The marketplace is crowded. People are overwhelmed with information and advertising. As a result, getting your audience to listen is more difficult than ever. And the task will become harder as more companies move online.
Businesses must communicate their value as quickly as possible. But short attention spans make it challenging to grab and hold the audience. This is why your brand identity is such a critical marketing component.
Most people believe a brand identity is a logo. But building a brand identity is a process that starts the moment your business vision is born.
There’s one more thing you should know: you already have a brand identity.
Your identity is based on everything that relates to your business. Websites, social media profiles, and customer reviews are examples. People use it all to determine if you’re qualified to give them what they want.
An identity pulls people closer to the brand or pushes them away.
Since your brand identity is so important, doesn’t it make sense to take control of the process?
In this post, you’ll learn how to create a brand identity that attracts your target audience.
- what a brand identity is
- how to create a brand identity that aligns with the customer’s desires
- build your brand identity using our 5-step framework
Let’s get started.
What Is a Brand Identity?
Ask ten people how they define a brand identity and the number one answer will be “a logo and colors”. But, beyond that, the concept becomes vague. So, I’d like to begin this post by clarifying it.
Essentially, a brand identity is the perception people have of your business.
Your identity is based on tangible and intangible elements. Tangible elements are visual, such as a logo. Intangible elements are linked to feelings. A sense of elegance, an air of expertise, or feelings of security are examples of intangibles.
A brand’s intangibles are sometimes difficult to communicate but impact the customer more.
To drive the point home, let’s use a personal example. First, think of a brand you love. Then, ask yourself why you like it so much. What is it about the brand that pulls you in?
The attraction you feel toward that brand illustrates the power of an identity. It’s also likely that the brand you chose intentionally developed an identity that would appeal to people like you. Then, they leveraged that identity to promote their products and services.
An identity that aligns with the audience facilitates a connection and builds affinity for the brand. Are you beginning to see how a brand identity can supercharge your marketing?
Why you Need a Brand Identity
People are busy. They don’t have time to evaluate every product or service. What’s more, they aren’t always qualified to make educated decisions. So, they need help making choices.
Consumers rely on signals to determine which product or service is right for them. A brand identity communicates several signals, such as a business’s:
- Level of expertise or product quality
The brand that scores highest on the customer’s “eye test” will have the best chance of getting the sale.
Let’s look at an example.
The moment people land on your website, they will scan the page. Then, they assess what they see—consciously and subconsciously. They’ll stay if they’re interested in something. If not, they’ll go back to the search engine results and search for a competitor’s website.
They will also make this decision about your website rather quickly.
How long will it take?
Research shows users form an opinion of a website within two-tenths of a second. They then spend the next two and a half seconds verifying their initial impression. This article from Forbes shows customers appraise a company within seven seconds.
Whether you have two, seven, or ten seconds to win people over makes little difference. The bottom line is we have to make an impact and do it fast to hold the audience’s attention.
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Your brand identity should communicate the actual value you offer—all in the blink of an eye.
How to Create a Brand Identity: A 5-Step Framework to Ensure Success
The brand-building process is complex. So, I’ve provided a framework in this section to simplify the task. It’s important to note that some of these steps address the visual aspects of a brand identity, such as a logo or color scheme. Others cover experiential components, such as voice and tone.
All elements—visual and experienced—contribute to your brand identity.
Why You Should Use This Framework
Often, business owners create a brand identity they like without thinking about how their target audience will respond. But the goal is to create a brand identity that accurately represents your business vision and resonates with your customers.
That’s why we begin creating an identity by exploring a brand’s purpose and target audience. Then, we develop other identity components such as logos, websites, and brand designs.
Step 1: Establish Brand Purpose
In this initial step, you’ll explore why your organization exists and how its purpose plays an integral role in your brand identity.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget why you started your business. But your brand’s purpose is a vital part of your identity. It’s important to your customers too, even if they don’t consciously acknowledge it.
TOMS shoes is an example of massive success built on purpose. The founder started with a mission to provide shoes to impoverished children. TOMS then developed a brand story around their mission that evolved into a marketing message. As a result, the brand amassed a worldwide audience that bought a lot of shoes.
There’s power in purpose. However, brands that use it carelessly to increase sales may regret it later.
People have become skeptical of brands that lead with purpose. Most believe companies are simply doing it to make money. So, don’t expect your customers to care about your “why”. Instead, focus on how your purpose adds value to their lives.
Though they know you must profit, customers expect you to care about them more than your bottom line. Still, linking your purpose to the customer’s need or desire is an effective way to connect with your audience.
Answer these questions to develop your brand’s purpose:
- What impact did you want to make when you started your business?
- How will your brand’s purpose make customers’ lives better?
Defining your purpose reveals if you’re on track to build the business you wanted when you began. It also serves as a compass for business decisions. If something doesn’t align with your brand’s purpose, it’s best to avoid it.
Step 2: Explore the Target Audience
Many business owners want to know how to create a brand identity they’ll like. But unfortunately, they often overlook the target audience in the process.
I explained that a brand identity attracts your ideal customer or pushes them away in an earlier section. So, it’s critical to align your identity with the target audience.
First, think about your ideal customer. This person should represent the type of customer you enjoy working with most. They also get the most value from your product or service. Now, with this customer in mind, consider:
- other brands they buy from
- the language they use (formal, slang, etc.)
