Having a strong brand is crucial when differentiating yourself from your competitors and it helps steer business decisions. If you’re working to build your brand identity for your business– no matter if it’s the first or fourth time– it can seem overwhelming and difficult to know where to start.
A great first step to creating your brand identity is to understand exactly what a brand is.
“Brand: Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind.”
Your brand identity is your values, your messages, what you promise your customers and the emotions your customers feel when they interact with your business. In short, your brand identity is the personality of the business; and, just like with people, personality matters when you’re trying to make an impression.
As Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Look at Google, for example. Their logo comes up with millions of computer screens a day and what they do (searching the Internet) has become a verb. Regularly, you’ll hear people say something like “I don’t know, maybe we should Google it” and everyone in the room with know what they’re talking about. Their other products also spring to mind– maps, email, browsers and more– as well as the cool, fun exterior they portray.
If tech isn’t your thing, the Olympics also have a strong and consistent brand identity. Those five colorful rings are instantly recognizable around the world and have been in use since 1912. The rings stand for the five inhabited continents of the world coming together to compete in a display of athleticism and you can get that sense of togetherness just from the logo.
While the logo is important to the above brands, it’s more about the personality you get from them as a whole than just the words or pictures on a screen.
The Importance of Brand Identity
A well-developed brand identity can do so much for your business. It can:
- Improve recognition by giving your business a “face”
- Create a sense of trust
- Build brand equity by building future business opportunity
- Develop a strong guiding hand for company decisions
- Generate new customers
- Improve relationships with past and current customers
When you take the time to really dig in and build your brand identity, it can pay off in the short-term and the long term.
Researching Before Creating Brand Identity
Like with most things in life, you need to perform a little bit of research before jumping in head first. Most people don’t make huge decisions without digging in a little bit; you wouldn’t buy a house sight unseen so why would you brand your business without doing any research into the market? You really want to understand who your target customer is first and find out what resonates with them.
There are quite a few tools out there, paid and free, you can use to collect your data.
Google’s Insight Databoard can offer you an interesting insight into how people browse and buy. You can use data collected to see how search ads increase brand awareness or how certain factors may affect purchasing behavior.
Check out Clarita’s MyBestSegments to understand an area’s demographic information and what their lifestyles are like. You can find out which areas will be the most receptive to campaigns and see how area trends have changed.
You can find quite a few more tools based on what you need to understand. At Hummingbird, we use insight calls when building your brand identity to understand who your customers are and what they’ve come to expect from your brand.
You’re also going to need to take a long look at your competition to figure out what makes them unique and how they differentiate themselves. Keeping an eye on your competitors can also teach you what branding techniques your market is receptive to and which ones fall flat. Chances are, Coca-Cola won’t be making the same kind of advertising mistake Pepsi made with Kendall Jenner.
You could also prepare a SWOT, or Strength/Weakness/Opportunity/Threat, analysis during the research phase. While it seems like something out of a university class, having something written in an easy-to-read chart format can make insights into your brand identity easier.
Designing Your Brand Identity
Once you’ve done your research, you can start designing your brand identity.
Start with a brand logo. Make sure it’s strong and can stand by itself because, while the logo isn’t the entirety of the brand, it’s the most easily recognizable piece and it should be on everything you do. From your website to your business cards, stationery to your building front, it’s going to be seen.
You’ll also need to figure out how to present your product or service. Lush, a brand that promotes environmentally friendly and cruelty-free products, packages their products in recyclable black plastic containers or, in some bases, no packaging at all. Their brand is built on a sense of minimalism (minimal ingredients and minimal environmental harm) and their packaging portrays that. Creating a strong visual representation of your business in everything you do will create a consistent image in the mind of your customer and help create an overall familiarity with consumers.
Consistency is key when designing your brand identity. Every step of the way needs to follow a consistent messaging strategy to avoid confusing your consumer. One of the most effective ways to ensure your brand sticks to the branding rules you’ve created is to set up a clear and cohesive brand guide to follow in subsequent branding efforts.
But, don’t forget the most important step. You can’t just turn loose a new brand and expect it to be perfect right out of the gate. You need to cultivate it and monitor it to figure out what is resonating with your customer base and what isn’t; you can use tools like Google Analytics to see where traffic is coming from and identify large increases or decreases in website usage. Remain flexible and change what needs to be changed and your brand will grow into its own.