We all know of the companies with brick and mortar locations that somehow are able to create consistent experiences for their shoppers.
The minute you walk into Abercrombie & Fitch, you know you’re there: the low lighting, the “chill” music, and the smell of that strong aroma or cologne all create an immersive experience.
Then, you head down the mall’s east wing to the Apple store. The bright, minimalist, open-space tech store is surrounded by interactive displays and tons of touch pads, and you can’t help but walk in and start playing with something.
During your playtime, you get hungry and make your way to the nearest Chick-fil-A. You open the double doors to find a clean booth and inhale the smell of fried chicken that pumps through the fast food restaurant.
I know, now you’re probably hungry.
What I just described to you are some of the top physical customer experiences consumers have. You know the brands, and you relate to the experience that each customer who walks through their doors has.
When you pre-order your food on the Chick-fil-A app or shop online for your next overpriced pair of A&F jeans, you can just tell that you’re interacting with these brands. How?
Because they perfected the way they built and presented their brand identity to the world.
What Is a Brand Identity?
Brand identity isn’t just a fluffy, abstract thing you check off your to-do list in your first marketing meeting. It’s not creating a logo, plastering it in a few places, and calling it a day.
Brand identity is a tangible, concrete collection of every element you create to showcase the image of your company to your audience.
But let’s not conflate brand identity with related terms that are often used interchangeably:
- A brand is essentially the perception of your company that the world sees.
- Branding is the practice of actively shaping your brand.
- The brand experience defines every interaction someone has with any element of your company.
Rather, your brand identity acts as the face of your business, and it consists of several components:
- Your visual brand identity
- Your brand voice
- Your brand personality
- Your brand values
Sounds like a lot – and it is. Defining and establishing your brand identity requires some time, reflection, and effort.
But, it’s this process that can be a valuable exercise to help your company better understand its goals, audience, and the entire direction of how you create customer experiences. The first place to start?
Understanding what your brand actually is.
How to Define Your Brand
There are a few considerations you need to step back and analyze in the earlier stages of branding. To fully define your company’s brand, follow these easy steps:
Define Your Unique Value Proposition.
What makes your company stand out among your competitors?
A value proposition is what tells your customers how your product or service can solve their problems, what they can expect from your product/services, and how doing business with you would be better than anyone else.
By defining your unique value prop early on, you can help make a better first impression on consumers and differentiate yourself as a business.
Determine Your Target Audience.
Who are you selling to?
Recognizing who your ideal buyers are is crucial; it can help you build an entire marketing strategy targeted toward their pain points, needs, and desired goals. If you haven’t nailed down your target audience, your marketing and branding efforts probably won't be as effective.
Create a list of your top buyer personas who represent your ideal customer base. This way, you'll be able to create niche strategies that will attract the right people to your business.
Establish Core Values and a Clear Mission.
Developing and implementing a mission statement and core values into your business is what keeps the fire going.
Basically, they’re super important to motivate your business to be the best that it can be – and by establishing them, you’re also solidifying how you perceive your own company as a brand.
Define Your Employer Brand.
Building a brand isn’t just considering how consumers see your company – it’s also how your employees and candidates see it.
Your employer brand is basically your reputation, and it’s often created from your core values and mission statement. It’s what attracts good-fit candidates who align with your values, and it builds positive brand recognition, which naturally circulates back to consumers.
Once you understand your brand at its core, then you’re ready to fully develop and create your brand identity. Warning: this does require some deep introspection, so don’t think you can find your brand identity in 10 minutes!
10 Branding Questions to Answer When Searching for Your Identity
Like we mentioned before, there are many components to consider when defining what your brand is and how you wish to present it as an identity to the world.
Here are a series of questions you should sit down and ask yourself (or ask a group) as you develop your brand identity.
1. Who Is Your Ideal Buyer?
Based on your initial research in defining your brand, you should already have a strong idea of who your buyer personas are. If you haven’t solidified this, stop right now and get thinking.
