By Lucid Fusion

Want to take a product to market, redesign your website, or start a content marketing campaign? Awesome! But first, let’s talk about your brand identity. Yes, we know you’re anxious to get started—but this is an important place to begin. Here’s why.

Much like defining your customer journey, developing a brand identity (and actively branding it) is essential for creating a strong foundation for ALL strategies you undertake moving forward—this includes comprehensive business strategies, sales, marketing, hiring decisions, and more.

Kind of sounds like a big deal, right? Despite the gravity of a statement like “ALL strategies you undertake moving forward,” many companies feel like they can jump into full-scale, highly consumer-targeted projects without first taking the time to consider what their brand is about, or why customers should care about it. That’s like setting off on a long journey through uncharted territory without a map! While there’s something to be said for having a spirit of adventure and learning along the way, just think how much time, money, and peace of mind you’d save by getting the lay of the land first (hint: a lot).

That’s why we recommend that all companies—especially those that are just getting started or who are rebranding/redesigning/refreshing their initiatives—start by thinking about their brand identity. Here are a few reasons why.

Brand and Brand Identity are different things

It’s true, believe it or not. You need brand identity (that is, the strategy, storytelling, visual elements, and active branding efforts that help ensure consumers get what you’re about) in order to have a brand. Both your brand identity and, to a lesser extent, your resulting brand, are in your control—if you take the effort to define your purpose, ideals, and goals from the get-go, and translate that into strategies that will showcase them consistently across all media and platforms (that means logos, colors, your mission statement, ads, website copy, job postings—everything!).

If you don’t actively participate in and guide this process, consumers will attempt to make connections themselves based on fragmented bits they’ve cobbled together; whether or not your brand’s true ideals actually match the perception that consumers have generated is out of your hands. And trying to reshape that perception later on can prove to be difficult.

You’re your first brand advocate

80% of consumers say “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in their decision to follow a brand. In order to generate content that’s authentic, you will have to figure out what that means within your brand identity. Do you champion the customer experience? Do you support American small businesses? Is quality your top priority? Knowing this stuff helps to ensure that whatever you’re trying to do—whether it’s starting a lead generation campaign or refreshing your website copy—aligns your brand and its vision with the people you’re trying to reach and convert. You can’t fake authenticity; if you haven’t nailed down what your brand represents through brand identity, it will be obvious to consumers, and they’ll look elsewhere for the real deal.

Your brand is your real competitive advantage

Big, recognizable brands like Nike or Apple aren’t standing on the strength of their logos alone (though, that can be important, too). It’s the who behind what these logos represent that has created loyal brand advocates and repeat business. In fact,

The reason these consumers know they can connect with these brands is smart, focused branding initiatives that are driven by a solid brand identity. That’s because the process of developing a comprehensive brand identity helps you recognize and capitalize on all the ways your brand stands apart from others in your space. Once you know that, you can focus on making it personal to the people who will most appreciate what you have to offer—that’s how you become a consumer’s first choice.

The simple truth is that if you haven’t taken the time to really consider and flesh out your brand identity, then you can’t truly know what to expect from your own brand—and if you don’t know, nobody else will either. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to launch new products or revamp your website without an in-depth audit of your brand identity; people do it all the time (and it makes us sad). But if you really want to start any new initiative off on the right foot, and give your brand a proper foundation and direction, defining the elements of what your brand is—and aspires to be—should be a priority.

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