Brand image and brand identity: don’t they mean the same thing?

There’s actually a pretty big difference between the two and understanding that difference can help you steer your business in the right direction. You’ll be able to employ more effective marketing techniques and you’ll net more sales because people will know and trust you. Neglecting the difference on the other hand can lead to a catastrophic image problem than can undercut all of your hard work.

What’s the key difference?

We’ll start with brand identity. This is how a company wants to be perceived. It’s largely internal, with a business owner, a marketer, or a marketing agency (or maybe all three) coming up with the logo, the tagline, the jingle, the value proposition, and the general aesthetic for the company. Brand image on the other hand is largely external and is how consumers perceive the company, which can be quite different. Take Walmart, for example.

Walmart’s brand identity, as dreamed up by marketers: save money, live better, community engagement

Walmart’s brand image, as perceived by the public: minimum wage, putting mom and pop shops out of business, child labor

Not so good, huh? When identity and image don’t align you have an image problem and people are far less likely to trust you. And whereas Walmart does indeed do an incredible job of donating money to charity and encouraging corporate responsibility through its value chain, people interpret those actions through the filter of its negative image and accuse it of using these donations in manipulative ways. So you see how a negative image can become a very deep hole to climb out of, and why you should work so hard to avoid it?

How can you ensure that you align your brand identity and image?

It all comes down to close communications with your customers. Communication is of course a two-way street that requires both talking and listening. This can become an incredibly difficult task for large enterprises (just think about how often AT&T or Verizon ask for your feedback in surveys) but for small businesses, it’s both practical and possible to elicit and act upon feedback.

Customers’ positive or negative perceptions of you start to develop at the individual level. When they don’t find what they’re looking for in your grocery store, for example, they’ll start to think of you as “that place that never has Brussel sprouts.” Or when they’re delighted by a clerk’s recipe recommendation (try baking them honey), they’ll conversely think of you as “that super helpful grocery store.” When a consumers shares their feelings with others, that perception starts to snowball into a public one. It’s thus important to have channels for eliciting this feedback constantly, whether it’s anonymous surveys, asking customers about their experience, or using secret shoppers. By knowing how people feel, you can then use your marketing to steer your brand identity.

Use marketing to steer the ship 

If your brand is becoming known for something good, lean into this phenomena. If people like your fresh produce, use that in your next postcard marketing campaign! Or if you’re starting be known for long lines, fix the problem and start a marketing campaign announcing that it’s been fixed! Through close communication, both listening and responding, you can steer your brand identity and image to the same place and be known as a trustworthy business.

Have something on your mind that you need to get out?

If you’re reading this thinking, “oh man, I totally need to communicate something to my customers!” you need not wait. With our online web-to-print platform you can get a postcard marketing campaign up and running in under thirty minutes. Give us a call at 877-222-6010 and we’ll see how we can get your brand image back on track today!

If you need a little extra help…

It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes on your project, especially when it’s as important as deciding how to portray yourself as a brand. You can always lean on Opportunity Knocks, a full service marketing agency with decades of experience helping people align their brand identity and image so you get actual response. Talk to a person directly at 866-319-7109.