The 6-Step Brand Identity

Zach Stevens

Creative Director & Founder

February 7, 2018

Brand identity is a big undertaking for small-medium sized businesses. Mostly, the challenge is rooted in undefined steps for building out an effective brand. While you could jump around and build a brand identity haphazardly, a streamlined process clarifies expectations and gives a path to results. Within this article, you’ll find an overview of how to build up to a functioning and effective brand identity in 6-steps.

1. Goal-Setting

Goal Setting for brand identity

Knowing why you are branding your business gives a frame of reference for the branding team and a goal to reach. Some common reasons include:

  • You have an amazing product/service, but your brand’s image is out of date
  • Your website doesn’t work well on mobile
  • You have expanded your current services/products
  • Your competitors look and sound just like you
  • You’re trying to get your company funded and want to inspire investors
  • Your have a hard time engaging employees and keeping them excited about your mission
  • You’re not happy with your current identity

Whatever the reason, write it down. This will become the metric(s) used to determine success for your branding venture. After acknowledging the reason for branding, it’s time to rock n’ roll and begin the branding process.

2. Investigation

investigation for brand identity

If you don’t know where you’re at, you won’t know where to move or how to get there. By gauging the alignment between stakeholder vision, external/internal perception, and current branding efforts, you can determine where you’re at. The extent of the research will vary per company, but it will follow these parameters:

  • Interviews (Stakeholders, Employees, and Customers)
  • Competitive Audit
  • Marketing Audit (logos, brand architecture, media, design, style, collateral)
  • Language Audit (voice and tone, naming, messaging, consistency)
  • Experience Audit (how the systems in place affect the brand)

With this research, the current standings of the brand can be objectively evaluated. There will also be insights that surface and guide the next phase of the engagement: strategy.

3. Strategy

brand strategy and brand identity

The hardest goals to achieve are the ones that don’t exist. Armed with insight from the investigation, a plan of action can be established with clear, measurable goals. At their core, strategies serve as a formalized game plan that states: “we will take these actions to achieve these goals.”

  • Brand Positioning
  • Focus, your Big Idea
  • Creative Deliverables
  • Performance Metrics

The importance of a defined strategy cannot be understated, it is the single most important piece of information that will direct all of the deliverables thereafter.

4. Identity Design

brand identity design

Game time. Now we are ready to build the identity that will be a tangible representation of your brand. In the same way a person’s appearance, posture, style, and behavior reflect who they are, so too does your brand identity.

  • Name
  • Tagline
  • Logo
  • Color Palette
  • Typography
  • Layout/Composition
  • Illustration/Imagery
  • Iconography

These elements will anchor all of the touchpoints to your brand and streamline the creation of new marketing material. We crave visual consistency. Without it, we soon get lost and lose interest. While a well crafted identity may evolve over time, it should all be linked together.

5. Touchpoints

brand identity touchpoints and marketing material

Logos are great, color palettes are great, everything about a visual identity is great. What is lame is when it isn’t applied to anything. Touchpoints consist of anything a consumer comes into contact with from your brand. Ranging from large, extensive items like a website or advertising campaigns, to lapel buttons and pens.

You might be thinking, what difference will these ephemeral items make for my brand? Alone, nothing really. But by linking that pen to a greater entity and including it within your brand’s experience makes it special. In summation, if it comes from your brand, it needs to be a thoughtful representation and have purpose. If it lacks either of those, don’t do it.

6. Performance and Management

brand performance metrics for brand identity

Finally, your brand identity has been finished, you’ve got branded business cards, an experiential website, and everything appears unified. Now what? You measure and manage. Branding is a process and as long as the brand plans on existing, its performance must be managed.

Remember those objectives and challenges you wrote down at the beginning of the branding venture? Now we make sure we the brand is working and solving them. These metrics vary pending the goals, but without checking you’ll never know how to improve. Yes, branding is a creative pursuit, but business runs on objectivity and performance. Some common questions to ask include:

  • Do we appear different from our competitors?
  • Have we streamlined our marketing efforts?
  • Does our identity represent our vision?
  • Is our team engaged and excited by our new brand?
  • Does our online presence drive action?
  • Are our customers engaged?
  • What are our customers’ perceptions of us now?

Managing a brand is a more intuitive. Strategic, well-positioned brands should retain the same values and beliefs, but the mediums and methods of brand expressing them will change. Think about the impact of the internet on business, it is necessary for brands to evolve alongside technology. Brand management is maintaining the desired perception across all channels of communication.

What now?

Building a brand is like any other business task, it gets hectic at scale and without a proper plan, frustration is inevitable. So the choice is yours, you can follow a process or bounce around manically in hopes of hitting the mark. To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Are you a wisher or a doer?

Is your brand working?

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