Understanding brand identity: why is it so important?

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One of the most important and visible resources you possess, your business’ brand identity is an essential part of trading, client engagement and cementing your position in a competitive marketplace.

Taking the correct decisions and care with your brand can make a difference.

So, what exactly is ‘brand identity’? What can you do to control and improve it when necessary?

What is brand identity?

The concept of brand identity can be difficult to define.

Taken from the name of the literal ‘brand’ used to mark out distinct cattle in the old west, your business’ brand helps you stand out in a similar (but hopefully less aggressive) way.

Defined by Ogilvy as the “intangible sum” of a product, your brand is an aggregation of the unique elements that makes your product ‘special’ or desirable.

For many companies, a brand can even grow so large as to be inseparable from the product they represent – think Google, Coca Cola, or Apple and you’re there.

This identity then comes to represent all the real and idealised elements of your business.

The identity of a brand represents how the product sits in the mind of a consumer or user.

This can be related to quality (“These are premium machines!”), ethos (“These are made by the most innovative business out there”), and almost every element of your company (“This is my brand, because I love what it means to me”).

While this may appear subjective, clever branding can allow you to control every element of the process.

The way, or ‘intent’, with which you approach your branding dictates this identity.

And taking time to properly map out, test, and understand what you are trying to achieve can result in the creation of a powerful, long-standing brand that not only moves units, but people too.

Why is it so important?

For many businesses, brand identity is the secret sauce that keeps them afloat.

A successful brand can help convince and attract new consumers, making it a priority for any savvy business.

Of course, the reverse is also true.

Failing to carefully plan or realise your branding can result in the creation of a product that is not only unoptimised but, in a worst-case scenario, actively toxic.

This can be a result of bad press, societal change, or a misstep by a brand representative which has seen unwanted attention.

And in the online world, that can be difficult – if not impossible – to shake.

Taking the reins with branding not only allows you to optimise your outreach but help shape the perception of your business.

This can allow you to undertake publicity drives more efficiently, pivot to new markets, or help weather periods of difficulty.

Taking the time to understand your brand fully, what you aim to accomplish, and how you intend to do it is more important than before.

Orange Feature Wall and Quote at TUCO.

Controlling your brand

Correctly controlling your brand allows you to manage and define elements that would normally evolve outside of your control.

These include, but are no means limited to:

Your values: This is what your brand represents to your clients. Are you professional, fun, performance-focused, keen on contributing back to nature? These can be as straightforward as single word phrases like ‘quality’ or ‘fairness’ all the way through to detailed breakdowns that explain exactly how you intend to put your money where your mouth is. And, if your values map onto those of your customers, the more likely they are to engage. While this can be little more than a ‘personality’, it makes your value proposition easier for audiences to engage with.

Your Continued Presence: Cementing a unique identity provides consistency to your approach. Acting as a point of navigation, establishing a business identity allows you to critique and gauge potential business or marketing decisions against your de-facto brand. Is a change necessary, needed, or is it just one step beyond the elastic limit for your company? Deciding on the ‘who’ of your business or product allows you to realise it more effectively, acting as a powerful force multiplier in times of crisis.

The Difference Between You…and Them: A strong brand identity allows consumers or clients to instantly understand what sets you apart. Think Coke and Pepsi – the second you hear their names or see their logos; you know which you prefer when you are thirsty. This allows you to position your brand to a gap in the marketplace more meaningfully or occupy a new niche, letting you stand out and allow consumers to make a choice over the brand they prefer.

Your Level of Awareness: For an individual to engage with your brand, they first must know that it exists. Cementing a strong brand allows it to stick in your client’s minds and make raising awareness and coverage of your brand even easier. If you are struggling to gain a foothold, deploying analytics and research can help you understand where you are falling and how you can potentially pivot to improve your approach.

Your Customer Loyalty: And the end goal, continued long-term engagement. One of the most sought-after elements in branding, securing customer loyalty allows for recurring revenue and even allowing those engaging with you to evangelise about your product. However, for someone to convince their friends – and themselves – they have to be able to engage with fully and understand your values, see you in their lives, what sets you apart, and be reminded that you exist.

Simple stuff, really!

Who needs a brand identity?

Simply, anyone with a product to sell.

Thanks to the rise of online technologies and social media, it is easier to create a brand than ever before.

Do you currently plan to use any of these elements to market or advertise your business?

– Clothing

– A dedicated website

– Social media

– Physical advertising

– Online advertising

– Physical merchandise (for example, pens or paper)

– Signage

– Packaging

If the answer is ‘YES’ to any of these, then you will be required to carry branding to use on these items.

Having a strong brand identity permits your iconography to be used across a range of products – helping businesses of all sizes to achieve their key goals in a way that works.

What defines a brand identity?