- their values, beliefs, and interests
Then, make a list of adjectives that describe your ideal customer. For example, words like “fun-loving”, “colorful”, and “friendly” may come to mind when you think of them.
Once you have a list of these adjectives, you should integrate these characteristics into your brand identity. The goal is to create an identity that reflects your vision for your brand and one your customers find appealing.
Step 3: Analyze the Competition
Studying competitors will show you how to create a brand identity that differentiates your business. The goal in this step is to analyze your competitors’ brand identities. As you do, take note of:
- color scheme and typography
- logos and other images
- brand voice
- value themes
- target audience
- other elements they use to differentiate
I’ll summarize each one of these in more detail.
Color Scheme and Typography
Colors and typography (also called fonts) play a significant role in the visual brand identity.
Color psychology has existed for a while. However, some marketing professionals don’t believe color can influence a buyer. But studies show that color impacts purchasing decisions. The key to color psychology is knowing how to use a particular color for your brand identity.
Different audiences and cultures interpret the use of color in unique ways. For example, in the United States, many people associate the color blue with trust and peace. In other parts of the world, blue means good luck.
Changing shades or tones transforms a color’s impact.
Here’s a sample using purple:
Look at this image. Some shades are soft and feminine while others are bold and authoritative. As you study competitors, notice how different shades of color affect design.
Of course, you’ll likely use the same color as one of your competitors. But if you do, how can you use the color to differentiate your brand?
Typography (sometimes called fonts) also sets the tone for an identity design. The typeface you choose to represent your brand will have as much impact on the design as color.
Serif and sans-serif fonts are used most often in brand design. Script and decorative fonts are popular too.
Choose a font that will be legible in all design uses, regardless of format. For example, mobile devices, desktop computers, and traditional print media require different font sizes. Pick fonts that will work for all.
Font selection also helps shape your brand identity. For example, brands that want to exude authority and trust often use serif fonts, while sans-serif fonts are used to create a modern look.
Look at the fonts competitors have chosen for their brand identity. How does each font impact the brand’s image?
Logos and Other Images
A logo is the most popular brand identity component. But designing a logo that accurately represents your brand is challenging.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of a quality logo in your brand identity design. But many business owners struggle with this aspect of identity development.
What do you see as you look over your competitors’ logos?
Do they look professional or like other logos you’ve seen before?
By the way…
99Designs is one of my favorite design platforms. You can work with several talented designers while only paying for the winning concept. (Yes, if you get a design with 99Designs by using the link in this post, we will receive a small commission.)
Like human voices, brand voices are unique. They can be authoritative, friendly, casual, or formal—there are many to choose from.
You must determine what impression you want to make in verbal and written communication. Then, hone a voice that fits your business and target audience.
For instance, the brand voice for a ladies’ clothing store should resonate with women who match the target customer profile and reflect the business’s personality. For example, suppose your audience consists of females aged 18-25. In that case, it might make sense to use slang and jargon common among members of that demographic.
Read over your competitors’ websites, social media profiles, even ads. How do they communicate? How does the voice enhance the message?
You learned how to create a brand identity using brand purpose in the first step of this framework. I also shared the importance of showing customers how your brand impacts their lives in that section. So, in this step, you’re exploring value themes.
Value themes are overarching messages—stated or implied—that show the audience how you make their lives better.
For example, a white coat or blue scrubs conveys the doctor’s value to the patient. The doctor’s white coat represents “cleanliness” or “purity”. There may be a scientific reason many surgeons wear blue scrubs, but the color blue also communicates trust.
How are your competitors using a brand identity to communicate their value?
The goal in this step is to uncover your competitors’ target audiences. This isn’t the same process you followed to develop your ideal customer. The goal in this step is to answer these questions:
- Who are your competitors targeting?
- How do they communicate with that target segment?
- Have you overlooked potential audiences?
This analysis will give you insight into how competitors try to attract specific audiences. Then, you’ll know how to create a brand identity that sets your business apart from others in your industry.
Step 5: Brand Associations
You don’t hear much about this component of a brand identity, but it’s as important as any others.
You may have heard that “birds of a feather flock together”. It’s true for people and brands.
Technically, a brand association is “anything such as a symbol, activity, or famous person that makes a consumer think of a particular brand or product”. (Cambridge University Press)
That means your partners, associates, and groups to which you belong will influence how prospective customers see you. So, choose them carefully.
Images are also a type of brand association. For example, a picture of a mountain may symbolize freedom, success, or a desirable lifestyle. You might decide to use an image like this. Eventually, people may associate your business with the image of a mountain.
Bonus Step: Be Consistent
Most people must see your brand 5 to 7 times before they remember it.
Brand consistency is the key to success. You must communicate the same messages, images, and associations to see results. If you’re going to create a brand identity, you must stay the course. When you’re tempted to quit, you’re usually on the brink of a breakthrough.
How to Create a Brand Identity That Will Set You Apart
If you’ve followed our framework, you’ll have everything you need to create a brand identity that sets your business apart. The information gathered in the previous steps provides insight and clues to help you develop:
- Logos and websites that look professional and attract quality customers
- Brand messaging that connects with your audience
- Positioning that gives you a competitive advantage
- Higher brand value
- Business growth strategy
Do you have questions about creating a brand identity or need help?
Email me personally at email@example.com.
Until next time,
More Branding Insights
By Chris Fulmer |
Learn more about brand strategy.
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