to best cater to their needs.
One approach is to build your customer personas to better understand your target audience and serve personalized content that caters to them aptly.
To identify your target audience, you need to start by asking the right questions. You may want to ask questions such as- Who are my customers? Where do they hang out? What attracts them? What solution are they seeking? What do they do? How can I solve that? and so on.
Now, while building an identity for your brand, keep in mind, the ultimate receiver is your customer. So, understand what your audience wants and tailor your communications to align with their exact needs.
3. Create your brand’s visual identity
Visual elements form an integral part of building a brand’s identity. It is what brings your brand to life and makes communicating messages fun and effective.
Start with your logo– the prime identity of your brand!
If you already have a logo, audit it. If not, start by creating a logo that is simple, scalable and memorable.
Although an element, it is one of the key ones. Your brand logo is practically the first thing your customers would see- It serves as your brand’s identity. It is found everywhere, from your website, packaging, brochures to online advertisements. Hence, your logo should entail a strong visual representation of who you are and also look cohesive.
Remember: sometimes less is more when it comes to logos. Take Nike’s swoosh, for example; it is a simple yet, a great logo that can be easily used in multiple forms without losing its essence.
Color palette– the defining aspect of your brand identity
Next up is the color palette.
Your color palette and logo go hand-in-hand. Colors have an innate ability to evoke emotions, and this makes them a vital element to adapt strategically.
What do you associate the color red with? Does green color reflect the environment? Do you associate black with style and premium?
Every color holds with it a psychological tie. Adopting the right colors can make a world of difference to your brand’s identity. If you fail to pay enough attention to the branding colors and logo colors, your audience is bound to perceive your brand differently, which you do not intend for.
Selecting a color palette is essential to have uniformity in your visual identity. This helps the customers for quick brand recall and brand association. You can start by understanding color psychology.
Make sure to pick one primary color and other secondary colors that compliment it. Keep the hex codes and Pantone numbers handy for future references to maintain consistency.
Check out and analyse what other players in your market are doing. Is there a market standard? A norm? Have you noticed how most of the MNCs have a blue logo? It is because blue represents loyalty and trust. Something that most technology and consumer goods companies want to amplify.
Typography- the compliment your brand content needs
Choose typography that speaks to your customers fluidly across all channels. Fix a typeface as well.
The typography you use in your marketing and communication efforts is just as important as your logo or colors to build a strong brand identity.
Each typography speaks its own tone and voice. It is why horror movies use bleeding typography while magazines use serifs fonts. It represents the tone and values of your brand, just like how colors represent feelings and emotions. You may even consider customizing fonts specific to your brand elements. Developing custom fonts helps you gain authority and cultivate a unique brand identity.
Select fonts that are legible. Do not try to fancy it at the cost of readability. You don’t want your customers to squint their eyes to read your message.
Tip: Try mixing up font styles
Why stick to one font style when you can choose to play with multiple fonts?
There’s no restriction on sticking with one font or font style throughout. As long as it is clean, readable and reflects your brand’s identity, you are good to go.
Generally, it’s a good practice to mix not more than two fonts. You can try to mix things up by using contrasting fonts (such as serif and san serif) to bring an exciting vibe to your brand’s identity.
Alignment is another area you can focus upon. People tend to read things from left to right. They also tend to read the bolder, brighter texts first.
4. Develop and nurture a brand voice
What do you mean by a brand voice?
Think of it this way, when three friends meet, they greet each other by- ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’, ‘Hey!’- they all mean the same thing, yet, what differentiates them is the voice. This, in turn, stems from their individual personalities.
Like humans, brands need to follow an authentic, consistent tone of voice across all their marketing and communication mediums. It compliments all your design efforts and ultimately builds strong brand identity.
Begin working on your brand voice. Do you want to keep it quirky and humorous? Would you like it to be friendly and welcoming? Or would you rather have Gucci’s tongue-in-cheek tone of voice?
This will be the tone of voice you’ll be using to interact with your target audience. Be it through emails. Social media content, tweets and responses to feedback, packaging messages and even your website copy.
Have a look at how Starbucks nurtures a brand voice. Starbucks uses both functional and expressive voice which is consistently visible throughout their different channels of communication.
When the voice is consistent, it sticks with your audience making it memorable and increases brand recall.
Build an emotional connection with your customers to build a memorable brand identity
People love meaningful conversations that connect on an emotional and personal level. Here’s where storytelling comes in. Stories are engaging and they keep the audience hooked to a thread of ideas towards a clear motive/action.
A strong brand identity harbors a strong story. The need to tell a good, compelling story is critical to building a lasting relationship with your audience on a deeper level.
You can utilise paid ads and social media to interact with your audience directly. Social media has grown to become a virtual world in itself. As a brand, you can start by responding to customer feedback, mentions and repost user-generated content to show how much you value your customers. You can start by addressing your customers with their names to connect on a personal level.
5. Create a brand style guide.
A brand style guide is a strategically curated document that outlines your design assets and guides when, where and how to use them. It also guides your design dos and don’ts and ensures that your future designs and communications align with your brand identity.
Consistency is key for any brand. When uncertain about what and how to communicate, your brand style guide acts as a saviour.
Be it your website, social media page, packaging or emails, your brand personality, voice, and design should be aligned. You do not want to confuse your customers and lose trust and credibility.
So, make sure to create a brand style guide that covers all the different elements of your brand identity and make sure to always stick to it. This way you’ll be able to run wild with your creativity yet stay brand compliant.
If you are unsure how to go about creating a style guide, this article will help you.
6. Be consistent with your brand identity
Make use of the brand style guide and follow the design elements picked for your brand throughout all mediums of your brand communication.
Be consistent, not rigid. Give room for flexibility.
As important as it is to stick to your rule book (the style guide), you should avoid replicating the same design elements over and over again. Visuals should be attractive and people are always looking for a better version of something, all the time.
Flexibility allows you to stay relevant in the market and keep up with the fast-moving trends. You can also deploy liberty in designing for your ad campaigns to modernize and personalize them.
A good example is that of Google dots. It is not just consistent with the brand identity (four colors) but is also creative and relevant.
As far as you stay within the circumference of the brand identity developed, everything is good to go- just be consistent, even with the changes that you adopt.
Check out how Google evolved a new brand identity altogether.
To sum it up,
Your brand identity is what sets you apart from every other Tom, Dick and Harry in the marketplace. In order to give yourself a particular label, you need to work consistently towards it. Right from your brand name, logo, colors, fonts and even target audience, you are ought to set all of them right. As you would have already understood from the reading, design can be a game-changer.
So put on your designer cap and start with it. Nail one element at a time and comprehensively, you’ll be able to build a strong brand identity that will eventually reflect your brand’s purpose and remain memorable in the customer’s minds.