A brand is defined by the perception in a customer’s head, with vocal (or sometimes even silent!) consensus defining what your business or product stands for.

And with platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook – being able to change your brand identity has never been easier, or more volatile.

What is a brand image?

If your brand identity is how you would like to shape and mould how you appear, your brand image is how the product or service registers in the minds of those engaging with it.

Put simply, your identity is the voice that you would like to give to your product – your image is what people actually hear.

While there is a significant degree of control over how you get your messaging across, once it is in the wild there is little you can do to change your approach.

This makes it essential to make the right strategic decisions the first time around.

And, if not, to learn from previous mistakes (or those made by competitors) and do everything you can to avoid repeating them.

What are the potential risks?

While hyperbole shouldn’t have any place in the world of marketing, failing to take a measured and detail-oriented approach to your brand identity can be catastrophic for a business.

Establishing a brand is a long and arduous process, with the most established producers often becoming synonymous with their product.

If the effort required to establish a brand is significant, imagine the expenditure required to adjust what that brand means…then change direction again.

An unexpected or ill-thought through shift in direction can shake faith in a brand, damage loyalty, and see people fail to recognise new slogans or labels.

No matter your intentions, taking a measured, realistic approach is essential to not only avoid pitfalls, but to maximise the potential rewards.

What elements make up your brand identity?

While your brand identity is dictated by the perceptions of your clients and customers, there are many elements that your teams can control to shape how you are perceived.

While a full list is too exhaustive to go into, some common elements include:

Name: This is the identity of your product and evokes a response in the listener or reader. This should be representative of the market and illustrate an aspirational element of what you want to achieve.

Logo: One of the hardest elements of the branding process, finding the right logo that stands out is incredibly difficult. This will be used on a range of items and in a variety of situations, meaning that it is vital to give proper thought to.

Visual design: This includes the range of colours, layouts, shapes, and other unified elements that make up your brand. While variation is possible, having a ‘house’ style is incredibly important and allows consumers to know exactly who – and what – they are engaging with.

Language: While branding is the ‘voice’ of your product or business, the actual words you use when engaging with the public are incredibly important. Agreeing a set vocabulary, approach and style is essential. And in a world of Twitter where short word counts leave little room to hide, it is vital to ensure that your agreed style sheet is followed religiously.

Employees: When it comes to physically engaging with your products and services, the last line of defence are your in-house teams. Taking the time to help your teams understand their role in the branding journey helps them to understand their significance, making them properly motivated to provide a world-class customer experience every time.

What should you ask your provider?

With so many variables to cover, here are three key questions you should ask your provider.

Q: What does it mean? Combining art and science, it is essential that you and your provider look at the intent behind every key decision and can justify the choices that you make. And if you get a little lost in the weeds, it can be important to check exactly what it is that your decisions make people feel.

Q: Can it change? Though branding requires planning and forethought, there should also be room to take advantage of opportunities that the marketplace throws up. This can be as simple as opportunities to share and spread your message organically, or step in and engage with moments of importance and make a genuine difference.

Q: What do we do next? Any solid marketing campaign builds on what went before and puts in place plans for the future. Always take the time to understand where you currently are, what key steps led to your situation, and where your brand is driving toward. This can be as simple as setting key planning goals, checking back in to evaluate your level of success, or taking part in a strategic chain, looking at the long-term future of your brand.

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How we work

When it comes to working with a new provider, it can be difficult to determine the best approach to take – or even where to start!

Whether you are looking for a fresh business brand or a revamp of an existing property, our in-house teams step in to bring your ideas to life.

If you have no dedicated branding in place, we collaborate with you to understand how you work, your ethos, and the types of customer you cultivate.

This allows us to use one of our dedicated partner organisations, dawncreative.co.uk, to craft an identity that works for you.

Since first partnering with Dawn Creative, we have enjoyed an exceptional relationship with a team that specialises in the production of tailored branding materials.

Whether it is branding, digital design, or motion and sound – they have you covered.

Once your branding is complete, we pick up the ball again and ensure that your new imagery is displayed in a clear and effective way – maximising your presence and producing relevant, fit-for-purpose signage and materials.

If your branding already exists, our team works with you to review and revise your materials.

This can involve a full refit, modernisation, or tweaks that allow your business to broadcast what it stands for – and the benefits it provides.

While this process can be exhausting with other providers, our experts know that clients will prefer to work their way.

We are happy to prepare samples, provide regular reports, or just do the work for you if you want to sit back and take the stress out of the process.

Get in touch

If you want to learn more about the elements that make up your own distinct brand identity, the team at Binary Box is here to help.

With many years’ experience working with a range of clients, we understand the importance of providing the level of care and expertise that you truly deserve.

You can check out our full list of products and services from here. Or, if you want to learn more, please get in touch directly and let our team know what you need to optimise your branding and take your business to the next level.