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Create a Strong Brand Identity That Sets You Apart?

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How Do You Create a Strong Brand Identity That Sets You Apart?
Stephanie Mulder

Brand Strategist

The importance of brand identity is undeniable, yet the true meaning of the concept is sometimes misunderstood. A company’s logo, messaging, imagery, and marketing strategy are all part of its brand identity. Elements that are usually created by marketing departments. However, since brand identity defines who a company is, the whole company should be involved. 

As a brand strategist, this is definitely an issue Stephanie Mulder deals with often. Not only did she find herself stuck at the marketing desk one too many times, she also noticed that many brands don’t fully understand what their unique strength is.

Reinventing her own business Add Some Sense, she developed a new brand-building program to help brands find their unique strength and bring it to life in their communication. This creates a deeper connection with the target audience, helping brands become more meaningful in a world where people place higher value on corporate responsibility, purpose, and social awareness.

We spoke with Stephanie about what brand identity actually is and how it can set your brand apart, shedding some light on how she guides her clients through this process.

Stephanie Mulder title=

How do you revolutionize your framework?

Stephanie Mulder originally founded her company, 'In the Branding’, helping brands (re)position themselves by developing new strategies and campaigns. Working as an interim professional with a wide range of clients over the course of six years was a great opportunity to observe how different companies operate. 

Stephanie Mulder:” The advantage of an interim position is being able to approach things objectively, uninfluenced by office politics.” However, sometimes she got so involved that 3-month interim projects turned into year-long ventures. 

Stephanie Mulder:” I’d be appointed as Marketing Manager or Brand Manager after a while. So technically speaking, I was an external person fulfilling a long-term internal position, responsible for a department and all the additional subtasks that come with it. Ultimately losing my freedom and autonomy.”

Another thing she realized, is that companies wanting to position themselves shouldn’t assume her seat should be at the marketing table either.

Stephanie Mulder:” It’s not that companies are not aware of the growing importance of corporate responsibility and brand identity. But often these concepts were just part of their marketing strategy, which is why I always ended up working with marketing and communications teams. But it’s much broader and far-reaching than that. Plus, branding has become a much bigger agenda point for companies nowadays, simply because society demands it.”

Marketing strategy title=

How do you explain brand identity in the broadest sense?

A quick online search for the definition of brand identity shows countless results describing the visual elements; the logo, colors, design, and tone of voice for example, which are indeed all part of marketing. This explains why brand identity is often seen as a marketing concept. 

However, brand identity encompasses non-visual elements too. These intangible elements are mentioned less frequently but are far more important. A brand’s history, personality, and behavior, for example.

Stephanie Mulder:” It’s all about uncovering the deeper meaning, which makes it almost seem more like psychology than marketing. Who are you as a brand? What do you strive for? What’s your unique strength and success factor? That is what you want to market towards your target audience.”

Verily, marketing and communication are the execution of your identity, the tangible representations. But as Stephanie explains, you need to know who you are first. “Brand identity is first about finding the soul of your brand, and its true core. And this is what you base all the visual elements upon such as the messaging and tone of voice, which is the next step.”

Branding title=

How do you define the characteristics of a brand’s identity?

Stephanie developed her new framework into a 6-week program, renaming her company to ‘Add Some Sense’. Avoiding endless sessions, her ‘Sense’ program aims to rapidly get to the core and move forward in a pragmatic way, following a step-by-step plan.

A great example of one of Stephanie’s clients is a brand of built-in security and tracking systems for vehicles and work equipment. With the ambition to grow the brand and enter new markets, this security company set out to define its unique strength with her guidance.

What it all came down to, was determining what the essence or true core of the brand was. The first step in achieving this was by diving into their dreams, ambitions, goals, and culture.

Stephanie Mulder:” Who are you? What do you stand for? What is your mission? And how is this all relevant? By forming a clear answer you can determine your core essence, which is the fundament your brand can be built on.”

Of course, it’s not just the company owner, CEO, or higher management that needs to be involved. Interviews with employees across all levels of the company, and also customers can help paint the greater picture.

The findings for the security company were very poignant. Stephanie Mulder:” What really shone through, is how driven and committed they are in making sure people’s possessions are safe. And this is the attitude, the ethos that truly shapes their identity.”

Who are you? title=

So how do you use your identity to set yourself apart?

The security company uses very impressive advanced technology, so initially much of their communication focused on explaining the technologies and processes behind this.

Stephanie Mulder:” But an amazing product and list of beautiful USPs just doesn’t cut it. Consumer decisions aren’t rational. Their decisions are mostly emotional, which is why consumers look for meaningful brands they can relate to.”

The relatability of a brand explains why a consumer chooses brand X over countless alternatives. Of course product quality matters, but if there are multiple options that all offer more or less the same value, you would naturally choose the brand you identify with the most.

Stephanie Mulder:” Companies trying to set themselves apart with their service or product face much competition. But positioning yourself through a strong brand identity shows exactly what makes you unique. And when you’re chosen for who you are as a brand and what you strive for, you won’t have competitors anymore. Because you are unique.”

You can imagine that the security company’s campaigns about technical product features and systems didn’t really strike an emotional chord with consumers. Focusing on their identity and value on the other hand, is exactly what gives consumers a deeper meaning behind the brand.

Stephanie Mulder now helps companies define their inner strength through a simple and pragmatic 6-week program. title=
Stephanie Mulder now helps companies define their inner strength through a simple and pragmatic 6-week program.

This means focusing on the driven mentality within the company, committed to keeping people’s possessions safe. Thanks to a 24/7 in-house alarm center and alliance with the police, they are able to track and locate vehicles, and potentially recover them when stolen.

Stephanie Mulder:” And that’s what their identity is all about. A brand that vows to watch your possessions day and night, keeping them safe, and tracking down thieves if anything is stolen.”

During the implementation phase, the company started developing new strategies and campaigns based on its newfound brand identity.

No more messaging based on the product and its features, but inspired by the sentiment and value; What we do is track down the bad guys, and make sure you never lose your possessions. We don’t try, we thrive in preventing theft!

To conclude, once you have clearly defined your brand identity it’s not just the marketing and external communication that should be inspired by it, but your entire business operations and processes.

The security company now knows they need a culture and recruitment strategy that reflects their brand identity too. Setting out to attract people who are equally driven to keep people’s possessions safe, will help attract employees who share similar values.

Stephanie Mulder:” Across all departments, decisions, strategies, and actions, if the core of who you are shines through everything you do, this will set you apart in a world full of competition. It becomes easier to lead and make choices. Both customers and employees will understand the brand better and feel a stronger connection with it. This results in unity and a deeper bond.”

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