Before you start generating leads, you need to build your brand identity. When I say your brand identity can make or break your business, I’m not kidding. Your brand identity serves as a blueprint for internal operations and external outreach to clients, customers, and business partners. Forgoing a solid brand identity would be like throwing away IKEA furniture instructions and thinking you can just put that 10-drawer dresser together on motivation and talent alone. Good luck.
If you want to be strategic about building your brand identity so that everybody who touches your brand is on the same page, read along, dear business owner. This blog has the goods.
Brand identity fundamentals.
What is a brand identity anyway? A brand identity is both textual and visual information that differentiates your company from other companies. It’s a unique look and feel that people notice when they visit your website, read your social media posts, or open an email from your company. The goal here is to create a brand that’s novel, innovative, and brings something new to your industry.
Before we get into the juicy interior of brand building, it’s important to note that your brand identity is multi-faceted. It’s the visuals, color palette, the copy you write, and the messaging behind what people see or read on the surface of brand interactions. All of this should be a reflection of your "why." So yes, it's a lot of moving pieces and it all works together to create a whole brand identity.
To effectively build your brand identity, you need to include six key elements:
- Brand name
- Brand positioning statement
- Brand colors
- Brand logo
- Brand imagery
- Brand voice and tone
Miss any of these, and you risk your desired success. Of course, I always recommend you hire qualified people to help build your brand, if possible, like graphic designers, marketing agencies, copywriters, and strategists, but if your budget isn’t fit for outsourcing, you can continue reading this blog to familiarize yourself with the need-to-know elements of brand building—no shame in the entrepreneur game.
1. Establish your brand name.
Start your brand identity building process by defining your brand name. Take this seriously. Seriously. This is the name that will be indefinitely attached to everything your business does. You want it to remain in the minds and on the lips of people you interact with as a company. Therefore, your brand name needs to be easily pronounceable, recognizable, and say something about what you do.
Your brand name needs to start the story of your brand. Think of it as the equivalent of “Once upon a time.” It needs to set the stage for the type of experience your audience is about to have with your company.
It’s easy for meaning to get lost in translation, so make sure your brand name communicates clearly.
Branding Tip: Before you get any further, it’s time to do a Google search. It’s easy to forget this step in your brand-building excitement, but you want to avoid any litigation risk as you embark on this journey. Check to see if your brand name matches any other companies in your industry. Your goal is to be truly original, not just because it’s better for your brand identity but also because you don’t want to get sued.
2. Create your brand positioning statement.
Your brand positioning statement is a clear, concise description that outlines your target audience, what the target audience needs, how your company will meet their needs, how you’re different from your competition, and why your target audience should believe in your company.
To land on your ideal brand positioning statement, you need to get those creative juices flowing. Find what works best for you. Maybe you’re a whiteboard-brainstorming-session sort of entrepreneur. Perhaps you need to put on the headphones, fill your brain with classical music, and let inspiration hit. Maybe you dig vision boards. All approaches are fair game, as long as they lead you to a solid brand positioning statement.
Let's illustrate with an example. Pretend we’re developing a brand positioning statement for a publishing company that raises the voices of authors unable to play in the high-competition world of mainstream publishing. Here’s what that brand positioning statement could look like:
For extraordinary authors and readers seeking a good book outside of mainstream publishing, Jackelope Manuscripts connects deserving writers with eager readers. Founded on the principle that life-changing books deserve to be published and in the hands of those looking to change their lives, Jackalope Manuscripts lowers the barriers to entry put in place by large-scale publishing companies and serves as a trusted recommendation source for literature enthusiasts and appreciators of the written word.
In this statement, we see Jackelope Manuscripts has two primary audiences: writers and readers. Writers need a publisher who will advocate for them, and readers need to know where to find innovative and unique literature in a sea of mass production. Jackalope Manuscripts positions itself as a publishing company truly about the art, not the dollar, and will change the lives of its customers through a good book. We’ve covered all the bases; now it’s time to cover yours.
Branding Tip: Your target audience needs to be part of the conversation when you build your brand. So as you’re deciding the details of your brand identity, consider the following questions:
- What would our target audience think about this?
- Do these images/words/photographs connect with the target audience?
- How will our target audience feel when they interact with our brand?
3. Determine your brand colors.
When you pick your brand colors, be intentional. The goal isn’t to just pick what you like or what you think looks good; you need to go a little deeper than that. Pick 2-3 primary colors and 2-3 secondary colors that evoke a mood and a feeling, and communicate a message to your audience.
Let’s pretend your company provides support services to healthcare personnel. Your goal is to connect with the audience in a reassuring, professional way. You want your audience to feel relaxed and calm when they interact with you, a juxtaposition from what they deal with in their everyday work lives.
What colors can you use to convey your message? You probably would not want to use a color like red which can indicate anger, aggression or danger. But perhaps consider a grey or blue, as they are typical go-to’s for calm moods. And grey can be neutral and professional, depending on the shade you choose. Maybe you can weave in some off-white, which signifies cleanliness, completing your primary color selection. Then, balance with a navy blue and mint green, a color that healthcare workers recognize and feels familiar and trusted to them.
