Ever heard of Lego, Disney, Kellogg’s? Sure you have. These words have actually become “household words” meaning their name is almost a noun. What they do and what their product is about is tightly linked and together they create a clear image, understanding and trust to the consumer. This is the strength of ”brand identity”. And it is critical in successful marketing.
Brand identity is often tricky to define and commonly misunderstood. It’s so much more than a logo. When it’s done right, it is very effective and this image will help your company or product rise above the noise and set yourself apart. It will give you an advantage, especially over competitors. But when it’s done wrong it can really be critical.
Certainly, not all business owners are interested in brand identity. Sometimes it’s because it is not clear or understandable, and we all have different business backgrounds, and some don’t know the importance of branding. Some business owners just want to launch their company, sell products and get moving. But like with anything, if you don’t have a good foundation, the house can easily fall apart.
Just think about McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Starbucks or Apple. Think about Nike and the iconic swoosh and their recognizable typeface. Think about Facebook and how they have owned that blue shade, and you can see it across all of their communications and everything the brand does. These companies have a concrete and clear identity that engages people emotionally.
Let me ask you this. Does your company or product stand out? Does it make an impact? Is it memorable? What feelings are you giving your customers?
The fact is, with a good brand identity, you will sell more, attract more and you will have a much better chance for longevity.
So, let’s break this down…
Branding is many different things, but brand identity is the foundation that the company or the product is built on. It’s how a business wants to be perceived by consumers. And obviously, if the company doesn’t know, or has not yet figured this out, it’s very easy for consumers to be just as confused, which is never good.
Brand image on the other hand is how consumers actually perceive the brand. It’s how it’s viewed in the marketplace. Is it an authority, trustworthy, reliable? Ideally, brand image will match the brand identity, but that’s not always the case.
Brand identity is colors, typography, patterns, symbols, the logo, tagline, tone of voice, the brand language and style of photography or illustrations. Scents can be a part of it as well as sounds and music. Together it gives you the feel and vibe of the company or the product. It can evoke feelings, mostly by initially engaging the senses. It gives you an experience and every element should support the overall message and business goals.
Most companies have a logo, and usually they have some colors, but the rest is often lacking. This is typical of startups or medium-sized companies. But with more effort in the early stages, effort to get this right, you’ll be able to dominate your space and stand out from the crowd.
Companies that are consistent with brand identity, and good at expressing their uniqueness over time, can really forge deep emotional connections and create fan audiences. People will want to get behind them, and it can also change how employees behave every day. It builds recognition, association and loyalty.
So how can you start doing the same thing?
First, before you design the visual guidelines, commit to having a better understanding of your niche, your positioning and your company’s strategy and business goals. If you don’t have this clear, work at figuring this out. Go through your vision, mission and values.
You can do research and interviews in the marketplace. Who is your target market and how can you reach and inspire this group? What’s the tone of voice? And what’s your claim, tagline or message?
Once established, move on to getting a team of designers to help you design the visual guidelines to build a good foundation. The logo, color palette, typography, patterns, style of photography and so on. Typically, the bigger the budget, the better the end result will be. Obviously, with a higher budget, you can explore different directions and variations before you narrow it down to a final design manual.
If you’re a startup and low on funds, you’ll come a long way with just a great logo, a color palette and a well thought out set of fonts. However, just keep in mind the importance of the brand identity, and how crucial it is for the success in building your company and acquiring customers. It will play a huge role if your brand thrives … or merely stumbles along.
While your designers are working on the visual and sensory guidelines, you can go further. What are the first visual impressions visitors receive upon entering the place of business? Should you incorporate a specific scent in the reception area? Or maybe add some unique sounds or background music? You can polish the brand language and the editorial guidelines.
What follows after we have developed our brand identity?
Use the visual and editorial guidelines and integrate them across everything you communicate; everything you do in all mediums. Remember, consistency is key. Make sure your visuals and marketing activities communicates the personality and the value of the company/product. Stand out and convey a powerful promise. Demonstrate the difference and your uniqueness.
Remember, you can use brand identity for your business, but also for your own personal brand. Good luck and let me know how it goes.
Let’s move forward…
– Casper Stang