Starting a business is a process that’s both exciting and scary. But what about creating an entire brand identity? Branding tells the world who you are, what you’re about, and what people can expect from interacting with your business. It’s a big deal!
The difference between a brand, branding, and brand identity
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A brand is much more than a recognizable name and logo. It’s the overall perception of your business. This means that a brand only truly exists in the minds of customers.
Consider all the impressions a customer has based on every interaction they’ve had with any element of your company. Each of these interactions sends a message, and it’s important to make sure that all of these messages point in the right direction to support your overall brand strategy.
What is branding?
To build a brand, you’ll need to practice the art of branding. Branding is defined as the actions you take to create a distinctive, memorable brand. It’s the (hard) work you put into developing your desired image.
Here are a few reasons why branding is so important:
- Branding builds customer loyalty and referrals. People tend to choose companies they’re familiar with, and because people love to tell others about brands they like, referrals will follow.
- Branding helps you stand out from the competition. The world is noisy — especially the marketing world. With all this noise, you want to stand out from competitors with a strong brand and live up to what it promises.
- Branding builds recognition. A consistent brand helps customers know what to expect every time they interact with your business, putting them at ease. Think of Starbucks — no matter what city you’re in, you can expect the same level of experience.
- Branding helps you create clarity and stay focused. Having a clear brand strategy and purpose helps you stay focused on your mission and make better marketing decisions.
- Branding helps you connect with your customers (on an emotional level). A good brand makes people feel good when they buy your products or services. Think about telling a story or standing for something that people can rally around.
To sum it up, strong branding increases your business’s value. Airbnb, for example, started out as an idea between the founders who had just moved to New York. Noticing a lack of hotel vacancies in the city, they took matters into their own hands.
They bought a couple of airbeds and charged guests $80 a night for a place to sleep and breakfast to eat. Now the “airbed and breakfast” has grown into a multi-million dollar company with a widely recognized brand that delivers on its promise of making people feel like they “belong anywhere.”
What is brand identity?
Brand identity is the result of branding. It’s the collection of tangible brand elements that a company creates to portray the right image of itself to its target audience. These elements make up the visual branding that your audience can see and recognize to be yours.
Brand assets are tangible elements that make up your brand identity. From your logo, slogan, to even a mascot, these are the unique identifying pieces that distinguish your brand from others.
Having brand assets can greatly benefit your business, as it gives you a competitive edge and encourages customer loyalty. Your brand assets should automatically be associated with your brand in the minds of consumers, and never a competitor’s brand.
Examples of brand assets:
- Brand name
- Advertising style
Brand guidelines (also called a style guide) are a set of rules about how to represent your brand across channels and assets, helping your business build credibility and recognition as you grow. They usually include color and typography guidelines, logo use cases, imagery examples, and more.
Designing a logo is a solid starting point for creating brand identity guidelines
Coming up with a brand strategy
At this point, you know the difference between a brand, branding, and brand identity. So how do you apply this newfound knowledge to your business?
“Brand strategy” can sound scarier than it actually is. It’s really about defining your target audience and seeing how your offering can stand out to them.
Here’s how to do it in four simple steps.
1. Figure out your place in the market and define your target audience
A major part of defining your brand strategy is figuring out where your place is in the market, and knowing if there’s a demand for what you offer. Once you have an idea of this, take a look at your competitors and figure out what it is that they’re doing.
What is their messaging like? Their brand presence? Their customer service? Take the sum of all the marketing touchpoints and business initiatives of your competitors and define how you can do better while staying true to who you are.
Of course, it’s not possible to satisfy everyone, which is why you’ll always need to keep who you’re trying to reach in mind. Tailor your mission and messaging to your target audience.
2. Define what your purpose is and why
What is your company most passionate about? What is your reason for existing? What causes do you stand for?
Your purpose is the driving force behind any and all things that you do. Every single aspect of your branding needs to reflect this to ensure a strong brand. To help break this down, defining the following will give you more direction:
Brand essence – the core defining characteristic of your brand. This is intangible to your audience and unique to your brand
Vision – the what. This is the sole reason for your brand’s existence
Mission – the how. The action that your brand is taking to bring your vision to life
Values – the why. The driving force behind your vision and mission
Brand voice – if your brand were a person, what would they sound like? This is how you communicate to your audience
To illustrate the idea of vision, mission, and values, let’s take a look at Slack, an online communication platform for businesses. Their vision is to “make work life simpler, more pleasant and more productive.”
Their mission — how they’re doing this — is by working with global partners and developers to “build apps and integrations that streamline work, automate mundane tasks and bring context into conversations.”
By simply reading their vision, you get a sense of what the successful platform values: simplicity and productiveness in a pleasant workplace.
3. Choose a business name
What name will best describe who you are and what you do? As your main identifier, it’s critical to find a name that personifies your brand.
How do you come up with this key element? Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning:
- Make up a word – Example: Pepsi
- Reframe an unrelated word – Example: Apple (apples have nothing to do with the line of high-end electronic products)
- Describe it literally – Example: The Face Shop (keep in mind this can be easy to imitate)
- Alter an existing word by adding or removing letters – Example: Flickr (removed the letter “e”)
- Look to Latin – Example: Volvo (Latin for “I roll”)
- Make a portmanteau – Example: Facebook (a combination of two words, Face + Book)
- Turn a string of words into an acronym – Example: IBM (International Business Machines)
- Add prefixes and suffixes – Example: Shopify (Shop +ify)
- Choose a place – Example: Amazon (named after the largest river in the world by volume of water, largest ecommerce platform by volume of products)
- Use your own name – Example: Levis (named after founder Levi Strauss)
Once you’ve decided on a business name, revisit your brand’s vision, mission, and values – does your name reflect any or all three? If so, you’re one step closer to creating a strong brand.
4. Come up with a slogan/tagline
When creating your slogan, it’s wise to keep your company’s mission and purpose in mind. You’ll want to sum up your business purpose in a single sentence that’s not only memorable but speaks the truth about your brand.
Slogan creation is a great time to keep it simple. Your slogan should be short and catchy to make a strong impression and remain memorable!
Write something brief and descriptive that you can use in your social media bios, website headline, marketing emails, etc. to make a big impact when seen.
Also, slogans don’t have to be a forever thing: you can always change your slogan as you find new angles for marketing, or yes, feel free to stick to the same one if it works!
To get started you can take several approaches:
- Make your claim — Example: Carlsberg – “Probably the Best Beer in the World”
- Use a metaphor — Example: Skittles – “Taste the Rainbow”
- Tell ‘em what to do — Example: Apple – “Think Different.”
- Leverage labels — Example: Cards Against Humanity – “A party game for horrible people.”
- Get poetic — Example: Folgers Coffee – “The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup.”
- Compliment your customers: Example: L’Oreal – “Because you’re worth it”
If you would like your brand to stand out above the fray, let’s set up a free strategy call to discuss!