If someone were to ask you to describe your business’s brand identity, would you find it easy? Are you clear about what a brand identity is, let alone that of your business?
You see, many people’s thoughts go straight to a logo when someone uses the term “brand identity”. And it’s true that, once upon a time, a brand was that, a literal symbol burnt into livestock or crafted items to identify the maker.
These days, brand identity is about so much more.
What is a brand identity?
The easiest way to describe a brand identity is to think of it as the personality of your business and the promise this makes to your customers.
Your business’s brand identity comprises everything from its look (the images, colours, fonts, design choices, etc.) to its words (adverts, marketing copy, blogs and so on). It’s also about the customer experience, about how people feel when they come into contact with your company and how they reflect on that experience.
Brand identity encompasses your business values, goals, how your business interacts with the world, the suppliers you choose and their ethics, how you communicate and so on.
If your brand were a person, their identity would be summed up by the clothes they wear, the things they think and feel (and why), how what they say reflects these things, who they associate with, and how they make other people feel.
Behind a strong brand identity
A strong brand identity isn’t just about what potential customers see and hear about your business. Just like a human personality is informed by nature and nurture, different internal and external factors will shape your brand’s personality too.
Two ways to underpin this are with carefully collected insights and a strong brand strategy. Everyone in your organisation should understand why your business has the identity it does – this could include knowing why it was established in the first place, the mission, where the business is heading, why it’s heading in that direction and how it’s going to get there.
Why does a strong brand identity matter?
We live in a competitive world and the marketplace can be crowded. Today’s brands don’t need to sell at a small town cattle auction; they’re often competing with businesses throughout the world.
The challenge is to find the essence of what sets your business apart and distil that into a brand.
In this way, having a strong brand identity helps you stand out from all the competing voices. It enables your potential customers to look at the marketplace and instantly pick your business from the crowd. Better yet, it gives them a clear sense of what they might expect when they reach your metaphorical stall.
Strong brand identities live on
Having a strong brand identity will empower your business. It’s the equivalent of a person being comfortable in their own skin. People respond positively to this – we like to know where we stand; it feels authentic, trustworthy and transparent, all important qualities for today’s savvy shoppers.
By understanding your brand’s personality, you can develop a clear sense of how the brand wants to look and what it feels right saying. It won’t appeal to everyone but it will resonate strongly with your target audience – if you’ve used your brand insights to shape your brand strategy.
And although brands, like people, can evolve and grow, their fundamental characteristics should always remain the same if they’re built on strong foundations.
People should have a sense of looking at a brand and knowing what promises it delivers on. This is the key to build trust, authority and longevity.
Think about some of the biggest and most recognisable brands in the world – Apple, Coca Cola, Stella Artois, Levi Strauss & Co, Marmite, Heinz, Twinings Tea to name just a few. They each have a cohesive look and feel that has endured over decades. You can look at a print ad from 1935, for example, and recognise that it’s from Coca Cola as easily as you can this recent TV ad.
This is intentional, of course. We humans seek out the comfort of things that are familiar to us and that includes the brands we turn to, time and again.
The enduring brands tap into this; they live on, while others rise and fall, exactly because they’re consistent, reliable, maybe even a bit predictable. This doesn’t mean that they’re without creativity, expression or (occasionally) controversy – there’s just a sense that the strongest brands know who they are and don’t shy away from it.
How strong is your brand identity?
When was the last time you reviewed your brand identity? Have you ever asked your customers or suppliers how they perceive your brand? Do you carry out regular audits into your marketing, advertising, social media and more?
Honestly, it can be a goldmine of information!
The big question to ask if whether a new customer would have the same experience of your brand identity however they first came into contact with your business? Or if 10 different people heard about your business in 10 different ways, would they all describe your brand in the same way?
Could someone look at all of your marketing materials, printed and/or online, for example, and recognise that they come from the same place and are sharing the same messages?
If not, you’ll need to explore how to bring things into alignment.
You might be too close to your current branding to review this objectively, especially if you’ve been in the business since its early days. Consider reaching out to people in your target market, including past, current and potential customers, as well as suppliers and other stakeholders.
Ask them for their insights to help sculpt and refine your brand identity. They can help you to find your brand’s story, the customer journey, inconsistencies in your brand look and feel, customer service issues, opportunities for growth, and so much more.
Working with an external branding agency like Iconic can also pay dividends because the agency is one step removed from your brand and can get to know it without prejudice. Sometimes it takes someone objective to pinpoint problems but also to shine a light on what makes us special – and the same is true for your business.
Need help with your brand insights, strategy, design or communications? We’d love to have a chat.< Back to Blog