How to Create a Strong Brand Identity for Your AgencyBy Alayna Moxness
Strong brands are all around us. In our modern, digitized world, people are seeing an alarming number of brands everywhere they turn.. Remember that study done in 2007 about people being exposed to 5,000 advertisements a day? Well that number has definitely increased with the surge in mobile smart devices, increased social media usage from all demographics, brand placements, and everything you might see in day-to-day life.
Companies and people leverage their brands to connect with customers and clients. With a strong brand, it is easier for your audience to get to know you.
Let’s play a fun game.
All you have to do is guess the brand based on the tiny bit of info you’re given.
The coolest part about that game? It’s the result of some impressive design and marketing minds. Brands that are recognizable by their color scheme, font, imagery, characters, logos, etc. have been successful in developing brand identity.
How did they do it?
Though easier said than done, this is how to create a brand identity.
What is a Brand Identity
Before we jump into the steps of how to create a brand identity, it’s important to understand exactly what a brand identity is.
“Brand is the promise, the big idea, the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service or company. Branding is about making an emotional connection.” Alina Wheeler
A brand identity is an external image that aims to reflect the vision, mission, culture, and values of the company. It’s the tangible and recognizable piece of what a brand represents.
If we think of the brand identity as we would a human being, it is the personal style and personality presented to the world. People want to be seen in a certain way so they present themselves how they hope to be perceived by wearing certain clothes, doing their hair in a certain way, talking about certain things, and acting certain ways.
Brands are no different. The brand identity is the presentation of how the brand hopes to be perceived. It is a visual representation of the internal being.
To break down the brand identity further, we can see that it is comprised of six main parts:
- Company name
- Slogan and tagline
- Tone of voice
Now let’s go back to the human comparison. These six main pieces can fit together to make up a person’s identity.
- Company name = person’s name
- Slogan and tagline = person’s occupation, hobbies, interests
- Colors = emotions felt
- Font = personality traits
- Shape = person’s appearance
- Tone of voice = how they communicate with others
To sum it up, a brand identity is how the brand presents itself. It is the foundation of how the brand acts based on its inner self.
So how do you get there?
7 Steps For Developing Brand Identity
- Set a Mission Statement
- Design Your Culture
- Humanize Your Brand to Choose an Audience
- Understand Your Value Proposition
- Brand Identity 101- Develop “The Look”
- Implement a Style Guide
- Brand Your Touchpoints
Set a Mission Statement
The highest achievers and most successful companies have one thing in common: clear-cut goals. Setting a mission statement is like setting an overarching goal that encompasses values and goals. The mission statement is outlining, at a very high level, what your company hopes to achieve and how they will act to achieve that goal.
In searching for my favorite mission statement examples, I took inspiration from companies whose products I use on a regular basis. I looked around and saw my laptop, my car keys, and my Fitbit. These are the mission statements for those 3 products:
- “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”--Microsoft Mission Statement
- “People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people's lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.”--Ford Mission Statement
- “To empower and inspire you to live a healthier, more active life. We design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so you can achieve your health and fitness goals, whatever they may be.”--Fitbit Mission Statement
All of these companies mission statements include something about empowering me, making my life better, and helping me achieve more. I’m big into personal development, so honestly, it makes sense. But are their mission statements really about me?
The goal of a mission statement is to motivate the corporate team to operate in a way that is conducive to reaching company goals. An empowering mission statement “is written to inspire you [the company]—not to impress anyone else. It communicates to you and inspires you on the most essential level.” Stephan Covey
Mission statements keep your company on the right path. They are the foundation of every other goal your company sets and the primary focus of all company activities.
The scary part about a mission statement is that it seems like a pretty lofty goal. Look at Microsoft’s: Empower every person AND every organization on the WHOLE PLANET?
The planet is a big place with a lot of people so I thought to myself, this goal was probably built up from smaller goals so I did a little research.
Not really. The mission statement has evolved over time but has essentially always been grand. Bill Gates set the original Microsoft mission statement as “to put a computer on every desk and in every home”. But the coolest thing is, that happened.
Mission statements can and should be lofty. It takes the role of key motivator and driving light for your company to aim for. It is also a foundational piece to the brand identity.
