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What is Brand Identity? And how to design and develop a powerful one.

In today’s competitive business landscape, brand identity plays a pivotal role in setting companies apart from their competitors.


It goes beyond a mere logo or tagline; it encompasses the essence of a brand, its values, personality, and the emotional connection it establishes with its target audience.


In this article, we will explore what brand identity truly means, delve into its essential components, and provide a practical four-step plan that you can work to create a remarkable brand identity.


We will also examine a compelling case study that highlights the benefits of a well-developed brand identity. Let’s dive in!


What is brand identity?

First, let us define the term brand identity…


It refers to the collection of visual, verbal, and emotional elements of a brand that distinguishes it from others in the marketplace. It is the collective impression a business leaves on its audience through various elements such as logos, colors, typography, messaging, and overall brand experience. A well-crafted brand identity builds recognition, trust, and loyalty among consumers, making it a crucial asset for businesses.


Brand identity is different from brand image and branding, even though these terms are sometimes treated as interchangeable.


The term branding refers to the marketing practice of actively shaping a distinctive brand. The brand image is the perception of the company in the eyes of the audience.


Let’s be honest, all these terms “brand”, “branding” and “brand identity” all sound the same. There’s a lot of confusion around these terms, but understanding the nuances between them is crucial for effective marketing and building a strong brand presence.


The story of Coca-Cola’s 1985 formula change provides a compelling example of the significance of brand identity and the emotional connection consumers have with a brand.


In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company made the bold decision to discontinue its classic 99-year-old recipe and introduce a new formula known as “New Coke.” This announcement sparked a significant backlash from loyal fans of the original Coca-Cola, who had developed a deep emotional attachment to the iconic beverage.


Consumers were not simply disappointed; they felt a profound sense of loss. The reaction was so intense that protests erupted, with people pouring New Coke down sewer drains and expressing their discontent in various forms. The depth of the emotional response was even apparent in the feedback received by a psychiatrist hired by Coca-Cola to listen in on customer calls, who likened the discussions to grieving the loss of a family member.


This case exemplifies the power of brand identity and the strong connection consumers develop with a brand over time. Coca-Cola had become more than just a carbonated beverage; it represented nostalgia, shared memories, and a sense of familiarity for millions of consumers. By changing the formula, Coca-Cola unintentionally disrupted the emotional bond consumers had with the brand.


Ultimately, the negative response from consumers prompted Coca-Cola to reintroduce the original formula as “Coca-Cola Classic” just a few months later. This decision not only rectified the mistake but also reinforced the importance of the brand identity that had been cultivated over nearly a century.

lady sitting listening to headphones holding coca cola

The Coca-Cola story serves as a reminder that brand identity is not merely about logos or packaging; it encompasses the emotional connection a brand establishes with its audience. It highlights the need for companies to understand and respect the deep-rooted sentiments and expectations associated with their brand, as they can significantly impact consumer loyalty and perception.


In other words, branding is the strategic process of creating and managing a brand, while brand identity is the visual and tangible manifestation of that brand. Branding involves shaping the overall perception of the brand, while brand identity focuses on the specific elements that contribute to that perception. Brand identity is a crucial aspect of branding as it helps create a consistent and recognizable visual representation of the brand, which in turn strengthens its overall identity and helps differentiate it from competitors.


So what are the components of a powerful brand identity?


A powerful brand identity consists of:

A Distinctive Logo

A memorable and distinctive logo serves as the cornerstone of your brand identity, instantly recognizable and representing the brand’s essence.

Visual Identity

Consistent use of specific colors, typography, imagery, and design elements across all brand touchpoints reinforces brand recognition and visual cohesion.

A Consistent Tone of Voice

Establishing a consistent tone of voice in brand communications helps convey the brand’s personality, values, and messaging style.

A Compelling Brand Message

Crafting a clear and compelling brand message helps communicate the brand’s unique value proposition and resonates with the target audience.

A Memorable Brand Experience

Every interaction a customer has with a brand contributes to the overall brand experience, including customer service, packaging, website usability, and more.

Think about McDonald’s for a second. The fast-food restaurant chain dominates the world of fast food. And its branding has been instrumental in the company’s success.


How did McDonald’s reach the top of the fast-food chain?


McDonald’s consistently reinforces its brand identity through its iconic golden arches, catchy tagline “I’m lovin’ it”, the iconic figure of Ronald McDonald, and signature menu items like the Big Mac and Happy Meal. These visual and auditory cues create a strong brand recall and evoke a sense of familiarity and comfort among consumers worldwide.

woman eating McDonald's fries

Moreover, McDonald’s carefully crafts its brand experience by providing fast, convenient service, maintaining consistent quality and taste across its locations, and offering a welcoming and family-friendly atmosphere. This commitment to delivering a consistent and positive brand experience has built trust and loyalty among consumers, making McDonald’s a go-to choice for millions of people seeking a quick and enjoyable dining experience.


This is the power of brand identity. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you should be thinking about how you can design and develop a powerful one. Next, we’ll share with you four fundamental steps to developing your powerful brand identity.


Four Steps to Design and Develop a Powerful Brand Identity:

1. Define Your Brand

Identify your brand’s mission, vision, values, and target audience.

Ask yourself these questions:

1) Why did we start this business?

2) What are the beliefs and values that are important to us as a company?

3) What do we do better than anyone else?

