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What Is Brand Identity and How Do You Develop One?

By Jennifer Gaskin, Feb 15, 2022

brand identity

While companies aren’t exactly the same as people, they do have a few things in common. One of them is that both brands and people have a need to express their identities. For an individual, that might mean through clothing or grooming. And for a business, it’s through its brand identity.

Developing a brand identity is a big job, there’s no doubt, but Venngage for Business can make the process easier thanks to templates and an easy-to-use design tool that can help your company create, manage and express its identity.

 

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How do you define brand identity?

A company’s brand identity is the means through which it establishes a personality in the minds of consumers. That means having a memorable logo, color palette, icons and other visual elements that all add up to a cohesive sense of the company’s purpose, mission and values.

brand identity
 

A truly memorably brand identity is one that even without all elements being present, would still allow the average consumer to name the business. As this quiz illustrates, a well-defined brand identity (think: Pepsi, Walmart or AT&T), including logos, colors and fonts, can stand on its own.

It’s easy to assume that visual identity is simply a logo and nothing more. But if you’ve ever gone shopping at a Target while wearing a red shirt, you know that’s not the case — color matters, too, and some brands are defined as much by a signature color (like Target’s red or UPS’s brown) as by their logo.

(Once you’ve got everything sorted out, check out our tips for creating brand guideline templates.)

Brand identity vs. Brand image

It’s important to differentiate between the two.

Brand image is how the brand is perceived in the consumer’s mind, so it is subjective and cannot be totally controlled by the brand.

Brand identity, on the other hand, refers to different brand associations that companies create to influence consumers’ perception of it, which means that a company’s brand identity can affect its brand image.

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Why is brand identity important?

For every business, becoming a household name is the goal, though few businesses actually can do so. But the ones who do — they pretty much have one thing in common — their brand identity is cemented in the minds of consumers. So, that’s one reason why brand identity is important.

But establishing a strong brand identity can also be a helpful task internally, especially for young companies and startups. If you’re trying to build an efficient team, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone knows exactly what the team does.

And the brand identity creation process can also help companies set themselves apart from competitors, both literally and figuratively. You may not know there are certain ways that you stand out from the crowd until you set about to create your visual identity package. In examining what your competitors are, you can often see what your brand isn’t.

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What are the key aspects of brand identity?

We’ve touched on this a bit already, but the main aspects of brand identity include:

  • Logo or wordmark: A symbol or font-based depiction of your company’s name. Some brand logos consist of an image (Pepsi, for example), while others are text-based (their big competitor, Coca-Cola, for example). And some are both (like FedEx). Most companies will also create multiple versions of their logos or wordmarks for various purposes (more on that later).
  • Fonts: The typefaces used in the wordmark as well as in internal and external communications. These are generally different fonts; after all, if Coke used its elaborate script font in every press release, it would be far too hard to read. (Learn more about choosing the fonts that best represent your business.)
  • Colors: Some brands use one dominant color (Target, Coke and Facebook), while others use two or more (Walmart, Pepsi and Ikea). Learn more about what colors are associated with which personalities when it comes to businesses.

Check out our favorite brand development tools that can help your business speak to consumers — and be remembered.

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What are examples of strong brand identity?

The businesses that tend to stand the test of time have brand identities that do the same. While they can change, usually subtly, though sometimes dramatically, these well-crafted and honed brand identities become synonymous with the name of the company in the minds of consumers.

Here are a few examples of strong brand identity:

Apple

brand identity

The first logo for the Apple Computer Co. bears no resemblance to the iconic fruit shape we know today. But the shape was introduced in 1977 and remained unchanged until 1998, when it morphed into the solid-black apple icon that’s probably on the back of the phone in your hand.

Apple’s visual identity, of course, goes beyond the logo. In fact, many experts credit the company’s success in part to its singular, minimalist branding, which consumers can see in everything from its commercials to the boxes its products come in.

Ford

brand identity

The Ford Motor Co. is one of the most enduring American brands, being founded in 1903 in Detroit, Michigan. But it wasn’t until 1911 when the company would first introduce its now-iconic oval logo. After a break from the logo between 1912 and 1917, Ford’s brand identity has remained largely the same.

Not only has the oval remained the consistent symbol of Ford, but the company has held onto its dark blue main color since the 1950s and its script font since the early 1900s and though tweaks have been made over the years, the brand identity is unmistakably Ford.

FedEx

brand identity

Today’s FedEx logo is one of the best examples of brand identities that have hidden meanings. Like Baskin Robbins with its nod to 31 flavors, the logo for FedEx presents the very thing the company does — moving packages. Its hidden-arrow logo was launched in 1994, and it’s remained since then.

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What are the seven steps to creating brand identity?

