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Brand identity vs. brand image: How to unleash the explosive power of both in your business

by Rockey Simmons

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Creating a powerful and memorable brand that resonates with a target audience is now at every business owner’s fingertip, given the amount of business advice on the internet.

Think about it. Libraries and online bookstores like Amazon and Audible.com are filled with entrepreneurial best practices, making it easier than ever before to start a business. Yet, people are still struggling to stay in business. Why?

Shouldn’t staying in business be easier too?

In this article, you’ll learn what to do when starting a business and the simple difference between brand identity vs. brand image. We will also show you three easy ways to help you leverage brand identity and brand image to your advantage.

Because the truth is, if you mix them up—or worse, think they are the same—then you (and your enterprise) will likely be off to a tough start.

Setting the stage for brand brilliance

Brand identity and brand image are not the same.

  • Brand identity involves the values, attributes, and culture that represent your business. It involves the look and feel of your website, logo, product packaging, etc.
  • Brand image is what people think when they hear or see something related to you. These thoughts can be positive or negative, depending on a person’s experience with your business.

Now, let’s talk about the simple tactics to follow so you get things right, right from the start, or at least know exactly what areas of your branding need improvement so you can make quick and effective adjustments.

1. Brand strategy and positioning

Brand strategy and positioning are essential components of building a successful business.

They are the foundation upon which all marketing efforts are built. Your brand strategy and positioning involve understanding your target audience and identifying their needs, desires, and pain points. They also involve developing a clear and powerful message that resonates with your potential customers.

When done successfully, brand strategy and positioning can lay the proper foundation for creating a positive brand image and identity in the minds of consumers.

Here are the focal points to keep in mind.

Understand your distinctiveness

To create an effective brand, it is crucial to understand your distinctiveness and identify key benefits for customers. This means you’ll need to spend extra time crafting your unique value proposition (the special qualities that set your brand apart from the competition).

Defining your brand’s unique value proposition

First, you must understand what makes your brand different.

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What do you offer that others don’t? What sets you apart in the market? This distinctiveness is what will make you stand out and attract your target audience.

By clearly defining your unique value proposition, you can create a brand identity that resonates with your potential customers.

Identifying key benefits for customers

Next, you want to identify the key benefits your brand delivers to customers.

What problems are you offering to solve? What solutions do you provide? Specifically defining the specific benefits of your product or service can help you effectively communicate your value to your target audience.

This can help you connect with them on a deeper level and build a positive brand image.

By having a clear and compelling value proposition, you can create a brand identity that resonates with your audience and sets you apart from the competition.

This is the starting point. Now, let’s get into how you select the right audience.

Unlocking audience insights: target audience analysis

If you get this wrong, it won’t matter how great your product or service is. You won’t be targeting the right prospects for maximum results. So, let’s break this process down into bite-size chunks of the most important areas you need to get perfect.

To effectively reach and engage your target audience, you must first define their persona.

Defining the ideal customer persona

This involves understanding your ideal customer’s demographic information, lifestyle, values, and aspirations. By creating a clear picture of this individual, you can tailor your marketing strategies to speak directly to them.

You must go beyond simple demographics and consider psychographics as well, understanding this person’s motivations and challenges.

It’s all about establishing a strong emotional connection and delivering a message that resonates. To do so, you’ll need to figure out how to get inside their heads and understand their needs, preferences, and problems.

Simply put, you must empathize with them and offer solutions that address their specific pain points.

Understanding needs, preferences, and pain points

When you know what drives your target audience—what they value, and what they are looking for—you can position your brand as the solution they have been searching for.

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When you find these levers and communicate the benefits and value your brand provides in a way that aligns with the preferences and desires of your target audience, you’re vibrating on the wavelength that makes them see and hear you clearly.

That’s how you create marketing materials, campaigns, and experiences that speak directly to your customers, ultimately building a positive brand image and establishing long-term customer loyalty.

