The definition of brand identity (or corporate identity): the collection of designs that represent an organization to customers.
Brand Identity is what designers contribute to the brand.
As long as there have been marketplaces to sell goods, there has been a need differentiate offerings from other sellers. Enterprising craftspeople as far back as 2300 BCE realized that if they marked their products with a consistent symbol, people would recognize them. This is the earliest form of brand identity.
Ancient designers created cylinder seals stamp designs into wax or ceramics. Now, it is far easier to mark your products with brand elements using print and digital technology, but the concept is as powerful as ever. Every non-commodity product requires a brand identity.
Designers (graphic designers, industrial designers, and UI designers) create the face of a brand. That face should help shape the brand image that a marketer or entrepreneur is trying to project. The design elements that express the brand image is the brand identity.
The brand identity is a collection of designs, from the logo to building signage. The elements of any brand identity will vary depending on the needs of each company; a skateboard manufacturer is going to require different designs than an app company. But there are designs every modern company will require.
Common designs in a brand identity:
- Color Pallet / Corporate Colors
- Typeface / Font
- Visual Language
- Website Template
- Product Packaging
- Business Cards
- Email Signature
- Email Newsletter Template
Branding vs. Brand Image vs. Brand Identity.
I hear people use the terms brand, branding, and brand identity interchangeably. Sometimes, a novice brand marketer will even throw ‘brand image’ in there, in an attempt to look sophisticated.
These terms are different. And using the terminology correctly can help quickly get business people, marketers and designers communicate.
Brand: The memories and emotional associations in the customers’ minds.
Branding: All activities (design, promotion, communication) that create the brand.
Brand Image: The intended brand as determined by the marketer or entrepreneur.
Brand Identity: The designs made with the intent to create the desired brand image.
Simply stated, the brand image is the vision of the brand by the marketer / entrepreneur, and the brand identity is the designer’s expression of that. It will become the brand if it works as intended in the minds of customers.
Brand Equity is tied to Brand Identity
Brand equity is part of a company’s value attributable to brand. All of a company’s value is determined by how much revenue and profit it can generate in the future.
Apple’s brand identity is the most recognizable and meaningful example in the world. If you put an Apple logo on a product, it is going to sell because of what that logo says to the customer.
But what if Apple inexplicably changed their logo to a lowercase “a”? Their brand would be far less effective because the “a” logo would be much less recognizable than the apple logo. The brand equity of Apple would go down by billions of dollars if they changed their brand equity in a big way.
So, big changes in brand identity destroy brand equity.
Large companies with million or billion dollar brands take this very seriously. But a typical mistake small companies make is changing their brand identity too frequently. This damages a significant asset: the company’s brand. A weak brand identity used consistently is preferable to frequent rebrands, even if they look better.