How to Build a Brand Identity For Your Business

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So you’ve decided to start your own business. You know what you’re going to sell and to whom. Perhaps you already have a website, or a physical storefront.

But what, exactly, makes your brand unique in the eyes of your customers? 

What makes your brand instantly identifiable?

The answer, of course, is brand identity. A strong brand identity is more than just a public image. It also represents your voice, your values, and the relationship you want to build with your customers. 

What Is Brand Identity?

At its core, a successful brand identity is an expression of everything your brand stands for, including:

  • Your values or mission statement
  • Your products and services
  • Your brand voice, including personality, tone and style
  • Your ideal relationship with your customers

Your brand identity takes these four foundational elements, and distills them into one cohesive image. This image is the public face of your business. It includes your business name, logo, and other design elements like font and color palate. 

By using it effectively, your brand identity can help differentiate your business from the competition and build a relationship with your future customers. 

Why Is Brand Identity Important?

Building brand identity is a key component of any strong brand strategy. Why? Because it helps customers identify, understand, and remember you. In other words, whenever they see your unique logo, aesthetic, or messaging, they’ll be able to tell that it’s you at a glance. 

And if your target customers can easily identify you, they’re already one step closer to identifying with you. Which is exactly what you want.

Why does this matter?

Because people don’t make purchasing decisions in a vacuum. Instead, the products and brands they buy are often a reflection of their own personal identity. 

So the more effectively you communicate who you are, the easier it is for your customers to discover that your brand represents their preferences and values best. And once they discover that, they’re more likely to buy.

Not convinced? Let’s explore a few real-life examples of brands who do this well.

Brand Identity Examples

Patagonia logo

Patagonia’s values are at the center of its branding. From the name to the colors to the logo, everything reflects what the company sells and stands for:

  • Name: References the Patagonia region in Chile and Argentina, famous for its stunning untouched landscapes
  • Colors: Saturated blue, orange, and purple, to evoke a sunset, a picturesque outdoor experience
  • Design: A mountain range, referencing Patagonia’s outdoorsy products, and the Andes mountains that inspired the brand

So why does this work? 

Because it reflects not only the company’s products but also its core values—experiencing and protecting the environment—it appeals to customers who share these interests, or who aspire to that lifestyle.

Another clothing company, meanwhile, leans into the history and ubiquity of its brand.

Levi's logo

The shape of Levi’s logo—referred to as a “batwing”–evokes the familiar design of its most famous product: jeans. Specifically, it mirrors the shape of the stitching on the back pocket. This creates an immediate connection, calling to the viewer’s mind a product they’re likely familiar with.

The minimalist design also makes it easy to identify and replicate, whether it’s printed on merchandise, or in lights over a stadium during the Superbowl. 

Levi's stadium sign

Finally, the red color calls out to the famous (and frequently imitated) red tags stitched into Levi’s jeans.

Why does it work?

Because the company’s primary product—jeans—is already so entrenched in customers’ lifestyles, the easily recognizable branding helps to position Levi’s as the iconic, authentic source by which other competing brands are inspired.

But you don’t need a long and storied history for straightforward, product-oriented branding to work. Just look at Shake Shack.

Shake Shack’s simple, graphic design leaves nothing to the imagination. What does the name tell you? That they sell shakes, and that it’s casual. What does the logo tell you? That they sell burgers. It’s as simple as that.

So why does it work?

The simple yet bold branding is easy to recognize and understand—a boon for a fast casual restaurant, where customers want quick and efficient service. It’s also easy to replicate in different ways—from neon lights to product packaging, menu design, and even merchandise. Best of all, it’s easy to tweak and expand upon as the business evolves.

Shake Shack logo
Shake Shack icons: burger, ice cream, fries, etc.

How to Develop Brand Identity in 5 Easy Steps

To build a great brand, you’ve got to create a compelling brand identity. One that reflects your mission and values, and resonates with your audience. 

Below, we’ll show you how to create branding for your business in five simple steps:

  1. Define your business
  2. Know your market
  3. Design your logo, colors, and aesthetic
  4. Gather feedback and adjust
  5. Incorporate branding into your assets

As you complete each step, remember your ultimate goal: to create a brand identity that’s true to your business. This can require careful consideration, so don’t be afraid to take your time. 

