9 Steps to Developing a Brand Identity

Man Walks by Advertisements
•••  Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images

In order to market anything—a product, a person, an organization, or an idea—you first need to define your brand. Once you define your brand you'll be able to create a foundation for all your marketing efforts and strategies. Your brand definition serves as your measuring stick when evaluating any, and all,  marketing materials, from your logo to the color of your business cards.  

A solid brand identity can be the critical groundwork for developing loyalty, customer retention, and competitive advantage.

Think of your brand identity as how your audience perceives you—it's the face of your business. Without a comprehensive, well-defined brand identity, your audience might not understand who you are.

It's important to note that brand identity is not the same as branding—brand identity is the product of effective branding. Brand identity includes:

  • Visual Brand Identity
  • Brand Voice
  • Brand Values
  • Brand Personality

Together, these four components create the look, feel, and tone of your company to the outside world. While your brand identity may evolve slightly over time, taking the time to define your company is absolutely a valuable exercise. Before you begin the process of asking yourself some key questions, there are some key elements to explore.

Know the Pain Points You Solve

Your customers aren't interested in your company because their lives are perfect. Chances are you offer a product or service that solves a problem. Perhaps you offer personal finance software, and consumers are tired of over-drafting their bank account. Perhaps a novice photographer is having trouble finding a smartphone with a high-quality camera app. Your customers need you because of an existing pain point, or problem.

Your brand identity should instantly communicate how you solve these problems. Do you offer peace of mind or the most convenient office supply delivery around? Regardless of how your brand connects with your customers, your ability to solve problems should be at the core of your brand identity.

All Brands Have a Personality

A brand personality is a "human set of characteristics" that are connected to a brand. Brands with a strong, well-defined personality instantly win some likeability points because customers are able to relate to the brand on a personal level—customers want your product in their lives.

However, human personalities are never single-faceted and your brand personality shouldn't be either. When you start to define your personality, think in terms of archetypes. Consider some of our most common household brands and their personality archetypes. These include:

  • Apple: Rebel
  • Taco Bell: Jester
  • REI: Outdoors-lover
  • Target: Bold
  • Whole Foods: Peace-lover

What Brands Do You Admire?

You don't need to look towards brands with similar products, services or customers to zero in on brands take make you feel good and improve your life. A good exercise is to write down the brands you admire the most. Perhaps, you're a big Zappos fan because of their employee recognition culture and stellar customer service. This concept can easily be translated to any company in any business sector.

What's the Emotional Impact?

When your most satisfied new customers communicate with your sales or account management team, what do they have to say? Listening to the interactions of new, satisfied customers can reveal a wealth of information about how you make your customers feel.

Some common things customers feel include:

  • Relief
  • Inspiration
  • New-found energy

The most frequent positive emotion your customers associate with your company is critical information for building a brand identity.

Think About the Story Line

Brand stories are an important component of branding. This includes both your literal history—how and why you were founded—and the story of the role you play in your customer's life.

Your brand's story should ultimately make your customer a hero. Perhaps you're able to help them purchase their first home and start a family. This story can be an important basis for your brand identity and marketing content.

What 5 Words Describe You?

An important exercise towards defining your brand's identity can be developing a list of five adjectives that describe your brand's personality, look, and voice. If Chik-Fil-A were to create a list, their five words might be:

  • Quality
  • Consistency
  • Values
  • Customer Service
  • Commitment

What drove your CEO to start your company in the first place? How is your company different? By examining the values that run through your company, you can begin to develop a list of descriptive words.

9 Questions to Ask Yourself

Once the big ticket items are addressed, you need to ask yourself the following:

  1.  What are the specific qualities of the services and/or products you offer?  Be sure to be as specific as possible. For example, don't say you offer public relations services. Say that you are a PR specialist with an expertise in traditional and digital media relations.
  2. What are the core values of your products and services? What are the core values of your company?  When thinking about values, think about what is most important to you and your customers. This is particularly important for non-profit organizations.
  1. What is the mission of your company? This is often a question of ethics and standards.
  2. What does your company specialize in? Meaning, what is your niche? For instance, if you sell gift baskets, perhaps you specialize in holiday gift baskets or cheese and fruit gift baskets.
  3. Who is your target market audience? This entails identifying those attracted to your products and services. For example, if you are targeting senior citizens, that's a very well-defined, age-specific audience.
  4. What is the tagline for your company? What kind of message is your tagline sending to your prospects? Not every organization has a tagline, but if you want a tagline, keep it very short.
  1. Once you've answered the first six questions, create a personality for your company that clearly represents your products or services. Ask, what qualities set you apart from the competition? Is the personality of your company innovative, traditional, hands-on, creative, energetic, or sophisticated?
  2. Now that you've created a personality it's time to build a relationship with your target market. How does your personality react to your target market audience? What characteristics stand out to your audience? Which characteristics and qualities get the attention of potential prospects?
  1. Lastly, create a profile for your brand. Describe the personality choosing words you would use when writing your biography or explaining to a colleague why your business is unique. Be creative.