Why can Apple charge almost $2000 for an iPhone with the same features as an Android that costs half the price? How did McDonald’s ‘golden arches’ become the most recognizable symbol in the world? It all comes down to the power of brand. If you want your small business to be a success, you need to invest time into building a strong brand identity.
To help you do this, we’ve put together this article that will both give you the basics of why brand identity is important, and show you how to build a brand identity that will help your business thrive over time.
What Is Brand Identity?
A brand is a promise from your business to your customers. Delivering on this promise is how you build customer loyalty.
Everything from the design of your logo, the look and feel of your website, the marketing materials you invest in, and the tone of voice you choose when communicating with customers, work together to build your brand identity. This shows your customers who you are and sets an expectation for the consumer of the experience your business will provide.
Take a brand like Netflix for example. This company has a strong brand identity that is instantly recognizable and lends itself to the experience of the user. The colors and design used for this brand is simple just like the platform itself and this conveys the ease of use the product provides. Netflix’s social media channels are engaging and entertaining. Their tone of voice is playful and fun to reflect the way the company wants the user to feel when using their platform.
Brand identity is often confused with brand image. Brand image is the perception of your brand by your consumer. In other words, what they think when they hear your brand name. This relates to your reputation. Brand identity is how you hope the consumer perceives your brand. Brand identity drives the personality of your business.
Why Does Brand Identity Matter?
Your brand identity is used to send a message to customers about your mission, values, standards of customer service, and the quality of your product. The success of a company goes hand in hand with the success of their brand. Brand Identity is all about consistency. Every element of your brand should be working to reinforce your brand identity and persona. A really strong brand is instantly recognisable and therefore top of mind for consumers.
Your brand identity should set guidelines for the business to follow to make sure the expectations of your customers are met. When you are making decisions about your business, your brand identity should always be top of mind.
How to Build a Memorable Brand Identity
Building a brand is an ongoing process. It takes more than just a couple of hours brainstorming to come up with a truly memorable brand identity. In fact a good brand is always evolving so it can continue to appeal to the consumer. If you’re just getting started with building your business, thinking about your brand can be a little overwhelming. We’ve put together some steps that will help you start to formulate the bases of your brand identity. While you’re making your way through the steps, try to relax and have fun with it.
Nail Down Your “Why”
Everyone who has any experience in branding will tell you how important it is for a business to understand their ‘why’. Your ‘why’ is the reason you started this business in the first place. You didn’t just wake up one day and say, “today I feel like starting a business.” Something much deeper led you to that decision. To find your why, start by writing down a mission statement. This will help you identify some of your brand’s core values. When you find your ‘why’ this should underline everything your business does.
Here is a list of questions that can help you nail down the ‘why’ of your brand identity:
- Why did I start this business?
- What is my business’s purpose?
- What is my cause and belief?
- What beliefs and core values do I feel are most important to this company, industry, and our customers?
- What makes this business unique?
- What descriptors would a customer use to describe your business’s brand and product?
Your brand should encapsulate the answers to these questions. It is important that you create your brand from the inside out, not outside in. This is why you start with the ‘why’, and let that guide your brand identity. As your business continues to grow, get in the habit of thinking about your why all the time.
Research Your Competition
When you start working on developing your brand strategy, it helps to do some research on the competition. Find some businesses that are similar to yours and look into how they are presenting their brand and what that says about them as a company. Start by examining their visual brand choices like logo design and color scheme. Try to see if your competitors have a public mission statement that outlines their core values. Think about how these values are being expressed to the customer through brand choices.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when your conducting your competitive research:
- What are my competitors doing well?
- What makes my competitors memorable?
- What are the most memorable components of their brand?
- What color schemes and design elements are they using?
- Are the colors and design elements used as a driving force in their memorable impact? Why?
- How is my business unique from the competition?
- How can I implement similar successful design elements in a unique way?
Give Your Brand a Personality
Adding character to your brand identity takes your business to the next level and makes it relatable and engaging for the customer. Customers will want to be loyal to your business, if they feel like it says something about their own personality.
Brand personality is made up of human characteristics that you apply to your business’s brand. This helps to humanize your business.
Here are some examples of brand personality traits:
- E.g., Kindness, thoughtfulness, centered on values
- E.g., Carefree, young, energetic, spirited
- E.g., Successful, accomplished, influential
- E.g., Elegant, prestigious, perhaps pretentious
- E.g., Rough, outdoorsy, athletic
You want to think about your target audience when developing a brand personality. How would your customers describe themselves? How would they like others to see them? By considering these things you’ll be able to build a brand personality that matches your target consumer market and makes them want to engage with your company.
Design Your Brand’s Look
Once you’ve got your mission statement and core values down, you’ve done some competitive analysis and you’ve decided on a brand personality, it’s time to look at design.
Design brings together tangible elements to visually deliver your brand identity to your target market. So you know what your brand is, but how can you show that visually? Don’t underestimate how powerful design is in influencing how consumers see your business. When you are considering your brand’s design, start with your logo and work out from there. Make sure your other marketing materials and website compliment the design choices you’ve made when building your logo.
