Powerful brand identities are the core component of any successful business.
Creating a strong brand identity is what turns your company from a soulless idea into a living, breathing entity, and it should be THE focus of your branding efforts.
In this guide, we will cover all of the elements of crafting a strong brand identity. If you’re ready to jump into action, you can skip down to the section labeled “How to create a strong brand identity.”
For a little background on brand identity, continue reading!
What is brand identity?
A brand identity is essentially the face your brand shows to the world. It is the sole, consistent message of your company that is communicated over and over again, through a series of visual elements and consistent language.
In other words, your brand identity is the way your brand – with its core values and mission – is both expressed by you and perceived by others.
Think about your own identity: How do you express yourself?
Perhaps you dress head to toe in black, every day. You prefer wearing clean lines and button-down shirts, or maybe you’re a pattern kind of guy. An extra earring on your cartilage. Well-placed tattoos, or subtle highlights in your hair.
The common denominator here is that personal self-expression often stems from cultivated visual representations – ones that separates you from other people. This also holds true for establishing a brand identity; you portray an image of your company that distinguishes your brand from competitors’.
Looks aren’t everything, though – the way people speak also identifies them as unique. Anyone can tell you which character from “Friends” would likely be overheard saying “How you doin?” or which renowned supermodel is all about the “smize.” All of these aspects contribute to people’s understanding of who you are – and the same goes for your brand.
Why focus on brand identity - what is its purpose?
Your brand identity is the point at which you and your customers meet. It’s what makes your customers recognize you instantly, and what makes them become loyal.
The whole point of your branding efforts is to create a specific image in your customers’ minds when they think of your brand. How your company is perceived is everything, and you engineer the perception you want your customers to have through the brand identity you build.
Also, creating a brand identity sets guidelines for your company itself; it informs the content you produce, the design you use – even the type of events you run.
With that said – let’s get to it!
Creating a brand identity
Step 1: Do an internal/external audit.
Before you create an identity that will connect with an audience, you need to understand two things: Who you are, and who your audience is. Seems logical, right?
To this end, answer the following questions:
- Who are your desired customers? What are their demographics?
- What kind of language does your target audience use?
- What are your customers’ pain points?
- How do your customers currently perceive your brand?
- Which other brands do your customers like?
- What are the values that separate you from other companies? Your mission statement?
- What is your brand voice? (What does it sound like when it “speaks”?)
- What value do you bring to your would-be customers?
These questions don’t only have to be answered through introspection. Create surveys. Convene focus groups. Analyze competitors. Use any resources available to find out who your customers are, what makes them tick, and how they want to be spoken to.
Then, assess your own strengths and weaknesses. If you have trouble pinning down your own answers to the above questions (i.e. the internal part of the audit), try creating a Mind Map – a technique that helps you get all your ideas on paper in an organized way.
Put the main idea of your business in the center of the page, and then draw “roads” that lead outward into other ideas, like aspects of the voice that you envision for your brand or a goal you want your business to achieve. Write down these ideas as they come to you; by the end of this brainstorming session, you’ll have a clearer picture of what your brand stands for and how to bring your values to fruition.
Step 2: Determine your brand personality.
Another important branding buzzword, your “brand personality” is the human element of your brand identity.
Where your brand identity includes the complete perception others have of your brand, your brand personality is an important aspect that helps to cultivate said perception.
The easiest way to conceive of your brand personality is by picturing a real-life person representing your brand. What does he/she look like? Sound like? How does the spokesperson communicate with others? Are they clever and witty? Serious and professional? You may have touched on these questions in Step 1, but now is the time to flesh it out (pun intended).
Once the image of your brand’s personality is clear to you, write it down. To be effective, your brand personality needs to be consistent – giving off the same tone and message across all forms of marketing communication.
Step 3: Build your brand strategy.
This is the “how” part of your brand identity. How are you going to share your brand story?
Again, consistency is crucial in developing a brand identity that your customers will connect with. For this reason, it’s time to make a plan for executing the ideas you came up with in the brainstorming of the above two steps. Specifically, determine:
- Brand guidelines. These are the rules your company will refer to when representing yourselves across channels, in order to create an emotional connection with your audience, and later, brand recognition. They include a style guide, company mission, and accepted imagery.
- The channels that are best for your branding efforts. Does your audience flock to one specific social media network? At which events should your brand be seen to position yourselves as thought leaders?
- Content strategy. This refers to the kinds of content your company will be creating, as well as the acceptable brand voice or language that is to be used across blogs, marketing materials, etc.
Your overall brand strategy should aim to create the experience that’s unique to the people using your product. Once that’s done….
Step 4: Get creative.
Time to bring it all together!
Create the visual elements of your brand according to the brand strategy you’ve outlined above. When you’re designing, remember that all of the below elements need to interact seamlessly – as if they were born together.
Focus on the following:
- Logo – Your logo isn’t everything, but it is the sole visual representation of your brand identity that will remind customers of who you are. In other words, a logo is the customer’s first step inside the company door.
- Tagline – This is a catchphrase that accompanies your logo and tells your audience something about what your company does.
- Typography – These are the fonts that tell your brand story. You’ll likely need to choose several fonts that complement each other; try to pair fonts that are distinct enough that your audience can differentiate between them, but that still portray the same mood.
- Color Palette – The colors you choose for your brand will have different psychological effects on your audience, and you want this to work in your favor. Think about the emotions you feel when looking at different colors, and try using color combinations that invoke the emotions you want associated with your brand.
- Shapes – Are you all about crisp, straight lines, or fun, round edges?
Voila! Your brand identity officially has a personality, a voice, and a face – all of which are ready to tell your brand story.
Measuring Brand Identity Effectiveness
Now that your brand identity has taken full form, you’re ready to send it out into the wild.
However, you may find over time that you’re unsure if your brand strategy is panning out, or if the voice you’ve chosen is really the right one for your message.
Analysis is always key to any strategy, and it’s important to measure the success of your branding efforts while your brand is still young, so that you can tweak your strategy if necessary. For this reason, you can always investigate the following:
- Are you converting new customers? Retaining loyal ones?
- What kinds of conversations are generated around your brand?
- Has your company followed the brand style guide?
- Which posts of yours had good reach? Was there a specific campaign that resonated with your followers?
As you answer these questions, make adjustments as needed – but try to stay as consistent as possible, and of course, on-message. After all, you wouldn’t change your entire identity in a day, right?
Over to You
You’ve nailed down what your identity looks like – now it’s time to learn about design! We recommend starting with Design 101: Color Theory, where you will learn all the basics about colors and how they impact your brand.
If you want a little more information before you begin designing, check out the next post in the Academy, Creating a Brand Personality Your Audience Will Love. Happy branding!