Why your business needs a deep + detailed brand identity
Oct. 24, 2016
What do you want your business to be? What do you want people to see your business as? Whatever the answers to those two questions are, you’ll find them in a brand identity plan.
A brand identity is how you want other people—competitors, clients, and customers—to think about you.
A brand identity is how you want other people--competitors, clients, customers--to think about you.
It’s 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.
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.
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.
Your business' brand identity includes:
The words you use to describe yourself as a professional running your own business
The type of experiences you want customers to have when they interact with you
The kind of work you want to become known for in your field and among your peers
The values you promote in your business
The tone you adopt when you talk about anything, in person and online
The themes you focus on in your written and visual content
The way you describe your target audience
The characteristics that set you apart from your competition
The industry jargon you use (or choose not to use)
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.”
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.
All 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.
Nothing in Pottermore is vital to the seven original books, or the movies, for that matter. It’s all extraneous information—it’s more.
Yet all of those bonus tidbits add to the stories’ tapestry. They make it richer and deeper, more realistic and thoughtful. With a single Pottermore story, we the reader 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.
The same is true of your brand identity.
The complexities of this 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.
Your brand identity is private. It’s for you, just like your business plan.
If your mission statement is your big reason why, then your brand identity is all the supporting information.
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.