How to Build a Lasting Brand Identity

The way people see your company is something that lingers long after the latest product marketing strategy or logo revamp. Your brand identity is intrinsically tied to who you are as a founder and what your firm stands for.

According to an Edelman survey, 81% of surveyed consumers stated they must trust a brand they buy from frequently. What elements lead to trust and familiarity, though? It makes sense people want authentic, trustworthy companies that align with their core values. Building the image takes a bit more forethought.

Let the public know who you are with the use of visuals, words, and attitude. Brand identity isn’t something you think about once and forget. The key to becoming recognizable is consistent effort to present a consistent image.

What Are the Elements of Brand Identity?

When you think about one of your favorite businesses, there are probably a few things that come to mind:

  • Color palette
  • Typography
  • Logo
  • Packaging
  • Messaging
  • Personality
  • Customer service

All of these things work together and must match the reputation of the brand. For example, if you use messaging claiming you’re a young, hip company, but your color palette and typography is outdated and boring, you send conflicting messages to your users.

Your logo should appear everywhere your brand does. Ensuring everything flows together makes you seem more reliable.

How Do You Build Brand Identity?

Branding isn’t about how you see yourself. It’s tied to how the outside world sees you, which can vary from the way you want to be perceived. Each customer has a different experience with your company. The more consistent you become across various clients, the better chance you have of creating the image you want others to have of you.

Don’t expect people to recognize your brand without massive effort. You can’t just create an amazing logo and call it a day. Everything you do should run through the filter of who you are as a company. You must get the word out in several ways.

There are some steps you can take to increase awareness. Here are the best things for small businesses to do.

1. Create a Brand Strategy

Before you promote your company, make sure you brainstorm and come up with a brand strategy. How do you want the world to see your business? What are the different paths to creating that image?

While you can’t always control the outside world’s perception, you can present information on your business that aligns with the way you want others to see it. Be predictable because you know exactly who you are and what you stand for.

Involve your stakeholders, employees, and customers as you come up with your vision. You might be surprised by the way those who didn’t start the company see it. Their ideas aren’t right or wrong. They serve as a reference to what you’re best at and where you need more work.

2. Choose a Color Palette

The most recognizable brands have a color palette they use over and over. Some of the places you’ll see their company colors include:

  • Logo
  • Website
  • Social media
  • Product packaging
  • Shipping boxes
  • Printed material
  • Advertising

The color palette appears in everything they do, so when someone sees the main hues, they think of the company. Further enhance your image by using customized boxes and labels. Made-to-order packaging is easily recognizable and increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.

You can say a lot just through the colors you use, so don’t be afraid to try something different than anyone has before. Just be aware of why you’re doing it.

3. Make a Logo

Now that you have an idea of your color palette, either make or revamp your logo to match your choices. Keep in mind that there is a psychology to colors. If you choose red, you can create excitement. Blue may signify reliability.

While it isn’t an exact science, and people’s life experiences mean their reactions vary, you can use color to drive emotion.

Take the time to come up with a logo that represents your values as a brand. People should understand what you’re about when they see your emblem. If you see a green leaf within a logo, you probably assume the company is natural or eco-friendly, for example.

Make sure you vet your logo. There are numerous stories of brands coming up with new designs only to realize later they look like something other than intended. Have a minimum of five other people look at the design and make sure it works.

4. Audit Your Processes

Think about the way you want customers to perceive you. What are your unique value propositions (UVPs)? Do you want to be known as having the best service in your industry?

Once you identify what makes you unique, make sure your actions match your thoughts. Using the example of excellent customer service again, you should carefully consider all your policies and employee training. How do you handle it if a customer has a complaint?

Take the time to make sure everything about your business matches who you say you are. Survey your customers and ask them if they feel anything doesn’t match your reputation. The more feedback you receive, the better you can change any problem areas.

5. Use Personas

You’ve likely heard all about buyer personas and how important it is to know your customers. However, you can also create a persona for your business. Make up a fictional person with the personality and attitudes you want your company to have.

Your first step is the buyer persona. It’s much easier to promote your company to people when you know what their pain points are and the emotions they feel. You’ll know where to place your messaging to get it in front of them. You’ll understand the best messaging to get your point across.

