Brand Identity: What It Is and How to Create a Strong One

Zhenya Zerkalenkov

Jan 08, 202412 min read
Character places a star on top of a business

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Is Brand Identity?

Brand identity is a combination of elements like the logo, colors, typography, and visuals that represent the brand. 

But it's not just about looks. It also includes the brand's personality and values. And how it's perceived.

Brand identity is the DNA of your brand. It's what makes your brand unique, recognizable, and memorable.

Just like people have their own personality, style, and values, a brand also has unique characteristics that differentiate it from others in the industry. These aspects of brand identity enable deeper connections with people. Making the brand feel relatable and human.

But there's more to brand identity than just these physical and emotional attributes.

There's a strategic aspect to it as well.

A strong brand identity doesn't just happen by chance. It takes in-depth customer analysis, careful planning, and execution to shape how customers see and engage with the brand.

Let's say you walk into a Starbucks.

The logo on the cup, the color scheme of the shop, and the friendly staff. They're all parts of the brand's visual identity.

An image of a Starbucks staff member

Image Source: Starbucks

But the cozy atmosphere, the quality of the coffee, the way the barista remembers your favorite order—these are the experiences and emotions that the brand cultivates.

They're all part of the brand's strategic identity.

In simpler terms: 

A brand identity isn't just about what you see. But also about what you feel when you interact with the brand.

Building a brand identity is like telling a story. It's about creating an unforgettable experience that resonates with customers. And makes them want to come back for more. 

This requires careful thought, consistency, and a deep understanding of your audience.

Why Is Brand Identity Important?

Brand identity is your ticket to standing out, being remembered, and creating meaningful connections with your customers. It's the secret sauce that turns one-time buyers into lifelong fans.

We live in a world full of choices. Countless brands are selling similar products or services. With so many options, customers often prefer to buy experiences, stories, and associations. Rather than just the product or service itself.

And a strong brand identity helps you tell your story, connect with your audience on a deeper level, and build trust and loyalty.

When people understand your story and share your values, they feel more connected to your brand. 

They're not just buying your product. They're buying into your brand's story and its identity.

Brand Identity vs. Brand Image

Brand identity is the culmination of how you want people to see your brand. Including things like your visual identity and core brand values. 

While brand image is how others actually perceive you.

Let's consider the story of two well-known brands: Nike and Adidas. First, let’s consider their brand identities.

Nike has crafted a brand identity that's all about inspiration and innovation. It's summed up in the iconic slogan: "Just Do It."

Nike's "Just Do It" slogan

Nike sees itself as a brand that motivates people to overcome their challenges, push their limits, and be the best they can be.

On the other hand, Adidas' brand identity is rooted in performance and authenticity. 

The slogan, "Impossible Is Nothing," reflects Adidas’s dedication to making high-performance sports gear accessible to everyone. Regardless of their skill level.

Adidas' "Impossible Is Nothing" slogan

Now, let's talk about brand image. 

Remember: This is how customers perceive these brands.

Even though Nike and Adidas have different identities, customers often see them as high-quality athletic clothing brands.

But there are nuances in their brand images that reflect their identities and contribute to their brand positioning.

People perceive Nike as a brand for high achievers. For those who strive to push boundaries.

And while people also see Adidas as a high-quality brand, they often associate it with grassroots sports and inclusivity.

Nike and Adidas have distinct identities that they project. But their image is how customers interpret and perceive these identities.

Your goal is to align brand identity (who you believe you are) with brand image (how others perceive you). When these two elements align, your brand can establish a strong presence that resonates with your target audience.

Unique Brand Identity Examples

Let's get even deeper into what makes a brand identity strong, memorable, and effective with the following examples from various industries:

Peter McKinnon: Authentic Creativity

Picture a world where photography isn't just about capturing images. But about sharing stories and inspiring creativity.

This is the world Peter McKinnon has created. His brand revolves around passion, authenticity, and the joy of creating.

Peter McKinnon's channel

A key feature of Peter's brand is his personal touch.

He shares his knowledge, for example, through YouTube tutorials. And he's not just teaching techniques. But offering a window into his creative process.

His friendly, approachable style makes learning feel like an exciting adventure. Not a classroom lecture.

And that's how he managed to get millions of subscribers on YouTube within a few years.

The key lesson here?

Like Peter McKinnon, you can infuse your brand with your personality and passion. Authenticity resonates with audiences and helps create a personal connection.

And make your customers feel like they're part of your journey, not just bystanders. This will create a lasting connection with your audience.

Quiksilver: Surfing Lifestyle

Imagine the thrill of riding the perfect wave. Or gliding down a snowy mountain at high speed.

That's what Quiksilver embodies.

Their brand identity is deeply rooted in surfing and snowboarding culture.

Quiksilver's brand identity message

They don't just sell clothing. They sell the surfing and snowboarding lifestyle.

Quiksilver's brand identity shines through their commitment to the boardsport community.

