What is identity? According to Fearon (1999) an “identity” refer to two definitions that can complete each other as follow:
- A social category, deﬁned by membership rules and (alleged) characteristic attributes or expected behaviors.
- Socially distinguishing features that a person takes a special pride in or views as unchangeable but socially consequential.
The most important keywords from the above definitions are characteristic attributes, behaviors, and feature. We put aside the social context because the perception does not define identity.
The identity must be built from the inside not the outside. For example, name and address are not perception. It becomes subjective perception when a name or address is considered as good or bad. In itself, a name it’s just a name.
The Components of Brand Identity
There are several components that make up brand identity. Some of which are very common, but important. These components are equal to characteristic attributes, behaviors, and feature, but more practical.
Name is very first and most important component of brand identity. Name must be defined since the beginning. Without name what people should call the brand? Just “it”?
Name can define the social perception about the brand. Very long name wouldn’t be a good name for people because it is hard to remember. Technically, it wouldn’t fit the marketing collateral. Lastly, a name can be controversial in different countries. So, think about going global.
Shape can be text, image, logo, or symbol. It is a strong mark of brand identity. Shape makes the brand has the ability to be touched. Without a shape, a brand is just like person without body. People know it, talk about it, but people couldn’t be sure about its existence.
Research on shape must be conducted very seriously. Name can be easily identified whether it is good or bad by searching the name on the Internet using combination of languages.
On contrary, extraordinary or unique shapes rarely available on the Internet and barely impossible to search it using keywords. Shape in different culture can have different meaning. Ballard (2004) shown the same concept of ship with different shape between Sweden and Southeast Moluccas.
Let’s assume the exhibit B looks like a bone, if a brand uses it in marketing collateral in prehistoric moment in Sweden to sell bone product, but people see it as a ship product, will it sell? Chances are very slim.
This is the case where the shape of a brand is very important to sustain with the competition.
White or black is color. It defines the identity, but not as strong as name and shape. Name and shape, normally, are very unique whereas color can be very identical with other. Take example of skin color, there are whites, yellows, blacks, and other are everywhere.
Single color couldn’t be a strong identity, but multiple colors should work. Unfortunately without a shape how can we form multiple colors. Color palette has a shape! Either rectangle or circle.
Aaker (1997) categorized dimensions of brand personality into five factors sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. This factors are very high level and could be very difficult to implement. There must be an alternative.
Fortunately, Aaker broken down the factors into facets, and facets into traits. The traits in the table below are more understandable as it is less conceptual and mostly available in daily life. Next, when we say personalities we refer to traits.
A brand must have one or some distinct personalities, not too many and must not be conflicting each other. For example, masculine and feminine shouldn’t be used in the same time, if it is difficult to decide better not to use those traits. It is an indication that the brand is more general than it is.
Visualizing The Brand Identity
Based on name, shape, color, and personality above, give or take, the visual framework should be look like below.
The visual above can be shortly explained as follow.
- As the first step, a brand must be built for the target audience who will see it.
- Second step, develop a personality that is strongly matched with the target audience feeling.
However, the brand identity building framework in this short article is a very basic and should be enriched with other dimensions that align with business needs.
- Aaker, J. L. (1997). Dimensions of brand personality. Journal of marketing research, 347-356.
- Ballard, C., Bradley, R., Myhre, L. N., & Wilson, M. (2004). The ship as symbol in the prehistory of Scandinavia and Southeast Asia. World Archaeology, 35(3), 385-403.
- Fearon, J. D. (1999). What is identity (as we now use the word). Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.