Branding Tip: Use color theory to help you develop your brand colors, but remember that color meanings can be subjective and cultural. This is another situation where it pays to know your audience.
4. Develop your brand logo.
If you’re doing DIY logo creation, note that you want to make sure you have examples of your logo in black, white, and full color. Bottom line: your logo needs to be versatile, useful in all manner of marketing deliverables like print ads, email, mobile-friendly applications, social media, website, and more.
Therefore, you need to consider what happens when your logo is stacked, in a single line, or just the emblem. Think of all the different formats in which you can use your brand logo and make sure you define terms for use.
Branding Tip: Crowdsourcing is fair game with brand identity development. Bounce your ideas off of friends, family, and trusted industry peers at any step in this process. While they may not entirely represent your target audience, you can ask for honest feedback about whether what your putting out there makes sense.
5. Solidify brand imagery.
As brand identity builds off of itself, kind of like a spider web, it should come as no surprise that your brand imagery should be compatible with your brand name, brand positioning statement, brand colors, and brand logo. One way these relationships manifest is by cohesive use of color.
Your brand imagery and overall brand identity should reflect the color palette of your brand logo. For example, if you placed all brand images next to each other in a grid, they should look and feel the same.
Love or hate Instagram, it can help to think of your brand imagery this way. You never want any single image standing out, creating distractions. Solid image branding is almost subconscious, creating recognizability without the viewer even thinking about it.
Consider your brand identity. If you’re an innovative, future-focused tech company, perhaps your imagery will be sleek, minimalistic, featuring clean-cut, professional-looking individuals.
If you own a natural beauty company, maybe your imagery is inclusive, featuring individuals of all sizes, skin colors, and skin textures. Create a warm, inviting vibe by featuring cozy coral, soft, dusty rose, and French grey to add a relaxing feel.
How it feels to look at your imagery should be how it feels to interact with your brand.
Branding Tip: Check out some brands you like and really look at their imagery. Pause and consider how it makes you feel and why it’s so effective. Then, see if you can put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and select brand imagery that evokes the desired feeling.
6. Craft brand voice and tone.
Content is queen, and it’s here to stay. So a big part of your brand execution will be building a library of impactful, compelling, and connecting content. That content needs to be consistent and in alignment with your brand identity. Voice is the mission statement. Tone is that mission in action.
Think of brand voice as the speaker. If brand interactions involve communication between two parties, imagine who is communicating on behalf of your brand.
Is it the cool aunt who knows everything, and you kind of don’t want to know how she knows it because you’re almost positive the story is way out there? What about your favorite teacher growing up who was always measured, thoughtful, and supportive. Does the voice sound like him/her? Is it that tech expert that helps you every time you bring your computer in, treating your knowledge level with respect, and walking you through every step of the repair process, making sure you understand?
No one voice is better than the other, but it has to be unique and authentically yours.
Tone is attunement to the context. Think of tone as a living, breathing vernacular that shifts and adjusts based on the situation. Pretend your friend came to you and said they got the offer for their dream job. You’d react with shared excitement, encouragement, and support, right? What if they told you their beloved grandmother just passed away? Your reaction would be completely different. Implementing brand voice and tone is all about intentionality and returning to your guidelines for the brand identity.
Branding Tip: If you’re not a content expert, consider handing content marketing execution off to a qualified outsourced marketing partner. Trained copywriters excel at maintaining consistency across deliverables and hitting your brand voice and tone every time. It’s one of the best things you can do to build brand awareness.
The whole package: your brand book.
Put all of it together—the name, positioning statement, colors, logo, imagery, voice, and tone—and you’ve got your brand identity. To implement your brand identity, you need to compile it in one document, typically a PDF, that you can share with anybody who needs to understand your brand. Typically this would be internal employees, contractors, or business partners.
This document is the look and feel of your brand, articulated in detail, and it’s a valuable asset to ensure business success. In my Work From Home Playbook, I break all of these concepts down in more detail, walking through how I executed the brand identity process with my own company, Brainchild Studios. You can complete the branding modules in less than 10 minutes, and I bet you have 10 minutes to grow your business. Click the link to get access today.
If you want to go further, becoming a marketing expert in your own right, my Marketing for the Professional Advisor Masterclass builds off of the content in the WFH Playbook. I created it for people short on time and in need of a crash course in marketing. Click the link to sign up.
Kiley Executive Coach & Consultant
Kiley Peters is a serial entrepreneur, national speaker, executive coach, and small business consultant. Having personally counseled over 100 small and medium-sized businesses on operations, business development, digital marketing, and consumer behavior analysis over the last 17 years Kiley is incredibly passionate about serving small business owners. She is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a research and business strategy partner for small businesses and mid-market executives, and also created the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurs through the steps of starting a virtual business. With these experiences in her back pocket, she understands the challenges and struggles small business owners encounter.more posts by Kiley →