What is brand identity?

A clear, original brand identity is vital to any organisation. Although many people think primarily of the logo and other visuals of a company as its brand identity, it’s much more than that.

What is brand identity?
Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog
Giles Taylor, April 18, 2023

Here are Withbrand, we define brand identity as:

A brand identity is the platform or foundation that everything is built on. 

When it comes to the global mega brands such as Apple, Pepsi or Disney, we can all instantly picture them in our heads. 

What’s more, we know exactly what they stand for and represent.

However, you don’t need to be one of these behemoths to benefit from a strong brand identity. In fact, it’s perhaps even more important to smaller organisations. 

In this article, we will explore what makes a strong brand identity and how you can utilise this yourself.

What makes a good brand identity?

People are connected to each other and brands more than ever before, but it’s a crowded market. Individuals are increasingly fragmenting in terms of the platforms they use and the information they consume. This means that brands need to have a strong, exciting and unique brand identity to stand out.

A strong brand identity is crucial to generating brand recognition and trust, customer loyalty, and, ultimately, long-term growth. Your identity ensures that you effectively and consistently communicate your brand values and mission across any channel.

Brand Identity vs Brand Image

It’s important to understand that brand identity and brand image are not the same. Although closely related, it’s easier to remember that brand identity is all the visual and aural elements that make up a brand. This includes things such as:

  • The name
  • The design including colours, shapes, graphics and other visual elements
  • Any audio
  • The language and messaging used across all channels and touchpoints
  • How staff, employees and representatives interact with customers
  • How physical locations such as stores look and where they’re situated
  • Staff uniforms

The brand image is the result of all these things in the eye of the consumer. It's worth noting that this can be successful and unsuccessful. Think of how many brands have tried to cultivate a certain image and through creating the wrong brand identity, have completely missed the mark.

The best brands have merged all these elements to create something strong and memorable for the consumer. Jared Rosen, Senior Brand Manager at Wayfair sums it up perfectly:

"Brand identity is more than just finding the right logo to place on coffee cup sleeves or mount above your front door. It's about crafting a personality that amplifies the core elements of your brand's DNA. 

“Today, the most magnetic brand identities scale across digital platforms, IRL experiences, and even naturally converse with real customers."

Brand Identity Examples

To put this into context, think of some of the strongest brands in the world. When you think of Apple, you immediately see the logo, fonts and imagery in your mind. Then, you’re taken to a picture of a silver MacBook or an iPhone. You know that their products are aimed at fashionable, young professionals. You might even picture the Apple logo lit up on the back of a laptop. 

Similarly, if you think of Audi, what do you see? Your brain immediately thinks of a great, sleek design in a premium car, probably in black or silver. They’re high-tech and aspirational, without being intimidating. Even their tagline “Vorsprung Durch Technik” translates to “Progress Through Technology”.

So how do you go about creating your own brand identity?

Tips for creating a strong brand identity

To create a strong brand identity, you have to start with a thorough understanding of the following things. After all, if you don’t know these, how can you expect a consumer to?

  • What's your vision and your mission? You need to define what you are as an organisation and what you stand for. What beliefs permeate your company? What do your products say about you? In short, why do you do what you do?
  • How are you different? It’s a very competitive space, and you need to understand how you’re different from your competitors. Why should a customer choose you? What sets you apart?
  • What’s your brand personality? If your brand was a person, what would their personality be? How would they communicate?
  • Who is your audience? Once you understand yourself, you also need to research, understand and define your audience. You can’t (and shouldn’t!) be all things to all people! Work out who you’re targeting, and focus on them.
    • A popular approach among branding agencies is to define three words that you would want your audience to use to describe you and stick to them.
  • What are your business goals? Different to your vision and mission, what do you want to achieve as a business? Understanding this will help you create your brand identity.

How to create a brand identity

Once you’re armed with this information, you can start working on creating the brand identity. Depending on your expertise and the size of your team, it may be worth consulting with a branding agency at this point - you don’t want to make any costly mistakes!

You’ll need to work with designers, communication experts, copywriters, developers, social media experts and marketing professionals to create your assets and agree on your brand guidelines and ToV. 

This includes logos, fonts, colours, imagery and videography, messaging and more. Once you’ve agreed on your brand identity internally, it’s time to create stories, content and other marketing activations to reach your target audience and start building that connection.

A strong brand identity is vital to the long-term success of any organisation. It allows you to create deep and meaningful connections with your audience and cements you in their mind. It’s not a quick process, and some of the strongest brands have taken years or even decades to build their identities, but all the effort will pay dividends.

Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog

Giles Taylor

Giles is the founder and creative director for W/Brand. A graphic designer from Reading in Berkshire, UK, he's a dad with two wonderful children who enjoys walking and playing the guitar.  

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