The Most Overlooked Aspect of Brand Identity
By: Katherine Williams
With the rise of mass marketing, global trade, and the dawn of the Digital Age, the world of business is in a state of constant evolution.
Growth is part of the natural order, and survival depends on a company’s ability to adapt with the times. In this rapidly unfolding landscape, the most important asset a company can invest time into is developing a strong, recognizable brand identity.
Yet, what makes a successful brand identity? After all, a surface-level skimming of Google search results might cause you to believe a brand is nothing more than a name, term, design, symbol, or other identifiers.
Although, if this is how brand identity works, why do some brands achieve global recognition while others languish in obscurity?
The answer lies in the fact that successful brand identity designs require much more than just a compelling name or graphic design elements. Executing an outstanding brand strategy requires a flawless implementation of all the elements it takes to build a brand, from deeply knowing its history and values to its visual identity and voice. A strong brand identity sets a company apart from its competitors and creates an emotional connection with its customers.
Let’s take a closer look.
The 4 Elements of Brand Identity
In traditional marketing terms, a brand identity is comprised of the brand’s visible elements, such as color, design, and name, that identify and distinguish the brand in the marketplace. For instance, Starbucks is easily recognizable by its green and white color scheme, while Nike is known for its swoosh logo. A strong use of brand identity elements helps customers understand what a company or product is about, makes it easily recognizable, and creates loyalty.
Like your personal name, a brand name is one of the first things people learn about a new company or product. Your brand name is how you introduce yourself and becomes a chief identifier to your target audience. Are you a serious business or a fun-loving startup? Are you classic or cutting-edge? Your name is your first opportunity in the branding process to make an impression, so choose wisely.
Your tagline is a short, concise statement that sums up your brand’s mission or philosophy. A good tagline is memorable and easy to grasp. A new visitor should be able to understand what you do from that single line of text. Your tagline must also reflect your brand’s personality. For example, Nike’s “Just Do It” is inspirational and motivating, while KFC’s “finger-lickin’ good” is lighthearted.
Your logo is a graphical representation of your brand. It’s often the first thing people see when they encounter your brand, which is why it’s often the first design element someone considers when asking themselves, “what is company branding?”
Naturally, you must ensure your logo is eye-catching and memorable. A logo should be simple enough to be easily recognizable but also unique enough to stand out in a sea of startups. In the logo design process, be sure to ask yourself what images naturally come to mind when thinking about your company’s mission. Jot down a few of those ideas during your brainstorming process.
4. Brand Colors
Your brand colors are another essential element of your visual identity markers. Marketing experts and psychologists alike have conducted several studies on the influence of color as a brand element. From product packaging design to infographics posted on your social media channels, color usage influences people’s moods and emotions, so it’s imperative to choose a color scheme that aligns with your brand’s personality. For instance, the color red is generally associated with energy and excitement, while blue is associated with trust and stability.
These four elements are essential components for successfully representing your brand to your audience. Yet, creating these brand identity elements is only half the battle. The real challenge lies in making sure they all work together to create a cohesive and recognizable brand identity.
Find Your Vision
Why did you start your company? Chances are, the answer will surprise you.
By the time most creators reach the point of forming an official business – with their paperwork filed and their employees hired – their original idea has gone through dozens of ideations. It’s been modified, scrapped, and rebuilt so many times it’s nearly impossible to remember the original intention.
To find your company’s vision, you have to go back to the beginning. You have to remember why you started your brand-building journey in the first place.
- What was your very first idea?
- What was the seed that grew into the business you have today?
- And the most important question: Why did you start in the first place?
When you can answer these questions, you’ll be one step closer to uncovering your company’s true identity.
Your vision is the cornerstone of your brand identity.
When you know your vision, everything else will fall into place. Your values, your mission, and your messaging will all be based on that one simple idea. And that base will make your brand more than recognizable.
You’ll be unforgettable.
Define Your Mission
A mission is the reason a company exists. It’s the “why” behind everything a business does. It drives decision-making processes from the very top down, and it informs every single action a company takes. Ultimately, your mission translates into your brand experience and how your target audience interacts with your business concept, your content, your products, and your team.
