Unlike the English language, Spanish distinguishes between the verbs ser and estar. In being lies the essence, the identity of someone or something. In being resides an action, an attitude, which projects a certain image. In the same way, brand image encompasses all the ideas, opinions, associations, and emotions that a person may have regarding a brand. A part of the image consists of the identity characteristics that are attributed to the brand. It seems like a play on words, which is why the terms corporate identity, brand identity and brand image are often mistakenly used synonymously with each other despite being distinct concepts.

Brand Identity

It all starts with the brand identity, which is shaped by a unique and non-transferable DNA, i.e. by the very essence of the brand. It is made up of the set of characteristics, values, benefits, positioning and personality that the brand possesses. Brand identity is what it really is. In it lies a reason to exist, a promise to customers, everything the brand wants customers to think of it.

In recent decades, different points of view have emerged to frame the brand identity and guide a homogeneous process in its construction. Each of these approaches encompasses a particular view of a set of dimensions that make up identity:

  • David A. Aaker (1996). Brand identity is a unique set of brand associations that brand strategists aspire to create and maintain. Its main dimensions are organized according to 4 perspectives:
    • Branding as a product (attributes, quality, value, uses, users, origin)
    • The brand as a person (personality, relationships)
    • Brand as Organization (Organizational, Local vs. Global Attributes)
    • The Brand as a Symbol (Visual Images, Metaphors, Heritage)
  • Jean-Noël Kapferer (2004). Brand identity represents the meaning of a brand as proposed by the company. It is configured from a set of key elements that relate to each other:
    • Physical: tangible characteristics
    • Relational: between the brand and the consumer
    • Reflections: according to the main use made of the trademark
    • Self-projected: based on how consumers perceive themselves when they consume the product
    • Cultural: collected by values as a source of inspiration
    • Personality: reflected by the set of characteristics associated with the brand
  • Leslie from Chernatony (2010). Brand identity is the central idea that distinguishes one brand from another and how it is communicated to different stakeholders. It is composed of five elements:
    • Vision: Provides a clear sense of direction
    • Culture: A Determining Factor in Achieving the Vision
    • Positioning: manifestation of the brand’s values
    • Personality: conveys the emotional values of the brand
    • Relationships: between the different stakeholders and the brand
  • Mats Urde (2013). Brand identity is the result of a process of encoding signals that convey specific meanings. Its Corporate Identity Matrix is structured around nine elements:
    • Mission & Vision
    • Promise & Values
    • Value proposition
    • Positioning
    • Personality
    • Culture
    • Competences
    • Relations
    • Expression

Corporate Identity

Corporate identity shapes brand identity. It is shaped by the visual and verbal aspects of the style that make it easier to project the brand’s personality. It is a combination of, on the one hand, color, images, graphics, and typography; and on the other, words and expressions. All of this is included in a manual with guidelines on how these elements are used in all types of media.

Thus, there are 3 main elements of corporate identity:

  • Corporate design. The corporate design shows the visual identity of the company. It includes all the visual and verbal assets of the company, such as the name,
    tag line
    , logo, brand colors, visual elements, etc., that help in differentiation.
  • Corporate communication. Corporate communication is the way in which the company interacts and transmits all the information to the internal and external public, pursuing a coordinated image across all channels.
  • Corporate behavior. Corporate behavior refers to the attitude and conduct of the organization. The way employees are treated, customer relationships, and how resources are used are all part of brand behavior.

Brand image

Brand image is the way your brand is perceived by your audience. It is shaped by a set of perceptions obtained by everything the brand represents , says and does. It is the result of the projection of identity through experiences with the brand, where especially their attitude and behavior generate a relevant impact. Depending on whether the experience is good or bad, a specific brand image is set up which, on the other hand, directly affects its reputation.

It is important to consider the power of the 5 senses in the construction of the image. Brands that provide experiences according to customer expectations will achieve positive perceptions and feelings that improve trust in them, being rewarded with loyalty and higher margins.

Benefits of a Strong Brand Identity

A good identity should be intuitive, easy to remember, flexible enough, and accurate to the brand’s DNA. Without a comprehensive and well-defined identity, your audience may not be able to understand who you are.

Developing a strong brand identity is an extremely important factor in the success of any business. A strong brand identity:

  • Communicate your business’s unique personality and shape your customers’ perceptions of who you are, setting you apart from the competition.
  • Project the expectations and promises you extend to your customers in terms of quality, service, efficiency.
  • It facilitates emotional connection.
  • It positively influences purchasing decisions.

Benefits of taking care of your brand image

Taking care of the brand image is crucial for any business. When customers buy a product or service, they’re not just buying a product or service; they’re buying what the brand stands for.

The benefits of taking care of and protecting the image translate directly into business results:

  • Competitive advantage. Brand image influences brand value and is therefore vital for increasing market share. This allows companies to charge higher prices that customers will actually be willing to pay, or to more successfully implement brand or product extension strategies.
  • Positive reputation. A positive brand image implies that current and potential customers see the brand as something to be trusted, increasing loyalty and attraction.
  • Overall reflection of management. The outward perception of the brand image can be seen as a reflection of how well it is managed and meets the needs of the wider market. This will impact the ability to compete in highly saturated markets.

Alignment, identity and image

It is often assumed that the reason why a good brand image is a strong business driver lies in its high notoriety. However, brand awareness describes, at best, the scope of the brand image achieved, but not its content.

The better the identity matches the image, the better the brand’s specificity, differentiation, and preference in the market. As it could not be otherwise, it is important to take care of and revitalize the identity by adapting it to the changes in society. It may be difficult to control brand image, but every company can manage its identity. Therefore, it is essential to understand what the brand should stand for and communicate it in an attractive way for your market. This will ensure that positive associations are made, which can then become the perceptions that shape the brand image.

To conclude, and as a synthesis of all the above, keep with the idea that unless you build your identity on who you really are, it is impossible for you to project a good image of yourself. And as Game of Thrones author George RR Martin said, “Never forget who you are, because surely the world won’t. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness.”

 

Carlos Puig Falcó
CEO of Branward