Why brand identity is important

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Why brand identity is important comes back to standing out in the crowd and being ingrained in the consumer’s mind. A strong brand does that.

Think the iconic swoosh of Nike or the sleek, minimalist style of Apple products. Maybe it’s the distinct flavor of your favorite beverage or the way a certain hotel chain always makes you feel at home – even though you aren’t.

These elements—the visual design, the signature scent, the product experience—are all part of a brand’s identity. And according to Rob Meyerson, brand identity is one of the most crucial factors in a company’s success. Rob joined me on an episode of “The Business Storytelling Show.”

Brand identity is the cumulative expression of a brand to its target audiences, says Rob, a brand consultant and co-author of the 6th edition of “Designing Brand Identity.” This encompasses everything from the company’s logo and website to its social media presence and customer service. Every interaction a consumer has with a brand contributes to their overall perception.

But why does brand identity matter so much? Rob believes it comes down to trust, recognition, and emotional connection.

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Building trust through consistency

Imagine you’re browsing the snack aisle at your local grocery store. You spot a new chip brand with exciting flavors and a cool package design. Intrigued, you decide to give it a try. But when you get home and open the bag, the chips are stale and tasteless. The product experience doesn’t live up to the promise of the branding.

Imagine the same scenario with a well-established chip brand you’ve enjoyed for years. You trust that when you see their familiar logo and packaging, you’re going to get the same great taste and quality that you’ve come to expect.

This is the power of a consistent brand identity.

“One of the ideals of a great brand is coherence,” Rob explains. “It’s this connectedness that you feel across all the different places. They get that consistent feeling that this is all part of the same family or the same brand.”

When a company presents a cohesive identity across all touchpoints, it builds trust with consumers. Of course, the product or service must deliver on that promise. But a strong, consistent brand identity is the first step in establishing trust.

Standing out in a crowded market

Another key benefit of a strong brand identity is differentiation. It’s more important than ever for companies to stand out. And one of the best ways to do that is through distinctive branding.

“It pays off more to stand out and be distinctive and memorable than to just blend in,” says Rob. He shared an example of a client who wanted their logo to be blue simply because all of their competitors used blue. Rob challenged this idea, suggesting that the company would be better off choosing a color that set them apart.

Of course, differentiation is about more than just choosing a unique color palette. It’s about defining what makes your brand special and communicating that through every aspect of your identity.

Take the outdoor brand Patagonia, for example. Patagonia’s brand identity is built around its commitment to environmental sustainability. This is reflected not only in its products, which are made from eco-friendly materials, but in its marketing campaigns, partnerships, and even its corporate policies.

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Connecting on an emotional level

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of brand identity is its ability to forge an emotional connection with consumers. After all, we don’t just buy products—we buy into the lifestyles and values they represent.

“Our perception of organizations and companies is influenced by brand,” Rob says. “This can significantly impact the way people interpret what you’re selling or who you are.”

Think about a brand like Harley Davidson. Harley doesn’t just sell motorcycles; it sells a sense of freedom, rebellion, and American heritage. The company’s logo, product design, advertising, and event sponsorships all work together to create an identity that resonates with its target audience on a deep, emotional level. Owning a Harley isn’t just about having a mode of transportation. It’s about belonging to a community and living a certain way of life.

This emotional connection is what transforms casual customers into lifelong brand advocates. When people feel aligned with a brand’s values and identity, they’re more likely to become loyal repeat purchasers and even evangelize the brand to others.

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Crafting your brand identity

So, how can companies go about building a strong brand identity? Rob emphasizes that it’s an involved process that requires research, strategy, and consistency.

“It’s easy for people to jump to what they think is the fun part, like choosing a name or designing a logo,” he says. “But a lot of the conversations we have as brand consultants start with asking big-picture questions. How do we want to position this brand against the competition? What do customers want? Who are we, and why are we here?”

Answering these foundational questions about the brand is crucial for establishing a clear, cohesive brand strategy. From there, companies can start translating that strategy into tangible brand elements.

One common pitfall Rob sees is companies choosing brand elements based on arbitrary factors, like wanting a certain color just because no one else in the industry is using it. But every choice should ladder back up to the overarching brand strategy.

For example, if a company wants to position itself as innovative and cutting-edge, its visual identity should reflect that. This could mean a sleek, minimalist logo, an unconventional color palette, and a modern web design. On the flip side, if the goal is to evoke a sense of warmth and tradition, the brand elements should feel more classic and inviting.

Once a company has defined its key brand elements, the challenge becomes implementing them consistently across every customer interaction. This includes everything from product packaging and store signage to employee uniforms and customer service scripts. It even extends to less obvious touchpoints like smell, sound, and taste.

“We talk about signature scents that hotels use in their lobbies and proprietary food flavors,” says Rob. “It’s not just visual or verbal; it can be other senses. Every single way of experiencing a brand is part of that identity.”

Managing a brand identity requires ongoing effort and attention to detail, but the rewards are a growing brand and revenue.

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Evolving your identity

Of course, brand identities are not meant to be static. As companies grow and market conditions change, brands need to evolve their identities to stay relevant – and doing that consistently and flexibly.

“What you do in a video is not necessarily the same as what you would do on a website,” Rob says. “There has to be at least a little bit of leeway. And you want to be able to change it over time so that it feels like the same brand, but it’s growing and keeping up with the times.”

Starbucks provides a great example of a brand that has evolved its identity. The company has refreshed its logo several times, getting rid of unnecessary text, changing the color, and, most recently, simplifying the iconic siren mark to make it more adaptable and modern. Throughout these tweaks, the essence of the brand has remained intact, allowing Starbucks to change with the times while staying true to itself.

Brand evolution can be a delicate process. Make too many drastic changes, and you risk losing the brand equity and recognition you’ve built up over time. But if you cling too tightly to an outdated identity, you can start to feel irrelevant. The brands that navigate this balance are the ones that thrive in the long run.

An essential investment

It certainly is an investment of time, effort, and resources. But Rob believes it’s one of the most important investments a company can make.

“Twenty years ago, a lot of it was explaining what a brand is and why it’s important,” he says. “Now, there’s more acknowledgment that brand is important and that we need to invest in it.”

In Rob’s experience, even companies looking for a quick exit or acquisition can benefit from investing in their brand identities. After all, a strong brand is a valuable asset that can make a company much more attractive to potential buyers or investors.

At the end of the day, your brand identity is the face you present to the world. It’s how people recognize and remember you. And in a world where consumers have more choices than ever, a distinctive, trustworthy, and emotionally resonant identity can be your biggest competitive advantage.

So, don’t think of branding as fluff or an afterthought. It’s a strategic imperative for any company that wants to succeed over the long term. By taking the time to craft and nurture your brand identity, you set yourself up to build lasting connections with your customers and propel your business forward.

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designing brand identify book

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