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Brand Identity vs. Brand Image

By Mash Bonigala (509)

Marketing and branding are both confusing topics, especially when a small business owner feels that they are struggling just to break even. However, brand identity has the potential to be your greatest asset, inspiring customers to give your company a try and keep coming back repeatedly. Understanding exactly what makes up a brand identity and how it is different from the similar but not identical issue of brand image will help you build a more cohesive brand.

A brand image is simply what people think of your business, in the shortest and sweetest possible language. There is nothing complicated about it; it is merely the picture that comes to your customer’s head when a friend asks them whether they enjoy doing business with you. Underestimating this image can be disastrous, but it is not the sum total of your brand.

Brand identity, on the other hand is a more complex issue. Think of your brand as a person. While it’s important to know the brand’s gender, age, and demographic information, this is not the most important part of who they are. When you get to know someone, you learn about their beliefs, political stances, hobbies, and favorites. These characteristics add up to who that person really is. These characteristics are what make you interested in the person on an ongoing basis and make you want to be around them—or not. Your business’s brand identity can be designed to produce the same result.

It should be noted that people are good at pointing out fakes. If someone who claims to be healthy eats at McDonald’s every day, their coworkers and friends notice the incongruence. By the same lines, no one can claim to be a fashionista while running around in stained sweatpants. The same way people pick up these and other cues and then use them to gage a person’s sincerity, your customers are watching to see if their brand experience matches up with your brand image. If these two don’t align, your brand identity is likely to get lost in the confusion.

On the other hand, when your brand image and your brand identity are completely aligned, you are set up for immense success. While no person and no business is universally loved, many people will feel drawn to your business and want to engage in an ongoing relationship with your brand. This kind of behavior, called brand loyalty, can make all the difference between success and failure.

How can you make sure your brand identity and your brand image are both aligned and attractive to your target audience? Most companies who have found success in this area have done so by getting help from the professionals. You would never fix your own plumbing or resole your own shoes; branding is far important than both of these and far more complicated as well. Talk to a branding expert today about how you can set your small business up for success by building a professional brand that your customers can believe in.