By Kelly Geiger
Imagine you are walking through the mall and every store looks the same. Décor, logos, colors… everything is exactly the same. How could you possibly find the store you are looking for? This is where brand identity shows its importance. When you walk through the mall and see the check mark of a Nike store, the cursive sign reading Free People, or the navy-blue color surrounding the Gap, there is no question as to what brand you are looking at. Establishing a brand identity through colors, logos, fonts and more will not only set you apart from other brands, but also improve recognition and memorability for customers.
This article will do two things. It will help you understand what a strong brand identity is and show you the importance of visually building a brand that sets themselves apart from their competitors.
What is brand identity?
“Brand identity is a combination of the name, terms, signs, symbols, and design used to identify a brand’s goods or services and distinguish them from competitors (Aaker 1991; Kotler 1991; Zaichkowsky 2010)” (Ward and Yang and Romaniuk and Beal, 2020). This is the part of the brand that people associate with visually. When you see Coca-Cola, what color do you think of? Red. When you see the words ‘Just o It’ what brand do you think of? Nike. When you see the golden arches what brand do you think of? McDonalds. “Brand identity elements are the building blocks that contribute, creatively, to enhancing brand presence in advertising content and purchase environments. For example, many McDonald’s advertisements contain no direct brand name, but instead favor brand identity elements such as the “Golden Arches” and “I’m lovin’ it” jingle” (Ward and Yang and Romaniuk and Beal, 2020). These are all examples of how successful these companies were in creating a strong brand identity.
Brand identity is not about selling the company’s product, it is about selling the company itself. They want to set themselves apart from their competitors, and using these visual elements is how they do it. This idea of ‘selling themselves rather than their products’ is further explained in the scholarly article Building a unique brand identity: measuring the relative ownership potential of brand identity element types by Ella Ward, Song Yang, Jenni Romaniuk, and Virginia Beal. “Described as an integrated system of cues, the purpose of brand identity is to provide a physical, proprietary representation of the brand (Perry and Wisnom 2003). In this sense, rather than providing a reason to buy the brand, the primary function of brand identity is to create a synergy amongst disparate brand elements and establish a unique brand look and feel for relatively homogenous goods (Perry and Wisnom 2003; Underwood 2003; Romaniuk and Nenycz-Thiel 2014).” In the image below you can see what an established brand identity might look like. This mock example is a great representation on how a company creates a color scheme, font, and logo variations that are specific to their company.
While some might not value the artistic side of branding such as choosing colors, logos, fonts, etc., this isn’t just so your brand looks ‘pretty’ or ‘trendy’, it is truly a science to set yourself apart from your competitors. Brand identity is important because it relates to the psychological ways consumers connect their memory with your brand. “Brand identity elements can help explain the brand (Kohli et al. 2013), add meaning (Dahlén and Rosengren 2005) and contain imagery such as colours and shapes that expand the way the brand is encoded and stored in memory (Keller et al. 2008; Hartnett et al. 2016). As a result, the brand becomes more readily accessible to the consumer via creating a unique brand identity and artistic presence. (Ward and Yang and Romaniuk and Beal, 2020) Again, when it relates to identity elements, the goal is not to sell the product but the brand itself. Another way to explain this is “Identity elements are the cornerstone to brand identity that helps consumers to recognize brands and distinguish them from competitors (Hoek and Gendall 2010). These elements evoke the brand in the mind of consumers and create a unique look and/or feel that makes it easy to identify the brand (Perry and Wisnom 2003; Romaniuk and NenyczThiel 2014).” (Ward and Yang and Romaniuk and Beal, 2020).
The biggest takeaways from this article are the importance of brand identity and its key position in successful companies. It relates to integrated marketing communication in many ways but most of all brand identity can be practiced through campaign and message design. The corresponding brand identity features are mostly used in the forms of advertising, packaging, and other forms of design. Integrated Marketing Communication deals with these features of how and why it is necessary to create a brand identity as well as how this will eventually help your company succeed within its marketing and advertising techniques.
Ward, E., Yang, S., Romaniuk, J., & Beal, V. (2020). Building a unique brand identity: Measuring the relative ownership potential of brand identity element types. Journal of Brand Management, 27(4), 393–407. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41262-020-00187-6