1. Who is your ideal customer?
If your brand hasn’t developed buyer persona profiles or robust profiles of your ideal customers, this is the first place to start. Your buyer personas should shape almost every aspect of your brand identity.
Determine what your buyer personas value from a brand. Are they looking for cost savings or the highest quality? Do they want deep relationships with their vendors or convenience? By understanding your ideal buyer’s pain points and priorities, you can formulate a relevant identity.
2. What Pain Points do you solve?
Your customers don’t start looking for your company because their lives are perfect. Chances are, you offer a product or service that will solve a problem. Your customers need you because of an existing pain point, or problem.
Your brand identity should instantly communicate how you solve these problems. Do you offer peace of mind? Workplace efficiency? Speed and convenience? Regardless of how your brand connects with your customers, your ability to solve problems should be at the core of your brand identity.
3. What kind of personality do you have?
Brand personality is defined as a “human set of characteristics” that are connected to a brand. Brands with a strong, well-defined personality instantly win some likeability points because customers are able to relate to them on a personal level.
Human personalities are rarely single-faceted. Brand personalities shouldn’t be either. When you are in the beginning stages of defining your personality, it may be helpful to think in terms of archetypes.
4. Who is your competition and what are they doing?
Competitive analysis can be a helpful first step towards developing any marketing strategy. Brand identity is no exception. The branding lessons you can glean from your competitors can vary significantly according to your industry, and the level of competition you’re facing.
Your competitors could be textbook examples of poorly-defined brand identity. They may have little-to-no consistency across mediums, and a logo that’s unoriginal. Perhaps they have an excellent brand identity that’s memorable, unique, and incredibly easy to like. Regardless of where your competitors stand, use their statuses as a starting place for creating a brand identity that’s objectively better.
5. How do you make your audience feel?
When your most satisfied new customers communicate with your sales or account management team, what do they have to say? Listening to the interactions of new, satisfied customers can reveal a wealth of information about how you make your customers feel.
The most frequent positive emotion your customers associate with your company is critical information for building a brand identity. Use this emotion to select visual identity aspects, including the optimal colours and fonts.
6. How are you different? What is your USP?
What does your brand offer that your competitors can’t? Perhaps more importantly, how can you communicate this in your brand identity?
It is important to note that simply being different isn’t enough, you need to actively “make a difference.” This means actively carving out a niche, and continually playing to your strengths.
7. Why do your clients trust you?
Conducting customer interviews or talking to your sales team can be an important tool for learning why your customers ultimately pick your company. The factor that leads to prospect trust and customer conversions can provide important clues to your brand identity. Your company’s unique trust factor could be:
Use this “trust factor” as an important tool for defining why your brand is different, and building an appealing brand identity.
8. What’s your story?
Brand stories are an important component of branding. This includes both your literal history – such as how and why you were founded – and the story of the role you play in your customer’s life.
Your brand’s story should ultimately make your customer a hero. Perhaps you’re able to make them more effective at their jobs, so they receive tons of compliments from their boss. Maybe your mortgage products help them purchase their first home and start a family. This story can be an important basis for your brand identity and marketing content.
9. What words describe you?
An important exercise towards defining your brand’s identity can be developing a list of adjectives that describe your brand’s personality, look, and voice.
What drove your CEO to start your company in the first place? How is your company different? By examining the values that run through your company, you can begin to develop a list of descriptive words.
10. What’s wrong with your existing Brand Identity?
Whether or not your organization has put effort into defining a brand identity in the past, you have some identity if you have an online presence. It may not be cohesive or well-defined, but you have an identity in some form.
If your company is considering a rebranding or brand definition project, it may be important to consider why you’re initiating this effort. Is your existing brand poorly-defined to the point that it’s almost non-existent? It it a poor fit with who you really are? Have you introduced a new leader or ownership team that’s drastically changed your culture?
Understanding the reason you need to define your brand can reveal some important room for improvement. Use this knowledge to inspire the right kind of change.
11. What brands do you admire?
You don’t need to look towards brands with similar products, services or customers. Developing a list of brands you admire can offer various types of lessons that can be helpful.
