How to build a brand identity
Read on to see how to create a brand identity and why it’s important to get it right.
What is a brand identity?
Brand identity is everything that makes a brand unique. From the colour palette and the logo, to fonts and even word choice, everything your brand presents to the outside world helps to develop its identity.
Brand identity is more than the sum of its parts. Individually, the components that make up your company’s image need to suggest or evoke emotions from your target demographics. These factors work to create a consistent image that is often tied together by an agreed set of values or goals - but how do you create a brand identity?
How to create a brand identity
Creating your brand identity from scratch can feel daunting. However, if you break it down, it can become much more manageable. The following steps should help you develop an identity that’s appropriate and identifiable with your business.
Assess your current situation
Before you dive into picking out colours and fonts, it can be helpful to look at your brand as it currently stands, and where you want it to go. It’s often useful to be able to point to an existing competitor identity, set of values, and personality as a reference when developing your own brand identity.
Consider the below as an example checklist for the basis of your brand identity .
- Core Principles. Your purpose, values, or mission
- Name. Central to everything, especially the brand logo
- Essence. Your company’s personality, for example, your tone of voice
- Messaging. Any taglines, words, or grammatical choices that will work alongside your image and aesthetic.
It can also be useful to remember why you’re looking to rebrand your identity.
Consider the competition
The key word here is ‘unique’. If you want to stand out from the crowd and be easily recognised, then knowing who you’re up against can help you find your brand niche.
For example, what colour palettes and visual styles are your competitors using? You might find you’ll stand out from the crowd by changing your brand colours. Likewise, are your competitors successful at engaging customers with their brand voice? How could they be improved, and how could their techniques be utilised in your brand?
Decide on the visual details
Once you’ve agreed on what’s important and how to stand out from the competition, deciding how things will look can be a good next step. Whether you employ help from an internal or external team, hearing the opinions of others can be useful. The subjective nature of colours and visual branding means that ideas can be interpreted differently by individual departments (and, importantly, consumers).
Consider all aspects of visual branding, from your logo and colour palette, right down to the typography you choose. Will you use photo imagery, or illustrations? How about iconography and data visualisation? You might find that, as you develop one component, it helps feed into the progress and shape of another.
How to develop a brand identity
Developing your brand identity means keeping it up to date with changing markets and ensuring you stay relevant.
Some key tactics to consider when doing this include:
- Measuring your performance metrics. Tools such as Google Analytics can show you data on visits to your website, how your brand was found, conversion rates, and areas you can improve.
- Getting direct consumer feedback. Marketing tools such as surveys, on-site comments, or FAQs can indicate what your consumers are looking for.
- Testing and learning what works best for your brand. This can be the most effective way of developing your identity while making improvements.
What is brand image?
Brand image is how your company is perceived by audiences and consumers. It can dictate whether you’re recognised, considered in the user journey, or whether consumers are willing to buy from you.
A strong and well-defined brand image can make the difference between standing out from the crowd and getting lost in a competitive marketplace. For example, there’s an association between products from well-known brands and high-quality goods – with cheaper products considered inferior, regardless of difference between the two . From this example alone, you can see how a brand’s image can affect perceptions of products and, therefore, sales.
How to create a brand image
Creating a brand image can often work in the same way as creating a brand identity. However, a brand image can have a larger role to play in changing the public’s perception of a company.
Know your target audience and what they want
Before you start making changes, it can be useful to know who best to target. If you understand your current audience and customers, you can target your brand imagery and wording to suit them.
Likewise, market research can help you identify your customer’s pain points  and how you can address them. For example, if you sold soap and during market research you find an eco-conscious demographic who struggle to purchase environmentally friendly hand-soap. You could include ‘environmentally-conscious’ in your brand identity and tap into this untouched group. Ultimately, you want your brand identity to show that you’re capable of providing the product or service that is the go-to for solving your audience’s issues.
Determine and utilise your USP
Unique selling points, or USPs, can be the defining difference between you and your competitors. When creating your brand image, try to consistently refer to your USPs. Whether it’s in your logo, font or packaging, tying in what makes you unique can be a handy way of developing your brand image.
