We take it ‘a norm’ if we are expected to introduce ourselves and be presentable in the real world. The current number of internet/social media users are said to be about 3.02 billion people – i.e. about one-third of the world is online. An average adult today (the last survey was taken in 2015) is said to spend 20 hours online every week (Social Media – Statistics & Facts). From shopping, ordering food, watching the weather, looking for directions, celebrating or mourning – virtual life has begun to parallel the real-life. It is not just the people present in the online world that has increased. The freedom and flexibility of the web are such that the users, with their conversations, are generating a lot of content. So, the online landscape where you plan to establish your own digital presence is huge. The landscape can be compared to a carousel that is moving at a lightning speed. The attention span of the consumer to each of your content is very limited.
(Figure 1: Lifespan of online content. Source: LinkedIn)
Now, this web user need not be a customer for you to be thinking that branding is the concern of businesses. Any consumer is important for any digital presence because if you do not have an audience who recognises you, your digital presence holds no value. (And this is where the digital and real life differs, we can argue)
What do we mean by Brand Identity?
“A brand is a story that is always being told” – Scott Bedbury
Every single person is a story-teller. The mode, the medium, the purpose and the passion may change – but essentially as human beings equipped with the art of communication, we are continually trying to tell our stories. Either to the world, the future generations or even just inside our heads.
Brands, the fancy name we give to commodities, are stories that their makers want the people to hear and approach them for further meaningful conversations. In the chaos that is out there today, some stories must be screamed out repeatedly for anyone to take notice at all.
And, in any story, the popularity of the story depends on how well you establish the protagonist in the minds of the people. This within the branding world means that creating your brand identity is the first step to your storytelling.
“People were the first brands; faces were the first logos. That insight could revolutionize brand and social media strategies. Over the past several decades, social psychologists deduced that as humans struggled for survival, they had to develop an ability to make two kinds of judgments with great speed and accuracy: What are the intentions of other people toward me? How capable are they of carrying out those intentions?” (Chris Malone)
For organisations, those questions form the basics of building their brand identity. It can be termed as intentions or interests. But the effort of building a brand involves the understanding of one’s accepted perception in the market and the success rate of that of perception – or, the need to reposition for better and wider acceptance.
A famous example of this is McDonald’s. The brand was known to be the obesity causing brand – particularly in America. They paid attention to the perception of their brand and reworked on it. They brought salads, nutrition charts and slogans promoting health in their ads. You can argue the attempts being shallow but sales at restaurants open at least a year jumped 5% globally, including a 5.7% increase in the US, for the quarter that ended December 31(Hayley Peterson).
Figure2: McDonalds ad campaigns shift from value and taste to healthy. Source: Google Images
Importance of Brand Identity for small ventures:
Let us be
frank and admit that when you are not one of those giants, you don’t have the
investment to launch big and drive customers to your shop. The approach would
be ‘organic’ to start small and grow big – to provide such quality content with
a seamless experience that it would ‘draw consumers’.
One would imagine that only commercial establishments seeking to attract customers and influence their purchase behaviour need to bother about branding and brand identity. That is a myth. Branding is the very definition of one’s presence (digital or otherwise).
Today, in the digital world, if you are seeking a presence it is inevitable that you have a name and face for yourself as in the real world. Irrespective of your goals, your existence will have a cause and that cause cannot be reached to your audience if you do not have an identity.
In the clutter that the digital world is, a unique identity is what sets us apart and setting oneself apart is not just important to sell one’s ideas but to gain any credibility to be heard and believed.
Taking Chris Malone’s quote “People were the first brands; faces were the first logos” and changing it to apply to this context – “Brand Identity is the Digital Person you are, your logo is your face and brand name your name.”