- What’s a brand identity and why do I need one?
- How do I develop one?
- How does it affect the marketing I do?
Customers can be really opinionated about brands. They like one sneaker brand over another, or this car brand over the other – sometimes passionately so.
If you happen to be the maker of the preferred sneaker or car brand, that’s a huge win...which is why creating a strong brand identity is so important.
It’s easy to think of a brand identity as just a logo, especially when you see brand enthusiasts proudly sporting one on every article of clothing or on every electronic device they carry. But what else goes into a brand identity?
Basically, a brand is anything and everything that differentiates your business, products, and services against those of your competitors.
People who feel emotionally connected to your business can become lifelong fans and customers. But to get there, your business has to be more than just a business.
A brand identity can give your business a face and should appeal to customers’ emotions. This helps them see your company as more than goods and services, and understand why your products fit their lives better than your competitors’.
Creating a strong brand identity requires developing 4 statements. First is Brand Character: 1 word that tells people what your brand stands for. For example, one car company might be characterized as “safe” and another as “luxury.”
There’s also a Vision Statement: 1 aspirational sentence communicating your business‘ motivations and goals. It’s a “who we are” statement that should be lofty, and excite and inspire employees, customers, and partners.
A Mission Statement, meanwhile, is more concrete and actionable than the vision statement, and describes your business’ reason for existing. It’s all about what you actually do and what goods and services you offer people.
Lastly, there’s your Brand Personality. This allows you to define the tone of voice, color scheme, and design aspects that you’ll use in your marketing and other communications with customers.
To come up with a vision statement, figure out what your business represents and what it doesn’t represent.
Ask yourself why you do what you do and how you do it. For example, Miles’ company One Man’s Trash sells art made from discarded plastic bottles to shake up the art world, and he does it with sustainability and craftsmanship.
Then think about the most important product you offer and contrast it with a product you’d never offer (AKA the exact opposite of what you do and believe in).
To round out your thinking, consider how your target audience would describe your company and where you want your business to be in the future.
Combine this into 1 inspirational sentence with your business name, aspiration, and way of doing things. For Miles, it might be: “One Man’s Trash is devoted to shaking up the art world and eradicating waste with sustainable craftsmanship.”
Share this vision statement with everyone who works with you. The more they understand it and embrace it, the stronger your brand will be.
To get your mission statement, ask yourself questions about what your business does for your customers.
What industry does your business serve? Collectible art, fresh food, medical care, entertainment, etc.? Who are your customers?
What do you do to meet the needs of your industry? What techniques do you use to do this (innovative thinking, data, discounts, etc.)? Does this make you different from your competitors? How else are you different from them?
Now put all of that together into a short statement that cuts to the chase and doesn’t use jargon.
Miles might use this as his statement: “One Man’s Trash is dedicated to giving art lovers sustainable, beautiful artwork at reasonable prices. Each piece is hand-crafted and made-to-order by our skilled sculptors.”
Now let’s look at how you’d develop your brand character and personality. It’s all about thinking like your customers.
Your brand character takes your mission and vision statements and focuses them into 1 word that represents both of them. To do this, think about what emotions people feel when they think about your business.
Do they feel safe, free, happy, excited, relaxed, confident, or something else? Hone in on 1 emotion – and then do surveys or focus groups to make sure this is what your customers actually think compared to your first assumption.
For your brand personality, ask yourself: If my brand was a person, how would I describe him or her?
Maybe you’d say your business is charming, innovative, cool, young, and smart. Again, test your hypothesis through surveys and focus groups.
Once you have all 4 brand elements, you can put them all together to help guide your marketing, strategy, and execution.
For example, your vision statement can help your new ad campaign be forward-thinking and goal-centric, while your mission statement can make sure the ads represent your core business services.
Meanwhile, your ad campaign should leave people with the emotion represented by your 1-word brand character, and the tone of voice should reflect the personality you chose.
All of these elements will help your marketing communicate what your business does, why it’s different, and what type of person you cater to – which helps solidify your brand in both your industry and your customers’ minds.
Make sure everyone involved with your marketing – from internal teams to outside agencies – understands your 4 brand elements and how they all work together. It’ll help your marketing be consistent across the board.
Don’t forget: Always be authentic. You have to actually live up to your brand identity, not just talk about it. After all, customers don’t like to give business to brands they can’t trust.
A good way to get your feet wet is by nailing down your brand’s personality. So let’s make a list of the characteristics that describe your business.
When you create a list that describes your brand personality, ask yourself some questions. Do any of your choices clash with each other? Would you add any new traits? After you’ve reached a finalized list, test it out with customers and other people who know your business.
References: Google Webmasters, Think With Google, Google Primer