Design Your Culture
The mission statement sets where you want to go and touches on how you want to go there. Designing your culture answers the questions of how you will treat your customers and how you expect your people to act.
You’ve probably heard of the Enron scandal. Their mission statement was rainbows, unicorns and butterflies. "We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves....We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don't belong here.” Obviously a huge disconnect.
Designing culture is another key foundational piece of developing brand identity. If your company is known for upholding good values and strictly condemning unethical behavior, your brand identity will reflect that. Consequently, the way employees interpret the behavior accepted by the company will greatly impact the way they act. It’s kind of like the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Humanize Your Brand to Choose Your Audience
Remember how I compared a brand to a person before? Who would this person hang out with?
Now that some of the foundational pieces are in place, it’s time to bring the brand to life to clearly create a brand identity. What would the brand like to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon and what would the people who spend time with the brand be like? How about on a winter Tuesday evening?
The objective of humanizing your brand is finding your target market. It is foolish to build a brand identity without clearly outlining who you plan on speaking to. Who is going to buy the product? This is called developing a customer persona.
Brand users are investing both time and money in your company. Would you be more likely to give something to a friend you like spending time with and who understands you or someone you don’t really vibe with?
The answer is a friend. You’d be much more likely to buy the coffee for a buddy. Even if you’re a great person. Which I know you are.
The important takeaway here is by humanizing your brand, you have a way better chance of honing in on exactly who your target market is. When you know who you’re talking to, you can really lean into developing a brand your audience will love.
Understand Your Value Proposition
Ok let’s do a little review. We’ve got our mission statement, our core values and behavioral expectations, and a spotlight on our audience. Now it’s time to put it all together to blow the competition out of the water - and finally get to how to create a brand identity.
A value proposition is used to put a microscope on how you will achieve your mission statement. It discusses your offering and how you can be differentiated from the competition.
When writing your value proposition, you should talk about how your product or service helps your target audience solve whatever problem they may have OR improve themselves by reducing a painpoint and increasing a gain. When you understand this, you can slide yourself around the competition into an empty spot in the market.
Brand Identity 101 - Develop “The Look”
THE SECTION YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…
The brand identity is an outward reflection of what the brand stands for. Everything covered before this section built the foundation to have direction.
Remember all of the components of brand identity? This is your guide to using them to create a brand identity that will help your company attract the attention you want and connect with your most valued customers.
Choosing a brand name is a make or break decision. If it’s too “out there” people won’t get it. If it’s too common, the brand will be brushed over. The name sticks to the brand forever so it’s an important decision. Think about how long new parents take to name their kids. There are name books.
Naming your brand takes time. Make sure to choose something that will evolve as your product does. Brand names have to be timeless.
Aside from choosing a name that is creative enough and will not be grown out of, make sure it is something that is globally appropriate. With the rise of the e-commerce world, local is global. Keep that in mind. Check out these global branding fails - I had a good chuckle.
Play around with different names and see where you get. Need some inspiration? Check out how these famous brand names were created.
Slogan and Tagline
A slogan can quickly expand on your name and translate exactly what your brand stands for. The slogan can deliver a promise or help the audience understand your position in the market.
That Kit Kat slogan? It’s been used for years and is very well known. It improves brand recognition while getting people talking. Give me a break… and your mind goes “of that Kit Kat bar". At least mine does.
To really nail your slogan, you’ll want to make sure it’s short and memorable. If your slogan is a full paragraph no one will remember it. It should be a quick, get to the point statement that expands on what you’re all about. The best slogans are catchy, witty and original. Think you have a good idea? Test it out with some friends and see if they think it’s as amusing as you do.
Colors are powerful. They convey emotion and communicate your brand identity. Different colors symbolize a variety of emotions, which are incredibly helpful for your audience to understand what you’re all about.
Choosing your colors is all about knowing who you are. Are you spunky and fresh or classic and elegant? Your color palette should translate exactly who you are while attracting your target customer.
Color is so important that 85% of people believe it accounts for over half of the factors that come in to play in a purchase decision. If you’re using colors your target demographic doesn’t necessarily relate to, it’s quite possible you’ll miss out on the sale from them.
