Brand Identity vs. Brand Image: Why They Both Matter [Examples]

Mar 05, 2021

Brand image and brand identity are both important terms that you want to have perfected for your brand. While they both have a lot to do with how your company or organization is perceived, they are by no means the same thing. In this blog, we will define both terms, examine why they are often confused and see how building a solid identity and image can lead your brand to success.

What Is A Brand Image?

Brand image refers to how your brand is seen inside and outside your company. It’s how your customers, partners, and employees would describe your brand.

Let’s see how this works in practice.

For example, I as a Slack user see the company’s brand as forward-thinking, down-to-earth and simple. My thoughts on them are based on my user experience with their platform, their email communications and implementation process, what kind of companies use them, what I’ve heard others say about them, and how the brand looks visually.

I haven’t studied the brand extensively but how I view them does impact how likely I am to continue using their product and if I would recommend it to others. That’s why Slack cares about what its audience thinks of their brand. If my image of them was negative, I would most likely switch to a competitor app. Not good for business.

Slack, on the other hand, describes themselves in the following way: “We live by our mission, and improving people’s working life starts with our own company. We’re building a platform and products we believe in — as well as a strong, diverse team of curious, creative people who want to do the best work of their lives and support each other in the process.”

This definition is how they see themselves, which makes it part of their brand identity. Hmm, I think I’m not too far off with how I see Slack as a brand vs. how they would describe themselves!

What Is A Brand Identity?

Brand identity is the brand’s essence, how a company sees themselves. It’s the way a brand looks, how it communicates, what it values, and how it operates. It’s the brand’s purpose. Ideally, the identity of a brand is the guiding force in everything they do.

If we go back to our Slack example, we can deduce that they:

  1. Want to improve people’s working life
  2. Build products they can be proud of
  3. Care about their employees and see them as core for their success

So, it would make sense that these values guide Slack’s actions in practice as well. They are busy building on a communications platform that helps people work together more easily (especially in remote working situations). They are a market leader in their category and write lots of articles on company culture and how companies can redefine their employee experience (with the help of Slack products, of course).

At a quick glance, it looks like Slack’s brand identity is supported by more than just a statement on the website, which is essential if you are looking to be credible with your chosen brand image.

How Do You Build A Brand Identity and A Brand Image?

A key to building a great brand image in the eyes and minds of your target audience is to have a strong, consistent brand identity. It’s near impossible to even try and control how others would describe your brand unless you have a clear guiding vision of what your brand and company is here to do. What do you believe in, what are your values? Once you have your purpose nailed down, you can think about the stuff around it.

Let’s say your identity is one of cutting-edge technology, premium quality, exclusivity. Think:

  • How does a premium brand speak?
  • How can I add value to my customers (other than selling my product)?
  • Does my product and customer experience reflect my brand’s identity?
  • What do I want my employer brand to be like? Who do I want to attract?
  • What does a cutting-edge brand look like? How can my visuals support my identity?

Once again, let’s jump back into the Slack example. We examined the company’s values based on their mission statement and found the three things that are a priority to them. Here’s how they back up their claims with actions:

Improve working life:

An app that’s easy to use, super quick to install and has free options for everyone to use. Support that’s fast and easy to access. Eliminates or cuts out a lot of email chat, lots of flexibility to customize your own chat environment.

Proud of their product:

Product slogan ‘Slack makes other software better, connects with over 2,200 ready-to-use apps, ability to integrate your internal tools with the Slack APIs, constant improvements to the platform, lots of publicly available data on how Slack helps companies.

Care for their people and culture:

Countless resources dedicated to employee culture, including wide-scale reviews on employee surveys, 4.8/5 star score on Glassdoor, a website where people give anonymous feedback to their employers, lots of extra benefits for Slack employees, a very thorough careers page.

Summary

Brand image and brand identity are definitely closely linked but still very different terms, the first focusing on how customers and other people see the brand and the latter what the brand’s purpose and personality is. For a successful company, these two definitions come quite close to another. If a member of your audience would describe your brand with the same words that you would use (without having a sneak peek at your ‘About us’ page) you are on the right track.

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