Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos has a great quote to describe the importance of a brand. Bezos says, “Your brand is something that other people say about you when you are not in the room.” Brand identity refers to all the elements that a brand uses to portray its image to the audience.
What Is Brand Identity and How Is It Different from Brand and Branding?
Let’s say you are a working professional and want your colleagues to perceive you as the coolest guy in the office. What will you do to make this happen? You will keep yourself updated with everything that’s happening around the world to avoid looking ignorant. You will actively participate in corporate events so that people start recognizing you. You will also probably get the kind of clothes and shoes that everyone covets, and meet everyone with a smile.
In this case, you are the brand, and your clothes, shoes, team participation, smile, and knowledge are your brand identity. All the effort directed towards establishing yourself as the coolest guy is branding.
Virgin Atlantic is one of the best examples of how a company can create a unique brand identity. The brand has used unique design elements that differentiate it from competitors and give it recognition. The company’s logo, red uniform, and the flying lady on the airplane’s red tail fin along with the striking red details establish the brand identity of Virgin Atlantic.
How to Create a Strong Brand Identity?
Creating a powerful brand identity is a detailed process. We have divided it into three essential stages:
Step #1: Research
You have to understand who you are as a brand before deciding how you want your audience to perceive it. This can be done by conducting brand and market research.
This includes the following:
- Brand Mission: Why did you start the business?
- Brand Value: The beliefs and principles that drive your brand
- Brand Positioning: How you are different from the competition?
- Brand Personality: If your brand were a person, how would you describe it in words and how would you want your audience to describe it?
- Target Audience: Who is your audience and what do they want to engage with? Create consumer personas if you haven’t. Once you know your audience, determine how you can appeal to them.
- Competitors: Conduct competitive analysis of other businesses in the industry, unless you want to create a brand identity that is similar to another business.
See how design agency Someone gave a brand new identity to Beyond, the funeral booking and price comparison site, that was earlier called Funeral Bookers. The company studied the competitors and found all of them used typical elements like doves and flowers on their website and logo. ‘Someone’ gave a new life to ‘Beyond’ by moving beyond the clichés and choosing a modern approach that no one in the industry had done so far.
Step #2: Designing
Designing is the foundation of building a brand identity. Here are the building blocks of design that you should take into consideration:
- Typography: This refers to the font that you use on your website, logo, product packaging, and so on; and can be divided into two main categories- Serif and Sans Serif. Branding agency, Iconic Fox has created an excellent infographic that can help you choose the right font for your brand.
According to the infographic, Serif portrays a sense of history and tradition and is used mostly by traditional print media and brands like The New York Times, Boss and Rolex. Sans Serif, on the other hand, is more of a modern-day font that portrays characteristics of style, elegance and order. This is used by brands like Netflix, Nike, Loreal and Samsung.
- Color: Different colors have different psychological effects on people. This infographic by The Logo Company perfectly captures how the colors you use impact your brand identity.
- Form: Like color, the shape of your logo also affects how your brand is perceived by the audience. Round shapes like circles and ovals inspire feelings of community and love. Straight edged shapes like squares and rectangles give the impression of strength and efficiency. Vertical lines represent masculinity and horizontal lines represent tranquility. Use these shapes accordingly to reinforce the desired reaction from your customers.
When you have figured out the building blocks of your design, it is time to bring them to life by incorporating them into the most essential elements of your brand identity.
All the shapes, colors and font used in the logo should communicate what your brand stands for. Here are seven key steps to follow when designing a logo:
Tell a Story with Your Logo: Stop and think what the story behind your brand is. It should not be about what your company does, but about why it does what it does. The answer to the “why” is your story.
When we think of Coca Cola, the first thing that comes to mind is its red label. How the color became an inseparable part of its brand’s identity is a story that is 130 years old. At the time, both, Coca Cola and alcohol, which looked similar, were sold at American drug stores. While liquor was taxed, Coca Cola was not. The company started painting its containers red so that custom officials could easily differentiate the beverage from the booze and tax the latter. The color soon became the signature color of the brand.
Pick Words that Describe Your Brand: Identify the words that best describe your brand and think of ways to incorporate them in your logo.
When you look at the Baskin Robbins logo closely, you will see how they have cleverly incorporated the numbers 3 and 1 into it because the company serves 31 flavors of ice cream.
Ideate: Based on your brand story and keywords, start putting every design idea that comes to your mind on paper. Keep refining them until you figure out a design that perfectly defines your brand.
