The 4 Building Blocks of Brand Identity You Can’t Ignore

First impressions are everything for a startup or small business.

When offering a new product or service it is important for a business to quickly demonstrate value to prospective customers and differentiate itself from the competition.

In some situations, the product or service itself can accomplish these goals, but often it is a great brand identity that can make the difference between your first customer or a lost lead.

Though most businesses know the importance of brand identity, it can often take the back seat to more pressing matters such as product development or finances.

It’s hard to argue against this; without a finished product or the money to make it, what does the brand identity matter anyways?

Well, a lot.

As graphic designer Scott Pokrant puts it:

Research shows that the average user spends a length of about 10 seconds on a website before deciding if they are interested in sticking around or not. These initial 10 seconds are made entirely of visual first impressions, and will have an enormous impact on how the customer feels about your business and remembers your company in the future.

To make sure the crucial first impression is a good one, we have broken down the foundation of brand identity into four building blocks so that you can quickly establish essential branding and get back to core business.

1. Positioning Statement

Before developing a name, tagline, or logo, it is important to develop a positioning statement that gives the brand a sense of purpose.

This positioning statement (also known as the value proposition) answers the question “Why are we doing this?” and helps connect the brand to its customers.

In her book Positioning, Arielle Jackson offers a positioning statement formula she learned from former Google Head of Marketing and Communications Christopher Escher when she was an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Google:

  • For (target customer)
  • Who (statement of need or opportunity),
  • (Product name) is a (product category)
  • That (statement of key benefit).
  • Unlike (competing alternative)
  • (Product name)(statement of primary differentiation)

Here’s an example of the formula using Amazon as the subject:

  • For World Wide Web users
  • Who enjoy books,
  • Amazon is a retail bookseller
  • That provides instant access to over 1.1 million books.
  • Unlike traditional book retailers,
  • Amazon provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices and comprehensive selection.

With this framework, you can explain your product or service in plain English to lay the foundation for brand identity.

2. Name

Picking a company name for your startup can be one of the most difficult parts of building brand identity, but also one of the most important.

As Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot CTO and Founder puts it,

A great name reduces the friction between your company and the market. It makes it easier for people to find you. Easier for people to talk about you. Sometimes, even easier for people to trust you.

The name should reflect your newly-formed Positioning Statement and stick in the customer’s mind, all while being original enough that you can acquire a great domain and all social media handles.

3. Tagline

A startup’s business tagline is an opportunity to communicate the company’s Positioning Statement directly to the customer. Unlike the Positioning Statement, taglines are short and emotionally driven.

According to branding expert Timothy RV Foster, good taglines fulfill a few simple criteria:

  • They are memorable
  • They include a key benefit
  • They differentiate the brand
  • They impart positive feelings about the brand

Finding the time to hit every mark on a tagline can be difficult, especially in a fast-paced startup environment.

Still, a good tagline is essential to an effective brand identity and should not be ignored.

4. Logo

A good professionally designed logo is a major contributor to making that crucial first impression on a customer.

When you are just getting started, your logo may be the only opportunity to identify what your company does or to separate you from the competition in locations like app download stores and social media.

How can you spot a quality logo? Most share the following characteristics:

  • They are simple
  • They are memorable
  • They are timeless
  • They are versatile
  • They are appropriate

Don’t make the mistake of settling with generic designs due to a lack of resources or access to talented designers. With a good positioning statement, name, and tagline, you have laid the foundation for a great logo and just need an experienced designer to develop the first visual asset for your brand.

By focusing on these four building blocks, your startup can set the foundation towards a comprehensive brand identity without pulling precious time and money away from core business.