Step 1. Define Your Business

The best branding is a reflection of who you are as a business, so before moving forward, take some time to consider what that means. 

It may seem obvious, but first, start with the basics: 

  • What’s my business’s name?
  • What’s my industry?
  • What products or services do I sell?
  • Am I selling to individuals or businesses?
  • Am I selling my products or services in person or online?

Chances are, you already know the answers to these questions. If you’re unsure of anything, make sure you figure it out now.

Next, take a deeper dive. Ask yourself: 

  • What inspired me to start my business? Is that source of inspiration important to my brand’s values or identity?
  • What inspired my brand’s name? What do I want it to represent to my customers?
  • What value does my product or service bring to my customers’ lives? To my community?
  • Are my products a necessity, a convenience, or a luxury? 
  • Why do people want to buy my product or service? 
  • Are any important beliefs, values, or causes central to my brand’s mission? (For example, Patagonia’s dedication to the environment)

Once you’ve answered these questions, identify which ones are most relevant. In other words, what do you want to communicate to your audience the most? Which ones differentiate you from the competition?

At this point, it may also be helpful to create your brand’s story. Then use this information to guide your logo design and other aesthetic choices.

Next, consider developing a slogan for your brand that captures all of this in only a few words. This is optional, but a memorable slogan may be useful in guiding your brand’s messaging. That’s because they put your products or values front and center.

Here are a few examples of famous slogans to inspire you: 

  • McDonalds: I’m lovin’ it
  • L’Oreal: Because you’re worth it
  • Nike: Just do it
  • Subway: Eat fresh

Stumped on the perfect slogan? Don’t stress. You can always come back to this later.

Pro tip: As you brainstorm, if any details bring to mind strong imagery, colors, or symbols, make a note. It will be useful in step three.

Step 2. Know Your Market

Now that you’ve articulated your business’s identity, make sure you also know who you’re marketing to.

Start simple. Are you selling products to other businesses, or to individual consumers?

If you’re selling to a business, then you’ll also need to understand more about which businesses or departments are likely to use your product or service, and who is likely to make purchase decisions.

If you’re selling to individual consumers, demographic information and audience preferences will be more important. 

Semrush’s Market Explorer tool (part of .Trends) can help you understand your audience demographics. It shows your market’s age and gender breakdown, preferred social media platform, and even your audience’s top interests.

To use it, enter a business that’s similar to the one you’re starting. For this example, let’s say you want to sell used books online, so you enter thriftbooks.com. 

Entering thriftbooks.com shows audience age and sex, interests, and social media preferences.

Here, you’ll learn that Thriftbooks.com has a relatively even male to female ratio, and that its largest age group is 25-34, with 18-24 year olds following close behind. What’s more, its audience tends to be passionate about topics like climate change and the environment.

What does this mean for you? For one, you probably want branding that appeals to a Gen Z and Millennial demographic. You can also emphasize the environmental impact of buying used books in your branding—provided, of course, that this is something your business actually supports.

Next, make a list of your biggest competitors, and take a moment to research each one. What do their logos look like? Font and color choices? Do the most successful businesses have any branding elements in common?

All of this can help you home in on what types of logos and branding resonate with your audience—and how yours can stand out.

Step 3. Design Your Logo, Colors, & Aesthetic

Now it’s time for the most exciting step: design. 

“Wait,” you’re saying. “But I’m a small business owner, not a graphic designer!” 

Don’t worry. With a tool like Looka, which uses AI to generate designs automatically, you can design your branding in just a few clicks, all with the help of AI, without the expense of hiring an agency or freelance designer. 

Here’s how it works. 

First, choose a few sample logos for design inspiration. Try to pick some with an aesthetic you like, but which also match the vibe of your business.

6 sample logo options

Next, select the colors you want to use. While you can just pick your favorites, it’s a good idea to choose colors that align with the message you want to send. For example, our environmentally friendly used book company might want relaxing, natural colors like blue, green, teal, or gray.

List of color options

Next, enter your business’s name and slogan, if you have one. 

