How To Build a Brand Identity and Why It’s Important

Strong brand identities convey values, vision, and personality to help build brand recognition and awareness. Learn how to create your brand’s identity today.

We all have facets of our visual appearance that help others identify us as unique individuals, and the same is true for businesses. The art of distinguishing a business against all others is brand identity, and the concept is key to building a loyal customer base.

A successful brand is one that permeates every facet of society, every country, and every society. Well-conceived brand identities are those that everyone recognizes, even if they don't buy the company's products or have a firm opinion of the company's products or services. The best brand identities are those that have managed to positively influence consumer behavior.

What is brand identity?

Brand identity is the visual representation of a brand, like a logo, colors, and other designs, which distinguish the brand from competitors in the minds of consumers. Brand identity encompasses much more than just the logo of a company.

It's also the company name, the colors used throughout marketing and sales, and the way employees interact with customers. Companies must create a consistent message with their marketing efforts to benefit from all the effort they put into building a positive brand image.

As far as one of the world's best success stories for strong brand identity, the Coca-Cola brand is one of the most notable. A fascinating aspect of the omnipresent brand is that its success hasn't relied solely on the popularity of its century-old soda recipe.

Instead, the brand has stood the test of time with a consistent yet creative approach to brand identity. Not only is it almost impossible to think about the brand without thinking of the colors red and white, but the company has even influenced the audial impression of its brand with the simple sound of a user opening a bottle.

The multi-sensory approach to brand identity used by Coca-Cola is marketing in overdrive, where it's not just what you see but what you hear, smell, and taste, too. Not every company might benefit from using every sense (it's unlikely anyone will use taste to market a t-shirt), but leveraging the human senses in the creation of a strong brand identity is often what sets successful brand design apart from the rest.

Why are brand identities important to customers?

The immediate benefit of brand identity is that it builds a strong relationship with customers who are more likely to become repeat customers rather than one-time buyers. A store shelf may feature 15 companies selling the exact same product. Brand identity helps customers recognize a brand and encourages them to choose that brand over another.

A strong brand is one that customers remember when they return to the store to look for a particular product. It's not just a soda. It's a Coke. Their brand is so strong that competitors routinely try to poach customers with similar red and white logos and packaging designs.

A healthy brand identity is also one that customers are willing to go the extra mile for, whether that's driving further to make a purchase or wearing company-branded merchandise. Brand identity is the best way to transform a company from one that's indistinguishable from competitors to one that leads the competition.

Indeed, one of the only drawbacks of brand identity design is that it's time-consuming. Building an effective brand identity takes research, and some small businesses may find the process expensive. However, learning how to create a brand identity before starting the process can reduce the time and costs involved.

Gain the trust of your customers

For many consumers, the brands they buy from have a greater purpose than just an interest in making as much money as possible. Companies with successful brand identity campaigns have customers who trust in the company's vision and care about the success of the company.

As humans, we want to believe the best of other people, and the same is often true when it comes to the companies we regularly buy from, whether it's food, clothing, hair care, or anything else in the wide world of consumer products and services.

The first step in gaining the trust of customers is creating a great product or offering an excellent service. But how do you keep that trust and build upon it? The visual language of brand identity helps your company build trust in so many ways.

Common beliefs and values

When you build your brand identity, you ask your customers to agree with what your company stands for at its core. That belief might come in the form of something physical, like making sure every pair of shoes that leaves your factory is an excellent pair of shoes. Or your company might stand for something greater or more ephemeral, such as the idea that every pair of feet deserves a great pair of shoes.

Conversation starters and earworms

A multifaceted brand identity is something that people talk about and remember long after they've left the store, navigated to a different website, or finished whatever it is you're selling. To create a brand identity that's successful, it needs to remain on the minds of consumers, even when they're not actively shopping for your product.

How to create a brand identity for your business

Creating a brand identity is much more than choosing a color palette and getting a graphic designer to create a sweet logo. From creating a brand style guide to defining the company's target customer, here are the 7 steps to creating a brand identity.

1. Company purpose

Imagine you own a company that manufactures calligraphy pens. Your goal is to make the best pens in the world, right? Well, mostly. But what should your company accomplish as a result of making those amazing pens?

Do you want to inspire people to keep handwriting alive in the digital age? Is it to help customers write beautifully? Define your company purpose and let all brand identity design decisions stem from that conversation.

2. Future goals

After creating the best pens in the world, what do you want your brand to mean to your customers? Where do you envision your company five years from now, and how can you encourage people to join you on the journey as repeat customers?

You may create a vision statement that defines the five-year plan for your company (something your business plan should feature in any case) and use that plan to influence the branding of your company.

3. Examine competitors

Look at the competitors in your industry. How do you feel about those companies? How do you want customers to feel about your company? What colors are they using in their marketing? What is the impact of their logo design?

Make sure to examine the highs and lows of your industry. Look at the companies that failed and try to figure out why they failed. Then, look at the companies that found success and figure out why customers flocked to them and gave them strong support.

4. Develop a voice

Brand strategy isn't just about visual branding. It's also about the company's voice. Do you want your company to make people think of an old family friend? Or do you want people to feel that your company is accessible and easy to use?

