business brand

Brand vs. Identity—What’s the Difference?

Brand and identity both play an essential role in your overall marketing strategy, and they each have their own particular application in the world of marketing. Yet while “brand” and “identity” mean two different things, the two terms are often used interchangeably. So what’s the deal? Here is a look at the difference between brand and identity—and what it means for your marketing.

Brand

If you were to ask a group of business professionals how they define “brand,” you would probably get a wide variety of responses. Some would say that “brand” refers to any symbol or feature that identifies a company’s goods or services; others would say that it’s a company’s “gut feeling”; and still others would say that it’s “what others say about you when you leave the room.” So is it something you design for your company, an aura that surrounds your company, or what?

Think of it this way: brand is the relationship that a company has with its audience. Branding is about the customer experience. Sure, maybe in the everyday sense of the word, you can “brand” something, but when it comes to establishing a strong brand for your company, that’s something that you have to earn. A strong brand is the result of putting hard work into establishing a strong, meaningful relationship with your audience—and that’s something you do with a combination of good marketing strategy, naming, design, public relations, advertising, and more. In short, think of brand as a relationship rather than as simply a symbolic representation of a company.

Identity

If branding refers to a company’s earned relationship with its audience, what, then, is identity?

Identity deals with anything visual, tactile, or otherwise sense-engaging (a logo, specific colors, a signature scent, Lyft’s fuzzy pink mustache, etc.) that reminds the audience of the company as a whole. All of these sense-engaging reminders work together to create a company’s identity; the more consistent these sense-engaging reminders are, the stronger the identity. In other words, a logo plays only a single role in the construction of a company’s identity.

This is why standardization is so important in the marketing realm. Businesses define Pantone® colors for their logos, print materials, and websites. Restaurants and cafés fine-tune their recipes so that customers get the same olfactory and gustatory experiences every time they come in for a meal. Companies create entire mood boards aimed at capturing just the “feel” that they want to give off in their marketing, referring to these boards time and time again. All of these things help to create consistency, and consistency is what helps build a shared memory in the public’s mind.

In short, think of identity as the shared memory that your audience will have of your company after interacting with all of the sense-engaging “artifacts” of your company.

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