Understanding your audience plays a crucial role in how to build an identity around your brand. It allows you to put yourself in their shoes, identify pain points, challenges, and goals, and ideate your strategies to gain their interest.
2. What Are You Helping People Solve?
Again, your buyer persona research should give you insights into the pain points and challenges you’re striving to address.
Your brand identity should consistently demonstrate how your company is able to solve your customer’s challenges. They need you for something, and you have to prove that you’re worth needing.
3. Who Is Your Competition, and How Are You Different?
If every company in the same industry marketed, advertised, and communicated its brand in the exact same way, life would be pretty boring. More so, it would be hard to pick which company a customer is going to choose.
This is why it’s important for your company to distinguish itself from your competitors. You want to stand out from the crowd and make your brand presence more targeted and attractive.
Running a competitor analysis can help your brand identify gaps in the market, spot new market trends, and market/sell more effectively and efficiently.
4. What Characteristics Define Your Brand’s Personality?
To truly relate to your audience, it’s essential that you define the characteristics that make up your brand personality.
A well-defined brand personality can help inspire the look and feel of your entire brand as well as guide the messaging you send and share across your website, stores, and even on social media.
Consistent messaging and branding is what locks in your brand identity to the public, and it builds a personal connection with consumers.
When it comes to your brand personality, think in terms of human personality characteristics. Some traits you might consider are:
5. How Do You Make Your Customers Feel?
Explore what emotions and feelings you wish to evoke across all the interactions you have with your customers.
Emotions play a powerful role in creating a bond and personal connection with consumers, especially if your company is solving a major problem for the consumer.
Additionally, there are a lot of powerful emotions your brand can use to connect with its audience. Whether they’re ambitious or more understated, think about the experience you want to create for your customers.
6. Why Should Buyers Trust You?
What makes your company so trustworthy, and how will you prove that you can be there for your customers no matter what?
Every time I walk into Chick-fil-A, I know I can trust the employees I interact with. From the initial hello at the counter, to the iconic "my pleasure" response, to the drop-off of my meal to my table, I know I can count on Chick-fil-A to be professional, friendly, and dedicated to excellence service and quick delivery.
Consider how your company proves itself day in and day out. Think about how customers and prospects initially start believing in a brand's ability to solve their problems and identify exactly how you currently do this or how you aspire to do this.
7. What Words Would You Use to Describe Your Brand Identity?
To define your brand identity, you first must think about how you view your business in terms of personality, appearance, and overall voice.
One way to do this is to select five to 10 words that accurately articulate your identity. These often can relate back to your business’s core values, goals, and mission.
For example, our Director of Sales and Marketing, Rob, would choose these five words to describe Bluleadz:
8. How Do You Want Your Customers to Describe Your Brand?
Beyond what you think of your brand, consider what others think of your brand and what you want them to think about you.
By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you can identify what your main goal is when it comes to creating a positive perception of your business.
9. How Does Your Logo Represent Your Brand?
Your logo is the first thing people notice about your brand. It’s a concrete symbol of your company’s identity and creates a lasting first impression with consumers. Because of this, people have grown to associate logos with company values, message, and character.
Take a step back and look at your company’s current logo. Does it:
- Clearly communicate who you are?
- Make an impression?
- Stand out in a visually appealing way?
- Stand the test of time?*
- *God forbid your hip new logo looks outdated next year...
10. How Does Your Style Communicate Your Identity to Your Audience?
Similar to your logo, the various elements you choose to incorporate into your brand design can impact how your brand is perceived. These elements include typography and colors.
Color is commonly associated with emotions:
- Red: Powerful, Strong
- Orange: Bold, Fun
- Yellow: Happiness, Positivity
- Green: Growth, Wealth, Nature
- Blue: Dependability, Calm
- Purple: Royalty, Quality
- Black: Sophisticated, Security
- White: Innocence, Cleanliness
Because of this, it’s important to consider what colors you want to represent your brand, both in your logo and in your overall branding.
