Brand identity: the ultimate guide to building a successful brand
The sooner you cement your brand identity, the better. There’s a reason why brand awareness is still the top goal for many marketers.
Because social media is only getting more competitive and crowded. Attention is invaluable as your audience gets pulled in a million directions and getting more eyes on your company means being memorable. Building a distinct identity is key to grabbing people’s attention at first glance.
However, the thing is, translating your brand’s voice and values into a visual identity is tricky. It’s not something that happens by accident, either.
Below we break down how to build a memorable brand identity that stands out from the crowd.
Table of contents
- What is brand identity?
- What determines your brand’s identity?
- Why brand identity matters so much for companies today
- How to create a memorable brand identity
- Measuring the impact of your branding efforts
- 4 examples of brands with strong identities
What is brand identity?
Brand identity is a culmination of how a brand present itself to consumers.
This includes everything from logos and design to the language your brand uses. A distinct identity helps people associate specific feelings and emotions with your business.
In short, your brand identity captures what your company is all about at a glance. Key elements that define your identity include your:
- Color scheme
- Company logo
- Typefaces and fonts
- Product presentation
- Brand messaging
A thoughtful brand identity combines all of the above in a way that makes sense.
Take a company like The Ordinary, for example.
The brand’s minimalist logo, color scheme and site design are simple but bold. The Ordinary’s product packaging is consistent with the same sort of “less is more” vibe.This aligns with the company’s goal to “celebrate integrity in its truest and most humble form.”
The Ordinary’s identity is in stark contrast to competing skincare brands. Look no further than a brand like Drunk Elephant as a shining example.
Everything from the brand’s name to its choice of colors is vibrant. Drunk Elephant’s approach to boldness isn’t the same as The Orindary’s.
Given their fanbase and millions of followers, the success of both brands is clear. The takeaway? Totally different brand identities can resonate with customers in the same industry.
What matters is simply having an identity that’s distinctly, well, you.
What determines your brand’s identity?
Fair question! Again, there is no “right” or one-size-fits-all answer here.
Defining your identity is often frustrating. After all, you know what your company is all about. Translating your answer into a visual medium can be complicated.
The reality, though? Memorable brands don’t accidentally stumble on logos, fonts or taglines totally by accident.
Below are some points to reflect on to help you figure out how to build a brand identity that makes sense:
Your voice and values
A distinct identity goes hand in hand with a distinct brand voice.
How would you describe your brand’s personality? What emotions do you want your company to evoke or convey? These answers can inspire your creatives including logos and taglines.
Check out Nasty Gal’s social branding, for reference. The company’s name and hashtag reflect the brand’s edge.
Seventh Generation’s social branding and logo are another prime example. It’s no surprise that many sustainable or environmentally conscious companies boast green logos. This highlights how you can convey your brand values visually.
Your target audience
Brand identity isn’t just about what you want to say: it’s also about who you want to say it to.
Your audience should be front and center when brainstorming your identity. What sort of imagery is going to click with them? How can you make your brand feel relevant to your audience at a glance?
Liquid Death‘s branding is a far cry from what you’d expect from a company that sells canned water. That’s exactly what makes their marketing so brilliant and memorable.
The company largely markets itself in the same spaces as alcohol brands. This includes musical festivals and sporting events. The brand’s typeface, logo and product presentation feel like that of a booze brand, too. Liquid Death’s “Murder Your Thirst” tagline is tongue-in-cheek but aligns with their audience. This includes their diehard fans staying sober at the events noted above.
Contrast this with the branding of a company like Essentia Water. Essentia’s super stylish packaging and focus on health and hydration make perfect sense for the brand.
Comparing their audience to Liquid Death’s is apples and oranges, though. This reinforces how your audience directly impacts your identity.
Piggybacking on the point above, brands in your space also impact your identity.
You obviously shouldn’t copycat creative elements from your competitors. On the flip side, your brand’s logo and tagline shouldn’t mirror what’s already out there.
Questions like “Neon or pastel?” or “Serif or sans serif?” can be daunting. There’s no hard or fast rule when it comes to these sorts of creative elements, either.
To avoid racking your brain too much, you can reflect on what’s already out there. Start by making a list of direct competitors and comparing their creative elements. This sort of competitive analysis ensures that your identity is truly unique when someone sees it.
Why brand identity matters so much for companies today
If you’re skeptical of why establishing an identity is so important, we get it.
Some of these details are pretty abstract. Others might seem subtle.
Consider how consumers can’t stop buzzing whenever a company goes through a rebrand on social. Logo revamps and updated font regularly cause confusion or controversy. These details matter no matter how small they might seem.
Beyond that, the business impact of your identity can’t be overstated. Let’s quickly review the big-picture value of building a brand identity.
A distinct brand identity makes you easier to remember
Consumers are browsing more brands and bouncing between more platforms than ever before. Attention spans are seriously limited. We only have so much bandwidth to browse and follow even our favorite companies.
Food for thought: consumers say the best brands on social media create memorable content (39%) and have distinct personalities (33%). Anything you can do to stand out from a sea of competitors is a plus.
With a strong identity, consumers are likely to say “Oh, I remember them” whether they see your logo or tagline. This applies to platforms including Instagram, TikTok or even Google.
Bold identities grab consumers’ attention
No brainer, right?
Chances are you’ve come across an Instagram ad and were intrigued solely based on a brand’s logo or unique packaging. That’s the power of identity in action.
Ignoring the fine details of identity means missing out on opportunities to make your brand memorable. This piggybacks on the point above.
