Skype, Spotify, Netflix –when you hear these names, what comes to mind? Usually, when we talk about a brand, the name and logo are what we visualize. But the logo isn’t everything. The most important part of a brand’s identity is the perception that a customer has of your company. This includes everything from your brand’s values to your image, to how your customers feel about you.
Why does it matter? Because people are far more likely to buy from brands they know and love. For ecommerce stores, having your own brand identity can help to set you apart from the rest, and give your customers something tangible to recall when they’re ready to purchase from you again.
As Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos says, “At the end of the day, you’re not building an e-commerce company, you’re building a brand that has e-commerce as its core distribution channel.”
When it comes to creating your brand’s identity, there’s more than first meets the eye. In fact, there are a few main components you’ll want to keep in mind.
- Your mission/vision
- Your target audience
- Your brand’s personality
- Your values
- Your visuals
In this article, I’ll delve into each of these elements to help you build a strong brand; one that’ll stand out from the competition.
What Components Help Define Your Brand’s Identity?
Vision and Mission
Often combined and sometimes used interchangeably, mission and vision represent different elements of your business, so it’s a good idea to have both for your company. Here’s a breakdown of each.
Vision: A vivid mental image of whre you want your company to be in for the future. It’s often inspirational.
Mission: Your company’s direction. It describes objectives and how you will reach those goals.
In short, your vision statement focuses on the future, while your mission statement focuses on today. Both should be concise and no more than a couple of sentences each.
Here are three examples of well-known companies and their mission and vision statements:
Mission: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
Vision: To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.
Why it works: LinkedIn describes what they do and who they serve in its mission, while the company’s vision shows how it’s looking to create opportunities for every working person via its platform.
Mission: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and helpful.
Vision: To provide access to the world’s information in one click.
Why it works: Google states how it’s providing information today, and how it aspires to provide information with only “one click.”
Mission: Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
Vision: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
Why it works: Ikea shows how functional and affordable its products are, while its vision projects how it sees itself creating a better daily living experience for people.
Next up, your business is nothing without a target audience. If you don’t know who you’re speaking to, then you won’t be able to create ads or content that resonates with them. You won’t even be able to create a website, for that matter, because your copy won’t be as convincing if you don’t know who you’re talking to.
For your business to succeed, you should understand who your target audience is and why you want to target them. For example, have you conducted market research into who your client is? Did you develop a customer profile? Why will they purchase your product or service? How will you solve their problem or pain point?
Asking yourself these questions and narrowing down the answers will help you target potential customers easier. Also, think about your future customers’ spending habits, interests, age, and location. Then, you’ll be able to craft your communication to them, whether ads, emails, or your website, and convert potential customers into purchasing customers.
Once you know who your target audience is, you’ll also want to take things a step further and create a customer avatar. What exactly is an avatar? Find out!
Here comes a fun part, creating your company’s brand personality. How will people connect with your brand? Will it be your no-nonsense approach to business or your laid-back attitude? Do you approach conversations with a touch of humor?
The brand personality is the human aspect of your brand and will connect most to your customers.
As you’ve already narrowed down your target audience, you have an idea of what will work best with them. Next, find three to five adjectives that will paint a picture of your brand for that niche.
Once you decide on how you want your brand personality to be represented, ensure you stay consistent. Customers want to know what to expect from your brand. For example, Apple is more trendy and artistic, while Microsoft showcases business-oriented products. You may have noticed the difference in how they communicate their advertisements, which will be in line with their brand personalities.
Your company values are the final component before starting your brand guidelines. With the values in place, you ensure everyone in the company works towards the same goal. It’s tied closely with the vision and can help shape company culture.
CEO Roope Heinila of communications platform company Smarp sums it up nicely when he says that core values are the company’s DNA and help you differentiate yourself from the competitors.
It doesn’t matter how large or small your business is; core values aren’t just for the large corporations. Integrity, ethical sourcing, innovation, fairness, customer commitment, quality – these are just a few examples of core values. Find the ones that resonate with you and your customers.
Here are a few of Google’s core values:
- Focus on the customer and all else will follow;
- Fast is better than slow;
- There’s always more information out there.
Your core values will look different, but what’s important is that they resonate with your customers, and provide a good driving force for your company.
