What's The Difference Between Branding & Brand Identity?

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Often referred to as the ‘holy grail’ of marketing, branding is an essential pillar of any successful business. ‘Branding’ and ‘brand identity’ are often used interchangeably, which can result in a lack of brand consistency. Establishing the differences between these terms sooner rather than later will ensure that you are pitching your brand more effectively. You should carefully consider your branding before launching: businesses that neglect branding risk falling by the way side. If you’ve already established your branding, but have experienced a decrease in sales, perhaps it’s time to consider a re-brand.

What’s the difference between branding and brand identity?


Branding refers to the core values of your business: who you are, what you’re here to do, and where you’d like to go. More formally, it incorporates your mission statement, aspirations, values, audience and your tone of voice.

Brand Identity

Brand identity is commonly referred to as ‘visual identity’ or ‘brand design’. It consists of all the visual components that make up your brand. Some of these components include:

Not to mention, any other design assets that the customer will come into contact with. When these visual components align with your mission statement, you’ll enhance your user experience (UX), and set yourself apart from competitors.

Your branding and brand identity should remain consistent. A trusted and coherent brand is much more convincing for potential customers. Successful branding will ignite loyalty in your customers, set you apart from the competition, and have a positive effect on conversion rates.

How to create brand identity

Before designing the components that make up your brand identity, establish exactly who you are and what it is that you want by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is your mission? (why are you doing what you’re doing?)
  • What are your values? (are there specific beliefs that drive your business?)
  • What is your tone of voice? (if your brand was a person, how would they interact?)
  • What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? What is the thing that makes you different from everyone else?

If you’re struggling to answer these questions, reflect on the initial hunger you had when first setting up your business. Communicating with other members of your team is a useful way to situate and define your brand. Once the answers are clear in your head, you’re ready to build an identity that will bring your business to life, and ultimately attract customers.

How do branding and brand identity work together?

Once you’ve established a clear purpose, it’s time to translate your mission statement into your brand identity, and ensure that your values feed into each of the visual components for your business. For example, if sustainability and helping the environment are essential values for your business, it wouldn’t make sense to design packaging that is excessive and non-recyclable. The clearer your branding is in your head, the easier it will be to translate it visually.

I've established my brand, I just need to communicate it

Brand identity shapes how your brand will be perceived. As your business grows and more elements are introduced, each aspect needs to be carefully “branded” – your web design, social media graphics, packaging, business cards, event displays, uniforms etc. All of these small tokens will build brand recognition. Think of some of the most well-known brands such as McDonald's, Nike and Gap. These corporations have design features that are hard to forget, whether it’s their name, a colour intrinsically associated with that business, or an iconic logo. You want the core pillars of your brand identity to stand the test of time, and become an inseparable part of your organisation’s personality. Here are some important features to consider:

1. Font/Typography

This is the text design on your site. The customers who notice will really notice it, especially if it’s difficult to read!

Serif fonts (eg. Times New Roman) have what look like tiny lines/edges at the end of each letter. Serif fonts are a classic style of typography, and can give the impression that your brand is traditional but trustworthy.

Sans Serif fonts (eg. Helvetica). “Sans” means without, thus this style of font doesn’t feature small lines/edges. Sans serif fonts have smooth edges and a more contemporary, sleek aesthetic on your website.

Script typography (eg. Pacifico) refers to cursive handwriting. Using a ‘hand-written’ font can be a great way to convey your brand as personal, with a creative aesthetic.

Display fonts demonstrate distinctive features like shadows, outlines, and shapes. Generally, this typography style won’t feature throughout your entire site, but can help to stick in customers’ minds, and differentiate your website from competitors.

2. Colour

Colour is one of the most essential components of any business’ visual identity. Think of some of the most successful, global businesses in the world, and often colour is the first thing that enters our minds: Coca Cola = red, Facebook = blue, Spotify = green.

That’s because colour is one of the most memorable features when building brand recognition - in fact 80% of brand recognition comes from colour. When choosing colours, having an awareness of aesthetics and what customers will find attractive really helps. If this is something that doesn’t come naturally to you, there are countless branding consultancies that will be happy to offer their services.

Customers should genuinely enjoy interacting with your business when browsing your website or receiving their package, so make sure it’s not an eyesore. The main reason we find colour so engaging relates to the emotional triggers tied to specific colours. Colours actually make us feel things, and can even affect how likely a customer is to buy something. Consider emotional responses to colours and what your business hopes to emulate from that. For more information on choosing the right colour scheme and how different colours are interpreted, click here.

3. Your Logo

Your logo is the foundation of your brand identity. You want to create a clear logo that represents who you are: your logo should be relevant to your brand, not random. You’re aiming for something that will stand the test of time, remain integral to your brand. If you choose to work with a designer, now is the time to really pick their brains and ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck. Once you’ve designed your logo, request to receive multiple sizes, both a black and white and a coloured version (you’ll appreciate having options for a variety of uses later). You might also want to think about submarks (alternative logos) for other purposes like website icons, application interfaces etc. Your branding should translate into each design feature on your e-commerce website and beyond.

3 businesses who have nailed their brand identity

1. Elo Soap

Elo Soap is a Greek business specialising in traditional olive oil soaps. They took inspiration from Greek mythology for their brand identity. With a plethora of businesses sporting similar branding, Elo went with a contemporary design that helped them stand out from other gift shops.

In an interview with The Dieline, designer Karolos said: "The biggest goal was to be different, unique, and eye catching…although the Greek god theme in tourist shops here in Greece is very common, by using my illustration signature style we managed to give a different take on an overused theme. The result was a modern, fresh, and at the same time kind of traditional packaging due to the theme we chose." 

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Malena Blas is the owner of EAT MY SHORTS!, an independent, gender neutral fashion line who’s name intentionally (and light-heartedly) refers to the Simpsons! Blas focused on creating a packaging solution that was aesthetically pleasing, without being associated with one specific gender. She chose pastel coloured, metallic pouches which align with the brand’s promotional content on their website and social media channels.

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3) Doctor Manzana

Doctor Manzana is a Valencia based store specialising in technical support. They wanted to attract ‘different kinds of customers from fashionistas to geeks’. They worked with a designer who came up with a simple, angular line design that is recurring throughout their products and store. The line itself is at a 54 degree angle and was formed by the reflection on a mobile phone screen. A very specific and contemporary colour scheme echoes their consistent brand identity.

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Need help?

If you’re looking for even more information to build the perfect brand and brand identity, click here. We’re clued up on all things marketing and can help with some common pitfalls too.

* Image via YellowTrace