Whether you lead a large multinational or a mom-and-pop store with only a handful of employees, developing a unique brand identity should be top of your priority list.

Strong and consistent branding communicates your values, story, and message. If done right, your brand identity should not only attract an audience and keep you top-of-mind but turn leads into paying customers.

What is a brand identity?

First things first: while the words “brand” and “logo” are used interchangeably, these are two different things. A logo may symbolize a company, individual, or organization, but it’s just one (visual) element of a brand.

On the other hand, a brand is the collection of qualities that fuel people’s ideas and feelings about something. In short, it’s how people feel or think about your company. When you take steps to develop a specific image of your company — a process we call branding — you create a brand identity.

A brand identity is the set of tangible elements — logos, colors, tone of voice, typography, and messaging — that convey a particular image of a brand. The more robust, more consistent, and more specific these elements are, the better the chances that the brand will leave a lasting impression and compel your audience to engage with your company.

Why do I need a brand identity?

Marketing experts say that the average person is exposed to between 4,000 to 10,000 ads daily. Social media platforms have made it easier to create brand awareness, but with millions of companies clamoring for views, consumers are drowning in content. Worse, studies say that you only get about 20 seconds to make an impression online.

The battle for attention may be more challenging than ever, but the truth is that digital marketing remains one of the best ways to reach prospects and drive sales.

The key to successful marketing is building a brand that communicates your unique perspective and value proposition. No matter how good your product or service is, without a cohesive brand identity (and an excellent online experience), people will gloss right over you and move on to the next thing.

With that said, here are five must-know tips for creating a unique, strong, and memorable brand identity.

Tip #1: Know thyself.

Creating a brand image starts with looking within. This means conducting a brand audit and identifying your main value propositions, values, and mission statement. These form the very

essence of your brand identity. By analyzing your data, you will gain a clear understanding of who your audience is and be able to map out your customer journey.

You also need to know who you are competing with for market share, what strategies they are implementing, and how you can set yourself apart. Conduct an in-depth competitor analysis to find out where you stand.

Tip #2: Creativity and data work hand-in-hand.

Once you’ve laid the foundation for your brand identity, it’s time to work on the creative elements. This is where it really pays to get help from professionals.

While business owners know their company’s internal workings more than anyone else, they’re not always in the best position to tell how they’re perceived from the outside. When business leaders wonder why their marketing efforts aren’t paying off, this is usually one of the reasons.

Building a brand identity is about developing the look, feel, and voice on which every single piece of marketing collateral your company produces will be based. It’s a lot of creative work, which involves both subjective and objective choices.

When making design decisions, leaders sometimes forget that the design is for their target audience, not for them. Try to avoid this. Instead of letting the highest-paid person in the room make the final creative choices or going with the majority opinion, gather data, follow best practices, and validate your choices through experimentation.

Tip #3: Be you.

That said, you must also never forget that your brand identity is all about your distinctive experience.

Your brand must reflect who you are as a company. For this reason, you should be careful about following trends and monitoring your competitors too closely. Keeping a finger on the pulse of marketing in your industry is essential, but don’t rely on convention all the time. Be aware of what your competitors are doing but don’t copy their strategies or content.

The only way to build lasting relationships in the age of tech-savvy customers is to be authentic.

Tip #4: Use all available platforms.

Building your brand identity is a long game. To succeed, you need to utilize all the marketing channels available to you. The more platforms you use, the higher the likelihood of reaching a wider audience and strengthening your brand.

Develop robust marketing campaigns for email, social media, print, and television. Create a PR strategy and get your company featured in podcasts, videos, and publications. Partner with influencers. Communicate with your audience directly on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Most of all, make sure that your website is on-brand, optimized for mobile, loads quickly, and is user-friendly.

Tip #5: Build, measure, learn.

No matter how good your initial plans may seem, they must adapt to change. The market is continuously evolving, and, along with it, so must your battle plan.

To remain competitive, you need to continuously analyze, recalibrate, and ensure that you’re still attracting and offering value to your customer. Fortunately, modern marketing tools give you the ability to monitor your existing strategies and test new ones.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to rebrand. Large corporations and small businesses alike have found that rebranding — a logo tweak, a new slogan, or a change in demographic focus — can lead to substantial growth.

Final thoughts

Developing a brand identity takes a lot of work, but it’s work that undoubtedly pays off. The last thing any business owner wants is to lose potential customers because their branding is all over the place. Take care not to substitute analysis and reflection with half-baked gimmicks. Even paid PR opportunities won’t work if you’re leading your audience to a website that doesn’t accurately reflect your company’s spirit — and doesn’t convert.

Take the time to figure out who you are, who your customers are, what they need, and what they think of you. The learning alone will be well worth it.

About the Author

Catherine vanVonno is the CEO and President of 20four7VA, one of the fastest-growing virtual staffing companies in the world today. She is passionate about helping small business owners scale by giving them access to reliable and highly trained remote talent. She is also deeply invested in providing employment opportunities for skilled individuals from around the world. Get in touch with her on LinkedIn.

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