“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” said Jeff Bezos. Now, if you still think your logo is your brand identity, you’re doing something wrong.
Naming your brand and slapping it on every platform, every product is not brand identity. It’s a lot more than that.
Brand identity is not something that you can develop overnight.
Your brand identity is created by brainstorming, building a strong creative team, a thorough understanding of what your ‘brand’ is, and then, creating strategies that circle those observations. Brand identity should be approached with an open mind.
It is this brand identity that will help you outshine others in the market. Don’t believe me? Buckle up and religiously follow this guide. Then, use an SEO competitor analysis tool to see how much your brand has improved and grown as compared to those in the competition with you. You’ll be left stunned.
Brand identity helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors. How?
It’s not just selecting a color palette or creating a logo. It’s also about your brand positioning, your communication, and the customer experience. It is all of these combined that help you create an identity different from others in the crowd.
Another thing that brand identity narrates is the trust of consumers in your brand.
Around 86% of consumers believe that authenticity is one of the major factors for their perception of the brand. When brands seem more authentic, they are believed to think about more than just profits. This helps build trust among consumers.
Building a powerful brand identity might seem like a tiresome task, but when done right, it is not as intimidating. Not sure? Let me walk you through it.
About Brand Identity
Before we can discuss what is included in brand identity or the steps that are needed to be followed, let us first get the gist of what it is actually.
A brand identity is everything about your brand. It is your vision, your brand values, the methods you use to communicate about your products, and the feeling you want to induce in your customers when they hear your brand name. It is nothing but the personality of your brand.
It is also the visual appearance and the trademark.
Take Coca-Cola, for example. A bright red logo, a cool summer drink, a uniquely shaped bottle, and the holiday season are what strikes an individual’s mind when they hear coca-cola. It’s not just another beverage.
This brand has managed to remain consistent in its brand identity efforts for the past 130 years. Its red logo denotes power, excitement, and energy. In all the advertisements, you will only find individuals smiling. For Coca-Cola, it all comes to individuals enjoying the moment.
Coca-Cola has also been setting content marketing trends recently. “Share A Coke” is one of the leading campaigns by Coca-Cola.
This is where establishing a brand identity can take you.
Brand Identity Checklist
Okay, now we know what brand identity is. But where do we use it? What all is included in it?
From packaging, ads, social media, proposals, visiting cards to your website, menu cards, interiors of your offline business, everything has your brand identity elements. This helps improve your brand value. It also makes it easier for your consumers to spot your product from afar.
Here’s a checklist for you to quickly understand what is included in your brand identity.
- Color Palette
- Logo Usage
- Illustration Designs
- Design Systems
- Interactive Elements
- Web Design
- App Design
Steps To Building A Brand Identity
Building a brand identity requires time and effort, no doubt. Yet, it doesn’t have to be a tiresome or intimidating task. Here are the steps that you should be taking to build a brand identity. I’ve tried to simplify them as much as possible for you to easily get a hint of what you are required to do.
Step #1: Research, research, and more research
Research is the focal point of every project that you are starting from scratch. For brand identity, there are three areas that you should be covering including your target audience, your value proposition, and your competition in the market.
We all know how different human beings are. What might be attractive for one, might not even be minutely enticing for the other. This can be because of differences in age group, gender, or just general personality. Yet, you’ll always find a group within your industry that has similar tastes and preferences.
That’s your target audience. Identify, analyze, and understand as much as you can about your target audience. It will help you learn about their expectations from your brand. You can use that as a basis to make your audience love your brand.
The business market is saturated (somewhat). You’ll find plenty of others selling the same product as yours. You need to identify key features or factors that make you different. Makes you unique. You need to identify what can you offer to your prospects that others have failed to.
This proposition is what will help direct your messaging and make you extraordinary and successful as a brand.
Your competition is among the important parts of the market that you should definitely research. Identify their branding techniques. Analyze them thoroughly. Understand what worked for them and what didn’t. Learn from their mistakes.
You can create your course of action based on this research.
Step #2: Do a brand audit
This is where you understand the core of your brand.
It’s important to conduct a brand audit to understand your current state, even if you’re starting from scratch. You must learn about the core problem and ideate solutions for how you can craft or tweak your brand identity in a way it aligns with your goals.
To do a brand audit, create a questionnaire. Share this set of questions with your employees, your stakeholders, as well as your customers. You need to understand how your brand is being perceived both internally and externally.
Include questions about your messaging, logo design, and even brand values to get a deeper understanding.
Step #3: Develop a brand strategy
Once you know your audience, your goals, and your areas of improvement, it’s now time to establish a comprehensive and refined brand strategy. Your brand strategy has everything mentioned in as many details as humanly possible. It’s about what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to do it.
Your brand strategy consists of the following:
The core of your brand includes your mission, vision, purpose, and your brand values.
You’ll need to identify your brand voice, personality, messaging pillars, and tagline.
This includes your color palettes, logos, iconography, typography, etc.
