You might be familiar with the term ‘brand identity’ and how it can make or break a business. For those who are less familiar, here’s a quick primer: Brand identity is all about your company’s visual image or appearance.

In the world of advertising, a business’ brand identity is often referred to as their ‘look’ or ‘visual language.’ When a business decides on a particular look or language, it typically entails choosing a visual direction, such as:

  • Colour scheme
  • Font style
  • Layout
  • Hues
  • Photos used
  • Tonal quality
  • Product placement

Once these key elements are established, other facets of a business’ identity can be curated to support the direction decided upon. Think of a business like HubSpot, which provides a range of marketing software and platforms for small businesses. From creating engaging content to growing a following on social media, to effectively tracking the performance of campaigns, HubSpot provides an ecosystem of functionality supporting a business’ identity.

Having a clear brand identity can be extremely powerful. It can guide the entire design process, from concept to execution. When establishing a brand identity, it is important to consider the five W’s:

Who?

Having an identity for your business is about much more than colour. When designing a brand identity, you should decide who the target audience is for your product or service. Just because you have established a presence on the internet doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to understand or appreciate your identity. For instance, if you are designing a luxury goods brand, you might want to avoid using the words ‘luxury’ or ‘expensive’ in your identity. Why? People might assume that you are selling luxury goods, when in reality you are selling a tool that helps businessmen save time. Your target audience should be able to relate to your brand and the value that you offer. Just because your customers are tech-savvy doesn’t mean that they have to appreciate or like your brand. Think about how you would describe your ideal customer and why you developed your product or service.

What?

What do you offer? For those who have established themselves as experts in their field, designing a website or other digital medium to promote their expertise can be a great way to showcase their value and decide-making capability. If you can, develop a small case study or example that highlights the expertise of your company in showcasing your work.

Where?

Where do you exist? If you already have a physical location that you operate out of, you can integrate this into your brand identity. If not, consider where you will exist online. Is it a physical location? A virtual office? A web space? All of these options can be part of your brand identity. The great thing about having a physical location is that you can integrate this into your identity. If you have a retail location, you can position these items within your brand identity to give the impression that you are a real-life shopping centre. If you are a doctor with an online practice, you can use the address of your physical location to establish your online presence. The flip side of having a physical location is that you might not be able to conceal it. If you do not want your customers to know where you are, then having a physical location can be a great way to keep your identity a secret.

Why?

Why do you exist? When establishing your brand identity, you should have a good reason for being in business. What is your mission statement, or objective? Is it to make a profit, to introduce a new product to the market, to create a social impact? Your answers to these questions will form the backbone of your brand identity. When developing this part of your identity, you should look for inspiration in your industry, or the industry you intend to enter. For example, if you are in the technology space, then look to the IT industry for inspiration. It might be a good idea to consider how other companies in your industry have managed to get this far and decide whether you will keep in step with the current trends or set your own path.

Who are you?

As you make your way through the process of designing a brand identity for your business, it is important that you do not become too attached to your own vision. Often, entrepreneurs, product developers, and business owners develop a strong sense of ownership towards the brand identity that they create. In doing so, they might overlook elements that do not support their vision, or they could end up with a brand identity that is unnecessarily complex and difficult to understand. To mitigate this, you should take some time to step back and consider alternative solutions. If you are finding the process challenging or you come up with something that you think is perfect, it might be a good idea to develop a draft and put it out for review. Once you have received feedback and incorporated the changes suggested, you can finalise your brand identity.

How do I find my ‘voice’?

If you’ve gone through the five steps outlined above, you are in a much better position to decide whether your brand identity is something that you want to pursue. If you are unsure or have questions, then it might be a good idea to consult with a professional graphic designer, brand strategist, or marketing consultant. They will be able to guide you through step-by-step, helping you to put everything in place, and leave no stone unturned in the quest to establish an identity for your business.