Blank spaces to enter company name and slogan

Then choose symbols, like a book for our example, to represent your brand. These should have some relationship with: 

  • Your company name
  • Your company values
  • Your products or services
  • Your business’s overall personality

Finally, select a few symbols that represent your brand well. In this example, we picked two stacks of books, two trees, and a leaf. 

Then, the tool will use all of your selections to generate logo designs. Choose the one you like best, and customize it as much as you need to. 

List of sample symbols
6 logo options to customize

Your final color palate, logo, and font choices should be repurposed throughout your brand. Use it to guide your site design, product packaging, marketing collateral, social media, and more. 

Step 4. Gather Feedback & Adjust

By now, you’ve created a logo you love, which you think represents your business well. Great job! But the work isn’t done. Before you finalize, take some time to gather feedback from people you trust. Consider asking: 

  • Family and friends
  • Peers (e.g., other business owners in your community)
  • Employees
  • People with diverse backgrounds and abilities (for example, can your materials be read and understood easily by those with color blindness or other visual impairments? Are there any unexpected implications of your design for people from another culture?)

Collecting effective feedback can be challenging, especially if your reviewers aren’t accustomed to giving it. It may be helpful to guide them with questions, and to remind them that there are no wrong answers.

You could ask: 

  • Is this logo easy to read and understand? If not, which aspects were the most difficult for you to interpret?
  • When you see this logo, what kind of business do you imagine? What types of products do they sell, and what is the atmosphere like?
  • Who do you think is the target customer, based on this logo?
  • Does this logo make you want to visit this business, or buy their products? If not, what could be changed to improve it?
  • Do you like this logo? What could make it better?

Once you’ve gathered enough feedback about your designs, go back and make any necessary changes. (For example, you could change the colors and fonts to make it more reader-friendly.)

Repeat this process as many times as you need, until you’re happy with your branding.

Step 5. Develop Brand Guidelines & Incorporate Branding into Assets

So far, you’ve defined your brand, researched your audience, created a logo, and gathered and applied design feedback.

Now, it’s time to finalize your brand identity by developing brand guidelines, and incorporating your branding into all of your assets. 

Brand guidelines tell your team how to use your branding correctly, along with examples of what that looks like. This often includes:

  • Information about your brand’s story, values and messaging
  • All acceptable versions of your logo (for example, in different sizes and colors)
  • The correct fonts to use in different contexts
  • Your brand color palette, usually including hex, RGB, or CMYK codes
  • Letterhead and presentation guidelines and templates

A helpful tip: Brand guidelines should be considered a “living” document. As you encounter different scenarios and as your brand evolves, you may need to add to it or revise to stay up to date.

Once you’re happy with your brand guidelines, it’s time for the best part: putting it all into action. At long last, you’ll see your beautiful branding at work!

But first, you’ll need to incorporate it into all of your assets. This includes: 

  • Website design
  • Social media profiles
  • Marketing collateral (e.g., posters, brochures, letterhead, business cards, presentation templates)
  • Product packaging
  • Signage and other decor (especially if you have a local storefront)

If you’ve chosen to use a service like Looka, you can accomplish a lot of this quickly with a brand kit, which includes many of the digital assets you’re likely to need, including a brand guidelines template.

However, if you designed your logo yourself, or if you simply want to do it yourself, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Always apply your branding consistently, in compliance with your brand guidelines 
  • Always consider accessibility and user friendliness (for example, don’t make your website more difficult to use just because it emphasizes your logo better)
  • Always be open to feedback and improvement

Now, your brand has a distinct identity your customers can recognize, understand, and empathize with. Moving forward, be consistent and stay true to your brand—but don’t be afraid to grow. Keep monitoring and testing new ideas, so that your brand identity can grow along with your business.

Set Yourself Up for Success with a Compelling Brand Identity

Memorable branding is more than just a logo. It’s an identity, with a strong point of view that customers can connect with. Each of your design choices should show the world who you really are.

Don’t let your design skills (or lack thereof) hold you back from building a brand you love. Instead, use a tool like Looka to design your branding quickly and easily, no graphic design degree required.

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