Put simply, brand identity is the way you want consumers to think about your business. There are a lot of components that make up a brand’s identity. Some, such as name, logo, and slogan, are fairly superficial. Others go deeper. These things are often more important than the surface-level stuff, and might include they way you communicate with customers and the means by which you deliver customer service.
Brand Image vs. Brand Identity vs. Brand
Brand image, brand identity, and brand are often confused, and for good reason. Elements of each blend into one another.
Brand image is the impression that consumers get of your business. This impression can be good or bad and depends on a variety of factors. These include your advertising, your responsiveness, and your service.
Brand identity refers to the directed, conscious efforts you make to develop your business brand. You should define your brand identity, then devise a strategy to create that identity. If all goes well, your brand image will closely resemble the brand identity you’ve created and cultivated.
Brand is an amalgamation of your brand image and identity. It is both what your business is and the relationship it has built with its customers. Designing a logo is building brand identity. Having customers think about that logo when they hear your business’ name is having a brand. Devising a plan to deliver customer service is building brand identity. Actually delivering it, and having customers recognize that is having a brand.
As I said, there’s some crossover here. Are the components of having a brand that I’ve mentioned really different than brand image. Well, yes and no.
The distinction is subtle. Basically, brand encompasses many elements. For example, when you think of McDonald’s you might think of the Golden Arches, Ronald McDonald, Happy Meals, tasty (if unhealthy) food, and more. All that together makes a brand. Those pieces individually are brand image.
If you think of a business you’ve dealt with and think “man, they’ve got great customer service”, that’s brand image. Likewise, if you think, “they’ve got a funny advertising campaign”, that’s brand image. These are discrete parts of a much bigger picture – the brand.
Time to Strategize – Tips for Building Brand Identity
Brand and brand image are, to a certain extent, out of your control. They’re within your control to the extent that you can control the efforts that go into their development. But they are beyond it in the sense that you cannot make anyone think or feel anything about your business. All you can do is put the effort into building brand identity and hope the results match the input. Normally they do.
If you’re wondering about the best way to develop your brand identity, I have a few ideas. Yet, you should avoid neglecting one element in favor of another. Brand identity is very multidimensional. So, when you read the following suggestions, keep in mind that you need to nurture your brand from all directions.
#1 Never lose sight of your goals. Before you even start building your brand’s image, decide what you want it to be. If it has multiple facets, choose one or two that are most important, and don’t forget about them.
#2 Recognize who you’re targeting. You can’t develop a brand identity for all people, everywhere. You have to design a strategy that works for the group of people that are most likely to be interested in your brand. Study them. Learn about them. Explore their likes and dislikes. And target your branding efforts towards them. Hopefully you can do all this without losing sight of others who might be interested in what you have to offer – without meeting all the characteristics of your target audience.
#3 Your customers are equal partners. Don’t forget them when you strategize your brand identity development. You can even literally make them partners by asking them how they would like to see you develop your brand identity. To take it a step further, you could run a contest, having your customers or clients design an advertisement, business card, content for your website, etc.
#4 Identify what’s special about your business. You can look at other successful brands for inspiration, but brand identity isn’t something you can copy. Ideally, you want to take the best and most memorable aspects of your business, and use that to build brand identity. If you know that you have great social media presence, integrate that into your brand identity. If your customers rave about the customer service, use that – every advertisement, newsletter, press release, etc. should mention the killer customer service you offer.
When your brand identity strategy is focused, adaptable, and stays true to what your business is, you’re on the right track.