Brand Identity. Brand Image. Similar, but fundamentally different. Even marketers get them confused. Not to mention the graphic designers out there adding fuel to the confusion by crafting nifty visual or graphic identities (logos, etc.) under the guise of “brand identity.”
So, here’s the deal. Simply, a brand identity is the strategic platform from which to build a successful brand. A brand image is what is formed by your targeted audiences based on their interactions with the various brand touch points. Brand identity is a singular thing: “behold, here’s our brand identity.” If you’ve done it right, the brand image formed in the marketing world as you activate (deliver) the brand identity is also a singular thing, reflecting what you intended when developing the brand identity. More commonly, various brand images are formed — and not necessarily aligned with your brand identity — due to inconsistencies in how the brand identity is presented in the brand’s touch points.
Brand identity is not the graphic identity (the visual look of the brand), though the graphic identity is a part of the brand identity. And graphic identity is not the brand image (though customers and prospects may form part of their brand image based on the graphic identity).
Brand Identity: The Foundation of a Successful Brand
Brand identity is a strategic platform. It’s a document that defines the organization’s short- and long-term vision for the brand. It details the value system for the brand: what the brand stands for (“Truth, Justice, and the American Way” sort of thing) that is the moral compass or code of conduct within which decision related to the brand are made. It’s the brand positioning: the relevant points of differentiation for the brand which enable target audiences to clearly see how the brand is different from others being considered. It defines the benefits consumers derive by using or engaging with the brand. It’s the authentic personality of the brand. It defines the marketing messaging which should be consistently delivered and reinforced over time. It also defines all the various points of brand interaction (internally and externally) and maps how those touch points should specifically be delivered. And, yes, it may also include the graphic identity for the brand if this doesn’t already exist: logo, packaging, signage, literature templates, color and font palettes, etc.
It’s work to create an effective brand identity. But a successful brand — one that drives business success — requires the investment of resources to do this and do it right. Onward!