Are you planning to start a new business? Are you rebranding an existing business? Then I have some good news – your search stops here! This ultimate consists of in-depth insights and industry-proven methods of building brand identity. The article will guide you in every step of creating a unique brand identity.
What is brand identity?
Before we start with building brand identity, let’s first understand what it really is. Brand identity is the various visible elements of a brand. The elements consist of logos, colors, fonts, images and so on. Simply put, the image that companies want the consumers to perceive is termed as brand identity.
Band identity and brand image are different in the sense that while the former is how you want customers to recognize your brand, the latter is how customers actually perceive the brand. Therefore, it is extremely crucial that all the elements of brand identity come together to successfully convey the brand image.
The various visual elements of brand identity may consist of the following:
- Logo variations
- Images and content
- Graphical elements
- Presence across social media
The importance of brand identity can be understood by the fact that big companies have a dedicated corporate communications department that only focuses on building and evolving brand identity.
While it is true that small companies and startups don’t have dedicated departments for building and maintaining brand identity and brand image, it is a good idea to find ways to develop them. Without proper brand building strategies, any company is deemed to fail.
One can safely conclude that brand identity is not only important for big companies such as Coca-Cola or Nike, but it is equally important for small or emerging companies. In fact brand identity is one of the most valuable assets for any company.
Central to any successful brand identity is its consistency. Be it the appearance, color palette or the feel, all the elements of brand identity must work as a cohesive unit.
The 6-step-guide is based on industry-proven methods of creating an effective brand identity that could positively contribute towards the growth of your company.
1. Creating your brand’s master plan
Creating an effective master plan for your brand can save you from bad designs, weak marketing strategies and ineffective brand identity. Creating a strong brand strategy or master plan can take your brand to the next level and give you an edge over your competitors.
The master plan will ensure that your customers know what you are all about. Having a master plan might not guarantee that the customers will see your brand the way you intend, but it will go a long way in shaping customer perception.
As the face of the company, brand identity goes a long way in developing credibility and trust with clients and customers. Brand identity not only provides effective guidelines while forming marketing and ad strategies, it also strengthens the company’s vision, mission and values. There are three stages of developing your brands master plan: Detection, Brand Identity and Execution. Let us have an in depth look at each of these stages:
Stage 1: Detection
The first stage in developing your brand master plan is detection and it is absolutely crucial for established businesses. This stage may be skipped by new businesses and get straight to the second stage.
For established businesses or brands that have existed for a few years, detection is a very important stage and should not be missed at any cost. This stage involves you looking at your present brand identity and all the other elements that shape the brand image. This stage includes examining who your customers are; your vision, mission and values; your industry, brand, brand identity and brand image.
Let’s look at some of the elements in the detection stage.
Discover your target audience: Developing an understanding of your target audience will help you in devising an impactful master plan. The best way to detect your target audience is by developing personas of your target audience which in turn helps you understand the following:
- Who your customers are
- Where and how they spend their time
- When are your customers available
- What they think about your product
- What are their decisions based on
Reexamine your company’s vision, mission and values: The core of any business or brand is its vision, mission and values. They are the building blocks of any brand; hence, a company without vision, mission or values is bound to fail in the future.
If your brand is yet to find the three building blocks, it is not too late. Think about the ways your brand communicates with your target audience and device your core identity based on it. Trust me, once you build your vision, mission and values, it will only get easier to create a memorable brand identity.
If your brand is an established one but the three have evolved, you can always ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the elements that don’t seem to be in sync with the company’s evolved vision, mission and values?
- Are the new elements that have emerged from your company aligned with the brand’s core identity?
- Are the company’s new marketing and ad strategies conveying your brand’s vision, mission and values?
Conduct a thorough market research: Conducting a thorough market research is an extremely important step while devising your brand’s master plan. Once you have realized what your brand’s core identity is, go for a thorough market research along with performing a competitor analysis.
Here are two questions for you to consider before starting with the market research process.
a. What is your market size?
b. How has your market evolved since you first started your company?
