Brand Identity: A Necessary Concept
Like the ideas of
brand vision and purpose, brand identity is a recent concept. In the
very fashion-conscious, trendy milieu of communications, it is just
a sheer linguistic novelty, or is it really essential to understanding
what brands are?
Speaking of identical points of view also raises the question of permanence and continuity. As civil status and physical appearance change, identity cards get updated, yet the fingerprint of their holders always remains the same. The identity concept questions how time will affect the unique and permanent quality of the sender, the brand or the retailer. In this respect, psychologists speak of the identity crisis which adolescents often go through. When their identity structure is still weak, teenagers tend to move from one role model to another. These constant shifts create a gap and force the basic question: What is the real me?
Finally, in studies on social groups or minorities, we often speak of cultural identity. In seeking an identity, they are in fact seeking a pivotal basis on which to hinge not only their inherent differences but also their membership of a specific cultural entity.
Brand identity may be a recent notion, but many researchers have already delved into the organizational identity of companies. There, the simplest verbal expression of identity often consist in saying: Oh yes, I see, but its not the same in our company!. In other words, corporate identity truly exists and that it is a coherent and unique being with a history and a place of its own, different from others.
From these various meanings, we can infer that having an identity means being your true self, driven by a personal goal that is both different from others and resistant to change. Thus, brand identity will be clearly defined once the following questions are answered:
- What is the brands
particular vision and aim?
These questions could indeed constitute the brands charter. This type of official document would help better brand management in the medium term, both in terms of form and content, and so better address future communication and extension issues. Communication tools such as the copy strategy are essentially linked to advertising campaigns, and so are only committed to the short term. There must be specific guidelines to ensure that there is indeed only one brand forming a solid and coherent entity.
and graphic identity charters:
Many firms have unnecessarily constrained their communication because they formulated a graphic charter before defining their identity. Not knowing who they really are, they merely perpetuate purely formal codes, by for example, using photographic style which may not the most suitable. Thus Nina Riccis identity did not necessarily relate to the companys systematic adherence to English photographer David Hamiltons style. Knowing brand identity paradoxically gives extra freedom of expression, since it emphasizes the pre-eminence of substance over strictly formal features. Brand identity defines what must stay and what is free to change.
Identity: A Contemporary
The second factor explaining the urgent need to understand brand identity is the pressure constantly put on brands. We have now entered an age of marketing similarities. When a brand innovates, it creates a new standard. The other brands must then catch up if they want to stay in the race, hence increasing number of me-too products with similar attribute, not to mention the copies produced by distributors. Regulations also cause similarities to speak. Bank operations for example have become so much alike that banks are now unable to fully express their individuality and identity. Market research also generates homogeneity with a given sector. As all companies base themselves on the same lifestyle studies, the conclusions they reach are bound to be similar as are the advertising campaigns they launch, in which sometimes even the same words are used.
is responsible for growing similarity. Why do cars increasingly look
alike, in spite of their different makes? Because car makers are all
equally concerned about fluidity, inner car space constraints, motorization
and economy, and these problems cannot be solved in all that many different
ways. Moreover, when two makes of cars such as Peugeot and Citroen share
many identical parts for either productivity or competitiveness purposes,
it is mainly brand identity, along with, to a lesser extent, whats
left of each car, which will distinguish the two makes from one another.
Diversification also jeopardizes identity. Brands launch new products,
penetrate new markets and reach new targets. This causes both fragmented
communications and patchwork images. Though we may still be able to
discern bits and pieces of the brand here and there, we are certainly
unable to perceive any global or coherent identity.
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