Brand identity is a general term to describe all elements of your company’s brand image. But because it has so many diverse elements, it can be complex and difficult to understand. After outlining the basics, we’ll dive into all the major facets of a brand identity.
What is brand identity vs brand image?
To define brand identity, let’s start by defining some of the things it is not. A brand image is how the public perceives the company. For example, the public perception of Apple may be minimalist design, high technology, and elite status. These associations can be part of brand identity, but brand image itself is not everything. Meanwhile, Branding It is marketing efforts that shape these public perceptions, but they are not necessarily the same thing as a brand identity. All of these concepts are related, but they are not interchangeable.
What a brand identity really is is the visible and tangible components of your brand. This includes the logo, color scheme, tone of voice, and other observable elements that remain consistent throughout a company’s brand image.
Before creating a brand identity
Before you can build your brand identity, you need to understand what your brand stands for. It is difficult to develop appropriate and consistent colors, shapes and other elements otherwise. Make sure you have your What is that and your why down. Why did you start your business, what do you produce, how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors, who is the ideal customer, and where can a customer expect to find your products or services?
The answers to these questions can help you decide on certain aspects of your brand identity. For example, in an industry where other brands are serious, is there room for your brand to be more fancy? Do your competitors all have a similar color palette? If so, determine if there is a psychological reason for these brand colors in your industry. Or at the other end of the spectrum, if you have to choose a different color to stand out.
How to build a brand identity
Since most brand identity is visual, defining colors and shapes early on can help you create a cohesive, unified look. Some of the most recognizable brands identified a strong visual direction and followed it.
There’s a lot to love about Apple’s brand identity. At the time of their launch, their brand image was fresh and youthful. Even the name and use of fruit as a logo evoke ideas of freshness, and such a basic symbol is loaded with deeper meaning. Their white and gray color scheme exemplifies cleanliness and minimalism, which is how they want their products to be perceived. It is a great example of the product reflecting what the brand identity evokes.
The brand identity is flexible enough that they can enter any consumer tech sector without it looking dishonest. The simple and clean philosophy can be applied to any technology. And whether Apple’s solution is really simpler than the competition, the brand suggests it is! And of course, who can forget the “i” nickname in front of most of their devices? This consistent naming has made Apple devices instantly recognizable, even by someone who has never interacted with the device.
Choosing your brand colors is one of the most important parts of brand identity and should happen early in the process. The colors you choose can have emotional associations and can guide your tone of voice and your logo. We have an entire article dedicated to choosing colors for your brand, so we won’t go into too much depth here.
Each color has different emotions and reactions associated with it. And you can get even more granularity by combining colors. Just think of the difference between a brand whose colors are green and brown and a brand whose colors are multiple shades of blue. The green and brown color scheme probably made you think of an outdoor-focused business, while the blue color scheme probably made you think of a tech company or a bank. There’s a reason these types of brands choose these colors! We define each color in the post linked above, so be sure to check that out for the full breakdown.
Most brands choose a base color, an accent color, and a neutral tone. YouTube chose an eye-catching red as the base color, black as the accent color, and a neutral white-gray color as the background. Snickers candy bars have a chocolate-like dark brown as an accent color, with a red, white, and blue logo on top. Blue is the main color, with red as an accent and white as an additional color to create contrast and make it easier to combine blue and red on the eyes.
Shapes are precursors to your logo design, but they can also inform the design of your products, packaging, and marketing materials. There are two main choices here:
- Round Shapes: Rounded edge shapes are comfortable, safe and non-conflicting. It is about positive emotions and togetherness.
- Straight-edged shapes: Shapes with sharp angles and straight lines look strong, logical, and serious. While round shapes evoke positive emotions, straight shapes do not necessarily evoke negative emotions – sometimes it can be a lack of emotion, focusing more on logic.
To contrast the two, Apple’s logo and design philosophy can be considered to be full of rounded shapes that reassure users who may be intimidated by technology. Meanwhile, Microsoft uses square shapes in its logo and design, which shows users that its products are reliable and functional even if they don’t look as good as Apple’s offerings.
Also note that the forms chosen for these two marks extend beyond the logo and into the products themselves. Even down to tiny comparisons! MacOS programs have rounded corners while Windows programs have 90 degree angles.
Your brand’s font choices speak volumes because different types of fonts have very different associations. An old-school serif font (those with little feet at the ends of the characters) can make a brand look classic and trustworthy. Meanwhile, a script font can look fancy or fancy depending on how you use it. Sans serif fonts are modern and sleek, and your brand will be perceived as such if you use them.
The font should match the tone of voice and the overall look of the brand. The Dr. Squatch soap brand uses a combination of script, serif and sans serif fonts to evoke the sentiments of a national park sign. Using all of these different types of fonts is fine, as each serves its purpose. The typeface resembles a warm welcome message on a park sign and is perfect for the company logo. Next, the product name is adorned with a thick, strong, and stylistic serif font. The product type details are the least interesting part of the packaging but are necessary to communicate the information. Thus, Dr. Squatch uses a sans serif font in order to make these details readable without drawing attention to them before the logo or product name.
Case Study: Fortnite
Fortnite took the gaming world by storm a few years ago, and its branding had a lot to do with it. The creators, Epic Games, have set themselves a goal: to create a video game that everyone wants to play.
At its core, Fortnite is a shooter video game, where you fight with guns to be the last player standing. It is a popular format among players. But Fortnite’s distinct brand helped set it apart from other games that tried to do the same thing. It competes with games normally associated with boys and young men, where violence, gore and a fair amount of challenge are high on the wish list for new games.
First, Fortnite’s distinctive cartoonish style and bold colors contrast with the realistic, desaturated looks of other shooters who wanted to feel as mature as possible. This immediately marked Fortnite as unique in the space.
Second, the logo and typography. The written Fortnite logo uses a chunky, blocky font that initially looks serious. That is, until you realize how all the letters are offset from each other. It gives it a whimsical feel and tells you that while there are serious elements to it, the game also knows how to be silly. But despite the whimsy, it doesn’t seem too childish (maybe just a little).
The gameplay itself accentuates the unique brand. Amidst all the shooting, Fortnite is full of silly dances, ridiculous challenges, and has captured the hearts of boys and girls young and old. With a brand like this, Fortnite has managed to create a video game brand that can appeal to everyone, not just the “violence-obsessed teenagers” who are often associated with shooters like Call of Duty, Halo and Doom. To do this, they have centered their brand on “fun” rather than necessarily violence, although violence is at the heart of the game.
There’s nothing wrong with the branding of these violent video games, but they cater to a more specific audience. Fortnite spoke to the world in a language everyone could understand. They made a promise of fun for everyone, no matter how you prefer to have fun. This is reflected in their non-violent modes like social spaces, timed races, and board games. All of these things help create an appealing brand for kids, teens, and adults. At least enough to make Fortnite the most played game of all time.
Conclusion: Brand Identity
Brand identity encompasses all aspects of a brand’s personality. It’s the logo, the slogan, the voice and much more. It can be seamlessly extended to cover new products, new experiences, and customer service interactions. When designing your brand, make sure it’s versatile and adaptable. It is a major effort. But when it’s ready and in place, it should fit naturally into all of your business efforts.