Their iconic logo—a wave against a snow-capped mountain—perfectly encapsulates their love for nature and adventure.

They have consistently stayed true to their roots, appealing to the adventurous and free-spirited.

So, what can you learn from Quiksilver?

Stay true to your roots. Your brand should reflect what you stand for. Authenticity resonates with people and helps build a strong, loyal customer base. 

National Geographic: Exploration and Discovery

In a world brimming with information, one brand stands out as the leader in exploration and discovery—National Geographic.

Their brand identity revolves around the awe of discovery, the respect for nature, and the pursuit of knowledge.

National Geographic's today's picks section

National Geographic's brand highlight is their commitment to bringing the wonders of the world to people's living rooms.

Their iconic yellow border logo and breathtaking imagery have become synonymous with exploration and storytelling.

They also have a strong sense of responsibility about preserving the planet and its inhabitants.

The key takeaway from National Geographic?

Create a brand identity that stands for something bigger than just your products or services. It should inspire and educate. Strive to create a sense of wonder and curiosity with your brand.

How to Build a Strong Brand Identity in 7 Steps

So, how do you create a strong brand identity and align it with your brand image?

Here are seven steps to get you started:

1. Research Your Competition

Market research helps you understand the competitive landscape and current market trends.

It involves analyzing your competitors, their branding strategies, strengths, and weaknesses.

You can use tools like SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to gain insights. This will help you spot market gaps that your brand can fill.

How to do a SWOT analysis

But where to start?

You can use advanced tools like Semrush's Organic Research tool. This tool can help you discover your competitors and study their branding strategies.

To analyze your competition, enter your website's URL into the tool, choose a location, and click “Search.”

"booking.com" entered into the Organic Research tool search bar

Then, navigate to the "Competitors" tab within the interface.

Competitors tab within the Organic Research tool

Here, you will find a list of your key competitors based on common keywords and visibility in search results.

Choose a few relevant competitors to research further.

When analyzing a competitor's brand, observe their:

  • Brand messaging: What values and emotions are they conveying in their messaging? This can provide insights into their brand personality.
  • Visual identity: Review their logo, color schemes, typography, and other visual elements. These components can indicate their brand aesthetics.
  • Target audience: Who are their products or services designed for? This can reveal insights into their target market and whether they are similar to yours.
  • Customer communication: Assess their customer service, response times, and overall engagement. This can shed light on their customer experience.

Understand their strategies, learn from their successes, and identify potential gaps in the market that your brand could address.

2. Understand Your Target Audience

Start by identifying and understanding your target audience:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they care about?
  • What are the main issues they face?
  • How can your brand resonate with them?

This step is crucial because a successful brand identity resonates with its intended audience. You can conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gather this information.

But first, you'll have to identify your target audience.

You can use the Semrush Market Explorer tool to do this with ease.

To start, go to the Market Explorer tool, and click on the "Analyze Category" tab. 

In the "Business Category" section, specify the industry you want to explore. Then click “Research a market.” 

Market Explorer search bar

The tool then generates a market overview. Offering insights into industry size, traffic levels, and key players.

Market Explorer overview dashboard

 Next, go to the "Audience" tab. This will give you demographic insights for your chosen category.

You’ll find summaries of your target audience’s demographics (age and sex), socioeconomics (like income and education levels), and behavior (interests and top social media platforms).

Market Explorer audience dashboard

This information can help you understand who your target audience is and what they're interested in. You can then tailor your brand identity accordingly.

3. Define Your Brand’s Personality

Your brand's personality or values are the principles that guide your company and its operations. These values should reflect your brand identity and help you connect with your audience.

For example, Slack stands out with its unique brand personality. Through its fun, informal, and friendly branding, it creates an approachable identity. 

With bright colors and conversational content, Slack strikes a casual tone, making work feel like a friendly chat. Their core values of simplicity, pleasantness, and productivity shine through, perfectly encapsulating their brand.

Slack's brand identity

To define your brand’s personality, start by asking yourself questions like:

  • What is important to you as a company?
  • What does your brand stand for?
  • What are your non-negotiables (e.g., low prices, high quality, great customer service)?
  • How should people perceive your brand?
  • How will these values influence your brand's messaging and communication?

For example, you could be a sustainable fashion brand that values ethical production and fair trade. Or maybe your brand promotes inclusivity and diversity.

Once you have defined your core values, make sure to integrate them into your brand identity. This will help create a more authentic image and attract like-minded customers.

Next, create your brand story.

It should encapsulate your brand's history, mission, and values. And it should be engaging, authentic, and relatable. 

It's also not just about what you sell. But why you do what you do.

A compelling brand story creates an emotional connection with your audience.

For example, Patagonia's brand story revolves around their commitment to protecting the planet and promoting sustainability. Their messaging centers around this mission. Making it an integral part of their brand identity.

Patagonia's brand story

Here are some questions to consider about your brand’s story:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What's your brand's origin story? And what makes it interesting?
  • What are your brand's key accomplishments?
  • How have you impacted your community or industry?

