Learn why brand identity matters and how it helps you stand out from your competitors
Yellow M. Three stripes. Red and white. Swoosh. Blue and yellow. Big red tongue.
Each of these represents a brand. Can you name the brands?
McDonald’s. Adidas. Coca-Cola. Nike. Ikea. The Rolling Stones.
Brand identity. These brands have nailed it. When you see these logos, you instantly know what to expect from their products, stores, social media, and marketing.
Brand identity is about so much more than a logo or a typeface. Brands such as Patagonia, The North Face, or Decathlon exemplify this.
Reading the brand names gives you a feeling. A feeling like “I can climb that mountain” or “I can achieve that goal” or “I can do that thing I have always wanted to do”.
This is the missing link of brand identity that so many brands neglect. Imagine a thread connecting your products, marketing, sales, store design, social media, and customer service together – this is your brand identity.
Brand identity is the reason why it’s so hard for new brands to take hold and grab market share from iconic brands.
As a customer, who do you trust? Nike, Patagonia, and Glossier or the new brand that has popped up out of nowhere and suddenly has a storefront and ads on every platform…
If you’re like us, you’re skeptical.
Is that product any good? What kind of company is it? Can I trust this brand? Should I even trust the reviews?
Why Brand Identity Matters
Brand identity matters because it is what gets people walking into your store and buying from you.
Think of brand identity as hard currency. You and your customers can bank on it. It shapes and guides what you do. Your customers trust and rely on it to give them what they want and expect.
What is your brand identity? What does your brand communicate to consumers? What story does your brand tell?
Brand identity develops the intangibles that drive brand loyalty and evangelism:
- Affirmation (Identity)
Think of that brand that you have always liked. That brand you follow, trust, and compare other companies to. This brand has nailed brand identity. You can’t quite explain what it is – but you feel this brand and connect to it. It’s almost as if this brand is speaking to you. This is brand identity.
You need to be this brand.
How to Create a Brand Identity
To create a brand identity, you need to start with these 5W1H questions:
- Who? Who are we? Who do we want to be? Who is our target market?
- What? What do we believe in? What do we offer? What does our target market want and need?
- Why? Why do we exist? Why did we develop this product/idea/service? Why should people care and want it?
- Where? Where are our customers? Where do they spend their money and time? Where is our opportunity?
- When? When do people need and use our product? When do we want to be in their lives?
- How? How do we solve challenges, needs, and gaps for our target market? How do we support our customers, make their lives easier, help them be who they want to be? How do we want people to feel and think about us?
You need to know your company, your product, your mission and values, and your reason for being. Once you know this you can understand how you fit into people’s lives.
This is how you develop the story for your brand and the story for your customers. Remember, you customers have an ideal – a way they see themselves and how they want to be seen. Your story needs to mesh with this.
What story does your retail store tell? If you covered up your logos and marketing – what makes it different from your competitors? Do your stores have a personality? Do you have the intangibles that appeal to the needs and wants of your customers?
Incorporating Your Brand Identity into Your Retail Store Design
Nike. Glossier. Ikea. Uniqlo. LEGO. Apple. Starbucks.
These retail stores are standouts for incorporating their brand identity into their retail design. Just reading the brand names, you know what to expect when you walk in a store.
Each of these brands knows how to showcase unique aspects of their brand identity – tailoring this to the demographics of their customers in each location.
And they do this by incorporating their brand identity into the 7 core elements of retail store design:
- Window Displays
The first thing people see is your window display. You have about 2 seconds to grab the attention of someone walking by. Put your brand identity and story on full show in your window display.
Uniqlo did this well with their Liberty campaign. From the window display, fixtures, mannequins, signage, through to their digital marketing – it all said Liberty.
Graphic installations and signage including banners, films, floor graphics, 3D lettering, wallpapers, murals, and cut letters are key to expressing your brand identity and making it easy for people to relax and spend time in your store.
Showcase your brand message and motto/slogan. Highlight key aspects of your mission and remind people why they feel connected to your brand. Use creative graphics and signage to guide people to feature products and displays. Remind people why they chose you and why you’re right for them.
Quick – what color is the Ikea logo? Blue and yellow. You know this because Ikea stands out for how well they incorporate these colors into their retail stores and all their marketing and merchandising.
The Glossier flagship store in SoHo is another example of how to use color to make people feel calm, welcomed, and supported. From the monochrome design through to the bright red accents and the subtle white subway tiles – the use of color simply works on all levels.
Do not overlook the importance of your millwork and fixtures. Checkout displays, shelving, product displays, digital and experiential displays to shop-in-shop installations need to be on brand.
Creative use of millwork and fixtures allows you to show off your message, personality, vibe, and value through-out your store. Remember your story and what customers expect and want from your story – it’s important your millwork communicates this.
Think of the shelving in Costco and the shelving in Apple. Very different brand identities and very different approaches to shelving.
Walk into any LEGO store and you’re dazzled by the bright lights, the vibrant color scheme, and the creative use of signage and millwork. You feel inspired, curious, and drawn to displays – all thanks to the lighting.
And while there is a lot happening in LEGO stores, the stores do not feel hectic or busy. This is due to the light – it’s transparent, simple, and subtle. Giving you a feeling of space and calm amidst the energy of lots of little kids (and big ones) rushing to their favorite LEGO sets and interactive displays.
- Space and Store Layout
Space and store layout are key visual merchandising tools for guiding people through your story and directing them to key sales areas. Think of how you position millwork and use design strategies like curves, sharp angles, interactive displays, and relaxation zones.
Your store layout needs to suit the shopping style and mood of your customers and products. A loop store layout gives shoppers a guided and supported shopping experience. A grid layout makes it easy for people to pick and choose their aisles and shop for specific products. A free-flow layout encourages discovery, browsing, and serendipity. A fixed path layout with showrooms, shop-in-shops, and hands-on displays encourages impulse shopping.
Nike. Apple. Ikea. LEGO. Patagonia. Decathlon. Uniqlo. Starbucks. They are all consistent. While each store has a unique personality, you know what you will get.
Every aspect of your retail store design is part of the thread connecting your marketing, sales, customer service, and products together. You need to consistently remind people why they feel connected to your brand and why you are the right (and only) choice for them.
Consistency makes it easy for people trust your brand and feel like they “know” you. When you veer off-brand, you cause an immediate disruption – which may help you gain attention but threatens to confuse people and make them question why they chose your brand over your competitor.
The thing that gives brands like Uniqlo, LEGO, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Ikea, and Glossier an edge is they are not afraid to connect with their customers and show-off who they are, what they believe in, and why people need and want them.
Leading Brand Identity Design Trends
Simplicity. Authenticity. Personal. Tolerant. Inclusive. Bold. Strong. Outlier. Activist.
These are all leading brand identity design trends. The secret for you and your brand, is that it doesn’t matter what the leading brand identity design trends are…
What matters is knowing the who, why, when, where, what, and how of your brand. When you understand this – the trends are just trends.
Your customers are smart – and they are quick to dismiss and leave brands who jump from trend-to-trend. Look at the stalwarts of brand identity. They stick to their story and know how to emphasize specific traits and personalities – when and where it makes sense.
Be the brand that gets it – this is way more powerful than having the best product. When you know who you are and what your customers want from you – you come out ahead.
At Dynamic, our unique combination of IN-HOUSE offerings makes us your single source provider for graphics, window displays, and branding installations. No one understands graphic and branding installation better than we do.
Contact us to learn how we can handle any aspect of your business – from an individual installation to a global roll-out.