Once you have buyer personas, dig into the personality of your company. Give your brand persona a name. How will they react to certain stimuli? What is their favorite color? How do they represent your voice?

6. Study Your Competition

According to a recent State of Competitive Intelligence Report, researchers found that 94% of businesses are looking more closely at competitive intelligence (CI) than ever before.

They’re tracking what others in their industry do well and matching customer expectations. CI also helps you find holes in their strategy so you can fulfill consumer needs.

Pay attention to their messaging and how it ties into their UVP. Are you doing a good job of sharing your UVP through your messaging?

Study everything about your competitors. Take the time to visit brick-and-mortar locations, peruse their websites, and stalk their social media. You don’t want to copy another brand. Your goal is to get ideas for what you’re doing well and how you can improve your branding efforts.

7. Stick to a Style Guide

Once you’ve done your research, settled on some specifics, and are ready to dig into branding, create a style guide listing all the details.

As different people work on projects, it’s easy to lose your focus. Make sure you include things in your style guide such as:

  • Brand color palette
  • Logo – where to use it, sizing, positioning, etc.
  • Typography – preferred fonts, sizes, and placement
  • Voice
  • Personality
  • How you want your customers to see you

Be as specific as possible, creating sections in your guide for easy reference. If someone new works on your website, they can refer to the guide to ensure they use the same style as previous designers. You’ll create a consistent image.

8. Seek Out Quality

In your advertising and online presence, you’ll use images. You may have a photograph on a blog post or a hero image of your products on your social media page. It’s smart to think about the ways you want to highlight your brand through photographs.

Come up with rules, such as using only unique images or a certain size or orientation. Perhaps you want to add a transparent color overlay to all images to align with your brand’s color palette.

You should also define the style of the photos. If your brand’s personality is fun, the images should show people laughing, in recreational moments, and enjoying themselves. There won’t be room for somber images.

Make sure they are high-quality, professional photos. The last impression you want to leave of your business is that you’re cheap and don’t really care about quality.

9. Embrace Visualization

Statista predicts the visualization market will reach $7.76 billion by 2023. Infographics and visuals help consumers better understand complex concepts. An image has a much bigger and lasting impression than words alone.

Think about the questions you get from your clients. How can you explain them simply using images?

Look for opportunities to add infographics or pull out pieces of data and highlight them with a pie chart, graph, or illustration. You want to be seen as the go-to expert in your industry. The way to accomplish this is figuring out how to take complicated issues and make them easy to understand.

10. Monitor Your Reputation

One irate customer can leave numerous bad reviews, tell others how much they hate your business, and severely damage your reputation. Whether you deserve the report or not, such low ratings might keep others from giving you a chance.

Spend time looking at reviews of your company. What are others saying? Don’t just read the positive feedback. Pay attention to the negative comments, too.

Whenever possible, reach out to people who complain. Try to make the situation right. If you solve the issue, you may turn an unhappy customer into a lifelong fan. If they aren’t pleased after your best efforts, others will see how hard you tried.

You can also hire reputation management firms to clean up past mistakes. If you had a stint where quality or customer service wasn’t ideal, you should first fix that problem and then seek a remedy to your poor reputation.

11. Keep It Simple

It’s tempting to sing your own praises. You may be great at multiple things, and you really want your customers to know about them. However, for the purposes of branding, embrace only one or two UVPs (unique value propositions). Make sure they are ones your competition isn’t promoting. This gives you a distinctive edge.

Sticking to basic messaging also allows you to drive the same point home over and over. Every time consumers see an ad, your tagline, a post on social media, or get an email from you, they should get a similar message.

People are inundated with advertisements. On a typical day, they might see billboards, hear radio ads, see commercials on TV, get newsletters in their email inbox, text messages, and see ads on social media. Phew! If you want them to remember you, you must say the same thing more than once.

Stick to the same idea, and they are much more likely to remember and associate the message with your brand.

Never Stop Growing

Brand identity gets developed over time with consistent effort. Your core values likely won’t change, but you’ll learn better ways of doing things, and your UVP may change over time. Keep branding in mind when you buy a new product, change your look, or create a marketing campaign. How others perceive you ties into how well you live up to your brand’s promises.

Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.

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