What is Brand Identity and How to Create One to Elevate Your Business
This article was last updated on December 13, 2022.
Thriving businesses have one thing in common: a strong and consistent brand identity. Just think of iconic brands like Nike, Starbucks, and Google—their long-lasting impression on the marketplace and worldwide recognition are living proof of the power of branding.
Accurately shaping your brand’s identity requires taking a few steps. It’s best to do this in the early stages of product or business development—before you create a logo or generate other branding assets. That being said, it’s never too late to make sure your business becomes an admired brand.
This article will brief you on the process of building a brand identity at any stage. First, we'll clarify the term and explain why it's important. Then, we'll outline the elements you’ll need and what steps to take in order to create your own. We’ll also look at strong examples for inspiration.
What is brand identity?
Successful branding depends on having a well-formed brand identity: that is, the distinct voice and visual appearance of a particular brand used to communicate its mission with the rest of the world.
A brand identity encapsulates your business' vision by portraying it in a way that’s understood —and most importantly—embraced by audiences. It’s part of the association they’ll make to your company and over time will build brand trust and foster loyalty, ultimately impacting the way they perceive your brand.
More specifically, brand identity refers to the tangible elements that make your brand look and sound a certain way, such as your choice of brand colors or use of language.
Brand identity prism
According to Jean-Noel Kapferer, brand strategist, brand identity is made up of six main components.
Physique: The physical attributes of the brand, such as its product design, packaging, and visual identity.
Personality: The brand's human characteristics, including its values, attitudes, and tone of voice.
Culture: Cultural associations with or for the brand, such as its country of origin or the cultural values it represents.
Relationship: The type of relationship the brand has with its customers, including the emotional connections it creates with them.
Reflection: The extent to which the brand reflects its customers' self-image or aspirations.
Self-image: The brand's own perception of itself, including its strengths, weaknesses, and desired positioning in the market.
According to Kapferer, a strong brand identity is one that is consistent across all of these six components, and which at the same time reflects the brand's unique value proposition and positioning in the market.
He emphasizes the importance of creating a "brand personality" that resonates with an identified target audience while developing a clear and compelling brand story that communicates the brand's values.
Brand identity vs corporate identity
While similar in concept and how they are created, there are fundamental differences between brand and corporate identity.
As we know brand identity refers to the visible elements that represent a brand, including its name, logo, tagline, and overall visual and aesthetic style. These then need to encompass the brand's personality, values, and messaging, and should be designed to differentiate the brand from its competitors.
Corporate identity, on the other hand, refers to the way a company presents itself to the public. It includes the company's name, logo, visual and aesthetic style, and messaging, all of which are part of its brand identity. However corporate identity encompasses not just the brand, but also the company's culture, values, and mission, as well as its relationships with stakeholders such as customers, employees, shareholders, and the wider community.
Brand identity is created from the specific visual and messaging elements that represent a business or specific product. Corporate identity is a broader concept that encompasses the entire company and its reputation in the marketplace.
Brand identity vs brand image
As we know brand identity is made up of the tangible elements that represent a brand, such as its name, logo, visual style, and messaging.
Brand image, on the other hand, is the perception that consumers have of a brand. It is the sum of all their experiences, feelings, and associations with the brand, and it can be influenced by a wide range of factors, such as advertising, product quality, customer service, and social media presence.
While, in theory, brand identity is something that a company can control and shape through intentional messaging, brand image is ultimately determined by consumers and their interactions with the brand. A strong brand identity can help create a positive brand image, but ultimately, it is up to the consumer to form their own opinions and associations with the brand. There's only so much a company can do to shape their brand image, ultimately it's created by everyone who interacts with their brand, and their experiences can be shaped by influences outside a brand's control.
Why is brand identity important?
Your brand is more than just a logo—it’s something that lives, breathes and evolves as your business grows. A well-developed brand identity will distinguish your business in the eyes of your audience. It will also establish a sense of understanding and reliability among your customers, forging a connection that leads to loyalty, engagement and long-term success.
Once you understand the persona of your brand, it will make growth easy. Your brand’s identity is something you can consistently use as a reference for your brand strategy, as your business continues to expand.
A strong brand identity influences:
Internal and external representation
Gaining new customers (while taking care of existing ones)
Differentiation from competitors
Brand identity elements
Your brand identity can be broken down into individual elements that should all be cohesive and aligned to one another. Imagine a single thread that weaves between your branding elements, intertwining them. Each of these have their own purpose, and all serve to establish and maintain your brand identity:
As much as your own name is a part of your identity—a brand name should convey your business’s personality, mission, values and tone. Some brand names are so successful that they've become synonymous with their products, and are a part of our daily lexicon. For instance, referring to tissues as Kleenex, bandages as Band-aids or cotton swabs as Q-tips—are all examples of successful brand names that are intrinsically linked to their products and immediately trigger brand recall upon hearing them.