Establishing and refining a brand is an ongoing process that no business will ever be done with. That’s because as markets and products change and evolve, brand identities must do the same. But for companies newly creating a brand identity design, the process can be simplified (maybe over-simplified) into seven general steps:

1. Know yourself

The first and most important step in creating a brand identity is to understand deeply what your organization does. What is your mission? How will your organization help consumers? Will it solve a problem? How? What emotion do you want your brand to evoke in consumers?

2. Know your customer

Speaking of consumers, as deeply as you get to know your brand, you must also develop that deep knowledge of your target customer. That’s the best way to understand what will reach them. Conducting thorough market research is crucial. Many businesses find it helpful to create different customer personas they use when exploring what their buyers want. We’ve got tons of customer persona templates that can help you do just that.

3. Know your competitors

What are the other companies in your space doing? How are you similar? In what ways are you different? How will you set yourself apart from them, both in terms of your products and offerings as well as your brand identity.

4. Develop your voice

Before you can figure out what colors, logos and fonts are the best options to personify your brand, you must understand what you’re trying to say and how you need to say it. Should your brand be friendly? Authoritative? Playful?

5. Create your logo, choose your fonts and consider your colors

Only after you deeply understand yourself, your customers and the market at large can you begin the fun work (we think it’s fun, anyway) of developing the visual elements that will constitute your brand identity. Logos, colors and fonts are the biggest aspects, but many brands also develop a set of icons or illustrations (like MailChimp’s illustration style, which it considers an extension of its main brand identity).

6. Explain your brand identity

Establishing brand identity means creating guidelines or rules around how the elements are to be used. Whether you create a multi-page brand identity presentation or a simple one-page explainer, now is the time to bring everything together in one package.

7. Evaluate and adjust

Remember how we said this is an ongoing task for most brands? Once you’ve established your brand identity and are using the logo, colors and fonts you picked out, it’s important to regularly monitor how effective your guidelines are at bringing the vision in your mind to life in the minds of consumers.

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Brand style guide examples

As we mentioned, one crucial step in the brand identity development process is creating your brand style guidelines. These are rules that determine how your logos, fonts and colors should be used as well as why these elements tell your brand story and support its mission.

brand identity

Skype’s brand guidelines are especially effective at putting the mission and goal of the company at the forefront. The utilitarian elements like logos, fonts and colors are at the back of the 33-page document, and every page of the presentation serves to reinforce the brand voice established at the beginning.

(Learn more about creating a brand style guide.)

brand identity

Make no mistake, utility is important. After all, internal and external teams will use these guidelines to create everything from marketing materials to signage. So determine things like how close to your logo other elements can be, like the exclusion zones shown above, or provide alternative logos that can be used on different backgrounds.

brand identity
 

Brand identity guideline documents do not have to be extremely expansive to be effective, as this example illustrates. Colors, fonts and logos are all clearly pictured and explained.

brand identity
 

As this example shows, even one page could be just enough to ensure your brand colors are carried through any materials that you create.

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Because a logo is probably the most important part of this process, we wanted to share with you some additional examples of logo approaches and styles that could work for your brand. Use these as a jumping-off point so you can ensure what you create is totally unique and for your business only.

brand identity
 

If your organization’s name has a unique aspect to it, such as this alliterative one, play around with the letters in it to create the logo. In this case, two Es placed back to back are used as the logo mark, which can be effective depending on the initials in your company’s name.

brand identity
 

Companies with objects, animals or people in their names are ideal candidates for using those elements to create a memorable logo. Ideally, you should tie the purpose of your business to the logo; in this case, a tech company named Cyber Rabbit was able to subtly tie in the aspect of technology to a familiar bunny shape.

brand identity
 

In other cases, a logo with an object in it can be abstract, as in this real estate logo that creates an image of a tower without being literal about it.

brand identity
 

Whether it’s in the name of your business or is related more closely to your industry, familiar iconography can be an excellent way to bring visuals into your logo, like this TalkBusiness communication app, which uses a simple business element everyone is familiar with — a necktie — to create an effective logo design.

brand identity
 

In this case, a quill and ink well aren’t referenced in the name of the organization, but they immediately call to mind the purpose of the academy, which is to bring history to life.

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In summary: Creating a brand identity can feel like an intimidating process, but it doesn’t have to be

With Venngage for business, you can make sure your brand’s story comes to life with an engaging logo that illustrates what you do and sticks in the minds of consumers, along with a cohesive font library and color palette that serve to further cement your brand in the marketplace.

 
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About Jennifer Gaskin

A veteran of newsrooms and agencies, Jennifer Gaskin is a writer, editor and designer who is the only living person not to have strong feelings on the Oxford comma. She's an award-winning practitioner of journalism and information design who spent the better part of a decade as the creative director of a digital marketing shop. As a writer, Jennifer contributes to a variety of publications while working with clients as well as taking on her own projects.

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