Consider this: millions and millions of companies try to stand out among their competitors – very few of them actually succeed.
With all the failed brands fallen by the wayside, you might second guess your own efforts. I’m going to tell you right now – don’t!
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that a few simple changes to your brand identity could help accomplish your goals.
What is brand identity?
A brand identity is your company’s personality according to how customers experience it. It is a combination of your brand values, messaging and public representation. Brand identity incorporates things such as logos, color schemes and fonts in attempts to positively define itself for customers.
Being unique is better than being perfect.
There’s a reason this quote is so prevalent – because it’s true. This idea has stood the test of time, making unique brands succeed where others fail. These successful brands win, not by having the best product or service, but by creating a brand identity that truly stands out.
Successful brands are unique brands. This is the most important thing to remember – the one pattern that stands out above all else.
Successful brands create exciting personas that are impossible for customers to ignore.
In this article, I’ll give you the secrets successful companies use to create their brand identity.
Creating a captivating brand identity that truly stands out
The following tips will change the way you think about brand identity.
1. Express who you are, always and absolutely
“No other version, no matter how perfect it is, would ever feel better than being your true self.” – Edmond Mbiaka
What if your favorite brand, who in the past had always spoken to you in a corporate tone, sent you a lighthearted newsletter full of funny GIFs? This would throw you off, and not in a good way.
To avoid this confusion, be true to your company values and ideals, as well as the brand persona you’ve created.
That’s not to say that you should never try something new. However, there’s a difference between taking a new angle and confusing your customers.
Part of building our identity is consistency. In order to show our target audience that we are the personality we’ve built, there needs to be general brand consistency from campaign to campaign.
So, what kind of ways can we go about doing this? For starters, there needs to be a conscious effort with each email, newsletter, campaign and project to write and talk in a consistent tone.
Over the years your company has created a specific persona – live up to it in every communication and advertisement, otherwise you’ll let audiences down.
Ultimately, be true to your company’s ideals in order to express the right message and fulfill customer perceptions of your brand.
Now that you’re on the right path to displaying brand solidarity, let’s dive into some key examples that show successful businesses in action.
2. The most successful companies can’t hide their brand identity. Learn from them!
“Experience is a master teacher, even when it’s not our own.” – Gina Greenlee
When you see a golden ‘M’ on a sign, chances are you think of french fries, hamburgers or a face-painted, red-haired clown. Furthermore, you might think of things like smells, ‘I’m lovin it’ slogans and food-box toys. Why is this important?
This shows that McDonalds is much more than a simple logo on a sign. They’ve built a company that gives customers a reason to believe in them.
The customers know that when they visit a restaurant with the golden arch logo, they’re getting everything the company represents and nothing less. Mcdonald’s essentially turned their logo design into something more than just a logo.
When it comes to popular brands, the most important thing to remember is that all of their successful campaigns are available for everyone to see. They can’t hide their methods of branding from the public.
Really let that sink in for a minute: the absolute best brand identities are on display at all times.
So, what can we do with this information? It’s not as if we can just copy these successful examples. But we can learn what works and why. Even the most basic research can put us on the right path.
Think about the following questions concerning effective brands: how, what and when. These are the big three you need to ask to extract all the information you can from successful campaigns. Here’s a brief rundown of each to get you started in your research:
Ask yourself, how did this company influence brand perception? Also consider how they connected things such as their logo to these positive perceptions.
Determine what kind of things this company’s logos and color schemes elicit. How do they make you feel when you see them?
Figure out why a company releases a certain slogan, layout or color scheme at a certain time. What types of events in the world would influence this decision?
Once you’ve researched a brand with these particular ideas in mind, it’s possible to come up with some key conclusions.
On a very basic level, this outlines how successful companies built their brand identity. More importantly, it allows us to begin structuring our own identity process to emulate their strategies.
With your creative processes in place, and a key message for your target audience, it’s time for the next step: preventing brand decay.
3. Will your brand identity stagnate? Not if you follow these tips
“The less you move on the ground the more the world moves around.” – Ana Claudia Antunes
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When it comes to brand identity, if we’ve cultivated it successfully, it will be tempting to abide by this saying.
