The term brand identity refers to a specific aspect of your business and your brand. While the term ‘brand’ can refer to your brand’s visibility, logo and image – brand identity more specifically refers to the actual brand itself and what is represents. In this regard, brand identity actually refers to the very most important part of your brand and what that means. In fact, brand image should really be an expression of your brand identity – it should be born from your brand identity.
Let’s start by defining what is meant by brand image. Your image is how people perceive your business. It is your reputation. But as well as that, it is also more simply the basic imagery that fuels your brand. That means things like your logo, your site design, the design of your products etc.
Identity meanwhile refers to what the brand is about. What it stands for. What is important to it. What it does.
Image should be an expression of identity and this is just the same as it is for any individual!
You have an identity, which is who you are. This is indisputable and the only person who can define that is you yourself. You choose your own identity and to a certain extent it is chosen for you.
But your image and your identity are separate. Your ‘image’ is what other people see. This is how other people view you and it is what people think about you. It is the clothes you wear, your personal style, your reputation. It is the amalgamation of how you want to be seen, how you present yourself, and how you actually come across.
The same goes for your brand image – it should be your way of expressing your brand identity.
Apple is a company with a fantastic brand identity. It is clear what sets Apple apart and you can identify an Apple product as soon as look at it. This demonstrates how the identity can also make itself known in the way that a company designs its products and even delivers its services.
You want your customers and clients to ‘feel’ your touch in everything that they do. You want to make sure that all your products and all your services are quintessentially and unquestionably ‘you’.
Apple accomplishes this by having a clear design language: it uses a lot of white, curved edges, minimalize UIs and bold, flat colors. It aims to be user friendly and to take powerful computer power away from the office and to put it in the hands of the general public and creators. This comes across in the way the products are designed. Apple also tends to give extra attention to quality control and to performance – which helps to give the company a positive identity.
This is why brand identity is so important for starters: because it is what you will use in order to create and define your brand image. If you try and create your image without having an identity, then it will come across as hollow, it won’t ring true and people won’t rally behind your brand. Your brand identity will start often with a mission statement. This is a statement of intent – your outline of what you intend to do and how you intend to do it.
This should be your ‘why’: your reason for existing as a business in the first place. Too many businesses are cynical and interested only in getting money from their customers.
We can see this in many of the decisions they make: for instance, to shrink the size of the food you get in the packet and to change the ingredients for cheaper ones. These are decisions motivated by cash.
The mission statement on the other hand explains why you got into the business in the first place and hopefully that will reveal a passion that you have. For instance, the best restaurants are the ones that start because they have a passion for food and because they see a way of doing something different.
If you created a business because you thought it was a quick way to make money and if it is something that has no USP and no real passion, then chances are that you will have paid someone to design you a logo without giving them much direction. It might come across as generic and derivative – maybe it uses a tick and a globe (sorely overused tropes). And as a result, you MIGHT find you can attract customers – but you’ll be hard pushed to find real fans.