Updated: Apr 9, 2020
Nike’s Swoosh, Facebook’s blue, the idea that “America runs on Dunkin’” – when you encounter these visuals you immediately associate them with a specific company and with its products. This direct link that takes place in your mind is living proof of the power of branding. These companies created an identity, and it works just as they intended. You can recognize it just like you would recognize a friend or a relative.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to create a brand identity that will have a real impact on your audience. We’ll show you how to integrate the concept of brand identity into your business routine and how to stay mindful of it when you author texts, use social media or create a website. Here are the steps to defining your brand identity and making it a reality.
What is brand identity
Brand identity is a fundamental part of a business’ path to success. It encapsulates the brand’s goals, visions and values, as well as its intended audiences and their own perceived identities. Like people who signify their identity through the clothes they wear, the music they listen to and the friends they hang out with, brands express their identity by looking, sounding and behaving in certain ways.
How to define your brand identity
There are practical steps involved in the process of building a brand identity, but before you get to the the nitty-gritty parts, you need to do some conceptual work. The purpose of the following tasks is to help you define your brand inside out. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to build a stronger brand with a clear and consistent identity.
Find your brand’s voice: When we talk about “voice,” we mean the personality that your brand represents. Finding the right voice for your brand is a challenging mission that requires some analysis. Here’s a helpful game that will put you on the right track:
Try to imagine an ideal conversation with a customer, a dialogue in which everything works out just as you planned and the customer is falling in love with your brand. What is it about this conversation that is so successful? What are the emotions that you were able to evoke when engaging with that customer? What is the vocabulary that made it happen? Now take it one step further – imagine the conversation that your customer has with their own friends afterwards and how they endorse your brand to them. How do you want people to talk about you? Working through these questions will help you understand what tone, attitude and mood you want to display in your branding.
Define your core values: If you want your branding efforts to succeed, you need to commit your business to goals other than making a profit. Not that there’s anything wrong with money! After all, that’s everyone’s end game. But brands develop a real connection with their audiences when they are able to prove that they believe in something bigger.
Highlight the added value that people get from your brand. Perhaps your business empowers them to dress their best and become more confident? Or are they supporting the environment by choosing your sustainable products? Maybe your services can guide them towards relaxation and mindfulness? Or an evening at your restaurant offers the opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends? Make a list of these core values that your brand can promote and think about how to connect them to your brand’s voice.
Develop your story and your vision: People relate to human stories. Building your brand identity around a story will help you interact with your audience on a deeper level. We’re not talking about creative writing here. What you want to do is to communicate your specific perspective (as an individual or as a company) in an authentic and relatable manner.
There are two angles you want to incorporate into your story. The first focuses on you: What inspired you to take action and start your company? What are you hoping to achieve with it? The second aspect you want to include focuses on your target audience: Where does your brand fit into their lives? What are you offering them, and how do you envision your interactions with them? Paint a picture that is so clear that future customers can easily step into the image you’ve conjured up.
How to create your brand identity
With the preparation research completed, the next step is to translate the theoretical conclusions into practical actions. This can be done through a number of ways:
No guide on how to create a brand is complete without an emphasis on design. The look and feel of your website are a key component of the brand identity, and you should pay special attention to the visual dimension by following these steps:
Understand what design genre fits best: Let’s continue thinking of your brand as a person. Previously, you defined their personality, tone of voice and what they believe in. Now, it’s time to focus on their fashion sense. Is your brand trying to present a professional, sleek look? Maybe a retro style? Would you describe it more as a classy or a sporty dresser? Would it work best with a minimalist look or a vibrant one? The answer, of course, has nothing to do with your own wardrobe preferences. It’s about the visual expression your brand identity.
Select your colors and font scheme: Fonts and colors are basic ingredients that you add to every design dish for your brand. They are instrumental in creating the vibe that you want in your branding, which is why you must choose them with care. This guide will help you choose the perfect brand colors, while these steps will help you find your ideal fonts.
Note: These steps do not cover all of the visual branding that you’ll do for your company. You’ll encounter more of it as you create a website, design ads, prepare social media visuals, etc. What these three broad steps aim to achieve is to define the overall visual language that will guide all design tasks that will follow.
Seamlessly communicating with your audience means putting time into your words and wording. Textual branding is just as important as the visual aspects of building a brand identity. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a master copywriter, give it your best shot. You may discover your inner literary genius.
Pen the perfect tagline: If you had to describe your brand in just a few words, what would you come up with? A tagline is just that – a (very) brief statement about your company and what it offers. In addition to being short, the tagline also needs to be catchy and alluring. It’s meant to attract people to further interact with your brand. The tricky part is coming up with a tagline that is both simple (you don’t want to confuse anyone with it), and intriguing. One of our favorite examples is Disneyland’s “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
Write your brand’s narrative: Remember the part in which you developed your brand’s story and vision? You’re about to take it one step further. The physical act of putting it in writing will help you sharpen and refine your storytelling. Because it’s not enough to have a compelling narrative. You need to be able to share it in a captivating way that engages customers and potential audiences. We recommend that you write a short version (one paragraph long) and an extended one (three to five paragraphs). You’ll need to have both available for different platforms and different marketing purposes.
Create a blog: Writing a blog can really amplify branding and brand identity building. Blogs give you more creative freedom than most marketing tools. You can use a more personal tone of voice and show a lot of the “behind-the-scenes” activity of your business. In other words, it’s a powerful method for communicating your brand identity to followers.
Know what’s right for you: Not all marketing efforts work well for all types of companies. To align your marketing with your branding, you need to understand which campaigns support your brand and which ones might hurt it. For instance, many brands benefit immensely from frequent activity on Instagram. Brands that are more content-minded than visual will be less successful on this medium and should perhaps focus their marketing efforts elsewhere, like LinkedIn.
Build your online presence: Online platforms offer multiple avenues for developing your brand identity. When you create a website, set up your social media channels or send email newsletters, you cultivate eye-level communication with your audience that puts into work all of the brand identity characteristics we’ve covered here so far, from your brand voice to the choice of your color scheme. Online marketing is also flexible and dynamic in a way that allows for a lot of room for experimentation and improvement, and the costs are usually lower when compared to offline marketing.
Explore offline marketing opportunities: We stand behind our praise of online marketing for building a brand identity. However, that doesn’t mean you should entirely forget about the offline world. The trick is just to understand what type of offline opportunities are best suited for your goals. For some companies, sponsoring sports teams could fit perfectly with their branding. For others, participating in thematic conferences or meetups is a safer bet. Keep your eyes open for new possibilities, but be strategic about which ones you go for.
Key points to keep in mind
Be consistent: Consistency is extremely important in branding. If you don’t consistently employ your logo, color palette or tone of voice, then your brand identity remains random at best.
Keep it simple: The goal is for your target audience to be able to recognize your brand almost intuitively. Keep the messaging simple and straightforward across all branding efforts
Make sure it’s working: The entire purpose behind branding is to help your business grow. If you’re not seeing the type of results that you were expecting, it might be smart to try something new.