What Is A Brand Identity And How To Build It?

A brand identity is a set of tools or elements used by a company to create a brand image. A brand image is a customers’ perception of the brand consisting of various associations related to it and memories about interacting with it. A brand identity and its elements stem from a company’s mission, brand value proposition, long-term goals, competitive position on the market, and relevance to the values and interests of the target audience. These factors have a foundational nature and, in the branding differentiation process, describe what a company wants to communicate. Meanwhile, a brand identity describes how these foundational elements are communicated. The most commonly agreed upon elements of a brand identity usually include:

Brand Identity and Its Elements

  • A brand name
  • A tagline or a slogan
  • Colors and graphic styles
  • A logo and a wordmark and their variations
  • A voice and a tone
  • A style and a typeface

These elements can be grouped differently, and there are a lot of opinions as to which specific brand elements should be included in this list and in which order they should be presented. These differences are usually explained by the context in which a brand identity is being discussed and the perspective of a particular expert. For example, a designer who is developing a brand identity for an existing company would omit a brand name and a tagline from his creative process and would make more emphasis on its visual part. In contrast to that, a fuller span of brand identity elements is usually involved during the process of creating a new brand, rather than rebranding an existing product or company.

Begin With A Brand Name

The first and the most important element that links your brand to associations and memories stored in the minds of your audience is its name. Using language as a means of communication and processing information is an intrinsic trait of all human beings that is not typical for other species. Particular words and names allow us to access a wide variety of meanings, emotions and associations related to objects, events and people. From the marketing and branding perspective, a brand name is a word or a phrase that personifies all information and knowledge your target customer has about your company and its products. On the other hand, for those who don’t know about your brand, its name gives the cues necessary for customers to relate it to their needs or a specific industry and to be able to recognize it in the future. Functionally, a brand name may serve many different purposes which determine a set of requirements that should be considered when naming a company or a product. The most common features of a good brand name are:

  • easily pronounced and memorable
  • relevant to a specific industry or a need of the brand’s target audience
  • relates to customer expectations and evokes strong positive associations

It is not always easy to follow all of these and other requirements suggested by experts in various studies done in the field. As mentioned earlier, brand identity elements are determined by foundational factors such as a mission, value proposition, competition and target audience. No two industries are alike, and it is important to set priorities for what is important in a specific case. A great example that illustrates how these functional requirements work in a specific industry and how companies prioritize them in their brand names would be a highly competitive B2B market of ID badging services. Some names of the top-companies who provide ID badge printing and related services include InstantCard, XpressID, QuickIDCard and ExpressBadging. It is not hard to notice how, besides being easily pronounceable and memorable, all of these names relate to the industry (“ID”, “Card”, “Badging”) and emphasize one important competitive characteristic determined by customers’ expectations of fast turnaround (“Instant”, “Xpress”, “Quick”, “Express”)

Make Sure Your Brand Is Honest and Congruent

Although brand identity is a tool that conveys a message about what a company actually delivers to its customers, it is no less important to help customers make their buying decision through the end to end sales process. Many companies that were unable to communicate the value of their products and services to the end consumers have failed in the past to their competition. Ability to communicate a distinct and recognizable image through various elements of brand identity and deliver this message to end consumers becomes more vital nowadays when buyers are overloaded with information and are unable to hold their attention on one subject for extended periods of time.

Ideally, a brand identity should have the ability to give a quick presentation of a company or a product to prospective customers, or, in other words, serve as an analog of the elevator pitch that explains what a company offers, how it is different from what is already out there in the market, and why customers should try or continue buying this product or service. The common rule is that the clearer and easier to understand this messaging is, the higher chance of success it will have on forming a positive and desirable brand image in customers’ perception.

The flipside to this is that brand identity and the messaging it is delivered through is not the end-all-be-all to define a brand’s success. Over-promising or not being fully congruent with what you actually have to offer to your customers may be even worse than failing to communicate it. In the best-case scenario, a brand identity that is disconnected from the actual positioning of the brand gets ignored by the audience; in the worst, it undermines trust and damages the reputation. As the old saying goes, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

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