How to Create an Authentic Brand Identity
This article was last updated on October 15, 2020.
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 creating your own website or generating other assets like your logo and business cards. 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 brand identity at any stage. First, we'll clarify the term and explain why it's important. Then, we'll outline the steps you can take to pin down a brand identity of your own.
What is brand identity?
The foundation of successful branding depends on having a well-formed brand identity: 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 is understood - and most importantly, embraced - by audiences. Once you’ve thought about how you want people to perceive your brand, you’ll need to determine the elements that will turn it into a unique tour-de-force.
These include the things that make your brand look and sound a certain way, such as your choice of color palette or use of language.
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, too. It's something you can always use as a consistent reference for your branding, marketing and content as your business continues to expand.
How to create your 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.
Shape your brand’s personality
Design your brand's assets
Create a brand style guide
Build your brand’s presence
01. Shape your brand’s personality
Before you think about how you’ll represent your brand to the world, put yourself in your brand’s shoes. Just like you and I express ourselves by the way we dress, speak and act - your brand also expresses itself with unique features. Here's how to give your brand a personality that stands out:
Write your 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 more likely to feel a connection to your product.
Define your 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 your 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 with traits that embody these values and make sure all aspects of your branding are in sync.
Pro tip: Making a mission statement is a savvy way to paint a picture of your business for yourself, partners, employees and customers.
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 in your market. Leverage this knowledge to take inspiration from your competitors while ensuring that you create something fresh and original. A good method for doing this strategically is by performing a SWOT analysis.
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's assets
You’ve already established what makes your brand stand out by defining its personality - prove its value by crafting a powerful voice and refreshing visual representation. Your brand's assets are a set of unique elements that help audiences identify it as something recognizable and distinct. Be bold - but smart. Customers appreciate idiosyncrasies when they’re served with transparency and consistency.
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 consistently using a particular tone in your website copy, UX writing, marketing materials and blogs, you can personify your brand and embody a distinct style.
Your brand colors have a lasting impression on customers, affecting the way they perceive and interact with your business. Here’s some Marketing 101 advice: colors trigger emotions. The subliminal response to colors can run the gamut from excitement or elegance to seriousness or friendliness - the list goes on.
Apart from setting a particular tone, these colors should be used consistently throughout your brand’s 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 your color palette with your business and familiarize themselves with your brand identity.
Your brand’s font tells a story just as much as the content itself. 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.
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 personality you’ve built as a starting point for your brand’s logo design. The goal of making a good logo is to create something that audiences will remember and recognize immediately, so make sure it’s one-of-a-kind and captures your business’ essence. Take a look at these creative logo design ideas for inspiration.
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 your employees, partners and stakeholders. It ensures that you’re all on the same page when you start creating 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 - 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.
04. Build your brand’s 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, such as a website, packaging and more.
Building 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 with attractive visual features and informative text. To heighten the professional perception of your brand, choose a domain 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.
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.
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.
By Jenna Romano