Step #4: Brainstorm session
You should have a wealth of information about your goals and your expectations by this point in time. Now is the time where you turn your textual ideas into visuals.
The information you gather in the initial stages often incline towards the emotional aspects of your messaging, personality, values, and goals. The challenge comes when you are strategizing to communicate those exact sentiments using the visuals for your brand.
This is where you should be leveraging your entire design team. Make them sit together and indulge in a brainstorming session. Use a whiteboard or a paper to write down all the ideas. Encourage everyone to share the wildest of their ideas. The more quantity you have, the better.
Once you have enough ideas, it’s time to narrow them down and shortlist them. You can maybe ask all of them to vote for their favorite.
Step #5: Start designing
Now comes the most exciting part. The time we finally assemble all our readings and research. This is where you look for inspiration. This is the step you turn your ideas into a reality. Below are the elements that you design at this stage.
A logo is one of the most important parts of a brand identity. It helps differentiate your brand from others. Make sure you’re creating your logo after thorough considerations and plenty of brainstorming sessions.
Start the process by taking an old-school route. Take your paper and pencils out. We are doing some free sketches. Iterate, create a brand mark, add core shapes and images to it. Make sure you’re doing it all in black and white.
Create a few designs first and then, choose the best out of all.
You need to identify the colors that will reflect what your brand stands for. Every color induces a different feeling in an individual.
For instance, red is for excitement and passion, while purple reflects royalty and sophistication.
You should have the following colors in your palette:
- 1 primary color
- 3-5 secondary colors
- 2 accent colors
Ensure cohesiveness among all the visual elements you are planning to add to your brand identity. All of this combined will help you portray your visual language.
When it comes to typography (everything fonts, if you may), it depends on how your logo is shaped. It can get a little tricky, especially for those who tend to run after trends. Keep it as classic as possible.
Your typography should include a maximum of three fonts (two, if possible). You can have fonts for headlines, subheadings, body copy, UI typeface, and more.
The icons that you create for your brand are majorly a result of their usage in our industry. It is important to make sure that your icons are showcasing exactly what you mean. They can be a little tricky to decode if they’re entirely new and unclear.
Thus, it is often suggested to play around with the already established icons. It’ll be easier for consumers to understand. Humans have a habit of those and we all know habits die hard.
Design systems are perhaps the most overlooked aspect of brand identity. Once you have your logo, color palette, and typography in place, it doesn’t mean that you can just place them or combine them without any outline.
You need consistency and cohesiveness in your presentations. This will make your brand look more authentic and professional.
Your goal with the design system should be to make navigation easy throughout your visual communication. This includes placement of your logo, your content, your headers, subheaders, body copy, banners, illustrations, images, and more.
Next comes another crucial part of your brand, which is photography. You should have clear guidelines surrounding your photography. This means that you should be finalizing reference photos for your website, advertisements, and even social media beforehand.
Your aim should be to tell a story with every photograph that you pick. A story of your brand and what it stands for.
Data visualization is important. We all know numbers talk. We all are on our laptops and websites, trying to analyze our data.
You should aim for clear and comprehensive data visualization. It makes it easy to track all your content assets, ranging from social media to blog.
Before going ahead with the kind of tool that you should be using, it’s best to identify the purpose. Are you using it to compare values? To understand data distribution? To analyze trends, perhaps? Once you have that, choose the best tool for you.
Then, go on about deciding the size, colors, and labels.
Just like every other element in your brand identity, your illustrations should also be cohesive. Create a few references to make sure that similar illustrations are being used throughout your brand assets.
You should also make sure to not overdo your illustrations. It should adhere to your brand tones and the brand position you want to establish.
Make sure to avoid clashing styles, which means don’t combine things that don’t go together. It will make your illustrations unpleasant.
Apart from the above-mentioned elements, there are a few more brand assets that you should be covering in your brand identity. These include:
- Videos: Just like your photographs, your videos should also be pre-decided. Make sure that all your videos have consistency.
- Web design: If you have an online presence, it should go with your brand identity. Your website is like your digital salesman. Ensure that your salesman is perfect in every sense of the word.
- Graphics/motion graphics: Your social media graphics, print ad graphics, or your flyers, etc. should all be designed and created according to the brand colors and typography.
To wrap it up, brand identity is a crucial aspect for every business, big or small. It is this identity that helps you outshine others in the crowd. When you start with your process, it is best to touch upon the values, unique proposition, vision, and purpose of your brand.
From these emotional aspects, you need to figure out visual concepts to communicate the sentiment of the brand. You can do this all by an effective brainstorming session related to the visual aspect of your brand identity.
Then, design your assets and ensure cohesiveness among every element. It is all about following the steps. If you do that, the process will seem far less intimidating.
About the Author!
Vaibhav Kakkar is the Founder and CEO of Digital Web Solutions, a globally trusted agency with a full suite of digital marketing services and development solutions. Vaibhav believes in building system over services, and has helped scale up agencies from scratch to niche-leaders with million dollar turnovers.