brand identity

The Full Guide To Brand Identity, Personality, And Guidelines

The brand identity was always important but this year, brand identity became the crucial choice factor. Users are curious where brands stand on important social issues and how they see the world. More than ever, they are influenced by brand personalities and understand that with every dollar, they support a certain mission. 

Statistics on branding say the same thing:

  • For more than 31% of Americans buying from a trustworthy brand is a priority. If a company is seen as irresponsible, it was boycotted by 40% of Americans, who participated in the survey. 
  • 86% of customers are looking for transparent and honest communication from brands on social media. Visual, texts, highlighted topics – all these factors contribute to creating a unique brand personality. 
  • 65% of respondents said that they were able to establish an emotional link with a brand. This, again, highly depends on brand identity and personality. 

Brand personality and identity are two key aspects that influence the way in which customers see the brand. What are the differences between the two? Let’s take a look. 

What is brand identity vs brand personality?

In reality, the distinction is simple.

  • Brand identity is comprised of elements that brands use to portray their products and offers – so, created by brands.
  • Brand personality is the way in which users perceive the brand – its tone of voice, offers, products – so, perceived by users.

I like to think about it this way: brand identity is something you can create, brand personality is what you work for. The first step is creating the identity and remaining consistent with it – this is how the personality will emerge.

brand book identity guidelines

If you need some precise distinctions, here are the other notable aspects:

  • Brand identity is described in a brand book. It features mission, values, logos, types, styles of all visuals that are used in the brand’s content. I have an entire guide to a brand book structure – you are welcome to take a look.
  • Brand personality can be partially described in a guideline as the end goal. You can write things like “Our brand likes efficiency and hates when things and people are late. This is why we emphasize on being timely” – it’s just an example.
  • Corporate identity design hugely depends on your visual and textual style (what we call the look and feel).
  • Brand personality also depends on that, but also, here your communications and marketing are very important.

Hope it helped. Thanks for the question, it was really in-depth and made me reflect on the subject.

How does brand identity matter for business owners? 

brand book guide

Brand identity is obviously important for the customers, but even more so, it matters to a business team and owner. Most clients won’t ever think about your tone of voice and values – at least not consciously.

For a team, however, knowing a brand identity is everything. It will help you to deliver better content, service quality, stay consistent in a way you solve problems. For me, brand identity is essential to:

  • understand how to design visuals for the brand
  • get a foundation for all communications and marketing campaigns;
  • stick to the same style consistently;
  • help customers to remember our brand, logo, and colors by using the same pattern;
  • work in different mediums: your brand book design and identity can be used anytime you are trying a new promotion method (like printing out a merch)
  • staying relevant for a long time: when you know the direction in which the brand is going, your actions follow a bigger picture;
  • attract a team that shares my values: it’s not as important when I am designing for clients, but for my business, it was very important. Everything, from colors to text style, reflected how I felt about the brand – and it filtered people who see things in a different light.

Brand identity is your way of expressing your own values through your brand and adapt to clients in the same time. I honestly don’t know how some businesses can be consistent without having an identity in place.

How to create a corporate identity design?

Here’s a list that I follow when I am working on the brand identity for my clients – I am a designer who’s focused on brand books, so brand identities are my bread and butter, basically.

  1. Research. Gain access to all communications and promotional materials that you can. You need to know how brand acted before you showed up – this is for designers.
  2. Analyse competitors. If we are talking about a new business, do market research and take a look at competitors’ brand books. They are seldom public but you can try digging them out with “company name brand book pdf”
  3. Go to social media of your competitors and check with the style and tone they are using. If it works for them, take pointers. But don’t copy, obviously.
  4. Start with a logo. When you are making a logo, you will combine all ideas you have about your brand into a specific visual. Many business owners get some epiphany on this stage.
  5. Write the company’s mission and vision. If you have no idea, start with history. When you reflect on why you created the business, you’ll tap into some values and mission-like statements.
  6. Write it all down. It doesn’t have to be long – I mean, TikTok did it in a paragraph.
  7. Make variations of your logo and come up with several color palettes. Again it should be coherent with your logo.
  8. Automate as much as you can. At this point, I often use professional brand book-making tools – see a list. They allow you to upload a logo and get a document, which saves a lot of time in the long run.
  9. Create a document and send it to your target audience. You will be basically running user testing for your brand book design layout.
  10. Make iterations if needed. Brand identity and all documents that are connected to it should grow together with a brand. 

Be sure you aren’t just creative about it. You need to have an identity that’s sustainable long-term and compatible with marketing trends. This is why I always, with no exceptions, start with a bulk of research. I summarized the basic points here, hopefully, it’ll be enough to set you on the right track.

When should I create a brand identity?

Ideally, right away. Realistically – when you have at least the slightest understanding of your identity. The document has to be legit – you can’t make it just for the sake of it. It’s important that you are ready to bet on your brand identity and guidelines – otherwise, it’ll do more harm than good. If it’ll be of any help, I can share the list of questions that I ask my clients.

