You need only consider a couple of major global brands to understand what brand awareness is all about. Take the likes of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola as obvious examples. Irrespective of whether you buy or even approve of their products, you know what they’re all about and recognise them from a mile away.
Regardless of whether you’re particularly interested in them, you probably know a fair few things about them.
This alone illustrates just how powerful, influential and effective brand identity can be. If you intend to stand out from the crowd and make a success of your online business, it’s important to get to grips with both brand awareness and brand identity.
Particularly in sectors as competitive as ecommerce, the importance of focusing heavily on brand identity cannot be overemphasised.
What is Brand Awareness?
Roughly defined, the term ‘brand awareness’ incorporates all activities and efforts invested for the purpose of building product and service recognition. Or to put it in an even simpler way, it’s the strategy you implement to ensure your audience is aware that you and your products exist.
Precisely as the name suggests, it’s all about the ‘awareness’ of your brand – how many people have heard of you and know you’re in business. Brand awareness also extends to recognition of what it is you do, as opposed to your existence alone. Although in many instances, consumers are fully aware of the existence of any number of brands, though don’t have the slightest idea what they do or why they do it.
Brand Awareness Vs Brand Identity
Often confused as interchangeable terms, brand awareness and brand identity are in fact very different concepts. Perhaps the simplest way to get to grips with the difference being as follows:
Brand awareness is about letting people know you exist – brand identity tells them why you exist and gives them a reason to believe in you.
You could therefore argue that brand awareness is a relatively ‘binary’ aspect of brand marketing. The more aggressively you present the name of your business to the world, the more likely it is to be assimilated. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean anyone will take an active interest in what you do or what you have to say.
By contrast, your brand identity is what gives you the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and inspire those you target. So you could argue that without an established and influential brand identity, all the brand awareness efforts in the world are inconsequential.
How to Create and Boost Your Brand’s Identity
Your brand’s identity is essentially its personality. As would be the case with a human being, you can’t realistically expect someone to flip a proverbial switch and develop a new personality. It’s the story of your brand, the passion of its people and the reason you exist. Something you can elaborate on, but never fabricate.
Hence, creating an identity of your brand is something only you can do. If you’re not selling 100% organic products and donating proceeds from every sale to rainforest conservation charities, you can’t say you are. If your business didn’t start life as a one-man enterprise from a garden shed in Glasgow, you won’t get away with pretending it did.
Instead, you need to focus on more honest and effective measures to build and boost your brand’s identity.
Examples of which include the following:
1. Determine What Makes You Different
Your brand identity cannot and will not succeed if it’s a carbon copy of what’s already out there. If the thing that makes your business unique isn’t actually unique, what’s the point?
Nobody goes into business with the intention of being just another generic interpretation of a rival brand or business. Instead, you need to think of something you can do that makes you stand out from the crowd. At least one USP your audience can believe in, which will (hopefully) set you apart from the competition.
It’s up to you to identify your USP, after which it needs to be woven intrinsically into every aspect of your business. If you’re all about organic products and saving the world, drive this point home at every opportunity. If you’re putting something back into the community, make sure everyone knows about it.
Consider what makes you different and use this as the basis for everything you do and everything you publish.
2. Focus on Consistency
The way you present yourself needs to be consistent across all channels. A common mistake being to alter your brand’s voice and strategy in general to appeal to different audiences via different platforms.
On one hand, you could argue that your audience on Twitter has a very different collective personality to your Instagram or Snapchat audience. Nevertheless, it’s still important to ensure you’re not painting a different picture of your brand across multiple channels.
Feel free to experiment with the way you present your brand, but the brand image and voice you present need to remain consistent. Otherwise, the whole thing quickly becomes difficult to believe.
4. Write an “Our Story” Page
The classic ‘About Us’ page will always have value, but often tends to be used as a rather sterile company profile page. Feel free to communicate the cold and hard specifics about your company, but don’t overlook the importance of telling a convincing story.
Mastering the art of effective storytelling isn’t easy, but can nonetheless help solidify and enhance the appeal of your brand’s identity. Creating an ‘Our Story’ page gives you the opportunity to explain what it is that makes you different and why people should like you. You’ll already be communicating aspects of your brand identity in your wider promotional efforts, but there’s always room for reinforcing things more directly.
Tell your audience where your business came from and how it got started. Explain your motivations, your passions and your vision. Make it clear how your business differs from any other within your niche. Ensure they know what it is about your business that makes it stand out. Most importantly, give them something to feel positive about if they go ahead and take action.
There’s strong chance that your primary and sole motivation for going into business was to make money. Fair enough, but this isn’t going to resonate with your target audience. At whatever level necessary, you need to (once again) isolate your unique value proposition and present it to your customer in the form of a compelling story.
5. Carefully Consider All Visual Elements
Referring right back to the example at the beginning of the post, you don’t need to see the words ‘McDonald’s’ or ‘Coca-Cola’ spelled out to know what you’re looking at. Along with the Golden Arches, anything presented in a distinctive red and white colour scheme has immediate and obvious connotations.
This drives home the importance of carefully considering all visual elements of your brand’s identity. Not to mention, how important it is to remain consistent. Your logos, colour schemes and all other visual representations of your brand will make an enormous contribution to your identity. The challenge lying in ensuring every visual element in some way reflects your brand’s story and purpose.
In a rather extreme working example, a company selling candy by way of a fun-filled online factory could easily get away with a candy-floss pink logo and baby-blue colour scheme. For the proprietor of a funeral home, probably not the ideal visual representation.
Consider what drives your brand, what makes you different and how you’d like to be interpreted at a glance.
6. Keep a Close Eye on Your Competitors
Last but not least, it’s difficult to maintain an edge over the competition if you don’t keep a close eye on what your competitors are up to. Competitor research is often mistaken as a strategy for taking a little too much ‘inspiration’ from what’s happening elsewhere. Quite the contrary – monitoring your competitors is all about noting gaps in their strategy and capitalising on them.
For one thing, you’ll struggle to create and solidify your brand’s identity if it’s too similar to what’s already out there. If anything about the way you present yourself – visually or otherwise – comes across as too familiar, you may need to rethink your approach.
It’s hardly the end of the world if there’s a local business in Calcutta with a similar colour scheme to your store in Camberwell. But if there’s a direct competitor to your business you could be even slightly mistaken for, your strategy may need a rethink.
In addition, keeping a close eye on your competitors also enables you to keep your unique selling point unique. Sooner or later, someone else may jump on the bandwagon and attempt to steal your thunder. Whatever it was that made you unique in 2018 could be pretty generic by 2020. The closer you monitor what’s happening with your competitors, the easier it becomes to steer you own brand identity in the right direction.