Brand identity explained: what it is and why it’s important for SMEs

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When you buy a product, you often do so because you recognise the brand. All you need to see is that colour or logo to instantly recognise the manufacturer or product line.

A brand graphically identifies the company or a range of products made by that company: Mulino Bianco, for example, is a brand that identifies products made by Barilla. What we know about that brand influences our choices and, therefore, our purchases: it defines how we spend our money.

Brand identity design by FutureBrand for Barilla – source: http://www.creativebrief.com
Brand identity design by FutureBrand for Barilla – source: http://www.creativebrief.com

Even in the world of services,  the same thing happens: we call a plumber because we trust him and know his name or that of his firm (which is a brand too).

Sometimes we don’t know him, but have often seen his name around (on an advertisement, for example), which is why he easily comes to mind and we call him.

When you decide to use a printing service, the process is the same.

You have a perception of this or that company, service or brand that you build gradually: partly based on your past experiences and, probably, mostly based on what you have found by looking for information, or based on what advertising has told you.

Until about 15 years ago, brand perception was very much built through advertising, especially on TV. Recently, the information available to consumers and users has completely changed thanks to the Internet, and  brand perception is also built through searches for information on Google,  reviews on specific sites or e-commerce platforms, and through the experiences shared by others on blogs and social media.

Brand identity for ENI – source: www.eni.com

This is how brand image is formed.

Living within this information chaos, companies, whether large or small, understand that they have to be able to control as far as possible their image and reputation. A video or a company brochure are no longer enough to tell people how good a company is; firms need to know how to manage information (whether biased or neutral) that users search for online.

This image, as it is created by the company itself, is called brand identity.

Freelancers, on the other hand, must manage their own identity through personal branding (as we began to explain in this article).

So it’s very important that a company or freelancer is able to build and establish their own brand identity, because people will in any case construct their own personal idea about the company or freelancer (the above-mentioned brand image). And so it’s fundamental to know how to present the appropriate information, stories and images to convey the desired message to customers. That’s why the majority of communication advice focuses on aligning the perception that people have of a brand and the image conveyed by the same company to people. The further people’s perception is from the desired brand identity, the harder the company will have to work to close this gap.

What is a brand, then?

Seth Godin, a famous marketing guru, defines a “brand” as follows: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”. And, to avoid any doubts, he adds: “Design is essential but design does not make the brand.

So what we call a brand (and which at times we confuse with the trademark or logo) is a broad concept that is tied up with the hard-to-measure world of  emotions and perceptions.

We’ve explained why brand identity is fundamental even for SMEs. In the next article, we’ll give you five simple tips for building a better brand.

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