Typography refers to the certain fonts you utilize throughout your brand. Similar to the connotations colors receive, typography often gets associated with characteristics:
- Serif: Traditional
- Sans Serif: Modern
- Script: Luxurious
- Display: Bold
Apple strives to create a sleek, modern experience for its customers, not only with the products they sell but with the service they provide. In turn, they utilize a simple sans serif font across their company.
On the other end of the spectrum, Coca-Cola is famous for their red script logo, which, thanks to the company's excellent brand identity, is iconic.
Outside of asking these questions about your brand, there are also a few other exercises you can do to dive deeper and fully articulate your identity.
Branding Exercises to Help You Find Your Corporate Identity
These five exercises, similar to the questions you asked above, will take some time to complete; however, they are meant to help you paint the full picture of what your brand should look like and the identity you want to curate for your audience.
Here are a few exercises to do with your team:
1. Audit Your Current Brand Identity.
This is an important first step to take if you’re looking to rebrand your business or just improve your branding altogether.
To start, determine where your brand is missing the mark: Are you not accurately portraying your brand personality? Are you selling to the wrong people?
By examining your current branding efforts and analyzing their successes and failures, you can spot areas of adjustment and improvement.
2. Do Some Research on Brands You Like.
Everyone looks up to someone, and if you don't, then you're probably reaching a plateau – you don't have anything that makes you work harder.
Seeking inspiration from other businesses can help you better define your voice, how you want to present your business, and how you should interact with your customers.
Jot down a quick list of brands you love. For each brand you list, explain what you like about their branding efforts, and brainstorm how you can translate those efforts to your own company.
Remember not to be a copycat. Take what you’ve learned from these admirable brands and adjust it to reflect your company’s values and efforts.
3. Identify Where to Simplify Your Current Identity.
Sometimes, there just might be too many things going on at once when it comes to your brand, which can cause confusion or even frustration with your audience.
Pick apart your current brand elements one by one, then analyze them as a whole to see how they work together. Looking through this lens can help you find branding areas that might be too cluttered or distracting.
This, in turn, will allow you to select only the strongest elements to rebuild your brand to be more clear and representative of who you are.
4. Test the Perception of Your Brand.
Sure, you may think your brand identity is built one way, but it actually could be the complete opposite.
Seek out the advice from the people who matter most – your customers. Whether it’s A/B testing colors, fonts, and logos, or sending customer surveys for open feedback, understanding what they’re seeing versus what you’re seeing can be a huge indicator of how well you’ve identified your brand identity.
5. Measure the Customer Experience.
At the end of the day, your successes come from how well your customers interact with your brand. Therefore, measuring the customer experience can help you uncover underlying factors in your current brand identity and ways to improve it.
Seek feedback before and after the brand identity implementation to see the impact it had on the overall customer experience. A few metrics you should look at when you assess the customer experience are:
How satisfied are your customers with your product or service?
You can measure customer satisfaction by asking customers to rate their level of satisfaction with your company products, services, or overall experience (on a scale of "not satisfied at all” to “very satisfied”).
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Would your customers recommend your company to friends, family, or colleagues?
To calculate NPS, ask your customers if they would recommend your company to others (on a scale of 1-10.) Then, subtract the number of detractors (people who respond 0-6) from the number of promoters (people who respond 9 or 10).
Will your customers buy your products/services again? Customer churn rate is the percentage of customers who cancel or don’t renew a subscription to your business. This is mostly important to companies who sell based on monthly subscription plans.
To calculate your churn rate, divide the number of lost customers by the total number of customers acquired.
Downloadable Brand Identity Worksheet
Want to take these questions and exercises on the go? Here is a handy template your business can use to fill out so you can create a memorable brand identity.
A strong brand identity paves the road for several opportunities for you to grow your business. Don't let that go to waste!
Consider your audience, intentions, goals, and how you can make your company stand out from the crowd. Remember that your brand identity represents who you are and how you want to portray your company values and efforts to your customers.
With a strong brand identity in place, you can crush your competition and delight your customers!