Brand Strategy? Or Brand Identity? Let's Review.
We’re all guilty of using jargon and insider short-hand when talking about our areas of expertise. Marketers are perhaps more guilty of this than any other group. As a brand and communication strategist, one of the short-hand terms that I find causes the most confusion is the broad and multitudinous use of the word “brand.”
Sometimes the word is used to reference brand identity; other times, brand strategy; and still other times, it’s used more broadly to encompass the entire brand experience.
We’ve touched on brand experience in other posts. But I find that the difference between brand strategy and brand identity is a critical distinction that often comes up in my conversations with clients. When I get a phone call or email from a client inquiring about Campos’s ability to help with their brand, my first question is always aimed at clarifying the need: Are you looking to define or refine your brand strategy, brand identity or both?
So what’s the real difference between the two?
By way of dictionary definitions, a brand is
A NAME, TERM, DESIGN, SYMBOL, OR OTHER FEATURE THAT DISTINGUISHES AN ORGANIZATION OR PRODUCT.
THE WORD “BRAND” IS OFTEN USED AS SHORT-HAND TO REFER TO A VARIETY OF THINGS.
However, the term is used in many different contexts, sometimes to refer to an organization’s brand strategy, and other times to refer to its brand identity.
A brand strategy defines the purpose of the brand, its aspirations for the position it wants to own in the mind of the target audience. Brand strategy is an internal construct, meant to articulate these ideas to the marketers, communicators and other employees who collectively work to convey the brand strategy to external audiences.
A brand identity, on the other hand, is one of the many tools available to help communicate the brand strategy externally. Brand identity includes things like logos, tag lines, color palettes—all the creative elements that create the consistent look, feel and voice for the brand in support of the brand strategy.
CASE IN POINT
Let’s look at Target; a textbook example that illustrates how the two are distinct–but also how they can work together to effectively build brand recognition and establish the brand’s position.
The brand strategy lies in the brand’s promise and position.
We make great design and style affordable.
For the design-conscious value shopper, Target delivers affordably-priced, quality products that inspire shoppers’ sense of style.
This differs from the elements of the brand identity - the bullseye logo, the ‘expect more, pay less’ tagline, the red and white colors, and the vibrant and energetic look and feel that incorporates products and people when possible.
Organizations often jump right to brand identity because it’s tangible, highly visible and easy to understand. However, defining the brand strategy first provides the critical direction for the brand identity and all other elements of the brand experience to ensure the individual pieces effectively work together to make the target audience think and feel the same thing every time they are exposed to your organization or product. Furthermore, without a clearly thought-out and well-defined brand strategy, the organization’s or product’s efforts to resonate emotionally with the target will be fragmented and inefficient.
So when it comes to defining your brand, start by considering what the brand wants to be and stand for, not what it looks like.