WHAT IS A BRAND IDENTITY?
Brand identity refers to the collective effort of all consumer-facing aspect of a brand to shape the customer's perspective. Everything that makes up a business from the logo to the colours and fonts it uses should be purposefully designed to give consumers a consistent and meaningful idea of what their product or service entails. What quality should be expected? How expensive is it? What does it mean to engage with this product or service? Brand identity ensures that all these factors are apparent to potential customers before they ever engage with your offering.
BRAND IDENTITY VS LOGO
Your logo isn't your brand identity but the most successful brand identities can be distilled down to their visual logos. Your logo is your most visible and widely seen ambassador. The most successful brands, such as Nike or Starbucks, have very defined and recognisable logos that communicate their entire ethos to the potential customer in a second.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT BRAND IDENTITY?
To discuss what makes a great brand identity, there is possibly no better brand to look at than Apple. The tech giant is constantly ranked number one on the list of the world's most valuable brands by Forbes. Apple was not always the global superpower they are today and famously started from the humble roots of a garage.
Here are the 5 traits of a strong brand identity that Apple have perfected over the years:
A distinctive brand identity is what cuts through the noise of the market and separates your product or service from your competitors. Creating a distinctive brand identity often requires going against the status quo and offering consumers something that stands out from the established brands in your industry.
Apple did this by positioning its brand identity against the established tech giants at times such as Microsoft. They presented a brand identity that was younger, more ambitious and more creative than their competitors. While Apple is now an established tech giant and omnipresent in our everyday lives, there was once a time when they were the new kids on the block and they had to stake their place by presenting a unique, exciting and differentiated brand identity to the market.
A brand and its expression must be appropriate to its goals. Again, clarity and focus of brand messages are essential. Don’t get waylaid by tangents that have nothing to do with your main message.
Whenever Apple communicates with the public, the message they deliver is always relevant to the image they have cultivated and the goals they aim to achieve in the future. What Apple's brand identity says about them is that they are sleek, cutting-edge and creative. All of these messages are purposely tailor-fitted to be relevant to the tech sector and their target audience.
A good brand should be flexible and able to work across different media. It should also be applicable to creative purposes. A strong brand identity can be morphed into various permutations, such as plays on the brand name, contrasting messages, and creative spins on its visual image and logo.
Apple has created a flexible brand identity that can hold the same weight across sectors such as smartphones, smart TVs, desktops and streaming services. The reason Apple can expand their services throughout tech sectors while keeping the same premium pricing and reputation for quality is that they have built an established brand identity that tells consumers what to expect.
The ability to recall a particular brand is essential to consumer awareness, and it is a quality that can be fortified by emotion, surprise, distinctiveness, and relevance. People are creatures of habit. Picture entering a new bar with a multitude of drink options. Unless you are in a particularly adventurous mood, it is common that you will gravitate towards the product that you are most familiar with as it is associated with the least amount of risk.
Increasing brand recall ensures consumers feel comfort and familiarity with your brand, making them more likely to gravitate towards your brand over competitors in the future.
Apple has proven itself to be a highly memorable brand, its logo is iconic and its brand essence is permanently engraved in the annals of pop culture. They have become one of the most easily recalled brands through years of reinforcing their brand image and continually reminding consumers who they are and what they do. Apple has perfected this to the extent that audiences treat their keynotes with the same familiarity as the Superbowl. It would be a noteworthy year if Apple didn't associate itself with some major change in the tech sector. Frequent and consistent reinforcement of its brand identity has ensured that consumers not only remember, but people would feel a culture gap if it was no longer present in their lives.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a good brand identity is that it is consistent. A strong brand identity means that it is seamlessly woven throughout all aspects of your business. Brand identity will lose significant impact if the consumer is receiving different messages from your sales team than it was getting from your marketing team.
All aspects of Apple's communication work towards creating a singular perception of its brand in consumers' minds. Everything from the initial marketing communication to the packaging the product arrives in delivers the same message to its customers that ensures engagement with the brand is fluent and minimises potential confusion.
Since their founding in the 1970s, Apple has kept consistent goals and messaging. While its imagery and logo may have changed throughout the years, its brand identity of being a youthful, cutting-edge and creative tech company has remained consistent and at the forefront of all its touchpoints.
Brands are essential tools in every business when it comes to offering a competitive advantage. They can express your company’s ethos and can communicate this succinctly in a crowded marketplace while cutting through the clutter of dozens of competitors and making your product, company, or service utterly distinct.
A strong brand identity should be:
About the author: Vincent Bissette is a freelance Brand Strategy and Design Consultant with over 30 years experience of branding and rebranding businesses and organisations, systematically, thoroughly and objectively. He has worked in major Design Consultancies as well as having run his own agency for 25 years, working with SMEs all over the UK to help them modernise their brand, grow their business, attract new customers, penetrate new markets and increase their sales, market share and profit. Throughout that time, there’s not much he hasn't done or many industries he hasn't worked in. He’s a creative, strategic thinker and problem solver with a wealth of experience in diagnosing trouble spots in brands and discovering their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Now based in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, he works throughout the entire UK.
Get in touch with him on Linkedin here