December 6, 2021

November 2, 2021

Brand Identity: Dress for Success

Strategy
Brand Execution

December 6, 2021

Brand Identity: Dress for Success

Strategy
Brand Execution
When people think of a brand, they sometimes think of a logo. When they think of brand identity, they almost always think of logo design. But brand identity is so much more.

Brand identity encompasses a variety of elements that communicate your brand strategy. Let’s say you are positioning yourself as a quirky brand that is playful and delightful. What are your brand colors doing to communicate this? How about your voice and tone? What does your physical space feel like? Is it in alignment or does it feel stiff, professional and out of sync with the rest of your brand. A good brand identity aligns with your brand strategy to communicate properly who your business is and what it’s about. A great brand identity goes above and beyond to ensure that every detail of your identity is being taken into consideration in order to create consistency and build a strong connection with your audience.

In this post, we explore many of the elements that make up a brand’s identity and talk about why having a robust identity system is important to a successful brand.

December 6, 2021

Brand Identity: Dress for Success

Strategy
Brand Execution
When people think of a brand, they sometimes think of a logo. When they think of brand identity, they almost always think of logo design. But brand identity is so much more.

Brand identity encompasses a variety of elements that communicate your brand strategy. Let’s say you are positioning yourself as a quirky brand that is playful and delightful. What are your brand colors doing to communicate this? How about your voice and tone? What does your physical space feel like? Is it in alignment or does it feel stiff, professional and out of sync with the rest of your brand. A good brand identity aligns with your brand strategy to communicate properly who your business is and what it’s about. A great brand identity goes above and beyond to ensure that every detail of your identity is being taken into consideration in order to create consistency and build a strong connection with your audience.

In this post, we explore many of the elements that make up a brand’s identity and talk about why having a robust identity system is important to a successful brand.

What is Brand Identity?

Brand identity is what brings businesses to life. Think about the way that you present yourself to the world. The way you speak. The clothes you wear. Your haircut. Your sense of humor. All these things add up to give people a certain perception of who you are. Applying this to business, that’s brand identity. It is what people can see, hear and touch that shapes their perception of a company. 

In addition to communicating the personality of a business, brand identity transforms big, intangible ideas into something accessible. Let’s say that during brand strategy, you identify that you want your brand to feel polished and sophisticated. Think about those words. What images come to mind? Now, let’s say you want to position your brand as playful or sporty. What visuals come to mind now? They are probably very different from the ones you thought of for “polished” and “sophisticated.” This exercise is a very simplified way to conceptualize how we create a brand identity based on strategy. The process of creating a brand identity requires strategic thinking, design excellence, patience, an ability to clarify complex concepts and a little magic. 

When we talk about brand identity, we are talking about many elements that communicate who that brand is, what they stand for and what they are trying to solve for their customers. Let’s look at some of the elements that make up a brand’s identity. This list is not comprehensive. You don’t need all of these elements to have a successful brand identity. You also may have more or different elements that don’t appear on this list. But by the time you finish reading, you should have a good idea of what goes into a brand’s identity.

Name

A name is the visual and verbal cornerstone of your company. Names are spoken, written down and passed from person to person as your business grows. 

A chosen name should be distinct from a company’s competition and available for things like website addresses and social media handles. It should position a company for growth, change and success. Names that are extremely specific or limiting are ones that companies tend to grow out of quickly.

That said, there is no perfect name that you’ll know when you hear it. Names take on meaning over time. Think of names like Google or Netflix or Bluetooth: without the context behind each, these names have very little meaning. Like other pieces of identity, names absorb meaning over time. If you choose a name that is made-up, ask yourself if it has the capacity to take on meaning and absorb what your brand stands for.  

Focus on crafting a name that aligns with your brand strategy, and over time, it will take on meaning and grow into itself. While there’s no exact formula to choosing a name, we have developed a process that has generated successful names for several of our clients. If you’re going at it alone, ask yourself if the name you are considering is in step with your strategy. Does it convey what you want it to? 

Tagline

A tagline is a short phrase that captures the big idea and personality of a brand and distinguishes it from its competitors. It distills the essence of the brand into a single short phrase. Taglines can provide clarity, entertainment or emphasis to help highlight a brand’s mission, purpose or culture. It should appear anytime you have a reasonable amount of time or room. A good tagline is simple, easy to say and to the point. 

We tend to put taglines into one of three categories:

A battle cry or brand anthem is an energizing or empowering statement that is related to the brand. Think Nike’s “Just do it.”
A descriptive or explanatory tagline is a simple statement that provides more information about what the brand is or does. Disneyland lets you know that it is the “Happiest place on earth.” BMW is the “Ultimate driving machine.” 
A key benefit tagline tells the customer what the value is for them to engage with your brand. Casper mattress lets you know the benefit of purchasing one of its mattresses in its tagline, “The best bed for better sleep.”

