What are they? And how do you improve them?

When it comes to improving your brand, the key to success lies in knowing what needs to be fixed. Understanding the subtle differences between brand image, brand identity, and the overall brand can be tricky. But mastering the meaning and purpose for each will make it a lot easier to repair, strengthen, or even create a new brand from the ground up.

 

An illustration of a periodic table of brand elements above chemistry lab equipment

Brand image

This term gets thrown out a lot and has everything to do with how people see your brand. It’s also the most amorphous for two reasons: everyone has an opinion, and those same people include more than your target audience.

You may want your brand to be known for Y, but another person thinks it’s X. You might say your brand has the best deals, but someone else might think it’s cheap. There’s only so much control you can have about how people feel about your brand.

Plus, the people who have an opinion of your brand include more than just your audience. They include your audience’s family, friends, coworkers, employees, the community, and the press. They even include people who have no connection whatsoever to your brand but become exposed to it anyway through your marketing. Your brand image is a combination of all their knowledge, feelings, and opinions, and they are all subject to change.

The best way to improve your brand image is to understand it first. Through market research and internal audits, you can gain a better grasp of where and why your message may not be reaching your audience in the way you intended. Because brand image is so complex, you need to know precisely where the problem areas are before you can fix them.

 

An illustration of a vial containing several brand elements

Brand identity

When you see “the swoosh,” does anything but Nike come to mind? Didn’t think so. Can’t help but hum the buh-da-ba-ba-bah of McDonald’s fame? Figured so. When you see a red soda can, how often do you think of Coca-Cola? Almost always.

While brand image may be amorphous, brand identity is anything but. It’s your logo, your typography, and your color scheme. It’s your packaging, your design style, your tagline, and your jingle. It’s even your photography and your choice of voiceover artist. Your logo may be the most important part, but it is only one part.

The best way to improve your brand identity is to be methodical and consistent. Every choice should be made with clear intent and executed uniformly across all media. And if you change or update your brand identity, that change must be made with the same amount of purpose and consistency.

 

An illustration of a set of Erlenmeyer flasks being combined into one labeled Brand

Brand

All right, you have brand image in one hand and brand identity in the other. Now put them in a box and label it brand — because brand encompasses everything.

Advertising, logo, product features, reviews, rumors, and more — the personality that gets created when you combine everything a company creates for an audience and every way it’s received.

 

“Products are made in a factory, but brands are created in the mind.”

Walter Landor branding pioneer

For better or worse, the strongest brands have a keen understanding of every internal and external factor. It’s what makes them dynamic rather than stagnant, proactive more than reactive, and sought after instead of an afterthought.

Even more, knowing what your brand is, what you want it to be, and how it should act empowers brands to start off strong, grow, stay agile when directions change or complications arise, or start over.

Brand equity

Building a strong brand doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t fret if some of this deciphering process sounds complex, because it is. Yet this corporate self-assessment is a critical part of building invaluable brand equity that achieves ROI.

Boosting name recognition. Establishing positive associations. Building a loyal customer base. It all starts by asking yourself one question: “What should this brand stand for?” Helping clients navigate this question, and developing strategies from the answers, is some of what we do best, and we’d be honored to join your conversation.