Brand Identity

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DEFINITION of 'Brand Identity'

A company’s brand identity is how that business wants to be perceived by consumers. The components of the brand, (name, logo, tone, tagline, typeface) are created by the business in an attempt to reflect the value the company is trying to bring to the market and to appeal to the customers in the market where the company sells its goods. Brand identity is separate from brand image.

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BREAKING DOWN 'Brand Identity'

Most miscommunication in daily life can be chalked up to an mismatch between intent and perception: you think you said one thing, the person you talked to thought you said something else. Companies often have the same problem. 

In the context of business and branding, a company’s brand identity is what they’re intending to say about who they are – what their product or service is, it’s quality, and utility – while the brand image is how that is all perceived by the public. The challenge any company faces when trying to build a brand is to make sure that their identity matches their image as closely as possible. A negative gap between brand identity and brand image means a company is out of touch with market sentiment, which can make offering services or products more difficult and can even result in a loss of value on the company’s books.

Building Brand Identity

The steps any single company needs to take in order to build a strong, cohesive, and internally consistent brand identity will vary, but a few points would likely come up in every search. 

Any company would need to take a look at who they are, what they’re doing, and the nature of the market that they’re working in. What exactly this taking-stock-of-oneself would look like would vary for each company, but doing a full SWOT analysis, a look at the company’s strength’s, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that includes the entire company is a proven way to help company’s managers understand where they’re at so as to better determine where they’d like to end up and how to get there.

A company would then need to determine what their key business goals are, who they’re trying to reach, what kind of personality they want to exhibit, and what message they want to be communicating to their market.

Building a brand identity is a multi-disciplinary effort, because it can consist of everything from a company’s name, logo, design, it’s style, the tone of their copy, the shapes of their products and their social media presence. It’s common for companies to hire a creative team to handle their branding. 

Real World Examples of Brand Identity

That brand identity, while made up of the seemingly small components, is the foundation on which one of a company’s most valuable asset gets built. A well built brand identity will effectively communicate a company’s personality and their product value to potential customers, helping build brand recognition, association, and loyalty.

If you asked a person on the street what Bose Corporation sells, they’d most likely tell you headphones. On it’s face, getting your market to know who you are and what you sell may seem a simple task, but it’s critical to gaining an advantage. While awareness can be critical to the success of a company, it’s important that the kind of awareness is associated with something positive.

The messages that companies try and communicate are rarely complicated, but making that message most effective requires all the small pieces of a company’s brand identity to work cohesively. Famous brands like Coca-Cola Co. (KO), Nike Inc. (NKE), Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), or Apple Inc. (AAPL) have achieved this difficult task. The things that may come to mind when you think of these brands are, respectively, "refreshing," "fast," "morning coffee," or "sleek." Getting that kind of strong and positive brand association can help bring a company and their product to the "top of the mind" of their customers.

Building brand loyalty can help bring in consistent sales, and make product roll-outs more successful. An example of the benefits of brand loyalty could be seen in the introduction of two new music streaming services in 2015. Both Tidal and Apple Music were launched in the summer of that year, both offering similar subscription-based music services. The two services had to make very different sets of considerations when it came to marketing and rollout of their service chiefly because of the differences in loyalty to the brands. Apple, an established brand with very loyal customers didn't have to do the same type of celebrity oriented marketing that Tidal used in order to promote their services. 

Brand Value

In building a brand identity, companies should think of themselves as creating a key asset. A company’s brand is usually considered to be one of the most valuable assets on a company’s balance sheet. Giving a company’s brand a monetary value is among other things, a metric that can help brand managers better understand their performance working as stewards of the company’s name and the goodwill a positively associated brand can buy the company. There are various ways that a monetary value can be placed on a brand, including the cost it would take to build a similar brand, analyzing cost of royalties to use brand name, and cash flow of comparative unbranded businesses.

History

While branding has had a long history dating back to before the common era, branding as we know it today came out of the industrial revolution of the 19th century. With an increase of common household goods being produced in factories, the companies needed to find a way to differentiate themselves, and convince buyers that they were as trustworthy as local producers. These efforts evolved from simple branding of products, to advertisements that included mascots, jingles, and other sales and marketing techniques.  A British brewing company Bass & Company, and the food processing company Tate & Lyle both claim to have the oldest trademarked brands. Other brands that emerged in that period include Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima, and Coca-Cola.

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