We often get asked what the difference is between a company’s brand and its identity. After all, we offer branding services as an agency, right? The words “brand” and “branding” have become pretty diluted over the past few years – it seems like everyone’s using them without really knowing what they mean. You can ask three marketers or designers what they mean and get three completely different answers. This can create a lot of confusion in the eyes of the consumer.
We’re here to set the record straight. Our goal is to explain how we at Keystone Resources describe brand vs. identity so that you understand what to expect when you work with us.
What is a Brand?
Your company’s brand is the way that your customers perceive you. It doesn’t matter how you want them to see you or how you think they see you. All that matters is how they actually see you, and what they believe about you. That is your brand…you can’t “brand” something, because you earn you brand.
Design firms often explain “branding” to a potential client by speaking about the visual components – the logo, website, etc. These are tangible products that make answering the “do you do branding?” question easier to answer. These deliverables are not the full story, though.
What is Identity?
Your company’s identity is how you are trying to portray yourself to your customers. In this case, how you customers see you (your brand) is irrelevant. Your company’s identity is made up of your mission statement, goals, beliefs, promises to your customers, etc. Things like your logo, website, and marketing collateral are visual extensions of your identity that you use as a tool to influence your brand, but they are not the identity or the brand in and of themselves.
When you come to us and ask if we do branding, our answer will be “yes, but…” Your brand is up to your customers, but we utilize our expertise to help you shape your identity and design your visual collateral to better align your brand with your identity. So, yes, we do influence brand. But your brand is not in our hands to “do” – at least not in the way you might think it is.
One thing you can hire Keystone Resources to help with is a brand audit of your company. We will review your existing marketing collateral and identity information in order to analyze the identity that you’re putting out there next to the brand that your customers are getting.
Why Does the Distinction between Brand and Identity Matter?
It’s important to understand the difference between brand and identity because it will help you find a marketing agency that will be able to help you solve your unique pain points. If an agency comes in and tells you that they can design a brand FOR you, you’ll know to ask follow-up, clarification questions. Make sure they completely understand the distinction. They can influence a brand by designing the visual collateral and assisting with the identity, but they cannot design a brand. Only your customers can do that.
I’d also suggest making sure that your agency understands that a company’s identity is made up of much more than just the visual elements. If they have created marketing collateral for you and have never discussed your goals, mission, values, etc., chances are they are not designing your collateral in the most effective way possible. Your collateral can be the best looking design in the world, but if it’s not showcasing who you want to be as a company, it’s not influencing your brand.
These all may sound like subtle differences, but trust us, they mean everything.
What Do You Think?
Do you think this difference matters or is it just semantics?
What do you struggle with the most – brand or identity?