Or, conversely, should your company project an aura of triumph and excitement where customers who buy from you will feel elevated and successful? Your brand personality must make your customers feel how you want them to feel after buying your products.

5. Avoid mimicry

The oft-said phrase "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" has no place in how to create a brand identity. Rather, it's the level of uniqueness you can bring to the industry that will set you apart from others who have already traveled the same road.

You don't want to be the "next Coke." You want to strive for something wholly different. Something that's never been done before. Yes, it's a tall order, but don't set out to copy another company's brand because they've had success with it. That's their success. You need to find your own path.

On the surface, the success of Coca-Cola as a brand has much to do with its logo. However, if you dig just below the surface, you'll find that the company employs just about every human sense to convey the allure of its company's products.

Your logo might be one of the first things your new customers see and recognize about your brand, but it shouldn't be the last. The logo is just the starting place for a well-rounded and successful brand identity campaign.

7. Create a consistent message

It's important to take the time to build your brand identity, and it's also essential to let those efforts lead your company to success. Brand identity design touches every facet of your company, from its logo to the way people interact with it online. You must maintain consistency across platforms (internet, television, store shelves) and in the different ways people consume information about your company. Remember, consistency helps reinforce brand identity.

A strong identity builds customer confidence

When customers are confident in the message you share, they're confident in sharing information about your company, buying your products repeatedly, and going the extra mile to patronize your business.

A confident customer will drive that extra half mile to reach your store. They'll pay a little more for shipping from across the country. They'll tell their friends about this "awesome" company from which they buy their products.

What makes a good brand identity, and how does it inspire confidence? Consider the following.

Good brand identity starts with a good name

Names are iconic, and changing them comes at a heavy risk. You might sell the exact same product after a name change, but your customers might not make the jump with you. Just consider Google and Facebook.

Does anyone refer to Google as Alphabet? Does anyone refer to Facebook as Meta? No, those companies have names entrenched in our psyche. They're simple, memorable, and original.

Successful brand identities consider audience

Building brand identity requires several steps, but you can only take each step when you know your audience. Who will look at your company's logo? Are you marketing to the 50+ market, or are you looking at first-time parents as your customers?

As you develop your color strategy, logos, and marketing materials, it's essential to understand your audience. Not only will understanding your audience help you with design choices, but it will also help ancillary facets of your band strategy like marketing partnerships and where you advertise.

A good logo is instantly recognizable in any format

A logo must look recognizable everywhere, whether it's on a bag, a storefront, or a digital advertisement. Imagine the tiny image a smartphone user taps when they open your app. Your customers need to recognize your logo as a tiny digital square as easily as they do when it's on a 12-foot high billboard.

In many cases, the best logos are simple and can function with or without the text of your company's name. Think of a few particularly memorable logos and how simple they are. Everyone knows a yellow "M" stands for McDonald's. Nobody can mistake the red bullseye for anywhere else than Target.

Brand identity is consistent but not static

Simplicity and memorable logos help businesses create a consistent and cohesive image no matter where they operate. However, it's important to consider how your brand strategy might shift in other countries or even just across the country.

Is it your company's goal to become the number one hummus distributor in the southeast? What about when you've conquered that region of the country? How will you translate that success to other locales? Will the way your customers interact with your company change? Will you need to enhance your brand strategy as you expand?

Great brand identity examples

Other than Coca-Cola, what are some examples of strong brand identities? You might consider Netflix, which has evolved over time to the point of instant recognizability with nothing more than a red "N," a black background, and the catchy Netflix "ta-dum" sound.

At this point, a user doesn't even have to look at the screen to know that someone just turned on a Netflix show. Interestingly, the Netflix "ta-dum" isn't the first time a company used sound to such great effect with its logo. Rival HBO accomplished this feat back in 1993 with its "static angel" intro that displayed the familiar HBO logo over a screen of white television static and the sound of a television warming up (or shutting off, when displayed at the end of a program).

In an interesting development, HBO created its own "ta-dum" sound when it launched its streaming service. Now, rather than show people the relatively dated concept of a static screen and the sound a tube TV makes while warming up, the company has a long "whomp" that plays whenever a user opens the app or starts an HBO-produced show.

What's the take-away with these logos and their sounds? They're excellent examples of an incredibly recognizable logo impacting multiple senses. It's not just the look of the Netflix "N." It's also the sound the program makes while warming up.

Mailchimp helps build brands

Brand identity is a simple concept, and yet it's not always easy to create. A successful brand is one that can convey brand personality, inspire confidence, and encourage purchasing activity, often while saying very few words.

Mailchimp helps support the growth and creation of your brand identity by offering you support as you grow your business. From email campaigns to landing pages to digital ads, Mailchimp helps businesses create a cohesive and instantly recognizable way for customers to interact.

Marketing help is just the start. Use Mailchimp's creative tools to create dynamic content, edit your images and files in our Content Studio, and explore Campaign Templates for email and landing pages to help you get your brand identity in front of more eyes. Visit Mailchimp to explore all the creative tools we have to help your business move forward.

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