Every impression counts when promoting and maintaining a successful business, and managing your brand identity is a major factor in that success. Whether it’s your logo, your website or your business cards, your customers build an impression of your company through every interaction they have with it. Each touchpoint adds up to create your brand image. But in today’s dynamic digital market, customers have more ways than ever to engage with brands.

New and evolving technologies demand that businesses account for the myriad of platforms that can promote as well as demote their brand. Brand research across a diverse range of markets has shown that your customers’ opinions, needs and expectations can turn on a dime, particularly in the court of social media. As a result, the challenge for businesses is to navigate these platforms to ensure they don’t get lost in the crowd, or worse, stand out for all of the wrong reasons.

What Is Brand Identity and Brand Image?

Brand identity is the way a business defines itself to their target audience. Every element that helps define your brand, from name and logo to color scheme and even the language you use to communicate with your audience come together to create your overall brand identity.

On the other hand, your brand image is the perception that customers have of your brand. It is the aggregate of every experience, interaction and association that people have with your organization.

When customers buy something from your business, they are doing more than just buying a product or service—they are buying into your brand and what it stands for. That’s why it’s vital to ensure that your brand identity consistently says the right thing to each customer. This builds a strong brand image, credibility and loyalty, and, ultimately, provides a strong foundation to help the brand navigate future challenges.

Take a look at a few of the world’s biggest brands and you can see the importance of brand image in action. For example, you may not own an Apple product or like the taste of Coca-Cola, but these brands are ubiquitous within today’s culture. Their recognition goes beyond logo or product design to extend to the value of the brands themselves, whether that’s the fun-loving nature of the world’s most popular soda or the user-friendly experience served up by one of the largest technology companies. The history of these companies is not without missteps, but the brands the companies have built and actively maintained allow them to continue to move forward and dominate their markets.

The Benefit of a Strong Brand Image

Technology is changing everything, from something as simple as reading a book to more complex tasks like driving (or not driving) a car. Likewise, modern marketing techniques are affecting the way businesses approach their brand image and perception, and their identity as a whole. The brands that are winning in this ever-changing digital landscape aren’t doing so by accident. Instead, they are using technology to ensure that every interaction their customers have with their brands creates a clear, consistent and coordinated impression.

An example of how to do this well can be seen in Nike’s controversial marketing campaign featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Released in September 2018, the campaign generated buzz, with figures such as President Trump and tennis star Serena Williams weighing in on the subject.

Not all of the reactions were positive. Indeed, there was staunch criticism of the company’s campaign, with viral videos showing customers destroying Nike products and a Maine Republican calling on the electorate to forego the company for one of its competitors. And yet, despite the negative publicity, sales have increased by 31% since the campaign went live, proving that Nike not only understands its brand image, but how its brand image can be actively managed to boost its business.

How to Manage Your Brand Identity & Brand Image

Successfully managing your brand identity requires continuously measuring and evaluating your business’ brand health to ensure that you stay in front of your competitor’s with a positive brand image in the eyes of your current customers and potential audience.

There are six key elements to implementing effective brand management, each of which requires you to answer specific questions about your company, your customers and the market you operate in:

  1. Your brand value proposition. What does your brand bring to the market?
  2. Triggers and behavior. What motivates your customers or prospects to use your product or service?
  3. Awareness and consideration. How well-known and -liked is your brand? And how strong are your competitors’ brands?
  4. Perception of your brand. You can’t do everything, so what is it that matters to your most receptive customers?
  5. Engagement and experience. How frequently are your customers engaging with your brand and does their experience match what your brand promises?
  6. Loyalty and retention. What motivates loyal customers? These insights can be harnessed to create advocates that spread your brand image for you.

Managing these six elements will arm you with the insight you need to set up an effective brand management strategy. But insight alone isn’t enough to make your brand a success in today’s marketing landscape. You need to turn insight into action and use data to make educated decisions about your brand that will help you withstand the negative and capitalize on the positive.