Smarter Design — Empowering Business
Basically, your brand identity is the visual representation of your company or organisation’s brand. It is basically the face of your brand. Your brand identity includes assets such as name, company logo, colour palette, illustration, photography and even jingles, or sonic assets.
Ideally, your brand identity or visual identity, should be closely aligned with your company and its vision. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a literal representation yet, it should have some association with your brand essence or your brand’s personality.
If your brand’s identity is connected to the vision of your organisation it is going to be more closely aligned to the strategic objectives of the business. In other words, it will be prepared for where your business is going. It will talk to the audience you wish to address and it will navigate the competitive landscape, not only now but for many years to come.
It is important to distinguish the term brand identity from branding or brand image. Whilst these terms are often confused and treated as interchangeable, they are different. Branding refers to the practice of marketing or communicating your brand and brand image is the term that relates specifically to the overarching aesthetic or style of your brand. A good brand identity can have a poor brand image and vice versa.
Brand identity design is quite simply, the process of creating your brand identity. There are many factors that go into developing a successful brand identity but the process is often considered the most critical.
At the very least, you should always consider the market and its characteristics such as the category you are competing within, the segments within the category and your target audience. It should also consider the competitive landscape, who is your competition, what are they doing, where are the opportunities to be distinct.
Having a clear understanding of these factors enables the designer to make informed creative decisions. This leads to a brand’s that are far more distinct, they are more competitive and they are closely aligned with the vision of the organisation.
Brand identity design covers all areas of brand identity. It is fundamentally the process of developing the assets or distinctive assets to form your visual identity system. Ultimately, this should be informed by the brand strategy as your brand strategy should highlight your brand values, brand narrative and brand idea. It should also determine the opportunities to be more distinct and what brand elements need to be considered in order to be effective.
There are many elements or assets that make up a brand identity. These assets are often referred to as distinctive assets. Distinctive assets can be any type of asset that represents your brand. As previously mentioned, these can come in the form of a logo, colour palette, typographic style, photographic style, illustration and even audio assets.
It is important to remember that distinctive assets don’t just have to be logos or colours. Some visual elements such as illustrations can be an effective means of creating distinctiveness in brand identity designs. Brands such as Minor Figures, a recent entrant to the milk alternative category, adopts quirky, characteristic illustrations that give the brand a highly distinctive look in a highly competitive category.
Other distinctive assets that have helped to create a highly distinct brand and strong visual identity are elements such as taglines. Just Do It is synonymous to the Nike brand, even though it hasn’t been in circulation for some time
You don’t have to think too hard to recall visual elements such as famous characters like the Michelin Man or Ronald McDonald. Fictional characters that are almost life like representations of their brands.
Professor Jenni Romaniuk from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute is the world leader in the study and research of distinctive assets and their effectiveness. Professor Romaniuk’s framework to measure the effectiveness of distinctive assets uses fame and uniqueness as the two key metrics. Basically, if your distinctive assets are unique and are known by many people, they will be highly effective and should be used with disciplined consistency as often as possible in your marketing activity in order to assist with brand awareness and salience.
The main objective of any brand identity should be distinctiveness. Distinctiveness is the one factor that leads to greater recall of your brand. This is due to a mental process called heuristics. Heuristics, or brand heuristics, is the process of our brains making mental associations or shortcuts when remembering a product or service that we have stored in memory.
We use a brand’s identity assets or distinctive assets to quickly recall these brands and remind us what we need this brand for, what purpose it serves for us and why we have stored it in our memory.
There are many reasons why having a distinctive brand is important for your business. One of the most important, according to the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, is that brand distinctiveness assists with mental and physical availability. This means that your brand is more likely to be top of mind and recalled when your audience needs or wants your product or service.
When you are distinct, it is likely your brand will be more competitive. You are able to stand out amongst your competition and be more easily remembered. Brand distinctiveness also allows you to create stronger relationships with your customers. They are more likely to be loyal and engaged with a brand that they can easily remember and identify.
For more information on the importance of distinctiveness read our journal post here.
If you think about the Commonwealth Bank’s brand identity, one of the most well know brands in Australia. The logo is a simple diamond shape with a scalene triangle shape within it, usually filled with black against yellow. Somewhat of an abstract mark however, what a lot of people don’t know that it represents the five stars within the southern cross. The constellation that is featured on the Australian flag and culturally associated with Australia as a whole.
The Commonwealth Bank considers itself as Australia’s first ‘national’ bank and was originally established by the Australian government. Similar to Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank’s brand personality and brand story relies heavily on its historical and colloquial connection to being a nationally owned company.
In fact, even amongst their competition they are still unique. It is highly unlikely that any two businesses within the same category would share a vision or values. So, in order to create a brand identity that is more distinct, an effective way of achieving this is to ensure that the vision and values of the organisation inform the brand identity.
Aligning your brand identity with your company’s vision will ultimately lead to greater distinctiveness and, in most cases, a successful brand. A strong brand identity will always be closely related to, or informed by the vision of your organisation, as this is what will help to make it more distinct, giving it a unique brand voice and brand image.
Another critical factor that needs to be seriously considered when creating your brand identity is consistency. Studies have shown that brands that present consistently across every touchpoint can enjoy, on average, a 23% increase in revenue. That is a significant opportunity for fledgeling brands.
Consistency Builds Confidence in your Brand
Firstly, consistency can help build confidence with your target audience. If the brand’s assets are communicated consistently across all touch points, your audience will begin to associate with the brand in-turn building trust in what the brand has to offer.
Secondly, a consistent brand identity will help to increase mental availability. This will help to ensure your brand is recognised when viewed in advertising, on packaging, signage or on your website, helping to boost brand awareness. The objective for your brand identity should be to make sure it is seen and recognised across every touch point, to do this effectively, consistency is critical.
Finally, if your brand lacks consistency across touch points it will decrease the chance of it being recalled or recognised, ultimately decreasing the effectiveness of your marketing investment.
It can be difficult for businesses to maintain consistency across every touch point. Often they rely on different suppliers to execute the brand identity. This can lead to inconsistencies that are often out of their control, if not managed well.
An effective way businesses can manage this is invest in brand style guide or brand guidelines. These should be comprehensive and should be easily accessible by not only the marketing team but by all employees. The objective here should not only to ensure consistency but also to use the brand guidelines to embed a branded culture within the company.
Your staff can be your best brand advocate, if given the right tools and opportunity, they will help protect your brand leading to greater consistency, increased recall or recognition and ultimately effectiveness of your marketing spend.
A distinct and strong brand identity is essential for any business, large or small. As previously mentioned, a strong brand identity can help to build recognition, boost brand awareness and improve marketing effectiveness for your business.
A strong and effective brand identity can help not only communicate what your business does, but also what it stands for, and what makes it unique. As highlighted, it is critical that it is consistent across all channels and touch points, including website, social media, marketing materials, signage and so on.
Research suggests that when a brand’s assets, or its identity, is distinct amongst competition it will have a greater chance of being recalled at the point in time that they decide on engaging with the brand or purchasing a product or service. This ultimately makes your business more competitive and more prepared for the threat of aggressive competition.
We not only know the importance of a strong brand identity, we also know how critical it is to get it right. Ensuring that the identity aligns with the strategic objectives of the organisation, that it is distinct and it is able to endure in order to sustain long term growth are all factors that we focus on.
Your brand identity is a critical asset to ensure your brand and business is best optimised for long terms success. Focussing on this enables confidence with your branding, leading to empowerment for your business.
Much like the largest brands on the planet, a strategic approach to brand identity design gives your brand the ability to connect with your audience, be more competitive, navigate externalities and ultimately last the test of time.