Some examples of USPs might be:
- Personalisation options
- Subscription services (especially for cosmetics or toiletries)
- Removing, or reducing, industry-standard fees – e.g. No call out charge
How to develop a brand image
Once you’ve developed your brand image, you can expand upon it with an effective marketing campaign that communicates your values. Whether it’s via digital advertising or paid or organic social campaigns, marketing your image can be a hugely successful way of getting your message across to new customers.
Staying consistent and growing a familiar audience can be the key to enduring as a recognised brand.
What’s the difference between brand identity and brand image?
The key difference between brand image and brand identity is that the latter is decided within a company. Brand image is ultimately shaped by public opinion and is based on how you’re perceived . While you can finetune your brand identity by making internal changes, a brand image is often harder to change.
How brand identity and brand image work together
While the two are controlled by different factors, when done properly, they should collaborate smoothly. Once your brand identity has been established, you can start to include it in all aspects of your work. If you’re consistent with using your brand identity in your work, then your brand image will start to reflect the same values and ideas.
5 examples of strong brands
Below you can find five companies that have excelled at crafting their brand identity and successfully managing their brand image.
Apple is famous around the world for its “think different” ethos - one championed by their founder, Steve Jobs. Even today, the brand’s identity can be seen in their adverts, promotional material, and even influencing the products they release. Their products have a strong focus on design and simplicity for users  and their use of colour and music in their adverts stood out compared to others .
Their brand image is still associated with the alternative and creative, despite their products often sharing capabilities with competitor companies – for example, Windows. However, Apple remains one of the top brands in their field thanks to their well-crafted brand identity.
Few brands’ imagery is as iconic as Coca-Cola, which has developed alongside the brand for over 130 years . The unmistakable red and white logo hasn’t changed a great deal since the 1890’s . Using the same name, brand logo, and product has resulted in a familiarity that works wonders for their brand image. Coca-Cola has become so ubiquitous that it can be found in all aspects of pop culture, featuring in music, TV, and film. You can find Coca-Cola in iconic films and TV ranging from E.T. (1982) to Stranger Things (2016).
The music streaming giant is known to harness the data generated by its consumers  to create tongue-in-cheek promotions. By focusing on customer actions, (unusual behaviour such as replaying the same song multiple times, or listening to unconventional songs during national holidays) they’ve created a brand image that feels personable while illustrating their focus on personalisation and consumer experience.
Similar to Coca-Cola, McDonald’s’ presence throughout the world has resulted in a brand familiarity that sees it cornering all sides of the consumer market. A masterclass in how effective a brand tag line can be, ‘I’m lovin’ it’ is instantly recognisable as belonging to the Golden Arches’ brand identity. While the company has faced criticism over a number of issues, their brand image in the UK and Europe has shifted successfully to a more eco-conscious element .
Faced with a changing business model, Netflix’s rebranding into a purely online service has undoubtedly been a successful one. Today, they have the largest market share in on-demand streaming with 39% in Q1 . Identifying as user friendly and highly personalised, the brand makes use of accessible font types, clear language, and a recommendation feature to craft a recognisable and reliable brand image.
This UK-based retailer of premium candles has done an excellent job of building a cool and distinctive brand. From its enigmatic name to its retro, 70s-style white-on-orange colour scheme, is as hip as the brands it stocks – Boy Smells, P.F Candle Co and more. It's the candle shop of choice for the cool kids and elegant adults.
This Manchester-based independent clothes shop has attained legendary status in the past couple of decades. And that’s as much to do with its effortless bran building as it is the premium streetwear labels it stocks. From its eye-catching logo and artwork to its knowing, hip product descriptions and coveted blog.
This London-based burger chain has grown from a single outlet to having restaurants all over the capital and beyond on the back of its amazing food and strong branding. The whole thing is underpinned by the concept of ‘honest’ food: ‘Top-quality beef, the best potatoes and good times’ as it says itself. And everything about the brand reflects this.
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At Hiscox, we want to help your small business thrive. Our blog has many articles you may find relevant and useful as your business grows. But these articles aren’t professional advice. So, to find out more on a subject we cover here, please seek professional assistance.