Examine how your brand is perceived by people: A brand’s health can be measured by the way it is perceived. To formulate an effective master plan, understanding how your brand is perceived by people, which includes everyone from employees to customers and clients, is crucial.
Looking at aspects such as brand awareness, brand positioning, and brand reputation will help you to measure how your brand is perceived. The results from examining these will allow you to formulate strategies which will improve your overall brand image.
Stage 2: Brand Identity
Start by defining the core identity of your brand: The next step will decide how your brand will shape and perceived in the future. Once you discover how your brand is placed in the market, you can start working on developing its image. Vision, mission and values are the three cornerstones of your brand’s core identity. Therefore, strong vision, mission and values will ensure a powerful core brand identity.
Be vocal about your USP: The unique selling proposition or the USP is what sets your brand apart from the crowd. Your brand’s USP allows people to know what you are really about. In simple words, the USP of your business will help people develop a positive perception about your brand.
Express your brand positioning: This is how your clients and customers will get to know how you are different from your competitors. It is very easy to get lost in a market with tough competition. Figuring out how you are really different will help your brand grow in the long run. Once you discover how you are different and better from the rest, let people know about it.
Build brand voice and design assets: Your design assets include your logo, packaging, website, business cards, and so on. Combination of these along with developing a consistent brand voice will enable you to formulate a powerful master plan for your brand.
Stage 3: Execution
The last phase is where you apply or communicate your brand identity. In the current times, the best way to communicate your brand identity is through digital marketing. Digital marketing involves social media campaigns, search engine optimization, pay per click and so on. You can also consider the traditional mode of marketing which involves running ad campaigns on TV, radio and print.
Finding the right way to communicate your brand identity will allow clients and customers to form a positive perception about your brand.
2. Conduct brand identity research
Conducting a brand identity research before building your brand will allow you to understand how your brand is perceived by your competitors and your consumers. Businesses and companies conduct brand identity research in various ways however, SWOT analysis remains their favorite method.
A SWOT analysis report will enable you to understand how your brand is perceived by your customers and competitors. A SWOT report strategically divides the research in four important halves – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The first two allows you to gaze at the internal factors within your company and brand. The next two gives an in-depth insight on various external factors impacting your brand.
Companies around the world conducting SWOT analysis begin by creating various questions for each division. Let us explore a few:
- What are the areas of excellence? (digital marketing, sales, customer support and so on)
- What is your brand’s USP?
- How authentic is your brand?
- Do your employees possess any special skills?
- Are there specific areas where your business performs poorly on a regular basis?
- What does your business lack? (funds, employees and so on)
- Are there specific elements that make your brand appear inauthentic?
- Can your products and services outmatch your competitors’?
- Does your brand represent a niche that is currently not represented well?
- Is there a hidden aspect of your brand that has not been highlighted?
- What are the various products and services your competitors are offering that you cannot match?
- Are your competitors trying to disgrace you?
- Any current economic trend that might affect your brand adversely?
You can begin your research by answering the above questions and add new ones as you progress through the research.
3. The Designs
Color palette, logo, fonts, shapes and various compositions form the basis of a memorable brand identity. Considering the following points before selecting various design elements for your brand may prove helpful.
- Adaptability: Adaptability is an essential element of any design since it brings longevity and flexibility. You should always be ready to change whenever it is necessary.
- Memorable: The elements of brand identity you choose should attract the attention of people in a matter of seconds. Memorability is an extremely crucial aspect of building your brand identity.
- Transferability: The design elements you choose must work across geographic locations. It should blend well across market segments and mediums such as social media, website, business cards and so on.
Let us now look at some important elements of brand identity designs.
Colors have the power to bring anything to life. Colors also have a significant psychological effect on the audience. In a study conducted by the Institute of Color Research, it was found that 92.6% of the people surveyed were affected by colors while purchasing a product.
Different colors have different meanings and when mixed with various shapes, it can convey various messages.
Typography plays an extremely crucial role in how a brand is perceived. Just like color palette, typography too impacts people psychologically.
Here is how the four categories of fonts are perceived by the audience:
- Serif: The traditional serif fonts are viewed as formal and are best suited for print design.
