Social media engagement, premium content, and blogging are all important aspects of the modern marketing plan. But, if you’ve jumped into creating a Facebook page or posting blogs twice weekly without carefully considering your brand identity, you’re not getting the mileage you could be out of those efforts. In fact, you may even be confusing your prospective customers and weakening your messaging.
What is Brand Identity?
Brand identity, in short, is your brand’s image. Everything you put in the public eye, from your logo to your social media interactions to the way you handle customer service, combines to create your brand’s image. Each company has two choices:
- Either plan and craft a brand image around a targeted audience
- Or allow a brand image to develop on its own.
Defining Your Brand
Before you can determine how best to project your brand image to your prospective customers, colleagues and referral sources, you must have a clear vision of what you want your brand to represent. Your unique value proposition plays a role in that vision, but there’s much more involved in defining your brand. Explicitly determining who you want to be as a company is the first step toward building that identity.
Your brand image should include your mission, your key products and services, your placement in the market, your customer relationships and more. Hubspot sums up the fundamentals of brand identity this way: “Great brands are easy to recognize, their mission is clear, and it fosters that coveted customer loyalty all businesses crave.”
Of course, fostering customer loyalty means providing something your target market wants. Filling a need in a way that is inviting to your market is a fundamental requirement for any business. That same understanding of customer needs and priorities will help you to define your brand.
Your brand identity isn’t just a marketing tool; it’s a promise. Your brand tells the world who you are, and your customers expect to rely on that promise. In short, everything you do, from your marketing campaigns to the quality of your products and services, must be consistent with your brand identity.
However, consistency doesn’t mean that you simply keep doing the same thing over and over again. Rather, the successful brand will engage in a wide variety of campaigns that are consistent in terms of corporate personality, values and priorities.
According to polling giant Gallup, “Consumers want to walk into a store, go online, or contact a customer care center and have the experience they were promised. They want companies to back up their taglines and follow through on their guarantees. When companies do this, consumers will align themselves with those brands — and ultimately, will trust them.”
That trust can directly improve your bottom line. Gallup also revealed that consumers aligned with a brand give that brand twice the “wallet share” they allot to a brand they recognize but aren’t aligned with.
Brand Identity Evolution
Companies grow and change. Market demands shift. Consumers become more sophisticated in a given area, or their expectations change based on social trends. In short, your brand identity will have to evolve over time to remain responsive to your customers’ needs and reflective of who you are as a company
Note, however, that “evolution” is different from tossing your history in the dumpster and hitting consumers with something entirely new and different. A CEO or marketing leader need look no further than the spectacular failure of Ron Johnson’s 2012 effort to re-brand JC Penney for evidence that successful brand evolution must be responsive to a company’s customer base and market.
In short, every decision about your business should be made in conscious alignment with your brand identity. Aligning decision-making with your brand image means first, explicitly defining it, and second, ensuring that everyone in your organization, from the CEO to the receptionist, understands and is on board with that identity.