12. How can you simplify your Brand Identity?
Minimalism isn’t the right approach for everyone, but few companies can benefit from a “cluttered” brand identity. The minimalist aesthetic and design movement is closely associated with concepts of modernism, rebellion, and edginess. It’s the concept of stripping down a design or object to the bare elements necessary for function. While a truly minimalist brand identity may be appropriate for a creative agency or architecture firm, it could feel out of place for a corporate insurance firm or accountancy group.
13. How will you test brand perception?
Once you’ve developed a brand identity, it could be important to “test drive” it in front of a group of your existing customers or qualified prospects. This audience may be able to provide important insights that your marketing team missed.
If performing brand perception research isn’t plausible for your company due to timelines or budget constraints, I encourage you to perform research on how colors, fonts, and other aspects of brand identity are perceived by the public. Existing marketing and psychology research can provide brilliant insight into your brand’s future perception.
14. What is your audience’s “language”?
What are the words and terminology your customers use to describe your industry, products, and services? There’s a good chance they don’t head to Google to search for “enterprise productivity solutions.” Chances are, they’re looking for “start-up apps,” or “time-tracking apps.” Keyword research in HubSpot or another tool can be a critical step towards defining your language.
15. How does your logo communicate your brand?
Your company’s logo is one of the most important aspects of your visual brand identity. Ultimately, you don’t “own” your colours and font. Your logo will be one of the few original aspects of your visual identity, and an effective logo can create a lasting impression. An effective logo design is:
- Original: contain some visual elements, such as colour combination or design elements, that no other company has.
- Timeless: avoid incorporating trendy design concepts, to ensure your logo will “age well” over time.
- Adaptable: the logo should scale well from thumbnail to a much larger scale. It should also translate well to both print and digital formats.
- Memorable: While “memorable” can be a difficult concept to test, your logo should leave a lasting impression.
- Relevance: Your logo should be clearly connected to your industry or products and services.
16. What is your font?
Typography communicates a lot more than “just” letters. It can impart feelings of energy, fun, humor, traditionalism and more. Much like colours, humans associated emotions and adjectives with fonts. Common font associations include:
- Serif Fonts – Authoritative, Traditional, Respectable
- Sans Serif Fonts – Modern, Clean, Stable
- Slab Serif Fonts – Bold, Strong, Modern
- Script Fonts – Elegant, Friendly, Creative
- Modern Fonts – Fashionable, Stylish, Exclusive
Most brand’s visual guidelines include a list of two fonts. This will often be a primary and supporting fonts. By selecting typography from within the category that best aligns with your brand’s values, you can get the right message to your target customers.
17. What are your colours?
Humans associate colours with emotions. Your brand’s primary and supporting colours are an important component of your visual identity. By selecting colours that are associated with your brand values, you can instantly communicate your company’s mission.
Common colour associations include:
- Blue: Integrity, Trust, Tranquility, Loyalty, Intelligence
- Green: Money, Growth, Freshness, Environmental-Friendliness
- Yellow: Happiness, Originality, Energy
- Purple: Royalty, Spirituality, Luxury
- Pink: Femininity, Compassion, Playfulness
- Red: Power, Strength, Passion
- Orange: Courage, Originality, Success
- White: Cleanliness, Purity, Freshness
- Black: Elegance, Drama, Strength
It is important for global brands to take note that colour associations can vary according to culture. Blue’s perception in the U.K. may be drastically different than in the Middle East.
18. How do you interact with customers?
The voice you use to interact with customers via social media and content marketing is an extension of your brand voice. Are you humorous, or straight-to-the-point? Do you respond to questions with experience, or links to peer-reviewed studies? Your brand guidelines should include instruction for social media and customer interactions, in order to deliver a consistent brand experience.
19. How can you streamline visuals?
Once you’ve developed a visual branding style guide, assess it to see if it can be streamlined or improved. Your visual identity must be able to scale up and down across digital and non-digital mediums. Test the digital and print performance of your:
- Colour combinations
20. What does your voice sound like?
When it comes to defining and documenting your brand voice, look to your customers for inspiration. When your buyer personas read and speak, what do they sound like?
- Are they academic or conversational?
- Do they reference studies and statistics frequently?
- Are they prone to incorporating anecdotes or stories?
- Are they long-winded or straight to the point?
Your brand’s voice should sound relevant to your buyer personas’ education level, language preferences, and tone.