What’s the difference between a Brand and Brand Identity?

I run a brand studio in Essex and I meet startup businesses of all sorts, all the time.  What I find is that startup brands or even established businesses tend to get the wrong idea about branding and don’t know th difference between a brand and brand identity.

Quite frankly I don’t blame them because the words brand, branding and brand identity get thrown about all the time as marketing ploys.

Some think of branding as a reputation, whilst some think of it as a brand name. Some think of it as a following and some purely as an image or mark, like a logo design.  The truth is that all of these conceptions are right but what startups don’t get is that a brand, brand identity or the practice of branding are not one singular defined thing.  Whilst a brand represents something, branding relates to the application of the brand.

If you’re starting a new business or looking to re-brand then take a second to let me explain branding clearly.

What is A Brand?

A brand is an entity and although it may not be something that you can physically see, it’s interactions into real life give itself a physical constant. It does this by way of its thinking, values, morals, character and action to form its own identifiable character.

Organisations use brand values to represent themselves as a group of people and assets. They do this to market themselves and to differentiate themselves from the next brand. It’s an element (or form of elements) which transcends itself into all areas of the business from marketing and development to customer care and packaging.

A brand is actually a company’s personal way of thinking and acting with regards to anything or anything specific.  It could even be seen as a bigger ideology which transcends itself.

All in all, it’s a marketing tactic to help:

  • Position the organisation
  • Personify the organisation
  • Identitfy the organisation
  • Connect the organisation to it’s customers

What is a Brand Identity?

Values are great to have but can’t be seen unless action is taken to express those values so this is where the brand identity comes into play. 

A brand identity is a brand in a visual form.   By using colour, line, shape and form, we can create a visual theme that communicates the brand.  This theme can be repeated and then recognised, and subconsciously it will then be identified.  Once identified, we can start to build a relationship with that design which basically represents a brand.

You could have two companies in the same industry, doing the same thing with basically the same brand values.  This would lead to a similar identity on paper so design will fully explore communication goals in a creative fashion to produce something unique that can be used to identify each business differently. It will communicate the brand values and create an overarching brand image with style and tone that can be used to identify the organisation.

This process can be referred to as “branding” because it’s the application of the brand via a creative discipline.

Branding can be applied to any marketing discipline though.  You get audio branding, brand story, brand voice, brand strategy, brand naming, brand everything!

For me personally, I see different businesses of different sizes, use branding in different ways.

Some use it ignorantly.  Some half-heartedly. And some wastefully!

You don’t need to invest in branding to make a successful business but you do need to invest in branding if you want to create a successful brand!

It will pay off when done right!

Check out some inspirational brand designs or read our 101 Tips to better branding, marketing and design communication for a better idea of how branding works.

For more information on what a brand is, check out this definition.

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