The Complete Guide to Brand Identity

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People sometimes remember a local business by how the storefront looks. In a small community, everyone knows what most local stores sell and how nice they are when they sell it. But as communities expand physically and digitally, competition and larger markets lead small businesses to think about brand building

Branding has been around since the ancient Egyptians, and over time the idea of branding has moved from ownership to identity. Many consumers today attach their personal identity with the most popular brand identities, including Nike, Apple, and Dior.

The digital world puts your biggest competition right next door. With a great brand, a business can quickly communicate the ideal vision of their business and get customers excited about buying.

This complete guide to brand identity will help you understand the building blocks of brand identity. It will review how to build and update your visual brand and offer ways to improve your branding in the future.

Why a Brand Identity Is So Important

95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious, and most of those cues rely on visual information. A customer knows within seconds if they want to buy from a website. That decision is mostly based on the website’s brand and visual identity.

A strong brand identity is like great personal style. For example, a fashion icon like Meghan Markle or Beyonce doesn’t wear the same designer every day. The choices she makes separate her sense of style from the pack in a way that is attractive, interesting, and memorable. Her sense of style is also consistent, and that consistency builds trust, making her audience eagerly anticipate what she’ll do next.

A brand identity is how people picture a brand and how a business shows up in their memories. It’s the visual personality of a business, and the brand identity is what many customers use to decide whether it’s worth buying from a company.

Basic brand identity includes

  • Logo design
  • Color palette
  • Typography
  • Illustration or photography style
  • Web design
  • Social media identity

Strong brand identity will connect the right buyers to your products, create word-of-mouth advertising, and positively distinguish a business from similar competitors.

A great brand identity is enticing. It pulls people in and creates desire. But visual identity also shows customers whether they can trust a brand. Whether we’re buying email services or headphones, house cleaning or the latest phone app, before we’re willing to exchange money for products or services we need evidence that the business is selling a product that meets our expectations. Brand identity can inspire the emotions that lead to a purchase, as well as reinforce the logic that says that a purchase is worth the investment.

A great brand can accelerate growth three times faster than average. The budget a business invests in content marketing, advertising, and SEM will bring lackluster returns if it’s not backed by a strong brand identity.

Quick Tips To Improve Your Brand Identity Today 

Branding decisions influence how someone builds a website, designs business cards, and creates packaging. And every business has a brand identity, just like every person has a closet full of clothes. 

Many people will pick a little bit of everything until their “closet” is a mess of mismatched inspirations and ideas. For a business that might mean a logo designed by a friend, a homepage inspired by a favorite commercial, or the photo style of a smart competitor. These unrelated ideas come crashing together in ways that don’t often appeal to viewers. This approach to branding limits the potential and value of your business.

These quick tips can add some magic and consistency to any brand. They can help you add the polish it takes to run a successful business today.

1. Get some help and a new perspective

Many successful business owners are so busy with other parts of the business that visual identity ends up last on the to-do list. 

If it’s time to clean up your brand identity, the best place to start is some outside help. If your logo needs a refresh, hire a designer. Get inspired with some new logo ideas and an alternate vision of what your brand identity could look like. 

If you love your logo, find an illustrator who can bring that style into a collection of custom illustrations to use on the website, social channels, and blog. 

It’s tough to create a standout brand identity with stock photography, so set up a quick afternoon shoot with a professional photographer. 

It only takes a few hours to update a brand for increased sales and awareness.

2. See in color

Color is a powerful influencer. 85% of consumers say that color is the main reason they choose a specific product and color increases brand recognition by 80%. To update the colors for a brand, it’s wise to think about the influence of color on mood and emotion.

For example, yellow is cheerful and uplifting. It can also spark feelings of frustration and anger. Yellow is a popular color for food brands like McDonald’s, Lays, and Cheerios. It’s also the color of choice for MailChimp, Post-It, and DHL. By contrast, blue is a calm, reliable, assuring color that’s popular for tech and entrepreneurial companies like Facebook and IBM, as well as longstanding service providers like Prudential. But blue can also seem cold and distant. Spend some time looking at how yellow logos pull up different emotions than blue ones, and you might be surprised at how closely their colors match the feelings you feel about their companies. 

These color guides can help you find the right colors for your brand identity:

The Best Website Color Palettes to Increase Engagement in 2020 

6 Colors That Are Proven to Boost Sales 

The Best Colors for Websites for Mega Traffic, Conversion Rates & Sales 

Color is a great way to make a big, quick change to your brand. Experiment with different colors and combinations. 

