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How to create an authentic brand identity

man on a laptop learning How to Create an Authentic Brand Identity

Much like an outfit you choose for a networking event, your brand has the power to tell others who you are — even before you’re aware they’re looking. The goal is not to appeal to everyone but rather to those who share your values and want to book your services. Whether building or refreshing your brand, follow these tips to maintain authenticity and craft a brand as unique as your personality! 

Audit your current brand

It’s easy to know when something is not working, but it requires self-reflection to uncover the “what” and the “why” behind it. So if your brand is not pulling in the results you expect, it is essential to start with an evaluation before making any significant adjustments. Otherwise, you risk making changes that fail to fix the problem.

Ask yourself these five key questions to assess your brand’s direction:

Who is my brand targeting? All of your marketing materials, including your logo, colors, website copy, and other messaging, should speak to your target audience. For example, a corporate event planner’s “voice” should not sound the same as a wedding planner’s — and vice versa.

How does my brand reflect my business’s offering(s)? There is a big difference in how Tesla and Toyota brand their automobiles — one offers high-status luxury while the other provides functionality and reliability. Your brand must accurately reflect the characteristics of the services you offer to draw in the right leads.

Does my brand stand out or blend in with the market? There is no right or wrong answer here — you can find success by following your competitors’ leads or distinguishing your brand with unique messaging and design elements. However, this question is critical to dig into your intentions and define a direction for your brand.

What are my brand values? In most cases, this question should overlap with your personal values as well. Consider what is most important to you as an entrepreneur. You may value sustainability, diversity, transparency, or flexibility — get clear on the attributes you want to communicate to your audience.

Is there space for my brand to grow? Your business model is not set in stone, so your brand should be ready to evolve over time. Limiting your brand to specific industries, offerings, or audiences can ultimately hold you back from increasing your bottom line and embracing your creative spark.

Consider your ideal clients’ buying habits

If you are not earning sales from your target audience, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and perform some market research. Look at the brands your ideal clients follow and interact with on social media, as well as what they purchase. It also helps to connect with current clients that you have a good rapport with to learn more about who they love to buy from and why.

Gathering this information will inform where your brand sits in the market, providing you with data to adjust your branding as needed. Assess the brand names that arise in your research and see how they present themselves through all mediums, including their logos, packaging, website, visual identity, and store design (if applicable). 

Take notes on the elements that stand out to inspire your branding with those design cues without replicating what you see. The goal is to align your business with your ideal clients’ favorite brands while still highlighting all that sets you apart.

Avoid boxing in your brand

The branding “rule book” has been tossed out in today’s market, empowering business owners to approach their brand with courage and flexibility. “Different” is not bad — in fact, it can help your business stand out from others in your industry. 

Marketing efforts can be spread across many different mediums, so allow your brand to take shape in various ways. How you appear on Instagram Reels does not have to look identical to your presence on LinkedIn. In fact in many cases, it shouldn’t! 

But while your brand does not need to look the same across all channels, there should be obvious cohesion and alignment with your overarching brand approach. 

Every space has a distinct audience, so you may tell a different story on your blog than you do when speaking on a national stage. However, tying those stories together to communicate your business’s core values (i.e. professionalism, contemporariness, tech-driven, people-first, etc.) is vital to maintaining an authentic brand and cohesive message. 

Do not underestimate the power of minor tweaks

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs will see low engagement rates and assume it’s time for an entire brand facelift. But that is not always the case! Instead, there are likely some winning elements of your existing brand that should remain untouched to avoid losing sight of your business’s big-picture standards, aesthetics, and goals.

Rather than invest time and resources to overhaul your brand, start with some more minor adjustments first and see if they yield results. For instance, you may introduce a new complementary color, typography style, or pattern to freshen up your brand.

The beauty of tweaking your brand as opposed to a complete rebuild is that you can easily swap out smaller elements in the future without making your primary branding look outdated. For example, say you change a brand color every few years to modernize your business. But by keeping your logo, tagline, typography, and other branding elements the same, you can effectively prevent market confusion and retain awareness.

Gather inspiration from unexpected sources

Only looking at brands in your industry can lead to tunnel vision, which can make you feel like you have to confirm with your competitors in order to see results. Instead, step outside of your comfort zone and start seeking inspiration from other industries and sources! 

For example, interior design, architecture, and fashion are typically on the cutting edge of design trends, but you can also find inspiration from Hollywood movies and TV shows. Again, the purpose is not to adopt styles exactly as you see them but rather to collect elements of inspiration that you can blend and transform into a one-of-a-kind brand. 

For instance, it might come off odd to use Harry Potter-esque typography in your logo, but you could find a way to weave in your house colors or a great phrase from your favorite character. Trends may be fleeting, but your brand inspiration shouldn’t be!

Get comfortable experimenting with your brand

Do not be afraid to test out ideas within your brand to see what sticks! In today’s digital age, things can change on the fly, which makes branding an ever-evolving component of your business. You try one idea and, if something does not work or resonate with you, you can call it learning, adjust, and keep experimenting with new concepts. 

Branding can feel like an exercise in self-discovery, so do not shy away from the difficult questions that come up along the way. Instead, lean into the challenge and embrace your vulnerability. That’s how you’ll create an authentic brand that accurately represents all that makes you and your business great. 

With that said, it is wise to be cautious about publishing every iteration of your brand. While experimenting is essential for discovering the branding that feels just right, too many public-facing changes will add some unwanted brand adjectives to your reputation: inconsistent, flaky, and unreliable. Play around with your branding and update it publicly only when you are sure it fits your audience and your business offerings.

Many business owners view their brand as the collective vision of their company, but in reality, it is far more than a mood board. Instead, your brand is an opportunity to tell your story and that of your business. It encapsulates everything from the way you introduce yourself at networking events to the emojis you use on social media. It shows your audience not just who you are but what they can expect while working with you. 

So yes, you need your logo, colors, and fonts to align with each other — but they must also fit in with your overall brand tone and aesthetic to present a cohesive front across all platforms, both in-person and online. 

Ready to build your unique brand? Get our How to Build Your Unique Brand Ultimate Guide.

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