“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”—Steve Forbes
Building your brand identity is one of the most important steps in starting a business. If your company is already operational and you want to rebrand, this is also a critical part of your marketing process.
Your brand identity is constantly speaking for your business; it is (or at least should be) part of every single consumer touchpoint.
This is why it’s so critical to get your brand identity right for your company.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to build such an identity. However, the steps to getting there are the same—research, planning, and a deep understanding of what your business represents.
Understanding What Your Brand Is
First, let’s look at what a brand is.
Most people think it’s the business name and the company logo, and they stop there. However, a brand identity is so much more than that.
It’s basically the entire personality and image of a company—much the same way you as an individual person have an identity.
Each individual person has their own style, their own way of doing things, their own voice in this world. There is something within that combination that makes them unique.
When creating your brand identity, you need to find that unique combination of elements and build your identity from there.
This means understanding your brand on every level. If you’re not sure you’re there yet, a SWOT analysis is a great starting point. In doing a SWOT analysis you can pinpoint the exact characteristics you want your brand to portray and any obstacles you may face.
Strengths—The positive characteristics that give you an advantage over your competitors.
Weaknesses—The characteristics that may pose a disadvantage.
Opportunities—The opportunities in the marketplace for your brand.
Threats—Any potential hiccups or hurdles that stand in your way.
Once your SWOT analysis is complete, it’s time to move on to building your brand identity from the ground up.
- Know Your Audience
It’s important to have a starting point when you want to build a brand identity.
That starting point should always be understanding who you are talking to. This is where knowing your target audience inside and out will help you. They will have a particular set of interests, way of talking and dressing, and are drawn to a certain style.
You can then take all of these elements and start building an identity that is in line with who these people are. Your identity must match your product, and you’ll need to consider this carefully.
Knowing your audience means understanding what fonts will appeal to them, what colors and branding styles they’re drawn to, and what tone of voice they listen to.
You need to think of your audience like your best friends. You have plenty in common and communicate clearly. This is what you want your brand to do too. Your audience needs to connect and feel comfortable,and your brand identity needs to feel familiar to them.
Your aim should be to fit in with the crowd you’re targeting so that it makes sense for them to use you over a competitor. If you get to know your audience, you’ll speak their language. This gives you the edge over other brands who may connect with them, but not as deeply as you do.
- Research Your Competitors
Speaking of competitors, it’s vital that you research your toughest competition during the initial phases. No matter how unique or niche your brand is, there will be others that offer some sort of competition.
Thinking that you have a wholly unique product that has no competition is a seriously big mistake. Even if no one is doing exactly what you do, there are other brands that are established in the marketplace, and for good reason.
You want to know who your target market is buying from—and why.
This information helps to inform your decisions on which brands are fitting in with the right consumers. From here, you can analyze what they are doing right and how your brand could potentially improve on this.
You can also look at what your competitors are doing wrong. Sometimes it’s easy to see exactly where a popular brand is making a mistake, and you can learn from this.
When researching your competitors it’s important not to simply pick up on what they’re doing right and replicate it, You need to create your own identity. This means coming up with your own ideas to top theirs.
With the internet offering easy access to a wealth of information, these days there’s no excuse not to research your competition. Just some of your options include:
- Googling the type of product or service you plan to sell and seeing who comes up tops.
- Reading reviews of your biggest competitors.
- Following your competitors’ social media pages and checking any subreddits that relate to your market.
- Browse their website and assess their customer journey (and if necessary, make a purchase!).
- Talk to people about why they buy your competitors’ products and what draws them to the brand.
- Pick Your Personality
As mentioned above, a brand needs to have a personality that fits in with its target market. This personality draws on the human characteristics of your brand.
You need to know if you’re corporate and use a lot of jargon, or if you’re young and hip, using all the right slang terms. Try to be fairly specific when picking your personality—creating a full persona of who your ideal customer would be can help you pinpoint this brand personality.
When building this personality for your brand, start by picking about 5 adjectives that describe your ideal persona. These should all resonate with both your company and your target audience.
For example, some of the adjectives you might come up with are youthful, friendly, relaxng, sophisticated, high energy, or dependable.
You need to ensure that the adjectives you come up with have a common thread. This will help you to create a cohesive brand personality.