Many entrepreneurs mistake their mission for their tagline or slogan. But a true mission goes deeper.
Your mission won’t fit on a bumper sticker or a t-shirt.
Your mission is the guiding light for a company, and, as such, it’s essential to get it right.
Missions differ from visions. Visions are aspirational; they encompass what you hope to achieve and shape the direction of your future steps. Missions are present tense; they illuminate what you’re doing right now to achieve your vision.
Think of it like this:
Your mission is the problem you’re solving, and your vision is the solution.
To develop your mission, start by asking yourself these questions:
- What problem are you solving?
- Who are you helping?
- What need are you filling?
- What change are you making in the world?
Your mission should be more than just a statement; it should be a call to action. It should inspire people to join your movement and support your cause.
When your mission is clear, it will be easy to make decisions that align with your goals.
Every time you’re faced with a choice, you can ask yourself, “Does this help me achieve my mission?”
If the answer is no, then it’s not worth your time or energy.
Refining Your Values
Solid values are essential to any lasting brand. They’re the principles you live by as a company, and they should be reflected in your products, company culture, your leadership, and your brand’s voice.
Your values can be divided into two categories: internal and external.
Internal values are the guiding principles for your team members; they’re what you expect from the people who work for you.
External values are the principles you live by as a company; they’re what you want your customers and clients to know about you.
It’s necessary to have both internal and external values because they inform every decision you make—from the way you design your products to the way you treat your employees.
To develop your values, start by brainstorming a list of adjectives that describe your company. Once you have a good starting point, you can begin to narrow it down to the most important values.
From there, it’s time to start refining your values. Remember, your values should be more than just words on a page; they should be reflective of your company culture and the way you do business.
Discovering Your Voice
Finally, your brand’s unique voice is your crowing jewel. Whether you discover your voice after you’ve finished your brand identity elements or you come to this post at the very beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you need to understand two things about discovering your brand’s voice:
- Your brand voice is crucial for successful audience engagement
- It’s never too late to develop your voice
Brand Voice and Audience Connection
Connecting to your audience is key, whether you want to build a personal brand or corporate one.
Your voice is how you connect with your audience on an emotional level. It’s the heart and soul of your brand, and it must be reflected in everything you do—from the language you use on your website, in the way you answer customer service inquiries, and to how you design your marketing collateral.
There are four central elements of brand voice:
Each element should be taken into consideration when you’re developing your voice.
To get started, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What do they want?
- How can you help them?
- What do they need to hear from you?
- How can you connect with them?
Your voice needs to be clear, consistent, and on-brand across all channels. The goal is to create a cohesive experience for your audience so they know what to expect from you every time they encounter your brand. That’s why discovering (or re-discovering) your brand’s voice is so important.
It’s Never Too Late to Develop Your Voice
Whether you’re a solopreneur just starting out or a large corporation, it’s never too late to connect with your audience on a deeper level. Refining your brand’s voice is an ongoing process, one that should be revisited on a regular basis to ensure it’s still in line with your goals and objectives.
Is the language you’re using engaging?
Are you speaking to your audience in a way that resonates with them?
If not, it may be time for a refresh.
If you’re not sure where to start, Variantista was created to help brands fine-tune their voices and ensure they are flawlessly reflected across multiple channels.
Building a powerful brand identity comes with several steps and challenging questions. However, when you take the time, and use the best resources, to do the necessary work, you’ll be well on your way to developing a brand your audience connects with on a personal level.
Keep these points in mind as you work on developing your brand identity:
- Your brand is more than your logo
- Your mission defines your why.
- Your vision defines your how.
- Your voice is your connection to your audience.
Developing a strong brand identity is essential for any business, big or small. By taking the time to develop your mission, values, and voice, you’ll be well on your way to creating a cohesive and memorable brand that will resonate with your audience for years to come. And, if you find you need some expert advice, feel free to reach out to the Variantista team.
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