Consumer attention span is wearing thin. Really thin. With the barrier-to-entry lower than ever, our market is inundated with eager startups, sub-brands, and struggling legacy businesses all trying to make a name or keep a name for themselves. A strong brand identity is no longer a cool luxury, but crucial for businesses to differentiate themselves from crowded shelves and noisy categories.
But a strong brand identity is much more than standing out, it’s about earning fans, building equity, and being remembered.
Although the terms “brand”, “branding”, and “brand identity” are often interchanged, they all have different meanings. Yep, the marketing industry is infamous for its semantics. So, if you’re developing your first brand identity or considering a rebrand, it’s helpful to first understand what a “brand identity” is.
The term “brand” was originally used for the mark cattle ranchers applied to label their cattle. Over time, the concept of a brand evolved to include much more than just a name or a symbol. A brand is the world’s perception of a company. (Although the term has evolved beyond cattle, branding work is still done best with a burger in hand.)
The act of shaping a brand with marketing. Just as an advertising agency creates advertisements, a branding agency creates and shapes brands. As Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Brand identity is the combination of all the elements a company creates and projects in order to represent an image and to entice a feeling when people interact. It’s the process of shaping and molding the impact your products and services leave on a customer. Essentially, your brand identity is the personality of your business and a promise to your customers. A brand identity is made up of your:
- Values, mission, and vision
Verbal and written messaging
Let’s reset with a well-known example of how brand identity works.
Brand Identity Examples
When you hear the name “Starbucks”, you probably picture its iconic siren or mermaid-like logo mark.
You might also think of the color green, their “tall, grande, venti” naming convention, colorful tea drink posters, or the smell of dark roasted coffee. Here are two essential traits that comprise Starbucks’ brand identity:
- Starbucks’ brand identity begins with a green logo in a circular shape. The green color elicits nature, tranquility, and health in the person who drinks Starbucks. In 2011, Starbucks took the bold approach to completely remove the outer ring of their logo that had the Starbucks name. And the response? Starbucks logo-mark had built so much equity, that their logo spoke for itself without requiring the words, “Starbucks Coffee”. Although removing a business name within the logo lock-up is not something we normally suggest, Starbucks has enough immediate recognition to pull the marketing stunt with grace.
- Starbucks adds a pep in your step and is an indulgent “treat yourself” beverage for any time of day. Starbucks prints its logo on a burlap brown coffee sleeve (emitting the perception of eco-friendly). The sleeve wraps around a snow-white paper cup, the custom, slender shape of their cups and pure white cup emits a feeling of “clean” and “premium” and tells die-hard customers they’re not getting an imitation and can trust that the coffee will be what they expect, stay hot, and maintain the integrity of their beverage.
These are some elements that make up the Starbucks brand, not just the logo.
A Few Other Strong Brand Identity Examples
In our work with Macro Snacks, our focus was to connect the dots between a macronutrient diet and the visual identity itself. The identity begins with a thoughtful logo that aligns with the brand’s purpose and point-of-difference, balanced macronutrients. And since macronutrients are comprised of three major nutritional components (fat, carbs, and protein), the logo is designed with a thoughtful “rule of thirds” design law to reflect the brand’s deeper intention.
Extending the Macro Snacks brand beyond a strong logo and into eye-catching packaging and dynamic web design has been essential to the CPG brand’s success as a startup business in a busy market. Secondary and tertiary bright colors portray high-energy athleticism and vibrant health, while also revealing the different snack flavors (green for “sour cream & onion”, red for “bbq sauce”, blue for “ranch”, and so on). Simple graphics and iconography with bold copy for each snack bag SKU help to extend Macro Snacks’ personality and story.
The Monroe is a residential property in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood, our primary objective was to develop a visual identity system that honored and respected the neighborhood and showed pride in the surrounding community. The Monroe’s brand identity is classic and understated. A timeless logo and minimal logo mark give the brand strength and longevity. Striking colors, clean type, and high-res photography consistently reach across the brand’s collateral and website, making an exciting impact to match the brand’s hip property in the trendy Germantown neighborhood of bustling Nashville, Tennessee.
But brand identity is much more than just checking boxes, picking colors, designing a logo, and printing business cards. A consistent, thoughtful brand identity is an important part of your sales strategy and business success.
Why Brand Identity Is Important
As the expression and representation of almost everything your business is and does, a brand endures and grows in the hearts and minds of your audience. Therefore, your brand identity is crucial to your business’s future.
So, if a brand is more than just a logo, how can you replicate what brands like Starbucks have done and tap into these other elements of your business’s identity? And why is it so important to design and implement a well-developed brand identity?
Trust is the first step in any relationship. A well-developed brand identity makes your product or services more memorable and gives you the critical authority and credibility you need in order to succeed in today’s marketplace.
The “Face” of Your Business
When it comes down to it, your logo is the “face” of your business. But its function is more than just looking pretty. A strategically, well-designed logo and brand identity system should do the functional and emotional job of telling the story behind your company’s deeper vision.
Turn Impressions Into Advocates
Whether it’s a print ad, online banner ad, billboard, or YouTube commercial, a brand identity is your guide for all extensions of your brand. A brand that knows who they are, that’s backed with credibility, is more poised to turn brand impressions into converted fans.
Express Your “Why”
A brand can be two-dimensional and superficial, but if you’re trying to make it long-term, you’ve got to be immersive—you’ve got to stand for something and mean it. Like Simon Sinek said: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” A well-developed brand identity should be totally and utterly aligned with your values and mission, day in and day out.
“Transparency lies at the core of our brand identity. It’s why we put together our Playbook, a comprehensive peek-behind-the-curtain on our day to day processes, systems, tools, and values. We want people to feel like they know and trust us before they even pick up the phone or send us an email.”
—Matt Cheuvront, Proof Owner & CEO
Attract, Engage, & Delight Customers
A brand identity with trust, purpose, and consistency attracts people who buy-in to what your brand believes in and why you exist. But once these people become customers, that same brand identity gives them a sense of belonging. A good product generates customers, but a good brand earns ambassadors and grows tribes.
Brand Identity Takeaways
The above steps will help you better understand brand identity and why it’s important, however, implementing a well-developed brand identity with longevity is another story and requires a comprehensive and consistent visual identity system.
Stay tuned for our next article of the series about how to develop a great visual identity system.