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The Art of Designing a Professional Brand Identity

A brand’s identity, much like a personal identity, defines what it stands for; it’s characteristics, qualities and how it differs from other brands. However, unlike human beings, brands are not born with innate identities and this presents business owners with a blank canvas on which to craft a brand identity from scratch.

While it can unleash creativity, it also poses business owners with a great challenge as they need to design an identity that is detailed, pertinent and memorable.

The reason for this is that a unique and authentic brand identity is guaranteed to capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of your customers much like a robust and unique individual who is forever remembered by everyone he/she interacts with.

According to Paula Scher, the brain behind the brand identity of The Museum of Modern Art; “identities are the beginnings of everything, they are how something is recognized and understood.”

So, how do you create the perfect brand identity? Here, we elaborate on the details of brand identity and how you can go about crafting an exquisite and distinct one for your brand.

It is important to note, however, that the outlined techniques are subjective, and would require you to mold them according to your specific industry and offerings.

1. Lay the foundation on your core values:

All great things are constructed from the bottom up. Here too, you will start by defining the very foundation of your brand, .i.e. its core values. These values define what your brand stands for and should be something that your target audience can connect with.

When you begin the process of outlining your core values, the chances are that you will find some options that seem to fit the bill.

However, you need to screen out irrelevant options and identify ones that are the most significant to your brand. To do so, we recommend this approach by Paul Hitchens. This method entails the categorization of all relevant values into three categories:

a. Core values:

These are integral values that capture the essence of your brand such that if they are altered, it will affect the very nature of your brand.

b. Accidental values:

These are the values that will attribute to your brand due to the very nature of the product/ service that you are offering or the industry that you are in.

c. Aspirational values:

These are values that you wish your brand to have, but you are currently not able to deliver on them with consistency. It is essential to segregate them from your core values because if they remain included, they will lead to a brand promise that you might not able to fulfill.

d. Expected values:

These are the values that customers expect from any reliable brand, for example, professionalism, transparency, value for money, etc.

Once you have categorized all contending values, you can now use your identified core values to lay the foundation of your brand identity which in turn will serve as the basis of all your marketing efforts.

Here, we can look at the example of Villaway that struggled to identify its core values as demands of the online travel industry seemed to change ever so rapidly.

Eventually, Villaway set aside all industry demands to isolate the one value that was guaranteed to stay a top priority i.e. customer satisfaction, and crafted their tagline “the best way to stay.”

2. Craft your brand’s personality:

With the core values in place to guide you, it is now time to craft your brand’s personality. At this stage you can take inspiration from the following factors: 

a. Your ownership and staff:

This factor is particularly significant in the case of small and medium-sized businesses where the ownership and staff are so heavily invested in their duties that they develop unique work values and goals. For bigger firms, however, you can take inspiration from their history, stories about their inception or by looking at how their corporate culture has evolved over time.

b. Your line of work:

You can also look at preferred traits within your industry to get an idea of what your customers look for.

c. Competitors:

In addition to this, you can also analyse your competitors to ensure that you craft a persona that will stand out from the crowd.

Once you have outlined a generic persona you can now start to identify its intricacies. You can do this by filling out a mood board that describes the essence of your brand and also entails the vision that you keep for your brand. This information will then allow you to outline your vision, mission and positioning statements.

3. Identify your purpose and positioning:

Next, establish your purpose and positioning. But before we discuss how you can do this, let’s first understand what these terms mean. A brand’s purpose is quite simply the reason for its existence. Whereas, positioning refers to the specific market segment that your product/ service will serve and how your offering is better than that of your competitors.

To unveil your purpose, we recommend that you consider the method followed by Google veteran Arielle Jackson. She upholds that your purpose should describe how you intend to change the world for the better; an approach can be visually represented as follows:

The circle on the left represents the current state of the world that is relevant to you. While, the circle on the right depicts what your brand is capable of delivering at its best. According to Jackson, the intersection of these two domains will present your purpose. For example, when we take the example of Apple, their purpose is to make the best possible products on earth and leave the world a better place than when they began.

Positioning, on the other hand, is the practice of making your purpose attainable. You can do this by identifying your target customers and differentiating your brand from your competitors. So, how do you accomplish this? Well the key to developing a potent purpose and positioning it is to capitalize on extensive market and consumer research.

This will enable you to understand the current situation of the world around you (as stated by Arielle Jackson).

4. Understand Your Target Audience

During your research, you can conduct phone interviews with a representative sample of your target market. This will give you access to detailed and informed discussions that will help to unveil valuable insights about the human aspect of your business.

This can be a gold mine considering that your underlying aim is to establish an emotional connection with your customers. You can also use online survey tools as they provide a quick and easy means of acquiring huge amounts of pertinent information.

