“If this business were split up, I would give you the land and bricks and mortar, and I would take the brands and trade marks, and I would fare better than you.”— John Stuart, Chairman of Quaker (ca. 1900)

What is brand identity? To put it simply, it’s what differentiates your business name from all the others, especially your competitors. But brand identity is more than just the name of your company or the logo that you use; it’s that emotional response it triggers, the instant recognition to your product or service in a customer’s mind and the lasting impression you leave on everyone that comes into contact with it.

Who has great brand identity? Look at a company like Coca-Cola. Just seeing those words probably triggered a few hundred responses in your mind instantly. You already know what color those words are. You know that cursive font they use. You know the taste, you may have thought of a commercial or billboard, you may have even thought back to a time when you truly enjoyed a coke. The point is they’ve established their brand identity and it’s one that you know and recognize. You can spot one of their ads or cans or trucks a mile away and they know that because they planned that.

But I’m not Coca-Cola. I’m just a small business; do I really need to worry about Brand Identity? Absolutely. Just because you do business on a smaller scale than a global company like Coca-Cola doesn’t mean your brand identity isn’t just as important. Your identity is just that, it’s your company’s face and reputation and selling point. You can have the best business in the world but if your logo looks like it was done by your 6 year old niece, your website still has a visitor counter and animated sparkles plus you haven’t updated your Facebook page in 6 months, how do you think potential customers are going to perceive your business? If you don’t do a proper job of telling them who you are why they should use you, then why will they?

How do I go about developing my brand identity? Continuity! Continuity! Continuity! Did I make myself clear yet? Continuity! From your logo to your website to your business cards to your Facebook page to your print material to anything you ever do with your business name should all have the same feel and message to them. How do you identify what that message is? How do you identify your identity? Sit down with a marketing company and let them help. The hardest thing for a business owner to do is market himself. You’re biased and therefore have no outside perception of your own company. Sit and talk with the experts, help develop that identity and stick with it. It’s a planned and meaningful message that’s being sent out to potential customers and if it’s done correctly it will work. But what’s the most important part of that message? That’s right, continuity! Stay with one marketing company. You can have the best web designer in the world working on your website and the best print designer in the world working on your print material, but if that message isn’t the same then it’s counterproductive and confusing to potential customers.

Don’t underestimate your business and whatever you do, don’t underestimate the public. You may not be Coca-Cola but trust me when I tell you that people see what you’re doing whether they even know it or not. So over time if you’re constantly sending out inconsistent and poorly thought out messages with your daily business and marketing that’s what is going to become your brand’s identity. Developing a quality brand identity is like anything else worth having, you have to work at it.