Shape and Font
Your brand identity relies on visual cues to be translated to your audience and the shapes and typeface associated with your brand have a big impact. Shapes are the first thing people recognize. Round, square, triangular, lines etc. all communicate differently and will affect the brand perception.
If your company is all about bringing people together, circles would be appropriate. Circles suggest inclusiveness and completeness. Squares, on the other hand, are reliable and structured. Triangles are powerful and aggressive, so use them wisely.
As with color, use the shapes and fonts that are appropriate for your audience. For example, if you’re targeting stay-at-home mothers who value quality time with their family and enjoy getting everyone together for family dinners, a circle would be appropriate.
When choosing fonts, you’ll want to select two to three, each for a specific purpose. You’ll want one for titles, one for long-form content, and something artistic for graphics. The fonts should all be cohesive and give the reader an idea of who you are.
Shapes go into logo design, the store and website environment, packaging, and additional graphic elements. Make a decision about what shape you want to go with and stay consistent. Brand identity is built on consistency.
Tone of Voice
Tone of voice fits under brand identity because it dictates how your brand speaks to your audience. Your voice is how brand personality is shared. Your customers will get to know you by your professionalism or your supportiveness or maybe by your quick wit.
One of my favorite examples of a company who is killing it with their tone of voice is Wendy’s. You’ve seen the tweets.
That’s why tone of voice can be tricky. As mentioned before, once you figure it out, stay consistent. When your tone of voice is consistent, brand recognition is far more likely, and developing brand identity is far more likely.
Your logo is the face of your brand identity. It represents information about the company and is what enables brand recognition. Imagine seeing a Macbook without an apple on it or a Nike runner without the swoop. Weird right?
The logo is what differentiates the brand from the competition. Without the logo on a pair of Nikes, you don’t have a pair of Nikes, you have a generic runner.
In designing your logo, use the color palette, shape selection, and font you chose earlier. The logo is the cornerstone of your brand identity and will be what people will recognize the most.
As you design your logo, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Your logo has to be timeless and accurately represent your product and your brand identity as it matures. It’s extremely costly to rebrand with a new logo so try to make sure whatever you are designing isn’t a fad you’ll regret in a year. Keep your logo simple. You’ll want to make it memorable, but nothing too complicated. The logo should be versatile, appropriate, understandable, and adaptable.
By putting together all of these design aspects, your brand identity will start to appear and all you have to do then is keep it consistent.
Implement a Style Guide
So I may have mentioned consistency is key in developing brand identity. Consistency in brand presentation is the most important thing you can do while developing brand identity. A style guide will help make that possible.
A style guide is a compilation of all of the information about the look of the brand. It includes all of the details about the colors, tone of voice, logo usage and everything else we’ve already covered. This guide is for everyone in the company to use so best practice is to make it easy to find, visually appealing, and simple to navigate.
The other great thing about a style guide is it is another opportunity to articulate your mission statement, value proposition, and all of the foundational pieces of your brand and how it is translated through your brand identity.
Brand Your Touchpoints
Your company communicates with customers on a regular basis and this is often done using email, your website, packaging, your business cards, and a collection of other materials. To fully solidify your brand identity, while looking professional, your collateral should all be branded.
The best way to do this is to have whoever is doing your internal design create templates for everyone to use internally. Email signatures, letterheads, slide decks and anything else you can think of.
Another fantastic place to put your brand is on social media. Leverage your social media to create an aesthetic your audience will want to follow. Make sure all of your posts align with your brand identity to create that feeling of cohesiveness. Social media allows you to communicate with your audience on a more personal level so they can learn more about your company and, more importantly, you can learn about your customer preferences, opinions, and needs.
By branding your touchpoints, you encourage further brand recognition and connect your materials to your company. You have a great brand identity, flaunt it!
Your Brand Identity
With a strong brand, it is easier to get to know your company. Creating a brand identity is all about knowing who you are and designing a reflection of what you’re all about. From the foundational steps of setting a mission statement and building a company culture to creating a physical reflection, the best advice is to stay true to who you are and build an identity around that.
Your brand identity will get strong with a dedicated, consistent approach and a lot of time. Be patient and keep listening to your customers.
And THAT’S how to create a brand identity.