“Brand identity.” It just may be one of the more misunderstood and under-appreciated terms in marketing.

More often than not, it seems people simply associate “Brand Identity” with the graphic identity of the brand — the logo, graphic design system, and perhaps the slogan. While that’s part of it, there’s more to the story.

Your brand identity is the DNA of your brand. It defines how your brand lives and breathes. It prescribes what you want your brand to look and feel like. It’s your differentiating brand story, and how you want customers and prospects to experience it. It’s how your brand-related employees (which is everyone, yes?) should conduct their day-to-day activities as they work to support the brand.

Ultimately, your brand identity has everything to do with your ability to sell more of your stuff.

The key brand identity elements and development processes are these:

Competitive and Opportunities Assessment: Fundamentally, your prospects are seeking a solution to a problem; that’s why they’re shopping. Beyond the solution you provide, how else can the problem be solved and by whom? What makes these alternatives better or worse than your brand offering? Do prospects need the kind of solution you and your direct competitors provide, or are there other approaches they can consider? What makes those solutions different than yours? Why are they more or less effective? A thorough and objective competitive assessment is critical to illuminate the competitive brandscape. Much of this can be accomplished with secondary research, but primary research tools might be considered here as well.

Brand Vision & Values Statement: Just like asking your kid what he or she wants to be when they grow up, consider a long view for your brand. What values and standards do you want your brand (and related decisions) to unequivocally reflect, no matter what? You may already have vision and values statements for your overall business. You should have one for your brand(s) as well. These will define the foundation and boundaries from and within which you’ll operate the brand. Consider the competitive and market environment as well as your own organization and be honest, realistic, and authentic.

Value Proposition and Positioning: A value proposition is simply the promise of brand benefits expected to be derived, expressed on functional, emotional, or self-expressive levels. Positioning is expressing a differentiating, decisive advantage over competitive solutions. Together, they form the distinctive reasons why prospects should engage with or use your brand instead of someone else’s. Both of these are developed in the context of the competitive and market environment, and within the framework of the brand vision and values statements. The objective here is to differentiate your brand from other solution providers, and to do it in a clear and highly compelling way. Don’t try to be all things to all people when you craft this; focus on attracting the best prospects for your brand to your brand. Something to consider are the differences in your target audiences: you’ll likely need to tweak your brand value propositions and position for your different audiences to become relevant.

Brand Persona: This is the personality of the brand, reflected in the delivery of your various brand touch points. Think of the brand as if you were thinking of an acquaintance: what kind of “person” is the brand? Humorous? Serious? Aggressive? Approachable? Intelligent? Trustworthy? Helpful? Snobbish? Technical? Something else?

Messaging Platform: Here is where you’ll take the brand value propositions and positioning and identify the specific messaging and support points which will be actively communicated to your target audiences. Sticking to this platform over time will ensure the messages take root among your target audiences. There’s an old advertising axiom that suggests it takes at least three exposures to the same message before your audience really takes note of it. This remains true in today’s fragmented and cluttered marketing environment.

Brand Touch Point Management: Identify all the possible ways your brand will interact with your target audiences. There are probably hundreds. Next prioritize these based on the role each plays in selling your stuff. Finally, purposely administer the delivery of these important touch points. First, by defining the standard for how those touch points should be delivered relative to the brand vision and values, the value proposition and positioning, and the brand persona. Second, by educating those responsible for their delivery about your expectations and those performance standards. And, finally, by constantly monitoring the delivery of the touch points to ensure the defined standards are being met.

More than a logo, for sure. But very well worth your time and effort. Helping organizations such as yours to create effective brand identities is what we do at 34 North. If you need help with yours, give us a call.

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