The tagline that is crafted for your business should be intentional. It should hit on a core attribute that is unlikely to change as your business grows. Like names, great taglines position your brand for growth, change and success. 

Messaging

Messaging is any written or verbal communication from your brand. Brands should speak with one distinctive voice and personality, no matter the platform. Effective messaging retains the voice, tone and personality of your brand. Doing so will strengthen your brand through consistency. 

Messaging can be a very impactful tool: it can delight us, surprise us, invite us in, build trust and even urge us to act. In order to have this sort of impact, it’s important that your audience knows what to expect when they hear from you. Start by developing a clear voice that is memorable, identifiable, aligned with your strategy and accessible to your audience. Then, live this out across every touchpoint. 

Voice and Tone

Voice and tone work together to anchor your brand messaging. These are two things you can always measure your communications against to make sure they feel on-brand.

Defining voice and tone begins during the brand strategy phase by first identifying the personality of the brand, its audience and goals. To begin identifying voice and tone, it helps to think of voice as an instrument and the tone as how that instrument is played. For example, a saxophone can be played either jazzy or sultry.

Your voice and tone should shine through whether you are answering the phone, posting on social media or putting up a billboard. Diligence in voice and tone usage will result in consistency, which continuously builds your brand and helps you to own a particular place in people’s minds.Brands sometimes focus on external messaging but forget to equip employees with the tools they need to authentically carry out a brand’s messaging. Take the time to align internal culture with external messaging. It will go a long way in building consistency for your brand. Consider it a long-term investment across every level of your company. 

Logo

A logo is a symbol that represents your brand. Like taglines, the best logos are deceptively simple. They often contain an idea that speaks to a key attribute of the brand, distilled into a single mark. Logos are shaped by both design and time. They become recognizable through repeated exposure, and, like names, they absorb brand attributes. The purpose in logo design is not to tell the whole story of your brand: logos don’t exist in isolation. They are always supported by other elements of your brand identity. It is more important that a logo is easy to remember, recognizable and scalable. They should have a distinct visual form, but should be relatable enough to make sense within their market.

Wordmarks are freestanding acronyms, company names and product names. There is no accompanying icon in this type of logo. Instead, the letters are designed to convey meaning in a unique way. The swooping lines of the Tanglewood logo add whimsy to its name.


Letterform logos use one or more letterforms from the company name and make them into a recognizable symbol. They can be abstract or more literal. 18 Land Company’s logo is a lockup of the “L,” “C” and “18” in its name to create unique mark. 


Emblems logos link the company name with a pictorial element, so they become inseparable. At its most minimal, this looks like the company name contained within an abstract shape. Hachi’s logo borrows from the visual language of Japanese street food vendors for a seemingly simple emblem that’s packed with a lot of information.  


Pictorial logo marks are a recognizable, literal image that has been simplified and stylized. An ox may seem like an interesting logo choice for a plant-based restaurant, but the Farmacy ox is happy, smiling and satisfied, letting people know that plant-based eating can be filling and delicious.  

Abstract or symbolic logo marks use an abstract symbol to convey a big idea. These marks allow for many different interpretations. One Valley’s logo is a symbolic flock of birds flying together, representing the unifying nature of the non-profit across many causes and geographic locations in Gallatin Valley.  


No matter the type, a logo becomes recognizable through repeated exposure. Over time, it will become associated with essential, intangible characteristics of your brand and will contain more meaning than the shape alone.


Color

Colors can say a lot about a brand. Blue communicates trust. Orange is enthusiastic. Black feels luxurious. Our brains register color faster than form. Because of this, color can be a powerful tool to build brand recognition and differentiate from competitors. Colors are used to evoke emotion and express personality. Designers combine color theory and brand strategy to determine what colors should be used within a brand identity.

Color palettes are developed to support a broad range of communications needs. Often, brands will have a primary color (think red for Coca Cola and green for Starbucks) that allows for immediate recognition, as well as a harmonious supporting palette that works with the primary color to form a more flexible system across a wide range of applications.

One of the most important considerations with color is distinctiveness in your market. Pay attention to the colors you associate with your competitors. Owning a color within your industry allows for stronger recognition.

Typography

Typography is a core building block of brand identity. Your brand’s typographic system is present in any written communication for your brand. Just like messaging, clarity and legibility are as essential as personality. It’s almost impossible to have a consistent company image without a typographic system that has been intentionally chosen to convey the unique personality of your company. 

Any good type system needs to be flexible, easy to use and provide a wide range of expression at any scale. It should be compatible with your logo and feel distinct from your competitors. In addition to conveying personality, typography can provide a clear hierarchy of information that lets customers know what elements are most important. 

