Somewhere along your branding journey, you’ve probably stumbled across the term “brand identity” and raised an eyebrow or two. Maybe you got a hazy picture of what the term means; maybe you moved on from it altogether.
And, the natural human tendency notwithstanding, we strongly recommend against the second option, as 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.
However, this naturally begs the question:
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 expressed.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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:
Your overall brand strategy should aim to create the experience that’s unique to the people using your product. Once that’s done….
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:
Voila! Your brand identity officially has a personality, a voice, and a face – all of which are ready to tell your brand story.
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:
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?
You’ve nailed down what your identity looks like – now it’s time to start designing! If you’re not sure where to begin, our brand maker tool is here to help. Happy branding!