If you put four or five pieces of your brand’s marketing materials in front of yourself, what would you see?
Would you see a clear, consistent theme and message that blends together and feels like multiple pieces of one whole? Or would you see a hodgepodge of confusing and inconsistent imagery, color schemes, and tones that don’t fit in the same category or feel like they come from the same place? If you said the latter, you have a big problem.
You don’t have a brand identity.
What Is Brand Identity?
A brand identity is the cohesive look and feel of your organization. It’s the “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers,” as defined by the American Marketing Association.
A brand isn’t solely the physical or visual elements that represent your organization.It’s also the feeling people get when interacting with your business, marketing materials, products, services, team members, and physical locations.
You brand is how your audience perceives your organization as a whole. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
It’s the lasting impression you leave on your customers and clients, and it’s shaped largely by the visual identity that you present.
What Creates a Brand’s Visual Identity?
Visual identity is made up of the visible images associated with your organization. These are the elements that guide customers and clients to their perceptions of your brand. These brands include:
- Imagery Styles
- Composition Styles
These elements make up your visual brand identity, but they are made up of more than visible qualities. The visuals represent a larger message and theme. They set the tone for your entire branding.
It’s important you match your visual identity with the overall identity of your brand.
Finding Your Brand Identity
These steps will help you identify your brand goals and mission so you can connect your visual identity to your larger brand values.
1. Define Your Audience
Before you position your brand to connect with an audience, you need a level of understanding about your audience to appeal to their needs and wants. Identifying your desired customer base makes every part of your branding process easier. This step helps determine how to talk to your audience with the language, terms, and tone best relating to your primary buyer personas.
Define your audience by looking at demographics and psychographics. Use your research to create multiple specific, targeted versions of your buyer personas. Consider the following:
- What is their age, gender, job description, income, and education level?
- What is their personality like? What values, hobbies, and interests do they have?
- What type of lifestyle do they live?
- What are their day to day concerns?
- What solutions are they looking for?
- What other brands do they like?
2. Define Your Mission (The “Why” Behind Your Brand)
Once you spend some time digging into your audience, take some time to assess your company.
What do you offer your customers and clients? You need to consider the products and services your offer, but you also need to think about the way you provide those offerings and why.
- Why do we provide these services and products?
- What do we hope to change for our customer?
- What improvements do we want to bring to their life?
- Why do we think it’s important to do this?
- What do we stand for?
3. Identify Your Brand Personality
When you have a good idea about your brand mission, identify the brand personality that matches that position.
What type of person would be a good reflection of your business? How would they talk? How would they look? A simple way to create a starting point for this imaginary brand representative is to ask yourself the question:
- If I could have any person be a spokesman for my brand, who would it be?
From there you can create a description of your brand personality. This is the tone and messaging to use across marketing channels, including social media and email. This personality needs to remain consistent across each outlet you use to communicate with your customers.
4. Develop Emotional Appeal
Infusing emotion into your brand is how you connect deeply with prospects and leave a lasting memorable image in their mind.
- How do you want your audience to feel when they see your marketing materials?
- What emotions are triggered when your customers and clients use your products/services or interact with your brand?
- What emotions lie at the heart of your brand story?
- Does it make sense for your brand to be connected with trust, fear, guilt, competition, belonging, or some other emotional appeal?
The answers to these question act as the building blocks for your brand marketing strategy.
5. Building Your Visual Brand
When you have the answers to these questions, you will start to naturally build an image of your brand and the visuals that support it. Use this information to build your visual brand.
- Choose a color palette. Use color psychology to pick a shade that matches your identity.
- Choose your typography. Choose two complementary fonts that represent your brand.
- Define imagery choices. Describe what type of imagery best represents your brand (i.e., Is is a landscape photo in black, white or a brightly colored animated graphic, etc.?)
- Redesign your logo if it doesn’t match. If you uncovered a brand identity that isn’t represented by your current logo, consider a redesign.
- Create a branding guide. List all of the elements of your brand identity in one guide that your entire team can access. This document will make sure every element of your branding follows the same consistent guidelines.
6. Keeping Your Brand Consistent
Consistency is one of the most critical strategies for marketing a brand. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain that consistency in our evolving world of multi-channel marketing.
Unifying all of these communication channels to present a clear, concise, and consistent brand identity revolves around brand style, substance, and story.
If you’ve ever seen a TV commercial for an Apple product, you’ve likely recognized the trendy photography, upbeat music, and youthful lifestyles presented and guessed that it was advertising an iPhone feature long before the iconic logo appears at the end.
That’s because Apple is hugely successful with style. Their simplicity, stark fonts, and neutral color palette immediately trigger visual recognition. And because their unique position allows them to use this look and feel across hardware designs, software interfaces, and immersive retail experiences, they’ve created a cohesive ecosystem centered around consistency of brand.
Consumers respond to familiarity with overwhelming positivity, so let your visual identity create comfort, whether it’s a feast for the eyes or stripped-down and simple.
It isn’t just the message that connects with an audience, it’s the tone and attitude that speak volumes. If your visual identity is lighthearted and irreverent, but your copy relies on austere, direct statements, it can become confusing to the recipient of the message and work against your mission to build trust and comfort.
But how consistent is too consistent? Great campaigns build on a consistent idea, but offer just enough variation to keep viewers engaged and curious as to how they’ll experience the campaign message next.
Now that you’ve created a beautiful visual style and backed it up with the substance of a carefully-crafted message, consider your story.
The story behind your brand relates back to your mission. While your mission should orient your organization in a particular direction, your story should illustrate how you enact that mission in your day-to-day operations. This story should be consistent with the type of brand identity you’re trying to build. A beautiful visual identity is great, but at the end of the day, narratives are what people hold onto and remember.
Showcase Your Brand Identity
Once you have a clear visual brand identity, you can start to expand on your visual marketing efforts. You can implement your branding into the following platforms to spread a consistent, clear message from your organization.
- Physical Marketing Materials
- Staff Uniforms
- Store Environment & Atmosphere
- Digital Signage
- Menus and Menu Boards
- Social Media Presence
Using strong, consistent, on-brand imagery produces higher ROI for your marketing efforts, more deeply resonates with customers, and creates a cohesive and memorable brand experience that makes clients come back for more.
So, if you’re working with a hodgepodge of confusing and inconsistent visuals, it’s time to make a change and clearly set your visual brand identity.
Want more proof about the lasting impact of a strong visual identity? Check out this article on How to Use Visual Marketing to Spread and Reinforce Brand Awareness.