Your identity inspires your entire marketing strategy
The impact of your brand identity goes far beyond a single profile picture or ad.
Consider how brands maintain consistent identities that touch every aspect of their business.
Social branding. Your website. Product packaging. The list goes on and on.
A brand like Aussie is a great example of what we’re talking about here. Their distinct purple color scheme is front and center in their social branding…
…as well as their website and product packaging.
How to create a memorable brand identity
We’ll say it again: there is no hack or cheat sheet for how to do social branding.
That said, there are some key steps brands of all shapes and sizes should cover to establish their identity. Below we break ’em down!
1. Master the basics of design
Determining your aesthetics is a team effort, full-top. This includes high-level input as well as brand design considerations.
We won’t go into the nitty gritty of basic branding here. What really matters is consistency when it comes to creatives including:
- Your logo
- Color palette
- Social handles
This is crucial when it comes to social branding, in particular. You need to make sure that people recognize your brand from platform to platform. Not everything has to be exactly the same, though.
If you’re thinking about a rebrand, this is important. You’ll need to consult from a high level but also consider brand design in the mix. Write out your visual brand guide to include fonts, their uses and colors. You can outline these in a visual style guide.
2. Map out your marketing personas
Think about your target audience and the brands that they engage with. What sets you apart and what makes you the same?
See if you can find common threads and capitalize on them.
Your marketing personas are going to vary between the networks. Audiences on TikTok are younger than audiences on Facebook. Rarely can brands use the same content across networks and expect it to perform well. Ideally, you should create multiple personas for each network. Below you will find actionable steps to help you begin mapping out your key personas:
- Create multiple marketing personas and assign social media networks that match them.
- Examine your networks’ different demographics. Then, set up listening queries if you need to get to know your audience.
- Create content to match the personas above.
3. Clarify and reinforce your brand voice
Company social media accounts tend to have something resembling a personality. For some, it’s sarcastic or quirky and for others, it’s informative. You might already have a brand voice established. If so, awesome! Make sure to extend that voice to social media, though.
Be specific about the language and vocabulary your brand should use. This includes seemingly minor details like whether you call people “clients” or “customers.” It’s important to be explicit about these details. You can’t assume that everyone knows them just because you do. Take advantage of these three methods to help solidify and reinforce your brand voice:
- Fully develop and write out your voice and tone guide. Better yet, use social media listening to validate your style-related decisions.
- Audit your own social media posts to see where you can improve in voice and tone
- Share the guide and educate teams that write copy. Ensure that your social team, including customer support, sticks to it.
Once you’ve nailed down all of the above, you have the makings of a strong social media style guide. This handbook ensures consistency and on-branded messaging across every network. Having a style guide is important for collaborative teams and onboarding new employees.
Measuring the impact of your branding efforts
As noted earlier, building brand awareness is the top priority of marketers today.
But actually executing strategies to build awareness is easier said than done.
You should strive to make thoughtful and informed decisions related to your brand identity. That’s where data and analytics come into play.
Despite popular belief, not everything related to brand identity it qualitative. You can 100% tie your social branding efforts to metrics and KPIs. This includes:
- Share of voice
- Positive vs. negative sentiment
This highlights the value of social listening for brand-building.
For example, a group report from Sprout Social shares trends across all of your networks. Since the reports are customizable by date ranges, you’ll be able to see how your brand is performing since you began your branding efforts. This is useful during rebrands and ongoing brand initiatives alike.
Build your brand identity with Sprout Social
In addition to scheduling to help you automate your content calendar, Sprout offers even more features to perfect your brand’s feed.
Get a hands-on look at these features and more with a 30-day free trial of Sprout.
Building a brand isn’t just about trusting your gut or going on instinct. Consistent social listening clues you in on whether your brand is clicking with customers.
Likewise, you can dig into the specifics of what sets you apart from the competition. You can likewise uncover areas to improve.
4 examples of brands with strong identities
To wrap things up, let’s look at some awesome examples of effective brand marketing in action.
Each of these companies highlights how different brands can cement their identities.
1. Last Crumb
For a brand selling its cookies for $160 per box, Last Crumb’s branding works brilliantly. The level of detail that goes into the presentation of their premium treats is next level. This includes individually sealed goodies akin to something you’d get from a luxury clothing store.
2. Krave Beauty
Krave Beauty takes a unique approach to their branding in the ever-so-crowded skincare space. The company’s #PressReset tagline is catchy and encompasses what the brand is all about. That is, hitting the reset button in an overwhelming beauty space. Through customer-centric marketing, the brand feels honest and relatable to its target audience.
3. The Pink Stuff
The Pink Stuff illustrates how color can be integral to both your brand identity and your product itself. The company’s social branding is brimming with shades of pink and makes them can’t miss compared to competitors. This is especially true when comparing products on store shelves.
Again, building a memorable brand identity doesn’t necessarily mean being the loudest in the room. Simplicity can be striking, too.
Notion is a great example of this principle in action. The brand’s social branding consistently uses black-and-white illustrations with doodle-like characters. These are even showcased by the company’s employees in their LinkedIn avatars. Pretty cool, right?
Ready to build your brand identity?
Whew! Establishing your identity involves a lot of moving pieces.
That said, figuring it out is critical for the long-term marketing potential of your brand.
The better you can illustrate what you’re all about, the easier it is to reach and win over customers. Not to mention grow your brand’s community and get in front of new audiences.
Want more insight into how to fine-tune your branding to reach your target audience? Check out Sprout’s social listening features that dig deep into key conversations related to your brand.
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