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 customer loyalty, customer retention, and a 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. In the end, you need to make a personal connection. Think of Wal-Mart, branded as your local friendly store. They even have greeters that say hello to customers upon entering the store

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 such things as:

  • Your Visual Identity
  • The Voice You Use
  • The Value of Your Business
  • The Kind of Personality You Have

All of these four elements come together to create the unique look and tone that you want your company to project to the world. As your company evolves over time, so too will your brand identity. However, you need to create a baseline—a profile that defines who you are, early in the game. Before you start the process, let's look at some key elements to keep in mind.

Know How You Help the Customer Solve a Problem

Your customers are usually interested in your company product or service because they have a problem that needs solving. For instance, you manufacture a personal finance software program that helps consumers avoid over-drafts in their bank accounts. Your customers need you because of an existing problem.

It's imperative that your brand identity immediately tells the customer how you can help them solve a problem (or what's known as a "pain point"). Ask yourself if you offer peace of mind (if you sell burglary alarms) or a convenient way to deliver office supplies to home offices. Regardless of what you offer, the problem you solve needs to be the cornerstone of your brand identity.

Every Brand Has a Personality

A brand personality is ascribing a "set of human characteristics" to a brand. Brands that have a well-defined personality make the product relatable on a personal level—customers connect on a visceral level and have to have your product in their lives.

One way to help define your personality is to think about archetypes.

Consider these popular brands and their counter-point archetypes.

  • Apple: Hipster
  • Taco Bell: Happy Court Jester
  • Whole Foods: Health Nut

Does Your Brand Have an Emotional Impact?

If you pay attention to what your new, satisfied customers say about you, you can learn a lot about your brand's ability to connect with your customer base.

What you want to know is, how do you make your customers feel.

Your brand might produce any one of the following emotions:

  • Comfort
  • Security
  • Wellbeing
  • Creativity
  • Solace
  • Benevolence
  • Inspiration
  • Relevant

If, for example, a preponderance of customers say that they feel relevant, that's critical information that will help you build a brand identity.

What 5 Words Describe You?

  • Here's an exercise that will help you define your brand identity, and it won't take you very much time. Sit down (preferably with a group of five or six people) and come up with a list of five adjectives that describe your brand's personality the most. It's important to keep the list to just six adjectives, otherwise, you won't be narrow-focused on your personality.

A good way to get started is to think about what drove the CEO or founder of your company in the first place? Those are the things that drive your business.

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 by choosing words you would use when writing your biography or explaining to a colleague why your business is unique. Be creative.