Next, share your new colors and listen carefully to the casual comments of your friends and colleagues. This feedback can give your team an idea about the subconscious connections customers make when they see your colors. 

If these first impressions don’t line up with the way you want customers to remember your brand identity, go back to the drawing board.

3. Experiment with fonts

Typefaces are a quick and simple way to update and reinvigorate a brand identity. 

An outdated font can make customers question the quality and trustworthiness of a website and brand. Do some research, experiment, and get feedback before making any major changes. Shifting from a serif font like Georgia to a sans-serif font like Futura can not only make your site more attractive, it can also improve the user experience by making your site easier to read. 

4. Start with social

The website and logo design are the most important elements of a visual identity. But when a business is planning to revamp its brand identity, social channels are the smartest place to start.

Social channels where customers spend most of their time online. It’s also the channel that any team will spend the most time creating visual content for. This means that you can use your social media to experiment and get real-time feedback from your audience. 

Whether you’re trying a new color or changing your photography style, social feeds are a great place to start the process. Try a quick survey in Instagram Stories or introduce new brand identity ideas in a live video on Facebook. Start your brand identity work on the channel where you have the most engaged audience.

If you’re developing a brand identity for a new business, platforms like Pinterest and Instagram make it easy to see how your brand identity looks at a glance. 

Some of the biggest branding fails came from the designer being too close to the project. When we spend a lot of time working on a project it’s easy to assume that our audience will see the project the same way we do. Giving yourself a big-picture perspective of your new brand identity can help you get a sense of how customers will feel about your new identity.

Once your team is on board with the new visual identity, create templates for social media. This makes it quick and simple to update and refresh your brand identity on your social channels. Templates also speed up the post-creation process. This way the team can spend more time coming up with smart and relevant content than building and scheduling posts.

Once you update your social feeds it’s much easier to update other assets with the new brand identity.

Long-Term Strategies for Branding Success

A truly successful brand identity is the fingerprint of a business, and to refine it to perfection takes long-term work. These strategies will help you build a brand identity that will work for your business over time.

1. Revisit your mission statement

In any initial business plan, leaders lay out the vision of the company’s future. Changes to this statement over time are natural, and revising the mission statement is an important step towards creating an effective brand identity. As your team revisits this powerful statement, ask yourself:

  • What have you learned about your industry and community since you started your business?
  • How have your goals and vision changed?
  • What kind of feedback have you gotten from your customers?
  • How does this feedback impact your plan for the future?

The visual identity of your brand starts with your core values and how those values make people feel. If you haven’t already developed a brand voice and tone, it’s a good idea to work on these parts of your branding before you rebuild the brand identity.

2. Build great brand personas

48% of consumers expect brands to know who they are and to communicate with that knowledge in mind. 

A new business wants customers more than anything. This might lead a team to believe that the ideal buyer persona is just about anyone. But in a competitive business world, the most effective way to attract an audience is to target a very specific group of people.

If you haven’t already described your ideal customer in detail, this Guide to Creating Buyer Personas is a great place to get started. 

3. Create an inspiration folder or a visual swipe file

It takes time to develop an authentic brand identity, so don’t rush the process. When we were developing a new ecommerce brand, the process with the designer went very quickly. We got great results because we had clear visuals to communicate the look and feel we wanted. 

We had this on hand because we created an inspiration folder. We saved illustrations, photographs, logos, social media posts, and other visuals that the team found inspiring. 

Every few months we would review this visual inspiration as a team. This kept our eyes sharp and up-to-date on the latest trends. It also helped us keep our vision for the brand fresh and current. This is also a great idea to prepare for future rebranding

4. Develop a brand identity guide

Once the primary building blocks of your brand identity are complete it’s easy to think that you’re done with the job. But there are situations that will pop up, like hiring a marketing intern or launching a new channel, that make having a comprehensive brand identity guide essential.

Your brand guide should go into detail about every part of your brand identity including:

  • Brand identity do’s and don’ts
  • Correct size and proportions for all logos and images 
  • White space requirements
  • Color variations, including the Pantone name and number, print colors in CMYK, and RGB and hex codes for digital colors
  • A guide for sourcing and editing photography and illustrations, including favorite examples
  • Font guidelines that include how to use your chosen font in different contexts. 

After your guide is complete, use social listening tools to continue to refine your updated brand identity. This will keep your visuals from getting stale.

Next Steps

Now that you have what you need to build the best brand identity for your business, it’s time to apply the new ways you’re thinking about your brand to your marketing and sales strategies. It’s time to revisit your sales funnel. It’s the right moment to optimize your website. Put your new brand identity out into the world, and let it shine. 

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