Moreover, you can also use government tools to understand your customers and industry in depth. These techniques are recommended as they will provide you with insights into your customers’ main personas. These personas will in turn allow you to understand the needs that your customers wish to fulfill by using your offering. They will also highlight the personal and professional traits of your target customers.

This deepened knowledge of your customers will allow you to craft a brand personality that your customers can relate to. Once you have gathered all the information you need, it’s time to boil your brand persona down to a single sentence. It will give you a clear point of focus for your marketing efforts.

This is crucial because complicated or vague accounts of your brand persona will ultimately cause you to send mixed messages to your audience that will only confuse them.

5. Create your brand’s visual components:

The final stage of crafting a unique and winning brand identity is to create your brand’s visual components. These include the following:

a. Memorable logo:

The significance of a logo that complements and enhances your brand can’t be overemphasized. Your logo is a central visual element of your brand identity that your customers will be exposed to the most. This is why your logo should embody all elements of your brand identity.

Each of these meticulously crafted logos instantly triggers a unique set of emotions that clearly define what the brand stands for. So, how can you craft a memorable logo that will champion your identity and burn down into your customers’ subconscious to be remembered forever?

Well, you can begin by creating a logo that is simple and easy to recall. The reason for this is that a simple logo provides your consumers a blank canvas which they can use to associate positive experiences that they have with your brand.

Lindon Leader, designer of the FedEx logo also states that “I strive for two things in design, simplicity and clarity. Great design is born with these two things”. It will also go a long way in helping you craft a logo that is versatile and would look equally good on a billboard and as a social media icon.

b. Signature color palette:

One of the most challenging customer-facing components is the signature color palette of your brand. This is because you need to use the emotions that colors convey to devise a palette that will strengthen your logo and will be remembered by your audience.

According to research, the purchase decision made by customers can depend up to 80% on the color scheme of the brand.  We suggest using your 3 primary colors by carefully tinting them to fit your brand image. For example, if you wish to project trust you can combine blue with a tint of black. Conversely, you can combine blue with white to give off a tranquil feel.

In addition to your primary colors, you can also define secondary colors that can complement the former in your marketing collateral.

c. Typography:

Fonts are powerful and easily remembered by your customers, even when they are taken out of context. Therefore, it is crucial that you invest time and energy in identifying a font that works brilliantly with your logo and color palette.

To do this, take into consideration the essence of your brand and then try to identify two typefaces that reflect it the most. These typefaces should include one for the headings and the other for the script.

Needless to say, the heading font should be expressive and more prominent in size while the one for the script should be subtle and easy to read.

You can also go for the time-tested approach of using one font but using different sizes for the headings, sub-headings, and scripts. This approach has been successfully implemented by Nike that uses the sans serif font in uppercase and bold across the board. This allows Nike to express a sense of strength and impact which resonates perfectly with the style of its call-to-action images. The choice of only one signature font will also help you design the graphical components of your social media campaign as they don’t require a substantial amounts of text.

To elaborate the importance of choosing the right color palate let’s take inspiration from PepsiCo’s ordeal of 2009. The company’s popular juice brand Tropicana altered its branding strategy and consequently changed its rather classic font to an upbeat sans serif.

Within 2 months the company experienced a 20% drop in sales which cost it millions of dollars in revenues. The company quickly rectified their mistake and switched back to its old typeface.

d. Brand language:

Your brand language defines how you reach out to your customers via all possible modes of communication including your website, adverts, social media platforms, emails, packaging, etc. According to Melissa Lafsky, “brands that communicate successfully are successful, and to communicate successfully, you need to distinguish and define your voice.”

Here are some tips to help you identify your brand language:

I. Use first person plural in your marketing material as it indicates the presence of a united and happy team behind your brand. This is advisable as people tend to opt for brands that are run by cohesive teams.

II. Try to be definitive in your communications as it will help you establish yourself as an authority figure in your industry.

III. One thing that can you can’t afford is to overlook spelling or grammatical errors as it will undermine the credibility of your brand and the quality of your offering. According to a study, one spelling mistake on your corporate website leads to the reduction of your online sales by 50%. Therefore, be sure to proofread, and edit your content many times over and use multiple people so that no such error is missed. You can also make use of grammar tools that are becoming increasingly efficient in detecting and rectifying mistakes.

IV. Customers prefer a casual tone, so try to capitalize on a friendly and approachable voice to engage your clientele. However, if your brand identity is playful or humorous, feel free to incorporate these attributes in your communication but be careful and do it in a way that doesn’t diminish your professionalism.

Designing a brand identity is a complicated endeavor; however, the key lies in conducting thorough research in all the aspects mentioned above before you introduce your product to the world.

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