Here’s a quick test: if I were to ask you if you wanted to join a competitive hike on the Inca Trail next spring what would your response be? How about if I offered you tickets to the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival next year? Or what if told you I had a spot for you to attend the 2020 North American Beekeeping Conference and Tradeshow? Would you be in?

I think most of us have a pretty good idea of how we would respond to these questions — probably something like “I appreciate the offer; but it’s not really my thing.”

Yet, what’s fascinating is that there are people - and maybe you’re one of them - who wouldn’t even hesitate to accept one of those opportunities because it is exactly who they are.

Your personal identity matters. Knowing who you are gives you an important framework for making decisions. It can help you say no to opportunities that don’t line up with your passions, interests, skills, or lifestyle. It can also help you say yes to the things that allow you to become even an better version of yourself because they build upon who you already are. It’s the same thing with brands. Every brand has an identity.

A brand is often (narrowly) defined as the Logo/s, Colours, Tagline, and Typefaces of your business - basically the external design assets that tie together everything that is touched, seen, and heard. Your brand’s identity is the way the internal conversations about your brand affect your business’s personality, values, and goals.

To put it another way, your brand is what is experienced while your brand identity is how you want to be experienced.

When starting a business, owners often focus on the external facing pieces of the brand without considering the internal ones. They often hire a designer to create a logo and typeface or build them a website; but have given no real thought to the why behind those things. When it comes to brand identity - those external pieces should flow out of carefully thought out internal elements. For example, your logo should be an expression of your business’s personality and represent who you are; not just something that looks nice and spells your name right.

Knowing your brand identity will give you that decision making framework that I was talking about earlier. It can help you know when to say yes and when to say no. It also builds consistency between who you say you are to your customers and the experience they end up having. What can often happen is that when a business lacks clear values decision making becomes about reacting to financial concerns or opportunities. This leads to an inconsistent brand that customers are afraid to trust. On the other hand, when decisions are made within the framework of your brand’s identity (which includes clearly communicated values), a brand is established that customers can believe in.

This is why worrying about your brand over your brand identity can often be a costly mistake; yet one that many business’s unfortunately make. Knowing who you are when you set out can end up saving you time and resources down the road.

Oscar Wilde once said, “be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

A dedicated conversation around discovering your brand’s identity is what will help separate you from others who may have a sweet new slogan and website, but no guiding sense of the why behind their brand.