To see how typography is used to communicate a brand’s strategy through identity, take a look at these two very different typographic systems. 

Imagery

Branded imagery is an important part of the look and feel of your brand. It should have a consistent style that aligns with the strategy and personality of your brand. This is true for photography, videography, illustration, pattern and iconography. Whether your brand uses one of these elements or all of them, consistency is key.

For consistent brand photography and videography, consider some of the following questions. Is it shot outside, in a studio, or both? Is the background colorful, natural or neutral? If you’re using models, are they energetic, casual, jubilant? Is the color tone of the photo warm, cool or monochromatic? 

Build in some flexibility within your system, but define an overarching look and feel for your photography, whether it exists in a website or as part of a social media campaign. This kind of consistency goes a long way in building trust and shifting customer perception. Photography can be inspirational, delicious, fun, engaging and so much more. 


Bridger Brewing communicates a lot about its brand through its photography. Through its outdoor photography, which features people hiking, fishing and visiting around a campfire, it communicates its dedication to enjoying and sharing experiences in the Montana outdoors. Interior shots focus on people sharing food, drink and lively conversation, creating a vibe that is laid back, engaged and community minded. Not every picture features someone holding a beer, but all photos do show the lifestyle that Bridger Brewing embraces, a hard-working, adventure-seeking engaged community of people who come together to enjoy delicious food and bold beers.

Illustrations can add clarity to complex concepts. Choose colors that are in-line with your brand’s color palette and develop a consistent style that feels like a natural extension of your brand’s personality. For Security Title Company’s website, we used hand-drawn illustrations to make complex information about title insurance and escrow more digestible.


Patterns can bring depth and texture. They often use recognizable elements from the brand identity to reinforce the brand. Patterns are particularly useful for businesses with physical goods, like restaurants. They can be purely illustrative, text-based or anything in between. The Foxtrot pattern helps to communicate the care that is put into the food as well as the retro diner vibe of this fast-casual restaurant.


Icons provide visual cues to suggest functionality and add interest to blocks of text. Iconography often borrows from the language of other brand assets: typography, illustration or style found within a company’s logo. Great icons are simple in form, easily understood and feel visually consistent with other pieces of your brand identity. 

Sensory Experiences

We’ve talked a lot about visual identity, but brand identity can be so much more of an experience. Whether it’s the selection of a spokesperson, the music chosen for a branded video or the candle being lit in a retail environment, it’s important to consider the impact that sound, smell and other experiences have on the perception of a brand.

Think about restaurants. The ambience of a restaurant is often as important as the food. What’s the temperature? Is there a fire lit in the fireplace? Is the lighting dim or bright? What kind of music is playing? Is it soft or loud? What else do you notice? 

These branded elements, like other identity pieces, should be intentional and in-line with the brand strategy. Incorporating sensory experiences into a brand’s identity can be an effective way to extend the brand and build consistency. Consider the mood that you are creating, whether intentionally or not by all of the decisions you are making, and ask whether they strengthen or weaken your brand.

If you’ve ever been to Nordic Brew Works on Bozeman’s West Side, you have probably noticed the fire burning in the fireplace, the large wall art and the wood-fired pizza oven. There are also less obvious elements, like the sound dampening panels on the ceiling. All of these things come together to create an experience that carefully balances elements of warmth and coolness and is unique to Nordic.

Creating a Unified System

Brand identity unifies all of these elements into a complete system. Each piece has an important role to play to reinforce the essence and personality of your brand. Like company culture, identity is a long-term commitment that requires maintenance and upkeep, but it allows brands to connect with their customers, build trust, gain recognition and stand out in their market. 

All in all, your brand identity is a precious asset that strategically shapes perception of your brand, impacts customer behavior and has a lasting effect on performance.

At Hardy, we structure all of our brand work on a scaffolding system. Identity is dictated by strategy. Once an identity system has been created, a business or organization has the tools it needs to move into brand execution, which is, in turn, influenced by the previous steps of the branding process.

If you would like to learn more about branding your business for success, we would love to hear from you. Reach out to us.

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We’re always eager to talk branding with interested business owners.

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About Us

Like our work, the Hardy Brands branding & design agency team is an embodiment of the perfect balance of strategy and creative. We’ve cultivated a team of certified brand specialists and strategists, designers, copywriters and marketing professionals who are ferocious about helping you succeed. We’re a Montana marketing agency that will constantly strive to improve your business.

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Our Work

As a branding, marketing and design agency, we partner with all types of businesses, from restaurants and breweries to building and real estate professionals, nonprofits to accountants and many others. Get a better idea of who we are and what we do by visiting our Work page.

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