4) What makes us special?

5) If we could describe our brand in three words, what would it be?

6) What are the three words we would want our customers to use to describe us?

7) Who are our ideal clients? What are their demographics, psychographics and buying patterns?

Conduct market research and competitor analysis to understand your brand’s positioning and unique selling points.


2. Design Your Visual Identity

Create a logo that reflects your brand’s personality, values, and target audience.

Develop a consistent color palette, typography, and design elements including your logo that align with your brand’s identity and resonate with your target audience.

When working with your designer, you want to aim for your logo to tick off the following boxes:

1) Communicate who you are and what you value as a brand.

2) Is visually appealing: simple, clean, and uncluttered goes a long way.

3) Is classic, not trendy. The last thing you want is for your logo to go out of style in 6 months.

4) Plays along with your industry’s standards.

5) Makes a lasting impression on your audience.

You also want to make sure that you have your logo in multiple formats like a black and white version or size and mark variations to ensure you always have the logo you need for the appropriate placement.


3. Craft Your Brand Messaging

Develop a clear and concise brand message that communicates your brand’s unique value proposition and resonates with your target audience. A brand message is the verbal expression of a brand’s unique value proposition, core values, and overall identity. It serves as a communication tool to convey what sets the brand apart from its competitors and why it resonates with the target audience.


It is crucial to speak to the needs, aspirations, and pain points of your target audience. Tailor your brand message to address their specific desires and challenges. Use language and tone that resonate with them, demonstrating that your brand understands their needs and offers relevant solutions.


Keep your brand message clear, concise, and easy to understand. Avoid industry jargon or complex language that may confuse or alienate your audience. Use simple and straightforward language to communicate your brand’s unique value proposition in a compelling manner. 


A strong brand message connects on an emotional level, tapping into the desires, aspirations, or pain points of your audience. Define your brand’s tone of voice to ensure consistent messaging across all brand communications.


4. Implement and Consistently Reinforce

Apply the elements of your brand identity consistently across all touchpoints, including your website, social media profiles, packaging, advertising, and other marketing materials. Regularly review and refine your brand identity to ensure it remains relevant and aligned with your evolving business goals.


Final Case Study: The Benefit of Brand Identity - Apple Inc.

Apple Inc. store

Apple Inc. exemplifies the transformative power of a well-developed brand identity. 


Apple’s brand identity has played a pivotal role in establishing it as one of the world’s most valuable and influential companies. Let’s delve deeper into the benefits of Apple’s brand identity:

Differentiation and Market Positioning:

Apple’s brand identity sets it apart from its competitors in the fiercely competitive tech industry. Through its minimalist design, sleek aesthetics, and focus on innovation, Apple has positioned itself as a premium and cutting-edge brand. This unique brand identity has allowed Apple to differentiate itself and appeal to a specific target audience seeking high-quality, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing products.


Emotional Connection and Brand Loyalty:

Apple has cultivated a passionate and devoted community of loyal customers who feel emotionally connected to the brand. The brand identity’s emphasis on creativity, innovation, and simplicity resonates with consumers, evoking a sense of inspiration and aspiration. Apple’s brand identity has created a tribe of brand advocates who eagerly await new product launches and proudly identify themselves as part of the Apple ecosystem.


Brand Equity and Perceived Value:

Apple’s brand identity has contributed to the creation of strong brand equity and perceived value. By consistently delivering on its brand promise of exceptional design, seamless integration, and user-friendly experiences, Apple has established itself as a trusted brand synonymous with quality and reliability. This brand equity allows Apple to command premium pricing and maintain strong market share, even in the face of intense competition.


Brand Extension and Diversification:

Apple’s robust brand identity has enabled successful brand extensions and diversification into various product categories. The brand’s strong association with innovation and design excellence has facilitated the expansion from computers to music players, smartphones, tablets, wearables, and services like Apple Music and Apple TV+. Consumers are more likely to embrace new Apple products and services due to the trust and loyalty built around the brand identity.


black woman on phone call happy, working on Macbook laptop

Brand Storytelling and Marketing:

Apple’s brand identity serves as the foundation for its powerful storytelling and marketing efforts. The brand consistently communicates its values, purpose, and unique selling points through compelling marketing campaigns, showcasing how its products enhance people’s lives and empower creativity. Apple’s brand identity enables cohesive and consistent storytelling that resonates with consumers, creating a strong emotional connection and enhancing brand perception.


Apple’s strong brand identity has been a driving force behind its remarkable success, illustrating the power and value of a well-developed and carefully maintained brand identity.


Closing Thoughts:

A great brand identity is an investment that pays dividends in the long run. By crafting a cohesive and compelling brand identity, businesses can differentiate themselves, connect with their target audience on a deeper level, and foster lasting customer relationships. Remember, building a remarkable brand identity requires time, effort, and consistency, but the rewards are well worth it.


– Aisha A., EBS Founder


PS. Download our free copy of The Branding BluePrint 1.0 for a simple DIY worksheet that will help you start your journey to designing and developing a powerful brand identity.


Our team of experts are available to offer professional brand development services. You can click here to book a consultation. If you’d prefer to explore more on branding, check out this eNews post from Walter Landor!

Written By:

Multi-passionate creative, calculated risk taker & budding CEO with a love for travel, reading and writing. When I'm not working with my entrepreneur friends, I'm hanging out with my family.


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