- Sans-serif: Best suited for digital designs, they portray a sense of playfulness.
- Decorative: These are custom-designed fonts and are viewed as playful and creative.
- Handwritten: These are fonts that resemble handwriting and are mostly used for formal invitations by businesses.
Apart from the color palette and typography, other design elements that you must explore to create a memorable brand identity are various shapes (organic, abstract, geometrical, lines), composition (size, letter orientation, playing with space, placement), and symbols.
4. Formation of your brand identity
Once your brand’s master plan, identity research and design elements are in place, it’s time to work with your designers to bring your brand identity to life.
The following are the key elements of your brand identity:
Business name and tagline
Whether you are starting a brand or overhauling your older one, your business name and tagline will create a very strong first impression.
Your business name should clearly convey what your business is all about. The vision, mission and values of your brand should help you form a formidable business name and tagline.
Just like your business name and tagline, your logo will help create a powerful first impression. In fact logos are the first thing that customers see!
A great logo is timeless, adaptable, memorable, conveys brand message in fraction of a second, versatile and instantly recognizable.
A logo should not be a random choice of colors and symbols but must be a well thought out design which is in line with your company’s vision, mission and values.
Packaging design can turn out to be a great marketing strategy in terms of conveying brand message and identity.
With thousands of similar products sitting on the shelves, it only makes sense to go for a packaging design that speaks about your brand and helps you stand apart from the crowd.
According to a study published in Go Media, 75 percent of customers judge the reliability of a business only based on the website. In other words, neglecting the importance of a proper website could be catastrophic for your business.
While it is true that brand identity can evolve over time, Brand personality is an element which remains the same. Brand, like a person, can be described by a few words such as simple, reliable, creative and artistic. So, select a few words that perfectly describe your brand personality. Brand personality: the only element that would remain the same even after a rebranding.
There are other important elements of building brand identity, such as business cards, illustrations, email designs, banners, billboards, and so on, which must be well thought out before finally being executed.
5. Creating a brand guide
What is a brand guide? What purpose does it serve? Can it really help me build a memorable brand identity? These are some questions that have taken the center stage in your mind. So, let me begin by answering your first question: what is a brand guide?
A brand guide serves as a guide once you have executed your brand identity with help of designers. Brand guide helps employees, managers and investors remain on the same page. It answers important questions such as: What are the right ways to exhibit brand assets? How is the logo to be used? What are the various design assets available in the public domain?
Though these might not seem like a great deal, creating a brand guide will truly take you a few steps closer to building a memorable brand identity.
What are the six elements of creating a brand guide?
- Brand overview
- Color palette
These are the six elements involved in a brand guide. The Brand overview allows everyone involved with the company to realize what your brand is all about and what it stands for. It also talks about the brand’s vision, mission and values.
Colors on-screen and in-print appear different a lot of times. The brand guide informs how these differences can be omitted and helps in creating consistent colors across print, television and social media.
Similarly, how logos, images and fonts are to be used in various places are contained in the brand guide. How well negative spaces within a logo should be used or how employees should use various fonts and resize them are important parts of the brand guide.
Apart from the visual elements of your brand identity, the vocabulary your brand uses will also go a long way in creating a memorable brand identity. Your brand voice should be well controlled and unique and should be able to set your brand apart from the crowd.
6. Branding mistakes
While it is important to think about how you want to project your brand, it is equally important to know the common branding mistakes. Once you know what common branding mistakes are, you will be in a much better position to formulate effective brand identity strategies.
It is never wise to underestimate the power of a logo. Going for a template based logo can do more harm than good. It is advisable to get a custom logo which would be in line with your brand’s vision, mission and values.
You must also be consistent when it comes to delivering brand identity. Be it Nike or Apple, the most successful brands in the world are consistent in delivering brand identity.
Whether you are a startup or a business that has existed for some time, you should always be loyal to your brand guide. Your brand guide will help you to stay consistent and help you with developing a memorable brand identity.
In a world which is defined by competition and a never ending race for the top spot, this 6-step-guide will truly help you in formulating unique strategies for building a memorable brand identity.
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.