Your brand can combine youthful, friendly and dependable, but it can’t combine high energy and relaxing.
Your target market must immediately relate to your brand personality. Having a consistent set of traits that relate to your brand increases your brand equity.
It cements your brand in a customer mind and gives them a feeling of trust and transparency. They know what you are and who you are—and that resonates with them.
- Choose Your Business Name
Now that you understand who you are marketing to and what kind of personality your brand has, you can start to look at the name for your business.
This is an important step because your business name could be with you for a very long time. Changing a brand name can be extremely difficult if your company has been up and running for a while. So pick wisely.
The name that you choose will also impact everything from your logo to your trademark options. It should be catchy, while at the same time not something that is easy to imitate by a competitor, or something that is easy to confuse with a competitor.
Don’t be afraid to have fun and play with making up words or combining two or more words together. Just don’t get too complicated that you need to explain the name to every customer.
In this phase, it’s a good idea to go out and ask your target market what they think of name options. They will, after all, be the people you are selling to.
If you’re planning to expand your product line down the road, or you may pivot your business in the future, avoid picking a brand name that’s 10% based on your initial offering. If you expand or update your offering you may limit yourself in the marketplace as your name indicates you only offer a singular product.
If you’re struggling to think of a name there are several options you can explore, including:
- Using a business name generator
- Make up your own word. Pepsi is a prime example of this working out well.
- Alter a word by removing letters or numbers such as Tumblr.
- Look to other languages, like Latin.
- Combine two words to make your own like Pinterest.
- Use an unrelated word. This worked well for Apple.
- Create an acronym from a longer name Like IBM (International Business Machines Corporation).
- Decide On a Look And Feel
Once you have a name, you can start to play with the look of your brand identity. This includes the logo, the colors you use, the fonts, the type of images, and everything else that represents your brand on a visual level.
Colors are a good place to start because they represent different emotions and sentiments. If you’re not sure what colors to choose, think about how you want your brand to make people feel. There’s a lot that goes into color psychology, and brands can capitalize on this.
If you want to be bold, go for red. If you want to be calming, go for blue or green. Yellow and orange tones say warmth and optimism to a customer, while cooler tones say peace and strength.
Fonts are also important because the use of them—even without color—can help signify your brand identity immediately to the customer. It’s best to have at least two fonts that you can use on the vast majority of your branding. One is for headings and the other is for the body text of any content.
Ensure that your photos are clearly legible for close up and far away. Some of the fancier fonts are hard to read, especially if they’re in a small print.
The font you select must reflect your personality too. You can’t have a hip, young brand hoping to attract a youthful market with a font that looks old, outdated, or unsuitable. If possible, you can pay a designer to create a font that’s unique to your brand. This will give you complete control over this facet of your identity.
Finally, get to work on your logo.
You now have a wealth of information to inform how the logo should be styled, the colors to use and the font family to go for. Remember, your logo doesn’t have to use the exact fonts selected for your marketing material, but it should be in a similar family.
Ideally, your logo should scale easily and look good in just about every size. Remember that you’ll use it everywhere, from the favicon in a browser tab to email signatures and on your website. You may want to print marketing collateral too.
If your logo doesn’t scale well, consider creating a pared down version too. If your brand has a two word name, take the first letters of each and create a smaller, easy to identify logo in the same font. This ensures youretian your brand identity but that people can actually see your logo when it’s shrunk to a smaller size.
- Retain Consistency Throughout
Once you have everything settled, you need to ensure that it all gets used correctly and consistently across all your marketing material, and every single customer touchpoint. Remember, this is your identity for your brand. That identity should be displayed everywhere, from your website to on your company invoices.
The best way to ensure consistency is to simply write down how, when and where to use all of the elements. This is called a Corporate Identity or a CI, and informs everyone working on company documents or marketing material how to use the elements correctly. Your CI should include the exact colors, the exact fonts and the exact sizing for the logo and all other elements. This becomes your “branding bible” and you’ll refer to it whenever necessary.
“Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touchpoints”—Jonah Sachs
Building a brand identity from the ground up takes time, effort, and attention to detail. Once you have established a positive brand image you’ll not only become familiar to customers, you’ll stand out from your competition. Which is exactly where you want your brand to be.