September 26, 2018

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.” – Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks

Every brand has a ‘personality’ – the positive and unique feelings an organisation wants customers to associate with its products and services. It is how the brand wants to be perceived in the market, both internally and externally, reflecting the organisation’s values and overall business objectives. In this article, you will learn about an organisation’s ‘brand identity’, why it is important, and how to establish a brand identity from scratch.

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As you develop and implement your organisation’s content marketing strategy, you must ensure that all content reflects your brand identity.

Your content should be consistent across all forms of communications and includes:

 – Organisation or brand name
– Logo
– Taglines / catchphrases
– Brand voice and tone
– Imagery
– Colour(s)
– Fonts and font sizes
– Sounds

The brand identity is typically presented in a single document, and is also known as the ‘brand identity guidelines’. Most organisations will already have an established brand identity which can be used for creating content – however in some cases the brand identity will not have been updated in some time. If your brand identity needs refreshing, ensure it is adapted for social media. If your organisation doesn’t have a set brand identity, you will need to develop it from the ground up. Whatever your organisation’s situation, being able to develop a brand identity is a strong skill for any social media marketer to possess.

Brand Voice and Tone 

Posting content and developing a ‘presence’ on social media is relatively straightforward. The key challenge is to ensure that this presence stimulates engagement with the community that you want to reach. This means that you need to have a distinctive voice, i.e. an expression of the people behind the brand. This voice sets the brand apart from its competitors, helps build trust, and can ultimately be used to influence and persuade purchasing decisions.

It is important to distinguish between a brand’s voice and its ‘tone’. A brand’s voice is the personality that is consistent from day to day. It is usually described as an adjective: for example, lively, positive, jovial, friendly, professional or casual. The voice represents your organisation’s mission statement and summarises a customer’s experience when interacting with the brand.

Tone is a subset of the brand voice and is the feeling conveyed through the messaging. Whereas the voice remains constant and consistent, the tone will vary depending on the content, social media networks, and/or situation. On Facebook your tone may be relaxed and casual, whilst on LinkedIn it may be professional and formal.

When you are developing your brand’s voice and tone, it is important to retain ‘human’ elements. A voice or tone that is clearly designed to invoke a sale can lead followers to feel a sense of dehumanisation towards the brand, both online and offline. Put another way, if consumers perceive a brand to be lacking human emotions, they will not trust the messages being conveyed, and will find it difficult to purchase the company’s products.

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Brand Identity Interview Guide 

It is a good idea to engage major stakeholders to ensure that the brand identity is aligned to your organisation’s business and marketing objectives, core values, and desired perception in the market. If you are refreshing your brand identity, review the business and marketing objectives that you have defined in Chapter 3 and make sure that this updated brand identity is in line with these objectives.

The brand identity interview guide is designed to generate contribution from your stakeholders and provides useful input into the final brand identity. Information collected can include the type of logos, imagery, catch phrases, font styles, etc., which most accurately encapsulate the brand.

Stakeholder Brand Identity Interview Guide:

a) Aside from generating a profit, why does the organisation exist? What is the organisation committed to achieving?
b) What value do the organisation’s products/services provide to their customers?
c) What additional value does the organisation deliver aside from its products/services?
d) Which five words best describe the brand? Why?
e) What sets the organisation apart from its competitors? What is the unique selling point?
f) What imagery best encapsulates the brand? Why?
g) What kind of experience should customers have when interacting with the brand?
h) What does the brand not represent?
i) Using the diagram below for assistance, list terms that describe the brand.

Screen Shot 2018-09-26 at 3.06.25 PM

Brand Identity Brief


Once you have identified your brand’s tone and voice, and input has been gathered from your key stakeholders, the next step is to create a Brand Identity Brief – this is a summary of the research that you have conducted. The Brand Identity Brief will then be and provided to a creative agency, or internal resources, to develop the brand identity document.

One of the key elements of your brand identity will be the company logo, which must differentiate the business, capture the attention of the audience, and reflect the business’ core values and reason for existence. It is often the first touch point for customers, and must be different and memorable, harnessing a unique edge that separates the brand from its competitors. To create the logo, your creative team requires as much information about the organisation as possible, along with logo ideas (such as shapes, colours, fonts, etc.).

Another key element of your brand identity is the overall look and feel of your website’s homepage. Websites are usually the first source of information for the general public to discover more about a business. The design must accurately reflect your brand, as well as prominently displaying your company logo, and follow agreed brand elements (such as imagery and language).

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The brand identity brief template on the content download can be used for an entirely new organisation or an existing organisation, wanting to revamp its brand identity.

Once your brand identity brief is complete, this should be turned into a single, professional document that serves as your brand guidelines and can be used to inform anyone creating content or marketing materials for your organisation. If you have the resources internally to do this, then you should pass the brief along to the relevant team. Otherwise, source an external creative agency who can turn this brief into a single brand identity document for you.

When you are sourcing an external company to do this, consider their portfolio of past projects, as it is usually beneficial to work with a company or agency that has a similar vision, and has produced work that you admire.

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About the author 

Daniele Tanner

Daniele Tanner is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Social Media College, the leading educator for social media marketing.

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