When coming up with a brand name, always keep your values at the forefront, consider your target market and conduct linguistic research to make sure your name works in every context. You can read our thorough article on how to create a brand name or try out a business name generator to help you get started.
Tone of Voice
If your brand could talk, how would it sound? Authoritative? Casual? Funny? Encouraging? Perhaps all of the above.
Your brand’s tone of voice refers to the kind of language used to communicate with your audience. By using a consistent tone in your website copy, UX writing, marketing materials, packaging and social media, you can personify your brand and embody a distinct style.
Your brand voice doesn’t stop at communication with prospective customers, it also refers to internal communication with employees, partners or stakeholders. By maintaining a cohesive tone and language both internally and externally, you’ll ensure that anyone who interacts with your brand will recognize your style.
Most people will agree, your logo is the face of your brand. Whether you hire a graphic designer or create a logo of your own, use the brand identity you’ve built as a starting point for your logo design. Your goal is to create a logo that audiences will remember and recognize immediately, so make sure it’s one-of-a-kind and captures your business’ essence.
Your logo should embody your brand identity and reiterate your core values authentically. Using color, shape and typography to communicate your brand persona, this small but powerful symbol will represent your business across each branding touchstone. Take a look at these creative logo ideas for inspiration.
Your brand colors have a lasting impression on customers, affecting the way they perceive and interact with your business. Here’s a taste of Marketing 101: colors trigger emotion. The subliminal response to colors can run the gamut from excitement or elegance to seriousness or friendliness—and the list goes on.
Apart from setting a particular tone, these colors should be used consistently throughout your brand’s marketing assets. Studies show that the use of signature colors improves brand recognition by 80%—think of the exciting red that’s inextricably linked to Coca-Cola, or Apple’s iconic use of white. Over time, audiences will associate this color palette with your business and familiarize themselves with your brand.
Much like the content itself, your brand’s font tells a story of its own. Although choosing a font seems like a subtle decision, typography is a fundamental element of brand identity design.
Select a font style that reflects a cohesive message and remains stylistically in line with the rest of your assets. Also, consider the way you want your text to be arranged, taking into account important design principles such as visual hierarchy, white space and alignment.
Visual content like photography and imagery can help communicate your message and enhance your designs, thus making it a significant element of your brand identity. Photography, for example, enables you to share a story, evoke a feeling or capture a mood without the need for written context. With this in mind, choosing visual elements that actualize your brand message is an important step for getting through to your audience in a meaningful way.
Be sure to choose imagery that is relatable, inclusive and resonates with your target audience. Furthermore, always make sure your images are high-quality and properly formatted for diverse platforms such as your social posts or printed marketing materials.
How to create a brand identity
Building a brand identity is an investment of time, creativity and effort. As you’ll see, it’s also a brilliant opportunity to secure all facets of your brand and decide how to share them with the world. Use this outline as a guide and starting point—and get ready to meet your brand.
01. Shape your brand personality
Before you think about how you’ll represent it to the world, put yourself in your brand’s shoes. Just like you and I express ourselves with the way we dress, speak and act—your brand also uses unique features to convey its purpose and goals. Here's how to give your brand a personality that stands out:
Write your brand story
What inspired you to start your business? What do you want to achieve? What can you offer your community? Your brand’s story is the linchpin of building an authentic narrative that resonates with your audience. If you can answer these questions and communicate them with your customers, they'll be more likely to feel a connection to your product.
Define your brand’s core values
A strong set of values shapes the culture built around your business and proves that you care about more than just sales. Whether it’s a commitment to customers’ success or a vow to sell high-quality products, having an overarching sense of purpose gives integrity to your brand. Adorn your brand's assets, especially your brand manifesto with traits that embody these values and make sure all aspects of your branding are in sync.
Distinguish your brand
Make sure you stand out from your competitors by doing market research. This is the best way to stay in-the-know and discover what works well within your market. Leverage this knowledge to take inspiration from your competitors while ensuring that you create something fresh and original.
Through research, you can determine your brand positioning in the market to gauge the competition and pinpoint what makes your brand unique. A good method for doing this strategically is performing a SWOT analysis (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to get a deep understanding of where your brand stands within the market—and in your consumers’ minds.
Know your audience
Getting acquainted with your audience is an important precursor to building your brand identity. Define your target market and decide who's the best audience for your brand. Look at how people respond to different forms of design and communication, and take note of what prompts engagement and user trust.
02. Design your brand assets
You’ve already established what makes your brand stand out by defining its personality, next prove its value by crafting a powerful voice and visual identity. Your brand's assets are a set of unique elements that help audiences pinpoint it as something recognizable and distinct.
