Updated: Nov 29, 2019
When Founders of startup and early stage brands think about their brand’s identity, they typically think of logos, typography colors, packaging schemes and various forms of trade dress. Brand identity is much more than the things that identify one brand vs. another.
Your brand identity is the foundational blue print for creating relevance, differentiation, meaning and influence with customers, employees, and all stakeholders in the value chain. Brand Identity specifies what your brand will stand for in the minds of customers today and into the future. Your brand identity is your reputation and represents the quality of your presence in the marketplace.
Of course it needs to be stated that logos and all elements of trade dress are important identifiers of your brand, but they do not communicate the value of your brand identity. Brand identity encompasses three essential elements:
Your value proposition.
Your value proposition is an idea of value that defines who you are, what you do and what inspires and motivates your organization forward. This describes your purpose, passion, cause and it rarely if ever changes. Your value proposition forms the foundation of your brand storytelling narrative.
It has three components– who we are, what we do, why we do it.
The who we are component describes the brand in human terms and begins with a noun. For example: we are experts, visionaries, leaders, etc.
The what we do component describes the brand’s actions or behaviors. It begins with a verb. Examples are: who challenge, build, create, innovate, etc.
The why we do it component indicates the brand’s desired purpose/mission/cause. It begins with “in order to” or “so that”. Examples: so that the world will, customers can, no one has to, etc.
Your value proposition can be expressed in a simple sentence. Here’s mine as an example:
“We are (experts) who (create innovative strategies) so that (Founders of early stage companies can grow their business to the next level of success).”
Your brand vision.
Your brand vision is an inspirational long-term view of what your brand can be known for and how it is to be understood by customers and employees alike. Your brand vision is multi-dimensional and affects the entire ecosystem of your business. Brand vision provides guidance for brand development or transformation and determines what decisions and actions are “on brand”.
Your brand vision should include the personality, style and voice of your brand, what values you share with customers, what customers want the use of your brand to say about them, how you make life better for customers, what you’ll never compromise on, and what you do better than competitors. Your brand vision becomes the organizing principle for your actions today and informs the direction your headed into the future. Your brand vision becomes your mantra and battle cry.
Your brand positioning.
This is your strategic foundation outlining why customers will choose your brand over competitors. Brand Positioning will inevitably change over time as customer needs and competitive circumstances mandate.
Your brand positioning has four components: the customer segment that are the most fervent users of the brand, the category in which the brand competes, the most relevant and highly valued benefit customers receive from the brand, and the reasons to believe that make the key benefit credible and sustainable.
Your brand positioning statement can be expressed in one sentence: Here’s an example positioning statement using one of my recent clients:
“For (leading skin health professionals) KPS Essentials is the (skin health product line) that (solves the unsolvable skin health challenges) because it is the only brand clinically validated and scientifically formulated to replenish the essential nutrients that quickly heal the root causes of difficult skin health conditions.”
These three elements form the structure of your brand identity platform. Your brand identity allows your early stage business to make strategic and creative decisions in a systematic way that insures your brand building initiatives will support your business strategy, resonate with high value customers, inspire your employees and make your marketing programs more effective.
Nail this stuff down before you start worrying about what your logo looks like.
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