However, our brand might never really ‘break’. Instead, it will diminish and stagnate.
Now, does this mean we need to change our logo every year? Of course not (though a logo change or re-work is acceptable).
Instead, our efforts should be aimed toward finding new ways to intrigue customers. We should also add to our brand identity without changing brand identifiers.
We see it all the time with new company campaigns – a fresh slogan, revamped logo, commercial theme or new jingle. These are attempts, not to fix a brand identity, but rather to keep it from stagnating.
For example, look at the Pepsi logo from their inception to now. It’s easy to speculate as to why they made the changes they made. Every change was minor, meaning they simply prevented a brand stand-still rather than overhaul their identity.
As you can see, it began as a red, cursive logo that reads ‘Pepsi-Cola’. Eventually, around the 1950s, they put the text onto a picture of a bottle cap.
They also changed it from red to red white and blue. The new color scheme could have been part of their ‘When’ process (as we discussed earlier, the ‘How’, ‘What’ and ‘When’).
Maybe this move came as a way to appeal to US consumers (Pepsi is an American company). The bottle cap addition also makes sense, considering the drink came bottled.
In the 1960s, the ‘Pepsi-Cola’ text switched to simply ‘Pepsi’, and the font was no longer in cursive. Two things could potentially have happened here.
First, Pepsi might have been separating itself from their main competitor, Coca-Cola. By calling it ‘Pepsi’ without the cola, they attempted to differentiate.
Switching from cursive could be for a lot of reasons. One possible factor was the prevalence of typewriters, which may have resulted in less cursive throughout society.
The next few decades brought about only minor changes. Most importantly, the brand can now paste their logo, the red white and blue circle, on a soda can and almost everyone will understand that it’s Pepsi.
These small transformations kept Pepsi in the game without requiring drastic changes. Looking at their logo now, it’s clear they made wise choices, especially when you consider American schools mostly don’t teach cursive anymore.
Consider changes that will similarly keep your company in the game.
Now that you’re equipped to prevent brand stagnation, let’s dive into the visual details that make up a strong brand identity.
4. Build a company logo, color scheme or layout that represents so much more
Imagine you see a trailer for a new hit movie, but the lead actress is wearing a mask in every shot. The preview ends with the title, never revealing who the actress is.
Even if she is the most popular movie star in the world, it doesn’t matter. The trailer failed to show her face to the audience, indicating she’s in the movie.
If the trailer displayed her face, the movie company would have benefited from the perceptions audiences have of her.
These perceptions probably include traits like, ‘amazing actress’, ‘dramatic’, ‘powerful’ and ‘versatile’.
The idea here is that by correctly identifying the actress, the trailer gains so much more credit from the audience.
The same can be said of a company’s color schemes and logos. These visual indicators require brand recognition, not just so customers understand that a product or ad is from your specific business, but because it promotes the positive aspects of a company.
The logo is usually on all things related to a company, making it extremely important. Customers see a specific logo and feel certain emotions, positive or negative. These lead them to make decisions whether to continue with a company or go elsewhere.
Don’t miss the opportunity to capture audiences with the layouts and logos they’ve come to know.
Remember that you’re doing so much more than identifying a product – you’re identifying your company’s values and ideals.
5. Finding your target audience is like discovering treasure – treat the process as such
This step is usually handled incorrectly, which leads to unsatisfying results. Finding a target audience is not a chore and the research shouldn’t turn people into numbers.
In fact, when you discover the right group, it will have been through an understanding of key concepts, such as your company’s vision, values and unique traits.
Furthermore, understanding your audience allows you to create a brand persona which has flair, excitement and other positive attributes that will cater to your target market.
If you reduce the target market to statistics and data without deeper consideration, chances are you’ll miss out on connecting with customers who would truly love your brand.
Building a meaningful brand is not just about creating a pretty logo. It’s about unearthing passionate audiences, creating dynamic personas and bringing deeper meaning to customers.
That’s why brand identity is so crucial – no one is going to have powerful thoughts or feelings about a logo in and of itself, no matter how beautifully it’s designed.
Check out our complete branding guide to learn more.