Brand vs Brand Identity: Understanding the Two

Businesses are inundated with terms such as branding and brand identity, and general knowledge may lead you to think that the design of your website and logo is how you feel. Since B.Human is all about curating your brand (not creating), I thought it might be a good idea to clarify the difference between brand vs brand identity.

Here’s the quick version if you don’t have the time to read: Brand is how a company or business is perceived, while brand identity is the visual components that are used by brands.

What is a Brand vs. Brand Identity

We can’t discuss the differences between a brand and a brand identity without first talking about what each is. Here’s a hint though – they’re definitely different. 

What is a Brand? 

When asking most people the first word that comes to mind when they think of Disney, they will likely say, “Magical.” Disney has done an outrageous amount pouring into their brand to curate this message of feeling magical. A brand is the perception or feeling one associates with a business.

Here at B.Human, we have the belief that you don’t own your brand – everyone else does. Think back to Disney – there are those who love it, and those who hate it. Who is wrong? Well, neither, because both groups perceive it in their own way. You can’t create your brand, you can only curate it and what others think of it. We’ll dive into that later.

What is a Brand Identity?

A brand identity is a brand’s visual and verbal elements that bring it to life. Think of this as the snapshot of a brand – you can only tell so much about anything from a single snapshot. A brand identity helps visualize brand personalities.

Think of it as a driver’s license – you know, the one you weren’t allowed to smile in? If you are someone who smiles often, then this may not be a proper identity of the brand you actually present. It can be out of line with the brand you want to curate.

The colors you use, along with the images, fonts, and even the things you say about a business are a part of the brand identity. A brand identity is tangible – while the brand is what you feel. You can literally see these work together in a brand’s marketing campaigns and on collateral such as a brochure or business card.

What is a Logo?

Let’s set the record straight – a logo is a part of the brand identity. It is not the brand. It is simply a symbol that is used to identify a brand or product. Your logo, however, is the first thing that anyone will see about your brand – and it can either make or break your brand’s first impression.

A logo is usually broken down into 3 parts:

  • Brand mark
  • Logotype
  • Tag line

Often, brands will make announcements for a rebrand. If the way you feel about a brand doesn’t change, then it was not a brand redesign – it was a brand identity redesign. Sometimes a brand will simply update its logo with the belief that it is a rebrand. It’s simply a facelift.


How to Create a Brand

Again, I’m going to emphasize the idea that a brand cannot be created – it can only be curated. You can’t control what everyone thinks of you, but you can definitely give them the words to say about you.

Market Research

Before you can start building your brand, you need to know about the market you are wanting to help. In the case you have an existing brand, you may want to rebrand in the case of a market shift or if your brand promise has changed.

During market research, you are also going to take the time to find out where your audience is. Are they on social media? If so, which platforms and what interests do they have?

Defining Your Brand Messaging

When you are defining your brand messaging, you are defining who you are, who you serve, and what you want your audience to feel about your brand. This is also a time to nail down how exactly your brand should present itself.

How to Define Your Brand Messaging

  • Define Your Mission Statement: Why you do, what you do. (Example: Serving coffee that brings joy)
  • Define Who You Serve: Carmax doesn’t just serve people who are wanting to buy a car – they’re serving people who want to buy a car without the negotiating process. Defining who you serve can help you understand how they want to be heard and spoken to.
  • Define Your Brand Voice: Your voice is the tone. While a luxury brand might use sophisticated language, a casual brand, such as Mellow Mushroom, will be extremely casual.
  • Define Your Words: What are words you use and avoid? Casual or formal? (Example: Old Spice is bold and outrageous)
  • Define Your Brand Character: This sets the tone for your customer service and how you interact with others.
  • Define Your Brand Superpower: Your brand super power is what makes you unique against your competitors.
Brand Descriptors for Alex Medvick

Design Your Brand Image

Your brand image is heavily influenced by your brand identity. A successful brand will utilize psychological elements into their branding elements. For example, thin lines are typically associated with luxury and bespoke design, whereas thick lines can be associated with something more playful and casual.

Brands like Coca Cola utilized the influence of color psychology by using red to stand out from all other sodas on the shelf. It’s the same reason stop signs are red – red stands out. 

Your visual branding including your logo, color palette, and imagery (along with a million other things) must be in alignment with each other, or the whole thing falls apart. When it comes to creating a brand identity, it’s imperative that you have a brand identity designer do this for you if you are unable to do it yourself.

What Do Brand Identity Designers Do?

As the name suggests, brand identity designers design brands. Or, in the case of B.Human, we curate them. It begins by creating a brand strategy. For us, it begins with a brand interview where we learn more about you, then we plan how we’re going to curate your brand identity to influence your audience’s perception of you.

Why Hire a Brand Identity Designer?

You are the expert in your field – a brand identity designer is the expert in their field. Take a carpenter, for example. If you were to tell a carpenter and someone who just wanted a place to sit down to build a chair, you will end up with two very different results. The carpenter, who has spent his or her life committed to crafting artisan furniture, will built a beautiful and sturdy chair that will make most anyone feel guilty for sitting on something so lovingly built. The person who wants somewhere to sit might just grab a box. Anyone seeing the two “chairs” will quickly identify that one is for sitting in like a king, while the other is just a quick solution.

Essentially, a brand identity designer will curate a brand that is identifiable and beautiful.

If you are a small business or a medium sized business and are in a competitive market, it may benefit you to invest in your brand. These competitive markets include food and beverage, photography, moving and storage, hospitality, health and wellness, software as a service (Saas), consumer packaged goods (CPG), and more.

When to Rebrand

Businesses can sometimes fall into the trap of wanting to rebrand simply for the fact of something new. Relevancy is something to consider when curating a brand, but longevity is crucial. Simply said, rebranding for the sake of rebranding is not a good enough reason. A few reasons you should consider rebranding include:

  • The mission of the company has changed
  • The products or services offered have changed
  • Business has slowed significantly due to market changes
  • Your brand is out of date (like, actually out of date)
  • You are embarrassed of your current brand image
  • Your brand is not unique
  • You’ve outgrown your current brand
  • It isn’t human

Let’s Make Your Brand Human

“The most human company wins” Mark Schaefer, Marketing Rebellion

I am not a fan of corporate marketing. That’s because it’s too driven by numbers and algorithms. Yes, these things matter in business, but humans are complex. Not everything we do can be measured. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to see if what we’re really doing is making people feel the way we want them to feel. That’s where we come in.

We help personal brands develop brand strategies that help them serve their customers in a way that makes them have an emotional attachment to you, and we build marketing strategies around the brand. Essentially, we help your brand be human.