People connect with stories, so use yours to build a personal connection with your audience.

4. Create a Unique Look and Feel

Your brand's visual identity includes your logo, color palette, typography, imagery, and overall design aesthetic.

These elements should be consistent across all your marketing materials. From your website to your social media profiles.

A unique and memorable visual identity can set your brand apart from competitors.

Adobe Creative Cloud is a great example of a strong visual identity with a distinct and bold color scheme. The minimalistic red "A" logo embodies the brand's commitment to simplicity and efficiency.

Adobe logo

Image Source: Wikipedia

And each individual Creative Cloud application is represented by a different color for easy recognition.

Creative Cloud applications page

This visual identity aligns with the brand's dedication to creativity and innovation, resonating with their target audience of creative professionals.

To create your unique look and feel, start by:

  • Choosing a color palette that represents your brand's personality and values
  • Selecting fonts that complement your messaging and design aesthetic (e.g., for a sense of luxury and sophistication, choose elegant fonts and a color palette with metallic accents)
  • Designing a memorable and easily recognizable logo
  • Creating consistency in all visual elements across different platforms

5. Develop a Consistent Brand Voice and Tone

Your brand voice and tone are how you communicate with your audience. It's not just what you say but how you say it.

A consistent brand voice builds recognition and trust with your audience. And a clear tone helps create the right emotional response in your audience.

For example, The Futur's brand tone and voice perfectly capture its mission of making education accessible and enjoyable.

The Futur's "build a thriving creative business and make a living doing what you love." slogan

The conversational and down-to-earth approach demystifies design and business complexities, making the brand relatable and trustworthy to its target audience.

To find your brand voice and tone, consider:

  • Your target audience: What language and tone will resonate with them (e.g., serious or casual)?
  • Your brand's personality and values: How can you reflect these in your communication?
  • Tone of voice guidelines: Develop a set of guidelines to maintain consistency and train new team members on your brand's tone
  • Consistency across all platforms: Ensure a consistent voice across all channels to build brand recognition

A great way to test if your brand voice is consistent is to ask for feedback from your audience. If they can immediately recognize your brand's tone and personality, then you're on the right track.

6. Involve Your Audience in Your Brand

Involving your audience in your brand means creating a two-way conversation and building a community around your brand.

It goes beyond merely pushing out marketing messages. And instead encourages interaction, feedback, and participation.

When you engage customers, they go from being passive recipients to becoming active members of your brand’s community. This can create a feeling of unity and strengthen brand loyalty.

For example, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income engages with his audience by seeking their input on new product ideas and showcasing their success stories.

Smart Passive Income's customer ideas

To involve your audience in your brand, you can:

  • Ask for feedback or suggestions on new products or features
  • Collaborate with influencers, content creators or other brands
  • Create user-generated content campaigns where customers share their experiences with your brand on social media
  • Host events or webinars with your audience to discuss relevant topics or showcase new products

Remember to always respond and engage with your audience. Whether it's through comments on social media or emails.

This humanizes your brand and shows that you value their input. Which can make it more likely that people will interact with your brand in future.

7. Evaluate and Adapt

Finally, it's essential to regularly evaluate and adapt your strategies to ensure you're meeting your goals and resonating with your audience.

Creating a brand identity is not a one-time task. As markets evolve and audience preferences change, your brand should adapt and grow.

Some key metrics you can track are:

  • Brand awareness: How well is your brand recognized by your target audience?
  • Brand sentiment: What do customers feel about your brand?
  • Customer loyalty: Are customers returning and recommending your brand?
  • Engagement: How many interactions and conversations are happening around your brand?
  • Sales and revenue: Is your brand identity translating into tangible results?

Use these metrics to guide your decisions and make changes as needed.

For example, if you want to build brand awareness, you can use the Brand Monitoring app to track mentions, sentiment, and share of voice.

Brand Monitoring analytics dashboard

By measuring brand awareness, you can stay in the loop about how people perceive your brand. So, if there's a sudden spike in discussions around your brand, you can make the most of it for a fresh campaign or product launch.

By tracking how your brand is doing and regularly checking in, you can make adjustments and grow with your audience's changing needs.

This way, your brand will stay relevant and connect with consumers for years to come.

Build Your Brand Identity with Semrush

Brand identity development takes time and effort. But the payoff is worth it in the end.

Using powerful tools like Market Explorer and Organic Research, you can gain valuable insights about your audience, competitors, and industry. Helping shape your brand identity accordingly.

Claim your free Semrush account today and start creating an unforgettable brand.

Share
Find Keyword Ideas in Seconds

Boost SEO results with powerful keyword research

Free Keyword Research Tool

Author Photo
Zhenya is a content strategist and writer with five years of experience. Throughout his career, he has guided numerous start-ups and mentored entrepreneurs and companies globally in the realm of content strategy. Additionally, he is working on his own content-based online business.
More on this