How to Create a Brand Identity that Stands Out
By Gina Czupka | October 13, 2022
Gina Czupka is a content director at MSPC. Here, she explores the daunting task of setting your brand apart from thousands of competitors with four factors that can help you build a stronger brand identity.
Sometimes I like to think of myself as being above brand loyalty. I am uncatchable, wily and savvy, too wise to the ways of marketing to be lured in. And then I look through the cabinets and cupboards of my house, and I am humbled to realize that no, I am most definitely not immune to the power of a good brand. Vanishingly few people are.
But here’s the thing: For every branded product that I buy, own or evangelize to my friends, there are dozens—maybe hundreds or thousands—of competing products. And we’re inundated with messages from those legions of brands every day.
There’s an oft-cited statistic that we see between 4,000 and 10,000 brand messages *per day* (as I fact-checked this stat, I saw ads for two car companies, an investment firm, a direct-to-consumer jewelry brand and an ISP on just one page). Nevertheless, plenty of brands—both big and small—manage to grab attention, inspire trial and gain loyalty.
How do they do it? I’m sure you’ll be shocked (shocked!) to hear that there’s no simple formula or one-size-fits-all solution to creating a standout brand identity. Come to think of it, that’d be the best way to not stand out. What the brands that do stand out have in common is that they’re balancing a number of factors that, taken together, build a memorable, likable brand identity and bolster the odds of discovery.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or trying to reach a new level after hitting a plateau, consider these four crucial factors to build a stronger identity for your brand.
1. Understand your value proposition
There’s a reason your brand exists: You do what you do differently or better than your competition does it. But it’s not enough to vaguely feel like you’re different—or to assume that consumers will understand what makes your brand special.
You need to define your unique value proposition. Put into words all of the specific ways your brand solves your customers’ problems and makes their lives better, and then identify how you do those things differently than your competitors.
You won’t use this information to draw direct comparisons in your content. The exercise is more about galvanizing internal excitement, developing a cohesive perspective about what your brand is (and is not), and laying out your content subject matter.
2. Have a perspective
The old adage still applies: You can’t please all of the people all of the time. And to be a standout brand, trying to be everything to everyone is counterproductive.
The way your brand comes across in your content—the things you talk about, how you talk about them, how you produce and use visuals, where you show up—should leave people with an understanding of your brand’s personality. Does your brand have a sense of humor about your industry? Is it all about compassion and service? Do you absolutely oppose or support Thing X?
When bold, unafraid perspectives show up in your content, your brand is not only more memorable, it’s going to connect more intensely with people who share similar sensibilities and keep them interested in you.
3. Don’t underestimate experience
How people experience your brand—at any stage in the consumer journey—has far-reaching consequences. The way your brand makes people feel can keep them coming back, spur them to spread the word and earn you broader attention. The key is to do something that is unusual or unexpected that adds value to customers’ experiences.
People are hardwired to ignore the common, but notice and remember the exceptional. In an interview on the “Make Something Cool” podcast, Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy Group, referenced this fact in relation to a few brands: San Pellegrino, with the little protective foil lids they put on canned drinks; DoubleTree hotels, with the hot cookies they give guests at check-in; and the Magic Castle Hotel in Los Angeles, a fairly modest place with an outsized fan base thanks to its poolside popsicle delivery hotline and exceptional customer service.
Beyond making me crave cookies, popsicles and a nice cold Clementina, these examples drove home for me the power that these little out-of-the-ordinary touches have in creating a memorable brand identity.
4. Know how to show up in an algorithmic world
The simple prospect of being seen is among the most flummoxing of all challenges these days, but the main takeaway is that you can’t do just one thing. Yes, you need to be on social media—and probably on multiple channels, depending on where your audience tends to congregate. With the state of the algorithms right now, you need both an organic and paid presence, especially on Meta’s turf.
Making a dent in organic is an uphill battle that needs a veritable army of content producers churning and posting at what is (to my mind) a rate unsustainable for human workers. Paid has to be in the mix. And even then, you never know what the future updates will hold. So as insurance—or really, as a best practice—you need to do everything you can to cultivate and support owned channels.
Bring people in organically with an SEO-optimized website rich in valuable content, get them signed up for email, and you’ve got a more qualified audience who have raised their hands to hear what you’re saying, algorithms be [darned].
Taking these four factors into account as you create a brand-building strategy will help set you apart. But keep in mind that they’re a starting point; consistency is what will give your brand real staying power. When your brand takes hold, the hard work isn’t done—it’s just entering a new phase. Innovate, explore and expand your efforts to ensure that your brand stays relevant and fresh.