Starting a business can be an exciting adventure. You are often driven by inspiration and great ideas and can’t wait to share your awesome products with the world. However, before you can start there’s one thing you need to do and it’s to take the time to consider and define what is your brand identity?
A brand identity shows who you are as a company. It binds together all the aspects of your business such as goals, ideas, uniqueness, motivation, ethics, and people, so you can present it to the world as a whole. Your brand identity should “speak” to people the same way a person’s identity resonates with others. It’s the outside expression of your business, and defines what people know, feel, and associate with your brand. And that’s what makes it so important.
As a startup, you want to stand out and make your business easy to recognize and remember. There are probably hundreds of other businesses in your niche offering similar products or services. And even if your company is one of a kind you still have to prove yourself and let your potential customers know who you are.
How to Stand Out from the Competition?
Building a strong and recognizable brand identity from the start will not only differentiate you from the competition. It will make it easier for you to build a business plan, help you pitch your business to investors, and will give you an idea of where to focus your marketing efforts.
Knowing who you are as a company is almost the same as knowing who you are as a person – it gives you the power to make better choices, have clearer goals, and be more confident.
But how to define your brand identity when you are just launching your business and stepping out into the marketplace?
There are three essential things you need do:
- First, you should turn your attention inwards and better understand what you want to achieve with your business, and why you are starting this journey.
- Once you are clear about yourself, you should take a look outside. Study the marketplace where you would be positioning your business in order to successfully navigate it.
- The last step is to analyze and combine internal and external factors to find the best way to express your business identity and show yourself in the most flattering light.
Read on for some essential tips on how to do this and give yourself a kick-start to a successful business adventure.
1. Analyze the Internal Factors
Before you put yourself out there, you have to be clear about your ambitions, goals, and values. Consider the things that matter to you, and determine which ones you might change, and which ones you would not compromise.
Being clear and realistic about your expectations is the first step towards building a brand identity.
Define Your Goals
Your goals are the reason you have started your business in the first place. They reflect what you think you can offer to the public, how your product will eventually improve people’s lives, and what value it will add to the market.
Consider how you see your business developing and scaling. Set clear KPIs and targets you are willing to achieve over set periods of time.
There are things no one can foresee, of course, but having goals will help you monitor your progress and change strategies. And this is an important part of knowing what your business is about, keeping a steady performance, and having a consistent identity.
Be Clear About Your Values
The core values of a company and its ethics are an essential part of brand identity. Regardless of whether you are building a sustainable business and have an active social policy, or not, you should be clear about your business ethics.
Your stance on important matters such as environmental consciousness, equity, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice, can be what differentiates you from the competition.
2. Take into Account the External Factors
Your business will operate in the real world and will have to compete with other businesses. Clients are also often not the way you’ve imagined them to be on paper. Researching your industry and your niche will give you a realistic view of the landscape you will have to inhabit. This will also help you understand better how you fit into it.
By knowing what your business possesses that others don’t, and finding out what potential clients are looking for, you will be able to fine-tune your brand identity to match the market’s needs.
Identify Your Ideal Customer
Finding out who your potential customers are will help you research and know them better. Once you’ve identified them and discovered what they are like, it will be easier to offer what they need and acquire them as clients.
Make sure to create definitive buyer personas and customer profiles. Having too broad an audience makes it hard to find the best customers in the crowd.
You might hear that as a start you shouldn’t be picky about your clients and you should try to acquire as many new ones as you can. This is not true. Focusing on the prospects who will have the highest customer lifetime value (CLV) will decrease the churn rate of your business and will improve your profits. A smaller number of clients with a high CLV will generate more revenue than a large number of low CLV ones. And for a startup, a quick surge of revenue followed by steady profits is much better than being overwhelmed by too many clients and still not managing to reach KPIs.
The wrong prospects can cost you time and money that you could dedicate to more valuable customers, who will be more loyal to your brand.
Research the Market
Once you know your customers, you can research the market to find out who your competitors are. Identify the businesses offering products and services similar to yours, as well as the ones who target the same customers. This will allow you to analyze where your brand fits in and will help you to come up with a marketing strategy.
Try to differentiate yourself from the competition and what makes your brand unique and, hopefully, better. Analyze what you like and dislike about competitors and try to outmatch their good qualities. Find out how your values and attitude towards life and business are different and highlight this in your identity.
All this will help you determine who you are up against, and find a way to stand out in the crowd.
3. Learn to Express Yourself
Once you are clear about the inside and outside factors, you should give yourself a moment to step back and consider how to position your brand in the equation.
You shouldn’t have to make a compromise with what’s important to you but if there are discrepancies between your vision and reality, you should consider making some changes. Sometimes just looking at things from a different angle or adding some small improvements here and there can make a big difference.
