Like seeking a date on Tinder, a profile picture is hardly ever an accurate reflection of who your date really is inside. In people, it’s your look. In business, that’s your brand.
What forms a brand are an umbrella of many elements that each play a part in building your business’ image. The key here is to optimise them for a cohesive and consistent identity so that your business can attract and connect with like-minded people.
We do that by creating these five core elements of your identity: brand logo, the brand mission and vision, the way your brand communicates with your audience, your company culture, and finally, your company’s behaviour.
Logo As A Symbol Of Recognition
Your logo serves as the first point of contact between you and your customers! A great start is in the design: it should be distinctive and eye-catching to grab attention, and memorable enough to keep them coming back.
The greatest flaw (and cost to your business in the long run) is if it is generic. Never make your logo look or feel any random symbol out there. A good test of this is to ask yourself, “If I used this logo for my competitor’s brand, would it be any different?”
Now, let’s say you did grab the eyeballs of a customer. They’ve decided to reward you with their attention. Most customers would then begin seeking a deeper understanding of your brand. Your logo fills this gap by communicating your brand essence or principles. For example, Coca-Cola’s signature red tells us that they are energetic, passionate and fun. The colours and typeface you use all go into communicating what your brand is all about.
Mission & Vision, or “Why You Even Exist”
This is your brand’s purpose: what you say you’re here to do, and your reasons for doing it. This often overlooked element of brand identity is in fact the most important. You should give special care to it because it sets the tone for everything else you do in relation to your brand and your business. It lets you better connect with customers, partners or investors who share the same values. That accelerates growth, opens up opportunities that make sense for you, and helps validate your purpose even further.
Here’s an example: Your brand’s mission is to solve the problem of fast fashion with clothes made with sustainable materials and processes. Investors who are aligned with that clear mission are more likely to grant you an audience. You’re way more likely to also score collaborations with fellow brands sharing the same goals, and even tap on their customer base as well.
Lastly, you draw in customers who can become your very own brand advocates: everyday people who support and follow you simply because they believe in your mission and vision, even if they do not like your product that much. Let’s face it, most consumers out there are spoilt for choice, but they choose you out of thousands simply because your mission resonates with theirs personally. They want to be a part of that too. This distinction alone is often more than enough to justify their purchase.
Communication: Keep Things Clear, Not Confusing
You communicate with your customers through advertisements, social media activity and even through the copy on your websites. The list is endless. Using a consistent tone across these platforms can help to form a cohesive identity for your brand. It wouldn’t make much sense for your audience if you were preppy and cheerful on social media but dull and formal on your website. Your audience might find themselves asking just who you are. Communication, specifically language, is a powerful tool to reinforce your brand personality.
Take a look at Starbucks Coffee, they are a friendly and preppy brand and they do well to communicate this through their Instagram captions; “A good breakfast = an amazing day ahead” and “Your go-to tote for staycations, picnics, work and more. Comes with a packing cube to easily sort your essentials”. When your audience has a clear idea of who you are, they can then decide if they want to be associated with you. Customers gravitate towards the brands they feel a connection with, that’s a fact.
Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast
Company culture sets the tone and direction for your employees’ behaviour and it can also be used as a tool to differentiate you from other players in the market. Company culture has a direct impact on the quality of the service or work you produce and naturally, this affects your brand identity and how customers perceive you.
The Ritz-Carlton has a customer-oriented culture and this is exhibited through the staff’s efforts to go above and beyond in ensuring guests have a pleasant stay. The stellar culture and dedication of their staff have helped Ritz-Carlton to cement their position as a market leader in their industry and communicate their high standards to their audience.
Are You Really Who You Say You Are?
Company behaviour refers to the actions the company takes, it could be partnerships, collaborations, manufacturing processes or raw materials sourcing, basically anything the company does. It plays an important part in building brand identity as well, many companies tend to neglect this aspect on the basis that customers will not find out or do not care enough to find out. Customers aren’t all that clueless, they can tell when your actions do not tally with what you preach. They can tell whether you genuinely care about the cause or you’re just jumping on the bandwagon to make yourself look good.
Take a look at H&M, the clothing retailer has repeatedly been accused of greenwashing in recent years. On one hand, they portray themselves as a brand that cares about the environment by introducing a “Conscious Collection”. But on the other hand, they destroyed $4.3 billion worth of new, unworn clothing. There is a jarring disparity between these two actions and consumers called their bluff. Naturally, this resulted in negative impacts on their brand reputation and business.
Close Your Image Gaps!
So, with these factors, are there any gaps between who you say you are, and what you really are? Does your image reflect the good that you do? Are you sending out consistent messaging that reinforce, and not confuse?
More than building a business, think about building a brand. The Brand Identity is a delicate, calibrated balance of Design, Action and Messaging. These elements of branding are not summative, they are multiplicative, and to neglect one in favour of another can severely hinder your brand’s strength and value; or in the worst case, actually cost you dearly.
And that’s the last thing you want.