What is a Brand Identity, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of sonc.co.uk

Photo courtesy of sonc.co.uk

If you’re “most people” you haven’t asked yourself this question in a while, or possibly ever. But, affirming, creating, or updating your brand identity is one of the most important things you can do. But, before you start, what is a brand identity?

A brand identity is a concise, but holistic, idea of what your organization is, from your stakeholder’s perspective. Who are you? What do you stand for? What you deliver to your stakeholders? These are all important parts of your organization’s brand identity. If your stakeholders cannot immediately and clearly answer you when you ask these questions, you might have a problem with your brand identity.

Something I hear time and time again when talking about brand identity is “but, we have a logo”. A logo is your visual identity. Sure, it represents your organization’s brand, but it does so visually. A true brand identity is the idea of your brand. Think about it – what is Apple? Do you only think of their logo when you read the name? My guess is no. You think of innovation and user-friendly design, among other things. Maybe you don’t even think of their logo.

So, what is it you want people to think of when they hear your nonprofit’s name? Is that idea clear, or is it complicated? Here’s an exercise for you: write down the idea you want your stakeholders to have of your organization.

Now, simplify it.

Great, now simplify it again.

Try it once more. How simple can you get that idea? One sentence? A couple of words? The reality is most of your stakeholders will associate your nonprofit with a far simpler idea than we want them to. It’s just the way our brain works – we organize our experiences and file them into the most appropriate “drawer” in our brains – and, believe me, “synergistic-capacity-building-underprivileged- youth-empowerment” likely isn’t a drawer that exists in many people’s brains.

Now that you know what you want your brand identity to be – look around you, at your programs, services, and ways of operating. Does your organization embody your brand identity in every aspect? If not, this exercise will certainly help you identify areas to improve.

Jenna Marynowski, Communications and Marketing Manager