Crafting the perfect pitch: brand positioning

Positioning is about differentiating yourself from your competitors. It’s not your unique selling proposition (that’s for you); instead, it’s how you communicate that unique ideation of your brand.

It is about creating an identity that sets you apart and positions you as the go-to solution for your target audience because of your unique selling point (USP).

In short, positioning is achieved by defining your brand’s unique value proposition and clearly communicating it through your marketing materials and activities.

Crafting a compelling brand positioning statement

Start by considering your business goals and ensuring your positioning statement aligns with them.

Having a values document is a great start. This allows you to look at your values and pick the most compelling ones to pepper your brand positioning statement with.

It also will guide your marketing strategies and help maintain consistency in your messaging across various marketing materials and campaigns.

Remember, your brand positioning statement should not only capture the attention of your target audience, but it should also foster loyalty among your existing customers.

The art of creating a compelling promise to your audience

A great way to ensure your promise is compelling is to focus on being concise and persuasive. This allows you to connect with your target audience and leave a lasting impression.

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You can make this simple and craft a perfect promise every time by answering three questions:

  1. What do you do? – This will be the main benefit of your product or service.
  2. How do you do it? – This is your mechanism of doing things differently than everyone else in your market.
  1. How fast do you do it? – People always want to know when they will likely see results.

By effectively communicating the answers to these questions in your marketing and delivering on your promises, you can build a strong brand image and foster long-term customer relationships.

Even if your service takes months to fulfill, it’s best to clearly let your audience know this upfront because omitting this information leaves a hole in the marketing that potential customers will fall through. In other words, they won’t have the full foundation to make an informed decision about whether your product or service is worth moving forward with.

The key part to remember is that crafting the perfect promise requires a thorough understanding of your target audience, a distinct brand identity, and a clear message that connects with customers.

In the words of publishing executive Steve Forbes, “Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”

Now it’s time to move on to the visual side of your brand’s identity.

2. Visual identity and branding

When you see the Nike logo, you know what it stands for. The same goes for Amazon or Coca-Cola.

These iconic symbols have enormous staying power from years of consistent visual branding.

This section is short, but it’s something we need to address when discussing visual identity in branding a business.

Logo design: Crafting a visual beacon

A well-designed logo captures the essence of your brand and attracts your target audience. It is the face of your company and plays a crucial role in creating and maintaining a positive brand image.

Each element of your logo should be chosen strategically to align with your brand’s key message and values.

Here are a few design principles.

Design principles for an impactful logo

Logo design is not just about aesthetics; it is about effectively communicating your brand’s identity and connecting with your customers on an emotional level.

First and foremost, your logo needs to be original. A unique logo helps your brand stand out from the competition and creates a positive brand image.

Another reason to be unique is to avoid possible copyright infringement. So, while you’re creating your logo, you should take steps to ensure that your logo is original and does not resemble any existing trademarks.

When designing a logo, consider using online logo-creation resources such as Upwork, DesignCrowd, Fiverr, and 99designs.

These platforms provide access to talented freelance designers who can bring your vision to life.

Once you’ve decided on a platform, be sure to consider the key elements such as color scheme, typography, and visual elements that will resonate with your target audience.

Captivating imagery and graphics: Visualizing your brand

We are visual creatures. In our minds, we turn words into pictures and then back into words so we can better understand and respond.

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In business, the better imagery you use, the more likely you’ll be to stick in your audience’s memory.

Impactful imagery isn’t just an opinion; it’s science.

To create a strong brand image, you need to ensure your imagery tells a story about your brand.

By using compelling visuals, you can effectively convey your brand’s narrative and values, creating an emotional connection with your audience.

This includes company graphics, logos, and other images you employ in your marketing materials.

Creating a consistent visual language

Consistent visual branding can effectively communicate your brand’s message, build trust with your potential customers, and enhance brand recognition.

By templatizing your visual communication, you can ensure all marketing campaigns and materials maintain a consistent brand identity.

Designing templates for various marketing activities, such as advertisements, social media posts, and email newsletters, can save time and ensure consistency across channels.

