What is brand identity?
Since the best place to start is always at the beginning, let’s kick things off by tackling the question what exactly is brand identity?
The terms “brand,” “branding,” and “brand identity” are sometimes treated as interchangeable, but that’s not the case.
- Brand is the perception of the company in the eyes of the world.
- Branding involves the marketing practice of actively shaping a distinctive brand.
- Brand identity is the collection of all brand elements that the company creates to portray the right image of itself to the consumer.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Let’s say you are a middle school student. As an awkward pre-adolescent, you want to be perceived as cool and get invited to sit at the best table in the cafeteria. But you can’t just force other people to have that image of you. In order to develop this brand, you need to do some work.
So you make sure you watch the right YouTube channels so you always know the latest meme. Maybe you start working on your free throw. And cultivating on an impression of Mr. Archibald, your science teacher. These actions are the work you’re putting towards develop your desired image; they’re your branding.
Finally, you need to make sure you look the part. You save up your money to buy the new Adidas shoes everyone covets. You get a new haircut. You try out for (and join) the basketball team.
Those tangible elements—the shoes, the haircut, the team membership—that’s brand identity.
Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognizable to your customers. Your audience will associate your brand identity with your product or service, and that identity is what forges the connection between you and your customers, builds customer loyalty, and determines how your customers will perceive your brand.
How to develop a strong brand identity
Know who you are
Before you know what tangible elements you want to make up your brand identity, you need to know who you are as a brand.
Who you are as a brand is made up of a few key elements:
- Your mission (what’s your “why?”)
- Your values (what beliefs drive your company?)
- Your brand personality (if your brand was a person, what kind of personality would they have?)
- Your unique positioning (how do you differentiate yourself from the competition?)
- Your brand voice (if your brand was a person, how would it communicate?)
These elements are what define your brand, and before you start building your brand identity, it’s important you have a clear understanding of each.
If you’re having trouble figuring out who exactly you are, don’t sweat it. Sometimes, all you need is a simple brainstorm to help you get clarity on who you are as a brand.
- Why did we start this business?
- What are beliefs and values that are important to us as a company?
- What do we do better than anyone else?
- What makes us special?
- If we could describe our brand in three words, what would they be?
- What are the three words we would want our customers to use to describe us?
You can also check out this awesome branding workbook from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. While this workbook is geared towards personal branding, the strategies will work for any type of business model.
Once you’ve locked in who you are as a brand, it’s time to build the identity that will bring your brand to life and show who you are to the people who matter most: your customers.