Check out some early versions of the Firefox logo designed by Martijn Rijven under the direction of Wolff Olins and how these sketches were transformed into the final logo design.
Keep the following tips in mind when designing your logo:
- Generic logos are easily forgotten. Keep the idea simple, but not so simple that your audience doesn’t find anything memorable in it.
- Be careful when choosing colors for the logo. As a general rule of thumb, avoid using more than three colors. Choose colors that make you stand apart from the competition.
Review Your Sketches: Pick the top three designs that you sketched, and ask friends and colleagues that match your buyer personas to review them. Use their feedback to give a final retouch to your design.
Digitalize Your Logo: Bring your design to life by transforming it into a digital format. Logo Crisp, Design Mantic and Logojoy are some of the many free design platforms where you can recreate your handmade design in a digital format.
Creating a website that looks and feels good is not enough. Everything from the color, the text, and the images to the navigation should be an optimized representation of your brand.
FedEx has got the game right.
FedEx has beautifully incorporated the color purple in its website. It has used the same font throughout the website and has a clear logo that anyone can identify with the brand.
Here are a few tips to design a website that establishes your brand identity:
- Meaningful Content: Your audience is looking for content that convinces them that your brand will meet their needs. Create content that solves their problems and makes them come back for more.
- Call-to-Action: Use your brand identity to drive visitors to do what you want them to do – buy your products, fill a form, or enquire about a service. The CTA buttons should be eye-catching and free from clutter. Use colors, shapes and fonts on CTAs that align with your brand.
#3. Business Cards
Keep the design simple – your logo on one side and the basic details on the other. But you can play around with the layout as long as you stick to the basic principles of designing a business card, which are:
- The text should be at least 5mm from the edge of the card.
- Design at 300dpi resolution for best quality.
- The font size should be small, but legible enough to ensure readability.
Though the ideal size of a regular business card is 55X85mm, you can always be a little creative. Make your business card stand out by ditching the card stock and using unique materials like plastic, wood or metal. Also, try to make it useful for your audience.
In 2013, ad agency JWT came up with a brilliant idea for designing business cards for Brazilian cheese company, Bon Vivant. The company’s business card doubled as a cheese grater and the brand claimed that all the cards were quickly snapped up by customers.
Step #3: Monitoring Your Brand Identity
Once you have established your brand identity, you need to track what people are saying about it online. Several tools can help you monitor the mentions about your brand name, services and products online. Some of the best ones are:
This tool will help you find names, phrases and keywords anywhere that the Googlebot can crawl. However, there is a catch – you cannot access mentions on social media as they are password protected.
According to the above picture, you can select the frequency of the alerts, sources of the mentions, language used, and the region where your brand has been mentioned.
Mention works like Google Alerts, but offers only one free trial. With Mention, you can track your brand mentions throughout the web and on some social media sites.
The picture above shows how a brand can use Mention to get real-time insights, conduct competitive analysis and generate automated reports.
HootSuite is meant entirely for social media tracking. You can not only find your brand mentions, but also manage multiple profiles by sending updates, responses and more. This is one of the best tools to find the people you want to interact with on social media (your target audience) and form meaningful relationships with them.
The picture above shows how you can use HootSuite to create custom streams of social content and share them with a single click. The following picture shows how you can filter conversations by hashtag, keywords and location, and find out what your audience is saying about your brand and competitors.
When you feel that your brand identity is not inspiring you anymore, it is probably time to consider rebranding. Rebranding is not a bad sign at all. In fact, it means you have evolved as a brand and you are growing.
Last year, Capgemini rebranded itself after it felt that a lot has changed since the company updated its logo 13 years ago.
Learn from Capgemini and consider rebranding when you feel your target audience has changed, your industry has witnessed massive technological shifts, or when you feel your logo or website no longer aligns with your company’s identity.
Once you’re ready to rebrand, determine the scale on which you want to carry it out – whether you want to give a mild retouch or a total makeover. Take this as an opportunity to strengthen your brand’s identity and don’t forget to tell the world about it. You definitely don’t want to confuse your audience!
A strong brand identity will make you stand apart from your competitors and tell your customers who you are and what they can expect from you. So, if you want your audience to love your brand, it’s important that you create an incredible brand identity that works for you because without it you cannot expect your initiatives to resonate with your audience.
What tips have you followed to establish your brand’s identity? Let us know by commenting below.
About the Author!
Manish Dudharejia, is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in White Label Services for Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, he is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.