Hone your brand identity
9 characteristics to focus on to give your small business a solid brand foundation
by Brittany Taylor
published October 24, 2016
updated May 30, 2018
Your brand is how people see you and your business.
Your brand identity comprises the different characteristics that work together to create your brand.
Stuck on the vocab? Here's the difference between a brand and branding
Taken together, your brand identity is how someone characterizes you when they talk about you to a stranger. It’s the words and phrases they use to paint a picture of your personality as a business owner, the work that you do, and the people you do that work for.
Let’s take a look at how brand identities work.
Do you remember your brand identity from high school? I remember mine
There were three Brittanys in my graduating class. Each of us was painfully, awkwardly aware of the other, but none of us were friends. Friendly, you know—but not friends.
Instead of hanging out at lunch and forming a “Brittany Not Britney” club, we kept our distance from each other. Instead of going the Katherine/Katie/Kate route, we took a different path. We Brittanys built our own identities.
One Brittany was the oddball, the creative goth girl who wore black parachute pants and had pink streaks in her hair.
Another Brittany was the popular girl. She was a makeup-wearing, belly button-piercing, gossip-spreading trend follower.
And then there was me.
I was the quiet Brittany, the smart Brittany, the nice Brittany. I was the one in the honors classes, the one who would help you with homework but wouldn’t give you the answers.
Back in high school, I was very aware of how the three of us fit into the social scene. I knew where each of us sat at lunch and who each of us partnered up with on group projects. It was kind of like sorting puzzle pieces. These are edge pieces. These are corners. These are parts of the sky, which looks impossible, so we’re going to put them over here in this pile and pretend they don’t exist for a few hours.
These identities we Brittanys created, though, were like most things in high schools: superficial.
Developing the identity of your creative business' brand is like figuring out who you were in high school, but better
Think about it: no 10:20 a.m. lunch period, no gym class, no report cards. And also: way, way less superficial crap.
There are far more nuances to a brand identity then there are to a 16-year-old’s public performance of herself. This, friends, is one of those rare cases where “more” is a good thing.
How to use your brand identity (with help from Harry Potter)
Think of your brand identity the way J.K. Rowling thinks of her characters.
An author knows everything about her characters. She creates a back story—and if that “she” is J.K. Rowling, she creates minutely detailed charts and maps illustrating each character’s history and quirks.
For the Harry Potter canon, these details are the foundation of Pottermore.
Many of the facts and stories that make Pottermore such a successful digital experience for fans of the series are ones that were never revealed in the novels or the movie franchise. But they aren’t pulled out of the ether, either. Nope, everything in Pottermore is culled from the brain of one Jo Rowling—and they’re details she came up with about two decades ago.
Some Pottermore content is vital to the seven original books and the movies, and some of it isn't. But just because a heap of the info there is extraneous doesn't mean it's useless. All of it informs the stuff the public sees and loves in the Harry Potter universe.
These bonus tidbits add to the stories’ tapestry. They make it richer and deeper, more realistic and thoughtful. With a single Pottermore story, we the readers can finally understand the behavior and actions of a character like Minerva McGonagall. We can appreciate Minerva without her backstory, but we appreciate her more knowing all the details.
Now, let's talk about your brand identity
Many complexities of your brand identity won’t be available to the public. It won’t be explained in gross detail on your about page. But every iota of your brand identity will inform the way you run your business, the content you create, and the customers you serve.
As you focus on all of this extraneous information, you begin to cultivate the ground you’re going to build your business on.
All of your content, all of your services, all of your products, and all of your actions are rooted in this groundwork. Solid footing provides consistency, reassurance, and a document you can check your plans and goals against to make sure that you’re moving forward instead of sideways.
9 brand identity characteristics to explore
What unique properties can you explore as you develop your branding?
Take a look at my top 9:
¶ In all of these areas, there are opportunities to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Like high school, your brand identity is what makes you different. Unlike high school, your brand identity is what makes you the best choice for a very specific segment of the population, rather than merely “that girl over the there.”
Follow me on Pinterest @seebrittwrite to see what it looks like to build your business brand on a social media platform.
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.