The Visual Identity
You have your mission and vision, target audience, brand personality, and core values. Now it’s time to take these components and transform them into a visual identity for your brand.
Your visual identity is the tangible features of your brand and is probably the first aspect of your business most customers will see, and so you want to stand out and give a good impression.
People make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds. Your branding matters, especially as an online business, since it will influence your visitors’ perception of you.
What goes into a visual identity? Think of it as your brand’s visual style, and it’s telling a story. It encompasses your brand’s logo, typography, color palette, design, and imagery.
If it’s your first time creating a brand visual, take inspiration from everywhere, and make a note of what you do or don’t like from current brands. As you should already know your audience, understanding what they want and don’t will influence your visual identity.
You can then work with a designer, and they can help you convey the feelings, images, and moods you want your brand to encompass. And whether you are just starting your brand visual identity journey or already have one, below are some essential brand guide elements to consider:
- Mood Boards
According to Re Perez, Chief Brand Strategist at Branding For The People, a mood board can be a good way to go.
“A mood board defines the ‘mood’ of a brand, and is a necessary component of building a Visual Identity,” shares Perez. “It is literally a bridge between the concepts and creation of a brand. They’re not intended to be a definitive, final look or identity for your brand. Rather, they are a starting point, meant to give your ideas some physical characteristics and make sure it’s communicating ONE visual mood. However, be sure to avoid these common moodboard pitfalls.”
- Brand Story and Voice
The brand story is about mixing facts and emotions about why your business was started and what drives you. It’s intended to help create an emotional response in a customer. It should be authentic and in line with the brand values.
Helping to tell your brand story will be the voice and tone of your brand. Choose the proper writing style to create a dialogue between your business and customers. Voice is what is being said, while the tone is how it’s said. Your business’ voice will remain consistent, but the tone may vary depending on the situation and medium it’s on—a serious style for emails announcing changes and a more playful one for Twitter.
- Logo or Logotype
At the core of your brand identity is the logo or logotype. This will be on your website, business cards, and products and is crucial in giving customers an excellent first impression. You want to make sure you create a lasting impression to remember your brand and create positive connections. Think of the yellow M of McDonald’s – it can’t be forgotten.
- Color Palette
Colors evoke certain emotions, so choosing the right mix for your business will help reinforce your identity. Research shows that up to 85% of consumers believe color is a motivator when choosing a product.
The brand personality you decided on at the start of the brand journey can help. Is your brand going to be creative and playful? Maybe opt for oranges and yellows. Do you provide financial services? Gold and darker hues of green will instill confidence.
Don’t go crazy here. In most cases, just two or three colors is enough.
You have your brand colors and logo. Now it’s time to choose the font styles or typography. Once again, the type of font you use is closely linked to the feeling you want your brand to convey to customers. In addition, the font should work on multiple platforms (mobile, computer, print), and if possible, be unique.
The above are the basics your brand guide should have and, depending on your business, you may need to include more elements into your guidebook. For example, infographics, catalogs, newsletters, magazines – anything you’ll use to communicate and promote your brand’s product or service is collateral, and you will need to have branding guidelines for them too.
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Good Branding: Examples in Action
While Netflix first started out renting DVDs, they’ve been able to pivot to stay competitive and were one of the first companies to branch into online streaming. Their mission and values might have stayed the same while their product offerings changed to keep pace with the times. Their trademark red logo almost feels synonymous the with cinematic experience.
Two Chimps Coffee
Two Chimps Coffee is a coffee subscription service, and it went down the playful route. From its slogan (Awesome Coffee, No-Nonsense) to the packaging (anyone up for some Daddy Cool or There’s a Chimp in My Kitchen?), Two Chimps Coffee combines spirit with simplicity and mirrors the approach it has with its coffee: no-nonsense but full of character. It appeals to their target audience base.
Finally, we have Nike. A pioneer in sportswear and an iconic brand. Nike’s done many things very well, including manufacturing high-quality shoes and sponsoring plenty of sports teams. Their branding is top-notch as well. It resonates with the intended audience and it’s consistent and recognizable.
At the end of the day, your branding matters. You need a visual identity to set you apart from the competition. Make sure that visual branding is rooted in your company’s personality and brand values. Then get to work creating an identity that’s both easily recognizable, and resonates with your target audience.
See also: Are you building a brand, or selling a product?
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