What Brand Identity Is and Isn’t

Before we dive into the topic brand identity, let’s try a more familiar question: what makes up your public image?

A typical answer can entail a host of things, from your sense of fashion to how you behave in public. These all come together to make up your public image or personal identity.

Brand Identity is similar, although it involves more conscious decisions. It’s simply the marketing elements and practices that shape your business’ public image (your brand).

Before we go forward, it’s worth noting that ‘brand identity’ isn’t the same thing as ‘brand’, as is obvious above. Neither is it the same thing as ‘branding’. The three terms are very different even though they are often interchangeably misused.

Let me explain.

  • Your brand is your business’ public image. That is, how people perceive your business. Sometimes, perception can be false. Kind of like how some celebrities drive very flashy cars, even though they are dead broke. Thus, a brand is sometimes not how a business looks on the inside. It’s simply how it looks on the outside. It’s simply a public image.
  • Brand Identity, on the other hand, is that selection of elements that make up your brand (your desired public image). For instance, take the James Bond character as a brand. Some of the brand elements that make up that brand would thus be: a dark fitting tuxedo, a pair of shiny Oxfords, a clean-shaven face, a Rolex watch, a fast sophisticated car, and a healthy dose of confidence.
  • And finally Branding is all about actively promoting a business or a particular product through advertising and distinctive design. Branding is simply where your brand identity and marketing meet.

Why do entrepreneurs have to worry about brand identity?

Well, I will tell you why. It’s all about perception. You are either in control of how people perceive your business or you are not. Brand identity helps you be in control.

How to Develop a Brand Identity that Works

The foundation of brand identity resides in design as found in elements like your logo, the packaging of your product, your business website, your paid media, and so on. But before you jump into design assets, you need to first reflect on your business. Otherwise, you could end up creating a brand identity that falls apart once your brand is out there in the world.

Look Within

Lots of brands out there are false public images. You don’t want to be one of them as you would be setting yourself up for failure in the future.

Therefore, in trying to develop your brand identity, look within. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s my mission? That is, why did you start your business?
  • What’s my values? What beliefs and values do you as a company identify with?
  • How is your company any different from other companies in your niche?
  • Is your company special? How?
  • In three words, how would you want people to describe your business?
  • If your business had a voice, what would it say and how would it say it?

Answer these questions and the picture of the public image you are trying to build for your business will become much clearer to you. Now, let’s do something else.

You As an Outsider

Remember we defined ‘brand’ as how people perceive a particular business. I want you to think of yourself as one of those people–you know, as a potential consumer.

Now, be honest. As an outsider, what do you think of the business you are trying to build? The image you have in your head, is it a good one? Does it match the public image you desire for your company?

Don’t panic if it doesn’t. It just means you have work to do.

Check back next week to learn how to shape your brand through design.

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