Brand identity not only has a very specific meaning, it is a powerful tool you can use to influence the way people think about your firm. This is a frequently misunderstood concept. Much of this confusion comes from the loose and inconsistent use of brand terminology in the popular press — and even in the marketing industry itself.
The sooner you understand brand identity and what it can (and can’t) do, the sooner you can start improving your identity and changing how people perceive your firm.
Let’s start with a definition.
What is Brand Identity?
Your brand identity is the visual — and to a lesser extent, verbal — expression of your brand. It comprises eight components:
- Company name
- Color Palette
- Graphical Elements
When used to support a brand strategy, your brand identity provides important visual cues that convey positive qualities and help allay concerns people may have about your brand. These qualities can be difficult to put into words, but they can be psychologically persuasive. For instance, a clean and modern identity can communicate a firm’s attention to detail and credibility.
When your audience combines these cues with other information — say, the messaging on your firm’s website or a speech given by one of your principals — they begin to develop positive feelings about your brand. They start to trust you and associate your firm with particular things, such as specific expertise, a service offering or successful outcomes.
Each of a brand identity’s components should contribute incrementally to these associations and positive feelings. When thoughtfully designed, these elements build upon each other and communicate a coherent visual message.
Another critical role brand identity plays in a brand strategy is differentiation. Professional services firms have a hard enough time separating themselves from similar competitors — a distinctive identity can compel prospective buyers to notice you and perhaps take a second look.
How is Brand Identity Different from a Brand?
If brand identity is the visual part of your brand, your brand is the way people perceive and experience your firm. Think of your brand identity as an input and your brand as the output. Brand identity is not the only input, however. It works in concert with your differentiators, brand positioning, brand personality and brand messaging to influence the way the brand is perceived in the marketplace. Other influences on your brand include your customer service, online reviews, positive or negative press and how well the experience you produce matches the one you promise (your brand promise).
Jeff Bezos may have been the first to describe a brand like this: “A brand is what other people say about you when you aren’t in the room.” This is a useful way to think about your brand — and what it will take to shape what those people say about your firm. Brand identity is one of the best tools you have to sculpt those perceptions.