However, it is important to maintain flexibility to create new visual experiences and keep up with the latest trends.

With that said, we segue into the third and final part of understanding brand identity vs. brand image and unleashing the explosive power of both within your business.

3. Consistent brand communication

You can achieve consistency through well-defined branding strategies, a comprehensive color scheme and visual elements, and a clear, key message that resonates with your audience. Ultimately, consistent brand communication ensures your brand is effectively conveyed, recognized, and remembered by your audience.

Let’s look at the two main points you can use immediately to incorporate both brand image and identity best practices.

Voice and tone: Giving your brand a voice

Your brand voice is the distinct personality and tone that brings your brand to life.

A strong brand voice is aligned with the products, services, and ethos of your business. It reflects your values and culture, speaking directly to potential customers and conveying your unique selling proposition. (See how important getting this right is?)

Consistency is key when it comes to brand voice

You don’t want to be up and down, left and right. You want to stand for something and find an audience who stands with you.

You need to maintain your brand voice across all channels, ensuring that every touchpoint with the audience reinforces the same message and delivers a cohesive experience.

Developing a brand persona

Just like your customer has a persona, your brand has a persona as well.

Your task is to align your brand persona’s values with those of your target audience.

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It’s called brand alignment, and it is important. However, following that advice wholeheartedly can stall your progress because you may find it hard to create content that resonates through real emotion if you’re trying to create from a place that’s not part of your brand’s core.

If you’re having trouble aligning your brand values, you might want to consider whether you have the right target audience.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about what’s important to your customers; it just means what they care about should also align with your core beliefs.

The easiest way to do this is to find your values and the reasons why you do what you do. These items are what will bring the best and most loyal following. Again, it’s all about knowing not just your audience, but also what your business stands for.

This way, making content becomes natural. Here’s how that looks.

Mastering content marketing: Aligning identity and messaging

At this point, if you’ve been following this guide word for word, you should have a great outline for how you want your brand to be represented in the eyes of people who do business with you.

Even if you primarily do business face to face, you’ll need to create content online (whether you do so on a website, blogs, video, or other marketing channels) to get new leads and customers on the books.

Content pillars

When it comes to creating content that is on brand with the write messaging, you want to identify key topics that align with your brand’s values and expertise.

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These topics should reflect what your brand stands for, ultimately bringing your ideal leads and customers through the digital door.

Create 3 to 5 top-level topics that are important to your audience (and you). Then, you can begin to create subtopics that are related within each of those top-level pillars.

This process has recently been all the rage for success on social platforms for businesses. But, using it to create content for other marketing materials makes sense too.

Also called content buckets,” this system is a very quick way to create relevant content that falls into Google Search’s helpful content system because it’s based on truly useful content and not just on keyword-focused content that people create to please search engines.

Engage and interact authentically

When you create content (especially on social media), you should ask questions and get to know the people who comment regularly.

You also need to answer every question your followers have. This not only helps build your brand identity and image, but it also lets your audience see you care about what they have to say, which can boost brand loyalty.

This falls under the “positive customer experience” umbrella.

What does online reputation have to do with all of this?

Brand identity and brand image are a careful mix that forms the center of a solid business reputation.

It’s also what creates the strong outer shell that helps your business survive when a bad review or reviews leave a hairline fracture in your credibility.

This is what online reputation management is all about—branding and managing the perception of your business, small or large.

It’s content strategies, social media management, and controlling search engine results that give you the professional web presence you deserve.

Final thoughts

If you’ve read this far, you’re ready to start making your brand’s reputation better than ever. Hopefully, we’ve helped make it easier to understand the concepts of brand identity vs. brand image.

However, if you’re not sure about how your reputation looks to the people searching for you online, you can fix that with the Reputation Report Card. This no-cost resource will instantly tell you how others see you on the internet—a priceless value if you want to proactively secure your business’s good name.

This post was contributed by Rockey Simmons, founder of SaaS Marketing Growth.