One of the most important business decisions you will ever make starts early: Designing brand identity.
While many brands do evolve over time, a consistent and identifiable brand identity can be linked to success. It’s the first impression you make with a potential client or customer and it’s the connection that stays with them long-term.
A strong brand identity tells people who you are, communicates your business or values visually, and builds recognition for your business over time. All of those things can lead to more clients, customers, and better revenues.
Why Brand Identity Matters
Thank about some of your most-loved brands. What comes to mind when they pop into your head? It probably starts with their logo or a recent ad from the company. You recognize and think about their brand identity.
There are two core elements to brand identity:
- Visual elements
- Values and what the brand stands for
A good brand identity designer can weave the two together in a way that seems almost effortless. (You aren’t going to find this level of brand identity development on Fiver or another discount design site that offers similar options to everyone based on keywords or algorithms.) A true brand identity designer will listen and learn about your business so that your visual elements look like your values and what your business is about.
Forbes put together a list of why brand image matters. When you start thinking about your brand identity, keep these things in mind.
- Brand makes an impression: Does your visual brand tell people what you want them to know about your business? Does the impression your leave match the level of products or services you offer or feel in line with your pricing strategy?
- Brand creates recognition: The Nike Swoosh is unmistakable. While it takes time to build that level of immediate identification, fans, ambassadors, and repeat customers should know your brand identity at a glance. (And hopefully they feel connected to it.)
- Brand shows how put together you are: A solid brand makes people think you have it together. It communicates professionalism and is linked to your reputation.
- Brand builds credibility and equity: The longer of a life your brand has, the more valuable it can become over time. The same is true of trustworthiness and credibility. That’s why the world’s biggest brands stick to a known set of brand elements (even if they evolve slightly over time). Coca-Cola, Amazon, and Facebook’s core brand identity elements don’t look much different than they did 10 years ago or even at the company’s founding. And that’s completely by design.
Brand Identity Elements
The visual elements of a brand start with five basic elements that get used and reused.
These elements are:
Brand identity builds by using this collection of parts consistently and repeatedly over time. Think about all the different places where you might use the visual elements of your brand:
- Business cards and letterhead
- Social media
- Swag or clothing items
- For media coverage
- At events
- In publications
- For retail
Brand identity elements come in all shapes and sizes. They are full color and one-color. Elements might appear digitally printed.
If you can imagine it for your business, there’s a strong chance that your brand identity needs to be a part of it. That’s a tall order and one of the key reasons you need to think of building a brand identity as an investment and collaborate with a trusted partner to ensure you get everything you need.
Value of Brand Identity
There are places online that offer to create a logo for under $20. This is fair warning that you get what you pay for.
A trusted creative partner can help you design a brand identity that’s more than just a logo. They will ensure that you have a library of brand tools that make it easy to create elements for your business in a professional manner.
Brand identity is an investment. It takes time and skill to develop a set of visual assets that will represent your company for the next 5, 10, or 50 years. (Amortize the cost of the work over time and it seems like a much better deal.)
Investing in brand early can also save you lost brand equity and money in the long term. Developing something you love now will stick with you a lot longer. You’ll have the flexibility to use it everywhere you need and won’t have to keep going back for add-ons or revisions.
You’ll also use elements of the brand identity longer because they work for you. When you buy a logo from a discount website, you often get a single file that can’t be modified. There’s not a vector version (you need that for scaling to large sizes) and if you need changes, you will have to pay again, or hire someone to recreate it for you.
None of these options make a lot of sense for many businesses. Taking the time to find a creative professional that you connect with, can talk to, and shares your brand vision will result in a better process with elements that you want to use.
Make Your Brand Investment Last
As with any investment you want your brand identity to last. Getting the most of your investment starts with having the right conversation with your creative professional or designer.
- Set clear expectations of what you want your brand to visually communicate.
- Make a list of everywhere you expect to see brand elements from business cards to signs to packaging.
- Ask for all the versions of a brand mark that you might need, including a primary logo, social media-sized logo, icon, or black and white version.
- Ask for original files when the project is complete.
- Discuss whether you need a set of written brand guidelines.
- Show your designer examples of things or styles that you like to jumpstart visual conversations.
- Provide any existing materials that should be a basis for your brand identity if you have them including color and font palettes.
- Provide feedback during the design process so that the final version of your brand identity is something that truly represents your business, is usable, and will have long-term value.