How to build a strong and memorable brand identity: A step-by-step guide

It is hard to stand out in a busy, crowded, and noisy world in which many companies and organizations are vying for attention. Having a vibrant and dynamic brand identity is therefore essential.

Brand identity refers to the visual and verbal and sensory elements a business uses to help distinguish it from competitors. These elements include color schemes, design, logos, slogans, and other branding materials. Brand identity relates specifically to the intent behind branding work – how a company wants to be perceived by its target audience, as opposed to brand image which is how that audience perceives the company.

Developing a strong brand identity can have an enormous impact on customer purchasing decisions and can encourage loyalty. This is because a clear identity shows that a business knows and understands its mission and purpose and can effectively communicate this to customers. The clearer the communication, the greater the effect on potential clients. This leaves many small businesses asking not just how to build a brand identity but how to build a strong brand identity.

The guide below explains the role of brand identity in more depth and provides valuable information on how to create an effective identity strategy.

What is brand identity?

Brand identity is the collective name for all the elements that a business utilizes to create an image of themselves in the minds of customers. Although it is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms ‘branding’ and ‘brand image,’ there are some subtle but clear differences.

Branding is the practice of using marketing to actively shape a brand, i.e., the perception of the company in the wider world, while brand image is how that is received. In short, branding is what businesses use to attract attention and create an image.

Brand identity is the way these ideas end up looking, sounding, and feeling, to express the direction and personality of the brand. When done well, a brand identity can be instantly recognizable to customers and forge a strong connection between visual and verbal elements and a business. This is why brand identity is important and why small businesses should take their time to understand brand identity elements.

A successful identity should be built on a strong sensory appeal in terms of color choices and other visual elements. However, it can also include other sensory aspects, such as auditory and oral elements, including jingles and slogans.

Steps to building brand identity

There are several essential steps businesses can take to help establish an effective brand identity. These include:

  • Conducting research: Analyze the market, identify strengths, and pinpoint unique brand elements of other brands. The role of market research in understanding customer needs cannot be overstated.
  • Determining business goals: Craft a mission statement that aligns with the brand capabilities of the business.
  • Identifying customers: Use surveys and focus groups to understand today’s customer preferences.
  • Determining personality and message: Align brand elements to create a coherent identity and discover how to define a target audience.
  • Considering visual elements: Color, shape, graphics, and text are all key brand identity elements.
  • Designing a logo: A visual trademark using those elements is essential to help build brand identity.
  • Creating a slogan: Craft a memorable and concise brand positioning.
  • Deciding on tone: Establish a consistent brand voice that is recognizable and expresses the personality of the brand.
  • Engaging other senses: Incorporate sound, taste, touch, and scent into branding elements.

Creating a visual brand identity, and one that incorporates other sensory elements, is built on a foundation of brand identity research. It is essential to understand the key brand identity elements of the sector of business. Get it wrong and branding will not align with the business aims and objectives, which can create confusion among customers.

Tips for building a brand identity

Small businesses can struggle to implement an effective brand strategy. Below are some tips that businesses can use to assist with brand identity development:

  • Define the story: What should the company be famous for? What is its purpose and mission?
  • Research competitors: Understand what distinguishes the brand from others in the same industry. Understanding competitive landscapes is essential for creating a cohesive but unique brand identity.
  • Build an identity: Build the company’s identity around its strengths and how it is best positioned in the market.
  • Connect with the story: Share brand stories to boost customer empathy and loyalty. This can be achieved through measures like creating structured customer loyalty programs.
  • Be accessible: Enhance brand visibility and accessibility with tools and devices accessible to all elements of the company’s audience.
  • Monitor the brand: Track brand performance at all times to optimize branding elements and ensure effective brand identity development. This can be done with consumer feedback and research.
  • Allow for evolution: Ensure brand strategy can adapt over time as part of a multi-channel selling strategy.

Businesses can also use brand identity development services to help optimize brand elements and increase visibility. For many smaller businesses, the capacity to develop effective branding and identity development may not exist in-house, but there is external assistance available to deliver maximum impact on brand identity.

Brand identity examples

Effective brand identity examples are all around, with most of us being able to recognize dozens (if not hundreds) of individual brands. One brand that almost everyone can recognize is McDonalds. The bright yellow and red color scheme is playful and fun, as well as being warm and welcoming. The ‘golden arches’ logo is also instantly recognizable and easily identified, even in busy commercial environments. This is used in tandem with an upbeat and energetic marketing campaign that combines the slogan and jingle ‘I’m lovin’ it’ – one of the most recognizable melodies in the world.

Other effective brand identity system examples include Nike, with their ‘Swoosh’ and ‘Just do it’ logo, as well as Coca-Cola, with its instantly identifiable color scheme and font. Of course, not all businesses have the resources and branding power of McDonalds, Nike, or Coca-Cola to create such a strong brand identity, but creative and effective branding is still possible on a smaller budget.

Smaller brands with strong brand identity often include tech startups and businesses working in emerging industries. For example, dating and social app company Bumble were able to achieve a significant impact through clear messaging and content. Innocent Drinks were also early pioneers of exploring the potential of color schemes and brand attributes in a developing market.

Monitoring, measuring, and adapting brand identity

It is important to realize that it is not just creating a strong brand identity that is crucial. Businesses must also work hard to maintain brand identity in a constantly evolving marketplace. Visual elements such as color schemes, graphic design and fonts are subject to developing trends and tastes in the public sphere.

Customers are also adopting new buying behaviors. For this reason, small businesses should monitor and evaluate the success of their brand identity to keep it in line with consumer opinion. This is further accentuated by emerging technology, which has a significant impact on the way people shop for goods and services.

Common mistakes in building a brand identity, and how to avoid them

As well as adopting best practices and investing time and effort in monitoring brand identity, small businesses need to be aware of the pitfalls to avoid when building and maintaining a brand identity. Classic brand identity mistakes include:

  • Lack of a clear brand purpose
  • Inconsistency in brand presentation
  • Absence of a style guide
  • Lack of originality
  • No defined target audience
  • Poor logo design

The role of brand identity across different industries

Brand identity varies across sectors. For example, the color schemes and graphic design adopted by a high-strength cleaning product would not be suitable for use in food or drink packaging. There are established brand archetypes in each sector and while there is room for originality and innovation, brand identity still needs to remain within this general framework. The role of brand identity in each industry presents unique challenges and opportunities. For example, the use of color schemes, typefaces, logos, and imagery would be vastly different across the following industries:

  • Retail
  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Financial services
  • Food and beverage

It is vital for small businesses to understand the branding obstacles and opportunities that each of these specific industries provides.

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Brand identity, as distinct from brand image, is the visual and sensory component of any wider branding strategy. It determines the way customers view the brand. This is why it is so important to understand both the target audience and how they respond to different brand identity elements.

For help and assistance understanding how to make brand identity work harder, open a PayPal business account to access more information, tools, and branding solutions that can boost sales and sustain growth. In addition, start accepting marketplace payments with PayPal and take advantage of the other business features a PayPal business account can offer.

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