Two giants in the world of dark, sweet, sticky sodas.
Their ingredients and taste are pretty similar. In fact Professor Read Montague showed that most people could not tell the difference in taste when the drinks were unlabeled.
However when the drinks were labelled, people showed a strong brand preference.
Now research by Hunch.com found that they’re measurable differences between the demographics of Coke fans vs. Pepsi fans.
For example: Coke people like visiting art galleries and eating sushi, Pepsi people prefer watching TV and eating Spam.
This is why creating a brand identity is so powerful.
Want to know more?
Here’s another example:
Take Dell, Sony and IBM.
Three giants in the world of computers.
Their machines all run the same software. But in the eyes of computer buyers, one stands for flexibility, one for innovation and one for quality.
Now over to you:
Does your business have a unique, instantly recognisable brand identity? Is your audience able to readily distinguish you from your competitors?
In this post, I’m going to show you how to create a brand identity. Then I’ll give you some advice on how to draw up brand identity guidelines. The guidelines are important to ensure consistency throughout your marketing.
But first, let’s look at what we mean by brand identity.
Brand identity definition
Do you drink Coke just to quench your thirst?
Do you drive a BMW just to get from A to B?
A Coke can quench your thirst. But so can water.
A BMW can get you from A to B. But so can a secondhand Ford.
When people are asked why they chose product A over product B they come up with all sorts of rationalisations. They give reasons based on the product’s tangible features. But there’s something else driving their decision. That something is the power of brand identity.
Brand identity is something beyond the characteristics of a product, beyond a logo or colour scheme.
So what is it?
A brand identity:
- Exists outside the product or market need.
- Has a distinct personality and style.
- Has a distinct unique quality, even if that uniqueness lies in the associations it generates.
- Generates feelings and associations.
- Informs every interaction customers have with the company.
- Makes customers think of the brand, not the product.
- Is something people will happily pay a premium for (e.g. Coca-Cola over a supermarket branded cola).
In the words of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon:
“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”
How to create a brand identity in 6 easy steps
You can create your brand identity in 6 easy steps.
Just ask yourself these questions:
1. Where do you sit in the market?
With any successful brand strategy you must start with your audience. These are the people you’re talking to. These the people whose lives you’re going to make better.
- What is your target market?
- What is their demographic ?
- What are their buyer personas?
Now take a good long look at yourself to understand your purpose and place. The classic SWOT analysis is great for this:
- Strengths: What do you do better than anyone else?
- Weaknesses: What do you need to improve?
- Opportunities: What trends can you capitalise on?
- Threats: What challenges do you face?
In finding answers both sets of questions, involve everyone in your company. Involve your customers too, by sending them a survey. Don’t rely on yourself or your core team. The more different perspectives you have, the better.
2. What’s your mission?
Making money is important to every company But the brands that we admire emphasise their commitment to something greater.
For example, IKEA is not just about selling furniture. They have a mission statement: “to create a better everyday life for the many people”. Their vision is central to their brand identity. It helps them to attract and retain a loyal following.
Drawing up a mission statement is a good way of defining your values.
So what’s your mission statement?
- Why do you exist?
- What do you care about the most?
- How do you treat others?
In answering these questions, you can put together a set of values that underpin your brand. These values shape your culture. They guide your decisions.
Your values should influence not just your dealings with your customers but also your dealings with your own colleagues.
Hsieh took his clients out for a night on the town. When the bar closed they all went back to their hotel room. One of his clients craved pizza but the hotel’s room service was closed for the night.
Hsieh suggested that this client call Zappos for this request, despite his company selling fashion, not pizzas. Hsieh was that confident about his company’s customer service.
Now Zappos did not deliver the pizza. But the rep who took the call at 2AM, found three pizza parlors that were still open near the hotel. The rep made the order and the client got their pizza.
3. What makes you different?
If your company is offering products and services which no one else is, you’ve got this covered. All you need to do is to shout it from the rooftops.
Most likely, your company is not unique in your marketplace. Is there something about what you offer that stands out from the others? Are you:
- More fast?
- More effective?
- Less expensive?
- Less complicated?
- More attractive?
Now you may not be able to differentiate yourself based on your offerings alone. So think about the way you deliver those offerings. Are you:
- More reliable?
- More knowledgeable?
- More responsive?
- More understanding?
- More likeable?
Also think about how you’re marketing yourself. Are you pumping out the same articles, videos and offers as everyone else? What can you do differently?
