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Building a Strong Brand Identity: How to Differentiate Your Retail Business

Building a Strong Brand Identity: How to Differentiate Your Retail Business

Having a strong brand identity is essential for any business that wants to succeed. Your brand identity is more than just your logo or tagline; it’s an amalgamation of everything that people experience when they interact with your brand. It’s the personality that sets you apart from your competitors and resonates with your audience.

Working out how to build your brand identity is an important part of building your brand, and growing your business. We’ve put together a short guide explaining how you can create a brand that people will remember. Let’s get started.

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Understanding brand identity

Brand identity can be difficult to define. Some will say your brand’s identity is entirely connected to your designs, colours, and logo. But, it’s more than that. Brand identity, really, can be loosely defined by the question, ‘How does the world perceive you?’. Your brand is your personality and it should be woven into every touchpoint, from your logo’s colours, to the way you tell your story.

Imagine a cohesive blend of what you look like (visual elements, colours, fonts) and how you sound (voice, tone, messaging). When these elements come together, they tell a story of your brand values and your mission.

Think of crafting a distinct and powerful brand identity like designing a beacon. The beacon’s job is to attract your ideal audience and guide them towards your brand. Even a fleeting glimpse, whether it’s on a t-shirt or a tote bag, should spark recognition and understanding.

Crafting a compelling brand story

“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” – Steve Jobs.

People love storytelling. We love listening to stories and we love telling them, too. Brand stories are no different. The story of how Nike created the ‘Air Jordan’, a shoeline produced for basketball player, Michael Jordan, was covered in ‘Air’ [2022] which grossed $90.1m. The story wasn’t about Michael Jordan, it wasn’t about the NBA, or the origin story of Nike. It was a story that captured the creation of one of the most popular, well-established apparel brands of all time; Air Jordan. People care about stories, sure. But, people can care about brand stories, too, as long as they’re worth listening to.

Brand stories are important because they can help customers to understand who you are, what you do, and why your business exists. If your customers can understand why you exist, if they can connect to your mission, and your values, they can develop a connection with your brand. Customers who feel connected, stay connected. 

Telling your story doesn’t have to be difficult. You can get started by ensuring you adhere to the following:

  • Tell a story: People think in stories, not statistics. Try to stick to what makes you worth talking about, rather than talking about percentage increases in terms of growth, or how much you sold last year. 
  • Focus on the customer. Needless to say, your customer needs to hear how your products or services are beneficial to them. Your customer case won’t be interested in learning about how great you find yourself. 
  • Be authentic. Nice and simple, but somehow, the thing that most companies struggle with. Being authentic means to be true to yourself, your values, what you want to achieve, and how you can enrich people’s lives. People can see inauthentic brands from a mile off. For example, don’t masquerade your company as ‘eco-warriors’ that hold sustainability true to your heart if you’re not making concerted efforts to go green. This is called ‘greenwashing’ by the way and is a classic example of brands being inauthentic with their brand stories, values, and mission.

Wonder how you can actually create your own brand story? What rules do you need to follow, and how to separate yourself from the rest? Well, take a look at the following and learn how to tell your own story that people will remember and connect with.

Overcome adversity, be vulnerable 

At their heart, stories captivate us by showing us characters overcoming obstacles. Without conflict, there’s no tension, no journey, and frankly, no reason to care. A flawless, problem-free narrative might sound ideal for showcasing your brand’s strength, but it backfires by failing to connect with real people.

Life is messy and everybody faces challenges. Brands that shy away from showing their own struggles miss a powerful opportunity to resonate with their audience. People don’t expect perfection; they connect with the authenticity of overcoming obstacles, big or small.

Think of it this way: imagine two brands telling their stories. One boasts small sailing and flawless success. The other shares its journey, including setbacks, learning experiences, and ultimately, triumphs. Which one feels more human, relatable, and ultimately, trustworthy? The choice is clear. Embrace the power of adversity in your brand narrative. Show your audience you’ve navigated rough waters, emerged stronger, and are ready to guide them on their own journeys. 

Create conflict and resolution

You know how we mentioned that brand stories are no different than regular stories? We meant it. There’s no reason that your brand story has to be boring, uninspired, or a bit all over the place. Similar to regular stories, they need structure, plot, characters, setting, and conflict. But, for now, we’ll just focus on three key ingredients for a great brand story.

  1. Status quo. The ‘before’ picture. The way things were before you came into the world. Paint a vivid picture of what this looks like, how things were, and all its glorious flaws and imperfections. Your brand needs to fill a void in people’s lives. Describing what the world was missing allows you to introduce yourself as a brand that seeks to offer a fix, cure, or salvation to someone’s problems.
  2. Disruption. This is your ‘conflict’. The challenges that encouraged you to throw your brand into action. What problem did your brand arise to solve? Show the stakes and why it matters.
  3. Triumph. The ‘after’ picture. This is your resolution, where you’ve overcome the challenge. Show how you conquered the conflict, highlighting your brand’s unique approach and impact. This is the emotional payoff for your audience.

This is a simple formula, but a powerful one. Applying it can help transform your brand story from a flat statement into a captivating journey that connects with people on a deeper level. They’ll root for your brand as the hero, remembering not just your solution, but the story of how you achieved it.

Designing a memorable logo and visual elements

Creating a logo is more than just a design choice. It’s a statement of who you are and a key ingredient for branding success. In today’s competitive markets, a well-crafted logo can be the difference between blending in and becoming a recognised leader. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean you should be intimidated. While a logo is essential, crafting one doesn’t have to be an expensive or exclusive process. 

Imagine your logo as the face of your brand, the first impression you make on customers. It should be memorable, unique, and embody your brand’s values and mission. A strong logo can:

  • Boost brand recognition: Think of the iconic swoosh of Nike or the golden arches of McDonald’s. A well-designed log becomes instantly recognisable, triggering brand association and trust.
  • Communicate your brand identity: Colours, fonts, and imagery all work together to tell your brand story. A logo can convey professionalism, innovation, playfulness, or any other quality you want to associate with your business. 
  • Stand out from the competition: In a crowded marketplace, a unique and eye-catching log can help you differentiate yourself from the pack. 

Knowing where to start can be quite difficult. Fear not. There will be thousands of different logos you like, and can potentially take inspiration from. Start by looking out for logos anywhere you can. Make a note of any impressive designs you encounter, from packaging to websites. You can also delve into the depths of design blogs, Pinterest board of renowned graphic designers, and even platforms like Behance and Dribbble. Immerse yourself in current trends and see what you can find.

Make sure to check out your competitors, too. You can gain valuable insights by looking at the logos of key players in your industry. This allows you to appreciate successful designs, identify pitfalls to avoid, and most importantly, ensure your logo stands out from the crowd.

Decide on a colour scheme you’d like for your brand. This will be used, not just for your logo, but on any assets your company creates from website design, social media assets, flyers, bags, etc. Colours have a lot of power in influencing people’s decision making as different colours can elicit different emotions from their audience. Plus, design your own font, too. Or, just find a slightly different one that works for your brand. Let’s put it this way, no Fortune 500 company uses ‘Comic-Sans’. Think outside the box a little bit and test as many different fonts as you can.

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