Brand identity is a little easier to pin down than your brand, in general, for which there are varying definitions due to its tendency towards the abstract. Jeremiah Gardner puts it simply in his article, “The difference between brand and identity,” defining a brand as “the relationship between an organization and an audience”.
The assertion that it is a relationship is the key distinction, as a company or individual’s brand revolves around how its customers or patrons relate to it.
“Brand” and “brand identity” can almost be used interchangeably, but not quite. If your brand is a collection of all kinds of expressions that are associated with your company, then your brand identity is basically the sum of all the parts.
Brand identity is the clear manifestation that defines to customers, or to any outsiders, who you are and what your specialty is. The following three exercises will help you to narrow it down.
1. Open a dialogue about your brand with your customers.
The first and best way to get an idea of how you are perceived from the outside is to have a direct conversation with some of your current customers and find out what impression they have of your company.
What did they think your company does, when they first found you? Even more importantly, what had they already heard about you? What is their current opinion of your company, now that they’ve had some experience with you? These are the foremost questions that will give you valuable insight into what people think of your company from the outside.
2. Take a virtual walk through your company website and other correspondence.
Log onto your website, and try to get an objective, bird’s-eye view of the content to see what stands out the most. Specifically, what do you see on your landing page? Even if you designed the site yourself, the most prominent or recurring elements may surprise you.
The things on your website that stand out to you the most, the words and images that keep popping up, and even the general feeling you get from the content, most likely stand out to your visitors as well and serve as a good representation of your brand identity.
3. What is missing?
When your customers repeatedly complain about the same things that they believe are missing from your business, that is not just an indicator of something you should add to your product or service, but it could also be something more. Their motivation for complaining about this missing feature or product actually reveals something about your brand.
The fact that they are disappointed that you do not offer this specific thing shows that they expected it to be there, which means that to them, your brand identity tells them that this item should be something you would naturally provide. It’s worth considering that people may have a different idea than you do about what your company is supposed to do.
Brand identity is not always a top priority for small businesses, but it should always be at least somewhere on your radar because knowing your customers’ expectations can help you to concentrate your efforts on what they really want to buy from you.
And as with most aspects of running a business, an owner has to do some critical thinking and research on the matter to gain a real understanding of how people identify with your company. The first step is simple: Ask your customers what they think.