Creating or evaluating your brand identity is guaranteed to be an exciting process. If you are just starting your business, rather than evaluating your brand identity, you’ll be creating one. Either way, you’ll be bringing an idea to life and giving it a perceptual and physical shape. It takes a lot of brainwork, research, guided strategy, and creativity to come with a brand that appeals to your target audience. So, this step has to be carefully visited and revisited quite often.
Your brand identity is basically who you are, what you do, what you stand for, and what your goals are. Marty Neumeier, a branding expert, says that a brand identity is “the outward expression of a brand, including its trademark, name, communications, and visual appearance”. So, it is what you present yourself to be. For better understanding let’s talk about branding in the light of being perceptual and visual.
Create a Perceptual Representation of Your Brand
How do you want my mind to think about you? The first step to creating a brand identity is figuring out what your brand represents. How can you describe your brand? Let’s assume you run a baking business. When asked, “what do you do?”, will you say, “I bake?”. In our opinion, that sounds way too generic, abrupt, and quite uninteresting. No, you don’t just “bake” How about saying “I bake healthy, low-calorie cakes and cookies”. This way, you’ve said the main scope of your business (baking) and how your brand approaches that scope(health). As a potential customer, that will definitely catch my interest and I will want to see if your baked goods are as healthy as you have said.
Take some time to jot these down:
- Describe your business
- What is your mission?
- Define your brand’s vision
- What do you plan to achieve with your brand?
- Identify your core values
Understand Your Target Audience
Who do you plan to sell to? Now, your brand identity isn’t only about how you describe your brand. You also need to figure out how you want to be known by your customers. This is why you need to understand your target audience. I think you should know at this point that creating a brand identity is not a linear process. You’ll find yourself often going over and adjusting certain details.
So, how can you understand your target audience and why is this important? Simple. Your target audience is the ones who will patronize your business. In truth, your business will be unsuccessful without them. You’ll need to know your audience’s demography: age, location, gender, and all those things. Also, take note of what matters to them. This will guide the way you approach your business. Knowing what attracts and interests them is also a great idea, as you can use this to buff up your marketing strategies. You can get this information through research. Don’t worry, as an SME, you probably have a small budget. Be happy to know that there are many low-budget ways to conduct research about your target audience. Observation and reading about your business is also another approach to understanding your target audience
Keep a Close Watch on Your Competitors
Ever heard about keeping your enemies close? I bet you have. But that doesn’t relate to this because your competitors are not your enemies… or are they? Whether new or already established, you can learn about creating a brand identity through what businesses like yours are doing. Analyze what they are doing and how well it is working for them. See what they aren’t doing and how you can binge on that.
Look at the visual representation of their brands like their logo, website, colors, fonts, social media. Look closely at their marketing strategies too and see how people respond to them. If you have been reading about creating a business, you must have heard that your business should be there to solve a problem. Analyzing your existing market will help you figure this out. For instance, in the fashion designing world, you might have noticed that many fashion brands focus on serving the young population. There is an open market for modern designs for the aged community. Niching on that would make it appear like you’re doing something entirely new, even when you are simply a fashion designer like millions of other people.
You should note that premising your business on the market gaps in your industry is not the only way to stand out. One other way is to think innovatively around the current focus of the market. In fact, this is a great strategy because you have more people who already patronize what you have to offer. Your task is now to make it better. Imagine as a bridal makeup artist, you give every client a facial before their makeup and a makeup removal/skin moisturizing kit as a “wedding gift from input brand name“. I know many bridal make-up artists, but I only know a few who do more than ‘just makeup’.
Finally, note that you shouldn’t outrightly copy businesses in your industry. People will know and distrust your business instantly. Instead, let them just guide the way you shape your business. Your competitors, who may or may not be your enemies, are potential sources of inspiration you should not ignore.
Brand Identity: Create a Unique Selling Point
Tell me what makes your brand so special. I’ll wait… Okay, I’m just asking about your Unique Selling Point (USP). It is what makes your brand stand out. I like how Optimzely describes it; “A unique selling point defines your company’s unique position in the marketplace, getting at the heart of your business: the value you offer and the problem you solve. A strong USP clearly articulates a specific benefit – one that other competitors don’t offer – that makes you stand out.”
It does not have to be outstanding. If you are familiar with UI design, you’ll know that Figma’s USP is that it is browser-based, which is convenient for a lot of users. The USP of the makeup artist I describe above is that s/he gives free products for every session. To get your USP, have a clear understanding of the industry, problems that are being solved, and where it is lacking. Know what you want to do there. Also, know what your competitors are doing, and how your business does more or does it innovatively.
Create a Visual Representation of Your Brand Identity
So, how do you want my eyes to see you? After you have the perceptual representations of your brand in check, it is time to get visual. If I am real with you, your brand visuals are what potential customers see first in most cases. So, if you have a great perceptual identity for your brand, you might miss out on amazing conversions if you don’t look physically appealing. Your brand visuals include your logo, website, social media, business cards, product packaging, etc. You can learn how to create a brand style guide for yourself or hire a professional Product Designer for the best result. Nevertheless, if you want to DIY as an owner of a small business, here’s how to.
Your logo: Let’s start with your logo. Think about it as the face of your business and what people use to identify you. You want it to be beautiful, right? Well, it should be, but focus more on it being memorable, easy to identify, and legible. Try sketching out some ideas that drop in the head, study logo trends, and settle on one that looks best. These days, the logo design trend is minimalistic. You can follow that and make your logo a text. Another option is to create a logo online or hiring a professional.
Brand style: Along with your logo, pick the colour, typography, and icons that you think represent your brand well. Take note of the emotional charge you are trying to give. With that in mind, you might want to use bright colours like red and yellow for if you run a restaurant or shades of purple if your brand description is “a sophisticated fashion industry”. Colours like blue invoke trust. Read about branding colours to get a better understanding of this.
Website: One of the most important parts of creating a brand identity is establishing an online presence. Nowadays, it is also a major part of your marketing strategy. A website is your online owned shop. It is quite different from social media because those are only ‘rented’, as you do not have full authority over them. So, having a website is important for full authority and customization of how you present your brand visually. You can equally go for a particular type of website that suits your kind of business, you can go with a website, you are online 24/7 and always available for local and international audiences to find.
As a small business, you should aim at creating the best, well-optimized website in order to increase your chances of being found online. So, I would advise you to go for a professional. Thankfully, highly rated brands like Zuri create affordable one-page websites. You could get a beautifully designed search engine optimized website that carries all your company’s details, as well as pictures/videos of products/demonstrations of services. Your website would also link to all your social media platforms. How do you feel about a @gmail.com email? Compare that to a @yourbrandname.com email. I definitely love the latter better. As a customer, I would also trust an email coming in from the latter. You get this too from brands like Zuri. Alternatively, you can hire a web developer to build a website for you. I would also recommend creating a free website with CMS platforms like Wix or Squarespace.
Social media: Of course, social media should not be left out. In fact, you are most likely to be found on social media, depending on your kind of business. Businesses that require a lot of pictures would find solace in Instagram and Twitter. However, it is great to know how to use social media for branding and marketing. Finally, aim for a consistent brand style, whatever you do.
I should tell you that the process of creating your brand identity is never complete. You would always need to go back and see what you need to do to make things better. Also, branding trends are always evolving, so you should stay updated. See what Warner Brothers has done with their logo over the years
Their latest logo is so cool because it can be adjusted to fit different customization. In my opinion, it is genius.
“If you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they’ll define your brand’s story for you.”
– David Brier, Brand Identity Expert
Start creating your brand story now.