Crate of Coca Cola Bottles

Building A Unique Brand Identity that Sells Your Story

A brand is a name, term, symbol, design or a combination of these. Branding is used by an organisation to identify its products as unique from others.

Your brand acts as an identity and signal. It communicates many messages to the market. Therefore, brand identity is its ‘personality’ in context of your target market. In other words, it’s a brand’s characteristics as seen by the market. Every business has one, although some are subtler and others are very in-your-face.

It’s very important for a brand’s success to have a solid, well supported identity. It allows the target market to relate to it. People are emotional beings and this comes across in their buyer behaviour. All businesses wants their product to appeal to a certain customer. The identity of the brand must offer a relevant characteristics is pleasing and favourable to them.

Popular cola soft drinks run intensive branding campaigns with their product on the beach with people enjoying summer. The intention that their brand will become associated with ‘fun times’ and ‘enjoyable experiences with friends’. This trait, which is an element of brand identity, means that customers will recognise a relatable characteristic. Making an associating their happy emotions with a product that naturally lends itself to that situation.

Five Dimensions of Brand Personality

Research into the marketing and psychological aspects of branding date back to the 60s, 70s and 80s. Identify five main brand personality traits, known as ‘The Big Five’, which encapsulate the main categories of identity.

How a consumer interprets all brand messaging is how a brand identity is defined. The definition tends to focus on one of the following traits.

  1. Sincerity: Down-to-earth, genuine, honest, and comfortable.
  2. Excitement: Exhilaration, adrenaline, fun, stimulating and sporting.
  3. Competence: Reliable, trustworthy, successful and intelligent.
  4. Sophistication: Upper class, cultured, charming and posh.
  5. Ruggedness: Outdoorsy, tough and strong.

Regardless of which category, a brand identity can significantly impact a customer’s interaction. Thereby creating an emotional connection with a specific product or organisation.

How to Develop a Brand Identity

The identity of a business, a product or brand functions very similarly to that of a person. When you think of a person, you can list off all of the qualities they have. Qualities that come across to you when you interact with them. For example, witty, smart, fun, outgoing, frustrating, and so on. These qualities can be both negative and positive.

How you come to the conclusion of these adjectives lies in how you’ve interpreted the signals they projected. Mostly through their actions. For example, you would label someone as fun, because they shared an experience with you that you enjoyed. You would label someone as frustrating because they were difficult to get along with.

It works the same with a brand. The best way to establish, uncover and promote a brand identity is to begin describing the traits and characteristics that come to mind. Then you (the brand owner) must leverage messages and actions which act as signals to the target consumers. These signals will to allow them to discover and interpret those characteristics and relate your brand to those traits.

Branding Elements

Branding elements are the physical identifiers of a brand. Attributes such as design, images, colours, font, name, shaping, spacing and so on.

With branding, remember that consistency is key here. Once you establish your traits, the way your brand physically must be consistent with the characteristics you wish to portray.

For example, if you want a sporty, exciting brand, you may lean towards brighter colours, modern fonts and trendy logos. However, a conservative fashion brand may choose a more formal name, a cleaner font, a more conservative colour palette, etc.

Customers are very intuitive. And therefore, brand identity and the associated branding elements must be planned very carefully. This is to ensure that they sync in such a way that the correct messages are being successfully and easily interpreted by the market.

Using a Brand Voice

A ‘voice’ in this branding context refers to the entire suite of communication tools used to promote the brand identity and elements, above, to the market. Basically, it’s how you speak and interact with your audience and how they relate to this.

This can be the colouring, layout and words used on a website. It also includes the music and sound on a radio commercial, or the images featured on a print advert.

Again, consistency is very important here. It is very essential that the voice matches the characteristics and traits originally established for the brand. This will ensure that the audience isn’t the victim of mixed or conflicting messages.

With all that said, branding is key to successful marketing. The story you tell your customers will define your business. To be effective, remember the key elements mentioned above. 


  • Vukani Nxumalo

    Vukani Nxumalo is the 'thinking' Entrepreneur & Author of 'the thinking book series' and other titles. With over 10 years experience in the Marketing Communications and Financing industries, he knows just how to unpack a business' operations to find effective ways of extracting value. An avid reader and passionate writer, when he speaks, you feel the need to just sit and listen. Nxumalo Vukani