Picture yourself walking into a Starbucks. What do you see, feel, and think? How do the walls look, the cups, the furniture? What do you order? Perhaps you see a few students studying in a corner or two men in suits having a business meeting. You feel excited about your first jolt of coffee and start thinking about the book you’ll read while you curl up in an armchair next to the window. 

You see murals of coffee beans and abstract art adorning the walls and walk away with your vanilla latte in a paper cup decorated with a large green siren logo. As one of the most recognized brands in the world, Starbucks has spent decades crafting its brand image and identity into what it is today. In this article, we will examine the definition of brand image and identity, as well as why and how to test brand identity. 

Brand Image vs. Brand Identity

A brand image is a consumer’s mental picture of a company, product, or service. It’s what consumers think about the company, product, or service. A brand image can be positive (e.g., the cozy appearance of Starbucks) or negative (e.g., the environmentally questionable image of BP).

A brand image can include the quality of products or services, how much they cost, how accessible they are, and what kind of customers you attract. It can also be influenced by advertising campaigns that build up or tear down your reputation in the eyes of consumers.

Conversely, a brand identity is the visual representation of a brand—the logo, colors, and other design elements that help people identify it on sight. For example, suppose you think about McDonald’s restaurants or Nike shoes. In that case, their logos come to mind immediately because these brands have created solid identities over time through consistent advertising campaigns and hiring well-known designers who create unique designs for them.

The Importance of a Consistent Brand Image and Brand Identity

Your business’ image is the first point of contact prospective customers have with any company or organization, so it’s essential that they feel good about what they see when they look at your website, logo, products/services, and communication materials.

If consistency isn’t maintained in all areas of marketing, consumers may experience confusion or frustration, which can result in lost sales opportunities.

The Value Of Brand Identity Is Clear

The ROI of brand identity has many different aspects, but here are some of the most important:

1) Brand recognition: Consumers need to be able to recognize your brand so they can identify it when making purchases. You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows how to find it, you won’t sell any products. This is why companies spend millions on advertising campaigns – they want people to recognize their brands so that they will buy from them repeatedly.

2) Customer loyalty: Once people recognize your brand, they will start building up loyalty towards that brand and its products. If someone buys from you once or twice because they like what you’re selling, they will probably buy from you again if needed (or wanted). This increases sales over time as customers continue buying from you because of how much they like your product/service offerings and how happy they were with their last purchase(s).

3) Competitive advantage: A strong brand identity helps businesses thrive because it provides them with an identity that customers can identify with quickly, helps them stand out from competitors, and creates a recognizable image for their products or services. In other words, it gives companies what is known as a “competitive advantage” over other businesses in their industry.

How To Conduct Brand Identity Testing 

Brand identity testing is a way to see how people react to a brand’s visual identity. It’s used to determine if the brand is communicating the right message and can also help identify where improvements need to be made.

You can conduct brand identity testing in the following ways: 

  • Surveys–You can send out surveys to collect users’ opinions/views on a large scale. 
  • Interviews–In-depth interviews allow brands to get to the heart of customer motivations.
  • Focus groups–Researchers can interview a small group of targeted consumers to collect more in-depth insights.
  • Testing–To validate existing or re-designed branding and value propositions, you can use A/B testing, five-second tests, content testing, associations, metaphors, etc.
  • Social listening tools–Scan for and listen to conversations about your brand on social media and the web. Social listening lets you hear those private conversations about your company. 

Bottom Line

Brands of all sizes can benefit from a consistent brand image and identity. Your brand must be unique, memorable, meaningful, and reflect the value you will give to customers.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “perception is reality.” This means that how someone perceives something is more important than what’s true. If a person perceives you as a liar, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t lied — they still won’t trust you.

That’s why managing your brand’s image is essential, so it aligns with what you want people to think about your company or product. A brand’s identity, i.e., the logo, colors, and other design elements, showcases the brand’s vibe and helps people identify it.

Brand identity testing is essential to ensure whether a brand’s visual identity connects with its consumers, or not. 

While small businesses don’t have the resources of mega-corporations like Starbucks, they, too, can create strong branding with market research. Quantitative research methods (surveys) and qualitative methods (interviews, focus groups, etc.) give researchers the data they need to perfect a brand’s makeup. 

In our latest blog post, How to Track Brand Health, you read more about branding, brand health, and how to track it.