How to Create a Brand Identity in 2 Effortless Steps

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Play Bigger" by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, et al.. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you create a brand identity? What is the importance of a company’s brand?

If you’re building a company from scratch, you’ll need to come up with a brand. Your brand will tell a story about how your company will solve problems differently than other companies.

Let’s look at how to create a brand identity in three steps outlined in Play Bigger.

What Is a Brand Identity?

The authors of Play Bigger write that once you’ve identified and defined your new market, it’s time to learn how to create a brand identity (or a take, as they call it): an identity, guiding principles, outlook, and story about how your company solves a problem differently than other companies

(Shortform note: When thinking about codifying your brand, it’s also worth considering how outsiders would describe your current brand. According to Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning, people outside your company usually see you differently than you see yourself. If you perceive a discrepancy between insider and outsider takes, it’s probably worth asking yourself why that’s the case and bringing these into alignment.)  

A brand is what consumers connect to—they can identify emotionally with your principles, story, and outlook. This is especially important when establishing a new market: You must give consumers a story and identity to hold on to; otherwise, you won’t establish your company as important and different in consumers’ minds. Importantly, this take must help change consumers’ mindsets so they embrace your new solution to the old or new problem—as we discussed earlier in this guide.

A strong brand separates exceptional companies from merely good ones, add the authors. You can tell when a company has a strong brand because you know what the company’s about, what it stands for, and how it’s different. The authors mention Whole Foods as a company that has a strong brand. Whole Foods believes in providing high-quality, environmentally minded, natural, and organic products. It solves the problem of obtaining such specialty foods in a new way: by creating an inviting, fun shopping environment in which to buy them all at once. 

(Shortform note: While Whole Foods may arguably still have a brand, that hasn’t been enough to keep the competition at bay and maintain Whole Foods’ position as the winner of the health foods market. As early as the 1990s, other grocery store chains began entering that market by offering more natural and organic foods at more affordable prices. The result was 1) that Whole Foods began struggling financially and 2) that Whole Foods’ take (the belief in natural, sustainable products) stopped being much of a take and simply became the mainstream standard. When Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017, it was considered a lifeline for Whole Foods.)

Here are the sub-steps the authors recommend to create your brand identity (the same person or firm that spearheaded the market identification process should also do this):

1. Answer Questions to Determine Your Company’s Brand

These questions are: 1) How are your company and your product different from other markets and products? 2) How will you create the product? What’s your plan of action, and how will you achieve success? 3) How will you impact consumers and the world? What is your vision of the future? 4) What sort of identity do you want for your company? What’s your ideal culture? Who are your ideal employees?

(Shortform note: Answering the above questions requires you to have at least some components of your business already set up—for instance, you must have a company and product to be able to say how they differ from others. This is in accordance with the authors’ recommendation to build your company, market, and product at the same time and around each other: Your product informs your brand, while in turn informs your market, and so on. This will also likely mean you’ll need to revise your take-over time as you adjust the three components of your business to each other. Thus, while flexibility is almost always an advantage in the workplace, it’s a necessity in the authors’ approach to building a company and market.)

2. Write Up and Share the Brand

You’ll likely need to write multiple drafts of the take for internal review. Be brief and straightforward, and write in easily accessible language. Connect to an emotional need in the consumer—consider what future you can offer customers that they’ll want to be a part of. Think of your take as a movie trailer for your company: It must be short, informative, and generate excitement in the listener. Again, include the following elements in your brand: your company identity, guiding principles, outlook, and story about how your company solves a problem differently than other companies. Once done, you should be able to present your take in 10 minutes or less in a brief document or across several slides.

Your brand for your low-tech devices company might sound like this: “Our world is oversaturated with technology. It’s making us miserable, stressed, and sick (problem). We believe technology should be used to make people happier, not less happy (guiding principles), and that more of everything—apps, data, functionality—isn’t always better (outlook). We’re all about simplicity—it infuses everything we do within the company and with our products (identity). Our low-tech device is a manifestation of our beliefs: It lets you take care of critical tasks easily and on the go without making you addicted to your screen (how your company solves the problem differently).”

How to Create a Brand Identity in 2 Effortless Steps

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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