The important thing is that, in the end, your brand identity expresses your values and goals, makes a valuable asset to your business, and fits the marketplace.
Define Your Personality
Brand personality is something that customers identify with. It’s what gives them a sense of belonging when they choose products they enjoy and what keeps them coming back for more.
Think of the customers you want to appeal to and whom you think will benefit the most from your product. Who are they? Analyze their best qualities, what makes them unique and different from their peers. This is what your personality should be.
Also, always keep your focus on good qualities and try to send a positive message. Negative marketing exploiting others’ weaknesses and disadvantages is something even big brands shouldn’t do. It’s even more unacceptable for a startup trying to make a good impression on its audience.
Find Your Voice
The voice of a brand is an important part of its personality. You can choose to be cheerful and playful, rely on jokes and humor, be witty and sharp, or be more serious and strictly business. It depends on who you want to target and the way you intend to approach things.
Whatever voice you choose, you should stick to it. It should be consistent for all the informational and marketing channels you use and be familiar to all members of your team who communicate with the public.
This way your customers will learn to recognize your voice and will accept it as part of your identity.
Work Out Your Style
Visual style is one of the most recognizable elements of brand identity. It includes the fonts, colors, and general mood of a business’s online and offline presence.
Think of these elements as the visual voice of your brand. They should express your general attitude towards the world and reflect your product, all the while making your message comprehensible even without words.
For example, every font has a meaning of its own and carries connotations. You simply cannot use comic-sans for a high-end product and expect to be taken seriously. The right font will complement your message and will make your identity more defined.
This image illustrates the notion perfectly – both notes have the same words written on them but communicate a completely different message. A font can say much about your brand, so choose it wisely.
The same goes for colors. Every color carries a subconscious meaning and triggers a specific range of connotations into people’s minds. The palette you choose for your style will define the feelings people associate with your brand.
There is a whole science behind the meanings of colors but, in a nutshell, warm colors (red, yellow, orange) express positivity, energy, passion, and strong emotions. While cool colors (green, blue, purple) are related to calmness, stability, and balance.
When selecting the fonts and colors for your brand, think of the general mood of your want to express. Do you want to be perceived as cheerful and youthful, strict and professional, bold and strong?
To find the best combination and to make sure you are sending out the right message, it’s best to work with an experienced designer.
Choose Your Name
People often do the whole process backwards and start with picking up a name for their brand. But a name should be an expression of all that we talked about so far. If you don’t have a clear picture of your business as a whole, you might end up registering a name that has nothing in common with your brand. So before you make it official, be sure to take into account your values, your personality, your potential clients, your competition, and your style.
Sometimes, of course, it’s possible that you’ve had it all in your head from the start and it’s a perfect fit. But once you’re done clearing up all the details, make sure to look them over again and double-check for inconsistencies.
Design Your Logo
The logo is an important element of a brand’s style and identity. After all, it’s the visual element that will represent your business. It will be featured on your website, your products, digital and print advertising, and, well, just everywhere.
Your logo is what helps customers recognize your business at just a glance. It should capture the essence of your brand’s identity.
Logos, of course, can be changed, and brands can have makeovers. But this can be confusing and frustrating for both teams and customers. And if you choose wisely at the beginning of your journey, you probably won’t have to go through any unnecessary changes in the future.
Make a Brand Book and Manifesto
Creating a brand book and manifesto to describe in detail all visual and abstract aspects of your brand identity is essential for keeping your public presence consistent.
Also, writing things down will help you make your concept clearer and will allow you to identify any inconsistencies. This way you can create a full-bodied brand identity that is balanced and coordinated.
To be recognizable, a brand should make sense. Even if people don’t analyze your identity, they can tell when things don’t add up.
In a brand book, you have all the information in one place, such as:
- Where to place your logo?
- What fonts are acceptable on what occasions and in which formats?
- What colors should be used?
- How to adapt your logo to monochrome?
- What tone of voice should marketing campaigns follow?
- How should your social media posts sound?
- What fluctuations are acceptable and what aren’t?
This makes it easier to keep everything consistent and will be especially useful when your business scales up and there are multiple people involved in every process.
A brand book and a manifesto can be valuable assets when onboarding new team members. They can also act as a lifeline and give you and your team a secure place to start from when developing new ideas and strategies. This way you can keep your brand identity recognizable even when your business grows and evolves.
Your brand identity defines what your business is to the public. As a startup, you need to invest the time and resources in finding your personality and clearing up all inconsistencies before you enter the marketplace.
People bond with brands that have a strong and distinguishable identity that is close to their own principles and values. To keep your customers coming back, you have to be true to yourself, and once you’ve found your path, you should follow it rigorously.