If you have a middle school student, then you know the importance of a brand name. They can easily tell the difference between Nike’s swoosh and Adidas’s three stripes. They also know which sport Nike dominates (basketball) versus Adidas (soccer). These companies have had years to build their brand and plaster their logo on everything from billboards to equipment, as well as many consultants to advise them along the way. 

If you’re starting a business or looking to accelerate your business, now is the time to assess your brand identity and develop some guidelines on how it should be utilized. After all, just like in middle school, a brand identity is what they say about you when you’re not in the room.

It may seem overwhelming to create your own brand initiative, just like the fear of entering your first middle school gym class. However, it’s actually easier to do than most imagine, just as long as you don’t forget your sneakers!

  1. What’s your Personality? As you shape your brand, now is the time to review your company’s personality. Are you hip and cool like Apple , or steady and strong like IBM ? Ask your current and prospective customers what they think about your brand. Assess your target market’s persona. Ideally, your brand will reflect the emotions that you want your customers to feel when they interact with your business. Ultimately, your brand’s personality is similar to human characteristics. It should reflect how you would like your brand to react, behave and speak.
  2. Check the Competition. Don’t forget to assess how your brand interacts with other brands. It’s simple to think about this when you have a retail product. You can visualize your product sitting on a shelf next to its competitors, or how the storefront looks on Main Street. But what if you have a service…like a lawn care company? In this case, you’ll need to determine the differentiator, perhaps through a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), to help you identify that “something special” about your service. Then, make sure that your brand reflects it as well.
  3. Keep it Simple. It’s easy to spin your wheels on a new graphical element or the precise font – Disney’s font, created in 1932 is distinctive and whimsical, while Amazon’s font is simple and all lower case. However, remember that your business will grow, so steer clear of overcomplicating your brand elements in order to provide room for your growth. Your brand elements should be simple and clean and reflect your personality.
  4. Provide Guidelines. Once you’ve settled on a brand identity, you’ll want to create a rule book. Your brand guidelines should identify, among other things, your taglines, colors, font types, and most importantly, your voice. When you create an advertisement or marketing materials, make sure it fits your brand personality and meets your brand guidelines. 

One Example – Our New Brand
In 2015, Camden National Bank merged with The Bank of Maine, and we instantly expanded our footprint throughout the state. It was a great opportunity for us to review our brand identity and to determine if it fit our growth strategy. After all, it had been over 20 years since we reviewed our brand. With state-of-the-art products and services and a strong online platform, we determined that our brand needed to reflect our strengths and roots.

Our new look and feel reflects our new position as the preeminent financial institution in Northern New England. Our updated brand mark acknowledges our past through the use of the anchor, a symbol of the company since the early 1900s, and the more stylized, modern look and distinctive arch speaks to our solid footing in modern banking as well as our optimism for the future.

Original Brand

Revised Brand

As you work on developing your brand, remember that your brand isn’t just a logo. It’s a set of beliefs that reflects who your business is and what it means to your customers. By spending time walking through the steps above and identifying what you want people to feel when they hear your name or see your logo, then you will ultimately build a brand that will build awareness and help support your business goals and objectives.