Final question. This is a big one.
What would your customers be missing if your brand didn’t exist?
4. What’s your essence?
Great marketing appeals to both emotion and logic. As copywriting legend Joe Sugarman says:
“We buy on emotion and justify with logic.”
Consider someone who’s just bought a BMW. They may convince themselves that they made their decision based on the technical features of the car. Like its horsepower, driving dynamics, or power steering. But the real reason is that they wanted the prestige and status associated with the brand.
This holds true even with B2B purchases. A recent study performed by the CEB found that 71% of buyers who feel an emotional connection with a B2B brand will end up buying.
The most iconic brands have their own distinct essence.
- Walt Disney – “Magic”
- Nike – “Inspiring”
- Ben and Jerry’s – “Playful”
- Apple – “Innovative”
- Target – “Everyperson”
Harley Davidson has built a community around its brand. With HOG (Harley Owners Group) they’re able to tap into their customers’ desire to form relationships, to be part of a group, to feel a sense of belonging. In this way they’re able to connect with their customers on a deeper, more emotional level. This strengthens their relationship with their customers and builds loyalty.
To develop your brand essence, consider the emotional makeup of your prospective buyers.
Copywriting legend Eugene Schwartz identified three dimensions of a prospect’s emotion:
- Desires: What they want.
- Identifications: Who they wish to be.
- Beliefs. How they see the world.
Which of these emotions can you tap into to create your brand essence?
5. What’s your personality?
If your brand was a person, what would its personality be like?
Your brand personality is a powerful marketing tool. If you’re doing this well, your audience should be able to identify your content with your brand, even without seeing your logo.
Have a look through your content. Single out examples that best embody your brand, that could not have come from anyone else. What personality traits are being expressed in these examples?
- Sincerity: Down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful.
- Excitement: Daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date.
- Competence: Reliable, intelligent, successful.
- Sophistication: Upper class, charming.
- Ruggedness: Outdoorsy, tough.
Maybe you can think of additional traits. Like ‘irreverent’, ‘friendly’, or ‘compassionate’.
Now you can start to define your brand personality.
Your brand voice is the expression of your brand personality. Everything you say or write should be done using your brand voice.
- Do you use formal or colloquial language?
- Do you use technical terms or pop-culture references?
- Do you follow convention or break the rules?
6. What is your message?
Your brand message is a short, memorable statement letting the world know who you are and what you do.
Branding expert Kevin Keller calls it your “brand mantra”. This is the “heart and soul” of your brand.
Kevin shared his five favourite examples of real brand mantras.
- Nike: Authentic Athletic Performance
- Disney: Fun Family Entertainment
- Ritz-Carlton: Ladies & Gentlemen Serving Ladies & Gentlemen
- BMW: Ultimate Driving Machine
- Betty Crocker: Homemade Made Easy
Brand identity guidelines
Now you have established your brand identity, you need to ensure it’s reflected in the way your operate: in your content, social media, visual design, and your customer service. For your brand identity to make a mark, it must be consistent and seamless.
Drawing up brand identity guidelines for your company is a good idea. Set out:
- The right tone of voice to use.
- The topics you want to focus on.
- The topics you want to avoid.
- The values you want to spread.
- The way you position your products and services.
- The responsiveness and engagement levels to customers.
- The way you deal with crisis and controversy.
Gap Inc. is famous for it’s no-nonsense social media guidance:
“If you #!%#@# up? Correct it immediately and be clear about what you’ve done to fix it. Contact the social media team if it’s a real doozy.”
Regularly monitor your content to ensure it’s expressing your brand voice. If you don’t do this, you can end up with a mish-mash of different voices and tones that will confuse your audience.
Every quarter, review your brand strategy. As your products and services evolve, as new competitors emerge, you may need to refresh and tweak your guidelines.
Brand identity exercise
Trust me on this: Your brand has an identity.
You just have to find it.
Here’s a simple exercise to start you off.
- Casual or professional?
- Cutting-edge or traditional?
- Accessible or exclusive?
- Spontaneous or meticulous?
- Outspoken or reserved?
- Energetic or calm?
- Fun or serious?
Give it a go and let me know how you get on.
Special bonus: We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. To help you, I’ve created a “Kick-Ass Brand Identity Checklist” that covers all the main points. Keep it handy as you create your own kick-ass brand identity. To download your checklist now, click here.
Image Credits: vadymvdrobot / 123RF Stock Photo