Here are the core elements of developing your brand design:
Typography is a very important part of building your brand design and logo. Think about a brand you really like. What does this brand’s choice of typography say about the business? The four major types of typography are:
- Serif – This font usually conveys traditional and professional
- Sans serif – This font is very crisp and modern
- Script – This font is usually decorative and formal. It conveys ‘sophistication and femininity’
- Display – This font can vary wildly in design and style. It can be very unique and is usually used for logos.
There are no hard and fast rules about what a font says about your brand. You should think about how they make you, and your customers feel.
Different colors spark different emotions. Take the time to select a color palette that perfectly fits the brand personality you are trying to convey. For example, red is often used to convey excitement. Black and green are used to convey sophistication. Blue or yellow can be perceived as warm and welcoming. Of course selecting a color palette isn’t as simple as choosing a primary color like ‘red’ or ‘blue’. These colors come in many different shades which will impact the effect they have on your brand identity. You might want something really bright, bold and exciting, or maybe you want something more muted for a calm and relaxed feel.
Shape and form
Shape and form is particularly relevant when designing a logo. Like with type and color, different shapes and forms convey different emotions.
Here are some examples of shapes and forms you might consider and what they typically convey:
- Round design elements (circles, ovals)
Round shapes are warm and inviting. This can be viewed as feminine and attract audiences with a feminized personality.
- Straight edge shapes (squares, rectangles)
This can convey stability, effectiveness, trustworthiness, credibility.
- Straight lines
Vertical lines can convey masculinity. Horizontal lines can convey mellowness.
Use your decided design elements to create your logo.
Use your chosen brand elements to put together a logo. Before you do this you need to come up with a name for your business. Make sure you’re really happy with the name, and you’ve tested it on others before you get to work on the logo.
When you are considering logo options consider if it is doing the following:
- Communicate who you are
- Communicate your business’s values
- Be visually pleasing
- Be visually compelling
- Be classic and long-lasting
- Fit in with your industry
- Be notable
Create a Style Guide
As you are making decisions about your brand make sure you are keeping a detailed record about the choices you’ve made and why you’ve made them. This will form the basis of your style guide. Every strong brand has a style guide to ensure consistency.
A style guide will make sure your entire business, including owners, managers, investors and employees are using the same design elements for anything related to the business. You want to provide detail in your style guide to make sure all the design elements are being used consistently and correctly to uphold the brand personality. If for example, you want to hire someone to build you a website, a style guide will make it easy for the designer to build something that matches your brand.
Your style guide will not just outline design choices. It should also guide things like grammar, tone, word usage (what to say and what not to say) and how and when to use the logo.
The basic style guide should include the following elements:
- Style (AP, APA, etc.)
- Formatting (how, if, and when to use elements like bullets, lists, quotes, etc.)
- Tone and voice
- Select words that are in alignment with specific personality traits you are trying to capture.
- Format (infographics, video, audio, etc.)
- Logo (when to use it, how to use it)
- Typography (fonts and usage of fonts in headings, subheadings, paragraphs, etc.)
Apply Your Style Guide to Your Marketing Tactics
Now that you have a style guide, make sure you’re putting it to good use. Before you order business cards, build a website or select product packaging, consult your style guide to make sure your choices are ‘on brand’.
Applying Brand to You Website
A website acts as your digital store froni. This is where customers will come to get more information about your business or in the case of an ecommerce business, where they come to make a purchase. You want to make sure you create a good user experience every time to encourage them to keep coming back.
Remember to keep your brand in mind when designing the layout of your website. If your brand is exciting and bold, you might want to use vibrant splashes of colour and plenty of engaging imagery. If you are going for something more sophisticated, you’ll want to select a more streamlined and minimalistic layout. Like the design, the words of your website should also reflect a brand personality. Do you want to come across as traditional and professional? You might choose to use more formal language. If your brand is more playful and laidback, you might be more conversational and include the use of slang and puns.
Applying your brand to business cards
Business cards are not as popular as they once were but they are still surprisingly effective depending on the industry you work in. Your business card should be designed using the elements described in the style guide. The focus of the business card should be your logo. You can include a phone number and email but the most important element is your web address.
Applying your brand to social media
Social media is a great place to really show off your brand and demonstrate to your target market what your business is all about. Use imagery and language that work to further establish your brand personality.
Applying brand to emails
Any communication being sent from your business to customers should reflect your brand. Make sure the language you use in emails is consistent with your brand personality. If you are sending out bulk marketing emails, make sure they are painting your business in a good light and continuing to draw in and content with customers, not simply filling their inbox with spam.
Monitor Your Brand
While you want to be consistent with your brand, it is ok if it evolves over time. You want to continue to check in and make sure your brand identity is connecting with your target audience. Monitor your social media engagement to gather data such as comments, hashtags, tags and negative or positive replies to marketing content.
If you find your style guide isn’t connecting with your target audience, you may need a rebrand.
Before you go ahead and start building your brand again from scratch. Make sure you are answering the following questions.
- Why is what you’re currently doing isn’t working.
- What specific goals do I want to achieve with this rebrand L
- Do I need to revisit my ‘why’ and build a new mission statement based on this reassessment
- How will I go about reintroducing myself to my network and customers with this new direction.
- Am I targeting the wrong consumers? Am I attracting a different demographic then I had originally intended. How can I appeal to this new demographic.
Now that this article has given you the foundations of creating a strong brand identity, it’s time to get creative!