  • Do you have a ready product/service? Some companies (like Amazon Prime) even include an overview of their offer in the brand book. I think that would be going overboard, but still, goes to show how important knowing the offer is.
  • Do you know your target audience? Creating a brand book when you don’t know whom you are trying to appeal to is a waste. Making user personas and market research first is crucial.
  • What budget do you have? If none, you can start with amateur services like Canva or Tailor Brands. If you have a logo already (or budget to make one), you can start from professional brand makers right away (like Ginger Sauce).
  • Do you have references? Before you start creating a brand book, you need to know what your favorite guidelines are.

Examples of great guidelines

Creating a great brand identity is a lot easier when you take points from the best examples in the industry. I decided to share my own collection and explain what I like about each of these brand guides. 

Slack

slack brand book

Slack’s brand book impressed me with its simplicity and a vivid style. The brand book is already done in the company’s colors. In between the main sections of the brand book, there are also images that reflect the brand’s identity. Their brand book essentials are similar to what we are doing here at Ginger Sauce. So, given enough creative assets, you can build something similar to our service. 

Google

google brand book

Google impressed me with depth of analysis. The team analyzed different circumstances where logos, fonts, and brand-related mentions can appear and created guidelines for all the. The brand book targets designers, partners, press, and Google team members. If you would need to talk about Google Trends on your blog, this branding process guideline would have you covered. 

MailChimp

mailchimp brand book guidelines

Creating a brand book for a company like MailChimp  is a challenge. Similarly to Slack, the tool brands itself as transparent and honest. Unlike Slack, however, they also need to connect business owners to their mail recipients. Brand guidelines touch that aspect of the business. You can tell that MailChimp respects both its primary (business owners) and secondary audiences – people who will receive MailChimp-powered campaigns. 

Amazon

amazon branding

Amazon has a lot of services, and coming up with a unified style for all of them is by no means an easy task. However, the brand handled this complicated task well. The brand book provides an overview of the services, sets branding standards for each of them, but keeps things to the point. 

Youtube

youtube brand identity
 

Youtube, just like MailChimp, needs to think about multiple audiences. On the one hand, you have creators and advertisers. These are groups that Youtube directly cooperates with – they are the primary audience when it comes to design development. In a blog post where Youtube designers shared the experience of creating a typeface, they say that they were inspired primarily by creators. However, there’s another very important audience to consider – viewers. Youtube connects these dots pretty well and comes up with a neutral, but bold style.

The brand identity was always important but this year, brand identity became the crucial choice factor. Users are curious where brands stand on important social issues and how they see the world. More than ever, they are influenced by brand personalities and understand that with every dollar, they support a certain mission. 

5 common mistakes in the branding process

A brand identity is a highly personal thing for each company,. There’s no unified algorithm – what works well for Microsoft won’t be received well by TikTok users. To come up with a working brand identity,  creators and business owners need to consider the challenge from different perspectives. 

Many fail to do that and end up making several common mistakes. Unless you are an experienced brand book designer, you’ll hardly even be able to pinpoint these issues. Don’t worry, though, I compiled a list for you – so you can check your identity’s validity.

1. Brand identity guidelines should be written in the company’s tone of voice already. A lot of designers do the mistake of stating that the brand will speak vividly, but the document itself is written in the most official tone. The best thing a brand book creator can do is lead by example. If you aren’t responsible for it in your team, suggest this to the manager. You can attach Slack’s brand book as an example.

2. Not applying math principles. All the elements, described in other answers – in particular, by Michel Chu, should be presented with precise measurements and proportions. I always use automated instruments because they calculate things a lot better than I do.

 

how to make a logo

3. No storytelling. Brand guidelines should be more than just a description of logos. Old brands like Apple or Microsoft don’t stick with these rules, but digital companies, especially unicorns follow this rule well. Take a look at everything Google publishes about their branding – it’s very story-driven.

4. Not understanding the audience for the brand book. Your actual target audience might never read the guidelines. Keep your target audience in mind, but don’t forget that you are talking to designers, re-sellers, stakeholders. Their interests are likely different than what your target audience has in mind – but you should address their concerns (like how much can they squeeze the logo on little merchandise).

5. Failing to update brand identity. If you already have a logo, slogan, and style, it doesn’t mean that your work is done. You need to constantly analyze market requirements and be ready to adopt them. 

The bottom line

Brand personality isn’t something that appears by itself. It’s a hard-earned achievement that derives from clear brand identity, precise guidelines, and a consistent style. Ideally, you should establish a brand identity as early on as you can. The more unclear messages you’ll send to your audience, the more mixed their perception of the brand will be. 

You can get started to make your brand’s identity with GingerSauce – a professional tool that creates a brand book online free. All you need to create a versatile style is a company’s logo – we will prepare the structure for you. 

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