Strong brand identity can be the secret weapon for young brands

A lot has been said about the importance of a brand identity. Organisations, across industries, understand the value of ‘brand building’ and having a distinct brand identity. Multinational brands keep aside a huge budget every year to ensure they roll out initiatives with the intent to enhance brand equity or build brand identity for the company or a specific product.

While this is an obvious requirement for big companies, it is the young brands (startups) that may or may not focus on building a strong brand identity. While some Founders may be smart enough to focus on brand building from early days, there could be others who would believe that if their product is great, the customers will follow.

What is brand identity

So, first and foremost, it is important to understand the concept of ‘brand identity’. Brand identity and brand are generally used interchangeably, causing ‘brand identity’ to be usually misunderstood.

Brand identity is about the visual and verbal expression of a brand. It is about using visual cues to highlight the positive qualities about the brand. For example, a clean cut, modern identity can be representative of a company’s ability to communicate with clarity and detailing.

It is inclusive of a number of elements- including brand name, logo, tagline, color palette, typography, graphic elements, imagery and voice. There are a number of frameworks available to define the brand identity of a company. There is the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism that is a combination of the following elements: physique, personality, culture, relationship, reflection, and self-image. This is a simple and easy framework and widely used by startups and young brands. Also, it helps them get a view from the receiver’s end as well.

Another approach is the brand identity canvas by Jeff Whitlock. It is more detailed and allows the brand vision and mission definition. It covers a lot- brand essence, characteristics, voice, messaging, stories and visual colors, and hence, may not be the first choice of young brands.

Brands with high-impact brand identity

Take the example of Coca Cola. The brand has a distinct identity-one that cuts across geographies, languages and cultures. The color red is associated with Coca Cola as much as blue is associated with Pepsi. Red signifies confidence. The typeface is soft and joyful, bringing a feeling of enjoyment. Coca Cola has continued to invest in brand identity over the last very many years.

Another classic example is that of Apple. Apple’s brand identity is around sophistication, minimalism and simplicity. Apple users feel connected and enhanced by the brand, and believe the brand helps them deliver their best.

One of the key benefits of having a well-defined brand identity is that the brand can connect to customers- across cultures, cities and languages. A Coca Cola customer can connect with the brand or its product, in India, the USA, or even in Japan. The language is not a barrier as the connect is with the look and feel of the brand.

Startups can leverage brand identity

Brand identity is a secret tool for startups and not something that should be parked for a time when the brand is established. It can help craft a differentiated positioning for a brand and help it to stand out against competition. It is brand identity that can really help a young brand break through the clutter and make a mark even if it is playing in a segment dominated by global behemoths, from its early days.

There are quite a few advantages of brand identity for startups. Sharing a few here.

Creates trust and boosts credibility

Brand identity helps to boost the credibility of a young brand. If you are a new brand, customers will either be wary of trying your products, or may not notice them at all when they are the store shelfs. When a newly launched/ young brand invests in building a brand identity, it creates a perception that it is there for the long haul and is not a fly by night venture. Also, the unique brand identity makes it catchy. In the Indian market today, there are quite a few brands across categories who have invested in brand identity early and reaped benefits of the same. From new age gadget brands like Boat, to apparel brands like Fable Street and Fab Alley, as well as personal care brands like The Man Company, and Plum, there are numerous examples of how startups have carved a niche positioning for themselves, fueled by a unique brand identity. This, in turn, has led customers to trust these young brands.

Improves brand recognition and recall

In today’s digital world when customers spend hours on social media every day, a unique brand identity helps brands break through the usual and build a visual connect with their target customers, online as well as offline. A young brand with a defined brand identity can get a headstart when it comes to brand awareness, recognition and finally, brand recall. This, also helps drive customer interest and in turn, influence purchase decisions in a positive manner.

Builds brand equity

Startups are most concerned about building fast and enhancing their valuations. Terms like GMV, TPV, user base, active user base etc. are a part of majority of the leadership conversations in startups. As young startups strive to up their game, attract more business and investors, as well as retain existing customers, a defined brand identity comes in handy. It conveys stability and reiterates the fact that the company is here to stay, thereby enhancing the overall brand equity.

Inspires employees

For a young startup, keeping the team aligned and inspired is a key goal. Employees, that are in sync with the brand vision and mission, can help fast track growth for a young brand. Startups that invest in brand identity are able to keep the enthusiasm levels of their employees much higher and also ensure lower attrition rates. Additionally, they boast of a much higher connect with the employees would can sell the companies’ vision and products more passionately.

Communicates personal pride

Companies that invest in brand identity are seen as the ones who take pride in their business and what they are building. It also shows their commitment to success. This, in turn, percolates to customers and employees. It makes customers believe that a company has higher chances of delivering as per promises made, thereby creating brand loyalty and trust with every customer interaction.

It won’t be wrong to say that startups should follow the mantra- Think It, Build it and Brand it! Irrespective of the business that they might be into, it is recommended that startups invest early in defining their brand identity, in sync with the brand ethos. This can go a long way in helping to build brand credibility and attracting the right kind of talent as well as partners, in addition to customers. Also, a young brand can reap the benefits of a defined brand identity for decades, and across multiple locations.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha heads PR and Communication at BharatPe. She has over 15 years of experience in working across global/digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains.

In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 30 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands. She has been associated with brands like Pine Labs, MobiKwik, VLCC and Power2SME and spearheaded their PR/brand/communication campaigns.

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