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How To Make Your Business Easily Identifiable

THE 4 COMPONENTS OF A BRAND IDENTITY

Branding, a term that is thrown around a lot today, with a lot of different meanings. It traditionally referred to a company’s visual identity in the form of a logo. However, like most things in the marketing realm the term ‘brand’ has organically developed to encompass and represent so much more meaning and thinking. A logo today represents just one component of a brand’s visual identity. 

The ‘Brand Identity’ has a whole representing a brand and its positioning in a visual way to the consumer. This visual representation of a brand has 4 separate components that are aligned to present the deeper strategy of the brand to the consumer in a clear and appealing way. Let me explain…

A brand should represent the very core of an organisation, something bigger than its products and services, the brand represents the soul of that company and the bigger vision behind why it exists. Internally a brand should provide clarity on decision making and a roadmap for future development. 

Developing a brand, and strong positioning, is done through ongoing strategic analysis of a pre-developed strategy, A strategy that is developed before any efforts are made to develop a brand identity (including a logo), a brand name and much more. We first develop many of the core thinking behind a brand and allow that thinking to inform anything that consumers interact with, including the 4 components of a Brand Identity which we discuss below.

Strategy Objectives and Deliverables. The approach to effective marketing and branding.

First let’s be clear that a brand is at its core providing clarity of the ‘Why’ and of the ‘Who’ it serves. Just like how a business plan develops the ideas for the ‘What’ and ‘How’. The ‘Why’, ‘Who’, ‘What’ and ‘How’ is all internal thinking at the start, but how is that thinking then represented externally? How is it presented so your company is easily identifiable and relatable with the consumers? 

The answer is simple, not easy but simple. Through developing clarity and alignment between what you say you do and what you actually do. When this is aligned and clear in the mind of the consumers they will be able to describe your brand in a single word. You have been successful with your positioning and branding when this word is collectively chosen by the consumers and aligns with what you strategised your brand would be. 

Words are key to changing the perception of your brand with customers. These words, whilst powerful, must also align with the visual identity of your brand. The shapes, colours, sounds, and noises provide context to words and meaning in the form of associations that stick in the mind of the consumer. The words used by the consumer to describe your brand when paired with visual associations and experiences are much more likely to stick. 

We want our brand to be seen as ‘fast’, or ‘luxurious’, or ‘powerful’ or ‘intelligent’ then we must be focused in executing our strategy with marketing deliverables, like websites, content and ads. When we do this the link of a word, its meaning, and our brand are made visually in the mind of the consumer. Robert Cialdini describes this psychological tool in the book ‘Pre-suasion’ when he says “I link, therefore I think”. We can see many examples of brands doing this successfully, think of Mercedes and the word ‘Prestige’, Volvo and the word ‘Safe’. Once a brand owns a word, it is almost impossible for any of your competitors to take that word away from you. Fabien Geyrhalter, from Finien, summarises this better than I could when he says:

A Big Mac; magical family-friendly entertainment; Steve Jobs; a swoosh logo.Each phrase immediately conjures up images of the brand it represents…Brand Identity is a set of associations the target audience makes with a product that reinforces and deepens the Positioning to thereby strengthen the relationship with the product.” 

Now that we understand that a brand gets its power from aligning its strategic thinking with its visual identity, let’s go through the 4 components in creating a brand identity. These are the brand as a Logo, the brand as a product/service, the brand as the organisation, and the brand as a person. Being thoughtful with these will allow you to better make powerful associations in the mind of the consumer.

Brand as a logo. Ensuring an icon, symbol or avatar is quickly recognisable as an element of your brand. Coca-Cola, Tesla and Apple are all great examples of brands that have done this well. Ideally this mark is unique and can be across all types of print and media. I am not a designer, and so cannot talk to the creation process, but from a strategic point of view you should aim for a simple design that represents an idea, help convey something bigger behind your brand.

Brand as a product. Your ability to represent your brand as a product speaks volumes to how well you applied the principles of focus. That is your brand’s ability to become known for something specific and avoid trying to compete with every competitor out there in similar categories. Brand that do (did) this well, and grew quickly because of it include, Crest (toothpaste), Volvo (safety), IBM (Computer), Xerox (copy machine), Kleenex (Tissues), Heinz (Tomato Sauce / Ketchup), or Goodyear (Tyres). Can a consumer look at your product and immediately make the connection with your brand? Or are they just as likely to think of other brands?

Brand as an organisation comes from your brand positioning and strategy which you should have absolute clarity on if you have any chance of conveying it to consumers. If you don’t, I suggest contacting me to discuss the workshops we run. This is the philosophy behind your brand, the reason why you exist, the declaration about the change you are there to make. When done correctly this can be converted into a tagline.

Brand as a person. This is not a unique concept, the idea of having a face of the brand. It can be achieved in a number of ways, what is important is the general concept behind it of personifying your brand. As human beings we naturally connect with and better understand something that is personified, we see examples of this everywhere, and your brand is no different. Brands can achieve this in different ways and you should choose the way that best aligns with you. Tesla is a great example of the first method, Tesla associates a big component of its identity with Elon Musk. You cannot think of one without the other. Apple previously did this with Steve Jobs. The second method is using someone as a marketing face to represent the outcome you are trying to bring, this method allows you to associate a story with your brand. Think of Jared Fogle, the Subway Guy, and Subway. The third and final method is creating a fictitious person to represent and personify the brand, think of Wendys. A cheeky red head with a fiery attitude can be seen in how they respond to their consumers on social media. Whatever the method, remember the principle. 

I will point out that I first saw these 4 components presented together in an interview with Fabien Geyrhalter. I do take a different approach with them compared to him but he definitely set the seed of thought in my mind.

Keep in mind it is in human beings best interests to not think too much, thinking uses energy which requires more calories. Instead we are, or at least can be, very lazy thinkers and only have a limited capacity for memory and associations. Part of effective branding and marketing strategies is making it very easy to be associated with something. The role of the 4 components of a brand identity is to do exactly this. Make the associations between your brand, an idea and visual identifiers easy. 

Marty Neumeier in The Brand Gap defines a brand as “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organisation”. In other words, your brand is “not what you say it is; it’s what they say it is.” So make it easy for them to come to the conclusion you want by leveraging effective branding and marketing principles like the brand identity. 

After all, creating and changing the consumers perception of what a company, product or service is what branding and marketing is all about.