As we outlined above, your visual brand assets include a logo, color palette, typography, photography and brand name. Brand assets can also include a catchy slogan or jingle, packaging and even music and sounds associated with your company.
Understanding how each branding asset plays a role in your entire branding collateral ecosystem, and how they impact each other, will enable you to design with purpose, integrity and cohesion.
03. Create a brand style guide
Now that you've decided how to represent your brand, cement these ideas by creating a brand style guide. A style guide will outline each element of your brand’s identity, and will forever guide anyone who interacts with your brand. It ensures that you’re all on the same page when you create marketing materials by providing clear details and instructions.
Thinking ahead, a brand style guide will become handy when you make any future adjustments. Marketing trends always change, and your business will eventually expand—so it’s almost inevitable that you’ll want to freshen your design in the future. A style guide allows you to make these adjustments while warranting consistent loyalty to the core of your brand identity.
Another scenario in which a brand style guide comes in handy is if you outsource writing or design projects. In this case, your associates will have an extensive reference to dictate the foundations of your brand’s appearance. You can explore our list of style guide examples to help you get started.
04. Build your brand presence
Paul Rand, a graphic designer specializing in corporate logos, once said: “design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” Start building your brand’s presence by designing marketing materials that you can share with the world.
These include resources that are essential to promoting your brand and building your audience:
Creating a website is an essential part of owning a business. An online location for audiences to find more information about your brand, your website underscores your brand identity using attractive design and informative text.
As your brand grows, make sure your website not only looks the part, but offers a user experience that matches your offering. For example, create a blog to share your brand’s voice or create an app that provides a branded mobile experience to your users.
Pro tip: To heighten the professional perception of your brand, you should also choose a domain name that includes your business' name.
If you’re a brand that sells goods, whether in person or via an online store, remember that customers love creative packaging. Packaging says a lot about your brand’s identity and has the capacity to satisfy customers before they enjoy what’s inside.
Think outside the box—pun intended. By playing around with the material, images and text, you can create a packaging style that reflects the visual identity of your brand.
Paying attention to even the smallest details can go a long way in the way customers perceive your brand. Consider the shapes and forms you use in your packaging and how they reinforce both the visual language and the overall message of your brand. For example, what types of materials do you use and what purpose do they serve the overall brand experience?
It’s true that we live in a digitally focused world—but business cards never get old. Displaying your contact information along with your brand’s logo, a business card is a friendly and professional way of reminding new connections to reach out and add you to their contacts.
Business cards can be made in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles, so designing a business card that expresses the identity of your brand won’t be a problem. You can explore these business card ideas to see examples of brands that creatively integrate their brand identity in an effective way, and start making your own with a business card maker.
Email design and marketing
Good email marketing is a strategic way to build brand awareness, promote new products and engage with customers. Email marketing services make it possible to design custom emails, which means you can stamp your brand’s identity all over it.
Whether your emails are promotional or informative, be sure to use the elements of your brand identity design, such as your logo, brand colors and fonts. This is also a great opportunity to share your brand voice, using the right tone to highlight your message.
Want to go one step further? Make sure you use a business email address for emails that are both professional and polished—and speak your brand identity in every detail.
Regardless which social platforms you use, each channel offers a unique approach to communicating directly with your customers. Social media also provides context, personality and a sense of familiarity to your brand, since customers interact with it on a daily basis. The tone you set with the language and visuals you use across social media should consistently reinforce your brand identity.
A tweet, as one brand identity example, can convey sincerity, humor and approachability when crafted with your brand identity in mind. Paying attention to the guidelines of each platform—like knowing the character count for your posts, images sizes for profiles and overall tone of voice—will help your brand identity shine in the best light.
Sticking to the platforms that are right for your brand will help communicate your brand identity effectively. For instance, if your target audience is predominantly on TikTok, then this is the place you want to be.
05. Measure success
You’ve worked hard to build a strong brand identity, now how do you measure success, and more importantly maintain it? We know that good branding is all about feelings, and while you may not be able to directly measure perceived brand equity, you can certainly monitor your brand through other metrics.
For starters, you can use Wix Analytics to better understand the behavior of your site visitors and make data-driven decisions moving forward with your online presence. This is particularly important if you have an eCommerce website. Recognizing the impact your brand identity and assets can have on conversions can help you think more strategically for future marketing campaigns or sales.
You can also conduct surveys, check forums, or peruse social media comments and discussions. The more you see what people are saying about your brand, the more you’ll understand how they feel about it. This is a core aspect of brand management, and the steps you’ll take to preserve your brand reputation.
Brand management also means looking inwards, and ensuring that your company culture and actions reflect your brand identity. Be bold—but smart. Customers and employees appreciate idiosyncrasies when they’re served with transparency and consistency.
By Kylie Goldstein
Branding Expert and Marketing Blogger
By Jenna Romano
Web Design Expert and Writer