Branding is one of the most important tools at a company’s disposal for increasing its bottom line and generating customer loyalty. Companies with established and successful brands can charge higher prices, get bigger market shares, and make better profits in the long-term.
Within branding there exists brand identity. It’s is a specific term that branding experts give to the total of a company’s branding approach. Brand identity includes the following:
- The visual elements and graphic design that a company chooses for its products and promotions
- The company logo design
- The use of color
- How a company trains staff to sell its products
- How a company creates advertisements
Brand identity, therefore, comprises the tools that a company uses to cultivate a particular image in the eyes of its audience. Ultimately, the brand itself does not get to say who they are, instead, the consumers do.
I like to refer to a brand as a person and the brand identity is how they dress, talk, and behave. This brand “person” attracts certain friends (in this case, target market) due to what they stand for and how they do things. The more well-developed the brand identity is, the more powerful it becomes as a marketing tool.
In some businesses, the brand becomes the driving force and the concept around which they make critical business decisions. For example, Apple has created the most valuable brand in the world, estimated to be worth around $200 billion, based on the idea that its products are stylish, easy-to-use and top-of-the-line status symbols. The Cupertino-based tech company makes many significant decisions about the direction of its business contingent on what it feels will sit well with its current brand identity, rejecting projects that could detract from the impression that it is trying to create.
Brand identity comes from a strategic marketing plan that aligns the business with their goals. But people don’t care about marketing goals and hitting the numbers. As Douglas Davis puts it in his book, Creative Strategy and the Business of Design, “To bottom-line it, right-brained creativity is the spoonful of sugar that makes the business or marketing objectives (the left-brained component) palatable to the public.”
How to Design a Brand Identity
Create A Design Language
Some companies are misguided to believe that brand design involves simply choosing a color palette and a logo. But ask any brand identity expert, and they’ll tell you that it goes well beyond this. Brand identity relies on what we in the industry call a “design language” or a set of visual images across a range of platforms which immediately make a company identifiable.
The concept can be a little slippery, but you will no doubt understand intuitively what a design language is if you’ve ever interacted with any major brands. Apple, for instance, has a consistent design language across its advertising, website, and products. It’s a particular set of visual styles and cues that make something unmistakably identified with that particular company.
Brand identity includes particular icons or graphics, illustrations, video advertising, consistent design layouts, logos, and colors. The key to building a brand identity through a design language is consistency. Customers want you to provide them with the same visual cues no matter the channel through which they approach your company. Consistency avoids confusion, builds trust, and makes a brand memorable through repetition.
Make Your Design Language Distinct
It should go without saying, but the design language that you choose for your company needs to be unique in some way that makes it recognizable from other brands. Effective design involves not only coming up with something catchy, but also something that uniquely identifies your company and helps set it apart from the competition in the eyes of customers. Some companies do this very effectively by disrupting the artistic norms of a particular industry, while others have a first-mover advantage, picking colors and styles that are inherently appropriate for a particular business.
Brand Identity Design Should Be Scalable
Most companies want to expand to take advantage of more marketing and boost their revenue. But without a scalable brand identity design, doing so can be difficult. The trick to scalability is to make it easy to apply a company’s branding to new contexts or situations. It should be clear to artists how to utilize company design assets over a new outlet or website without creating glaring inconsistencies with the established brand. Here is when a brand guideline is extremely important – and a well-designed one at that. Ideally, the guideline should be mindfully simple and concise, with practically any artist, either in-house or external, being able to follow them and apply them in new situations.
Brand Identity Design Should Be Memorable
Each person sees thousands of brands every week, if not every day. But why is it that some stick in the memory while others don’t? Of course, a lot goes into memory creation besides design, but there’s no doubt that it plays a pivotal role. We as humans digest imagery significantly faster than we can read. People will get a sense for what the brand is about by just seeing the overall design and color choice before they finish reading the name or information within the design.
A great brand design does two main things: offers a simple message, and makes that message clear. When you think about the great brand designs in history, you can see this at work. Almost always, top brands eschew complexity for simplicity and memorability, doing away with fancy artistic frills and sticking with something basic, powerful, yet original.
Utilizing the Discovery Phase
The Discovery Phase is where a design studio, like Wander Design Co., heavily researches the ins and outs of their client, their target audience, and their competition. In turn, the success rate of the brand identity is an almost guarantee because the Discovery Phase becomes the strategic driver for all brand-related decisions moving forward.
Understand Your Customers
Having a good understanding of your customers is the most critical part of building a brand identity. You want to choose a brand identity that speaks to the needs and wishes of the people to whom you’re selling. That, with a magical mix of who your business is and why it matters, is the sweet spot for your brand identity.
When Apple was first looking to get into the personal computer market back in the 1980s, it knew that it had to come up with a brand identity that would dislodge Microsoft and the PC which was dominant at that point. The company decided that the best approach would be to set itself up as the little guy fighting the big corporations to get customers what they wanted: computer products that just worked.
The marketing strategy paid off, and before long, Apple was a real success story. Apple customers loved the fact that they could get on and do what they wanted to do with their Macs, without having to go through all the rigmarole associated with doing tasks on a regular PC. The company successfully differentiated itself using sleek and elegant design from the competition and made itself appear to be a sexy alternative because it knew what its customers wanted.
Understand Your Competition
Apple was also highly successful because it was able to see the weaknesses in its competitors. People were sick and tired of running into error messages, not being able to perform the tasks that they wanted, and using ugly pieces of equipment. They wanted tech products to be as usable and beautiful as other consumer products.
Before the Cupertino tech giant came along, the consumer electronics sector was dull and bland, but the company set about turning that perception around and showing people that things didn’t have to be the way that they were. Apple proved that you could have something that was both functional and beautiful at the same time, doing what its competitors couldn’t. By understanding the design failings of other brands, Apple could corner the market.
Understand Your Company
Finally, to build a brand identity, you need to understand your company. What standards can it realistically achieve? And what unique features does it have that can help it rise above the competition?
Some companies have excellent people with profound marketing skills, while others rely on the hard work of engineers and technical specialists. Your brand identity, therefore, depends on your ability to play to your strengths while at the same time addressing your weaknesses.
Therefore, having a brand design studio that your company can rely on to remain consistent with your brand identity as well as keep it on track to influence how consumers perceive your brand is crucial.
Why Is Brand Identity Important?
Brand identity is vital for one fundamental reason: increasing the profitability of your company. It does this through several channels, namely, by increasing loyalty, differentiating your brand from the competition, raising awareness of your product, and injecting personality into your organization, making it appear more interesting to the buying public.
Differentiation is a Holy Grail for most businesses. It is the art of being seen as fundamentally different from the competition, despite delivering a very similar product. Having a high level of differentiation allows a company to earn big profits in the long-term and prevents its market share from being eaten away by cheaper alternatives.
Loyalty is another significant benefit. Customers implicitly trust brands that they admire, encouraging them to return to the same company in the future. Moreover, these same customers happily act as brand ambassadors and refer your company to their network.
Finally, crafting a successful brand identity can help your business thrive and develop a robust customer base that won’t abandon you for the competition if you decide to charge a slight premium. With well-executed and consistent designs, you certainly won’t be perceived as a commodity again.