How to build a basic brand identity

Brand marketing is essentially what it sounds like – coordinated efforts that lead to building a brand that consumers relate to, value, and are loyal to. However, after reading this vague and idealistic definition you may be thinking – “great, but how do I achieve that?” In this post we’ll outline some relatively easy steps to organize this process and formulate a brand ID.

brand identity

Generally this process starts with defining (and aligning your team around) your brand ID guidelines. This doesn’t have to be a fancy 50 page deck that is perfectly designed – it just has to have buy-in across the org and be visible to all teams that are working on anything customer-facing. Here are the critical components that should be included in your brand guide:

  • Name of brand (sounds obvious but this is where it all starts)
  • Who your customer is
  • Consumer value prop
    • High level
    • Low level
  • Visual ID (colors, fonts, photo styling)
  • Voice (tone of marketing copy, brand personification)
  • Marketing tag lines that convey value prop

Now it may sound easy to sit down and write this out based on what you think is right, however there is a lot of research that needs to go into crafting this. Unfortunately it is extremely hard to change the above items once you start acting on them – if you start to change your branding after you already have a core group of customers, it can leave them with a bad taste in their mouth wondering why you are pivoting and if you are “going to make it.” So it’s really important to try to nail this up front when launching a new brand or product.

You should already have a brand or company name so we’ll skip that – but keep in mind that some of the most powerful brands in the world have names that are completely irrelevant to what they actually do. Think about “Amazon.” When you think of Amazon you obviously think of e-commerce and not the rainforest. The remaining items on the list above will craft your customers’ perception of your brand more than the name itself.

Who your customer is

You probably have some sense of who your customers are from anecdotal evidence, but it’s important to really understand this – mainly to help you craft the visual ID and your voice / tone so those parts of your brand resonate with your customers. Understanding this is also critical to finding more of your best customers via performance marketing, but we’ll stick to the brand stuff in this post.

First, break down your customers into 2 groups – high value customers and low value customers. You may need help from an engineer to pull this based on how specific you want to get, but you can usually pull out basic data from your CRM or email marketing platform. Some ways to define most valuable customers could be: profit per customer, orders per customer, total revenue per customer, churn rate, etc. Once you have your database split up into 2 groups, then you will want to export or append demographic data so you know who these people are. Dimensions you will want are (at a minimum):

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Location

If you don’t already have this, it’s not ideal but its OK! To get this data added to your customer records we recommend 2 methods. First, run it through a data aggregator like tower data. You may see a low “match rate” which is the % of records they have data for so look out for this as it may just cover a portion of your customer data base. The second method is to simply survey your customers with a Typeform or Survey Money. You will likely be pleasantly surprised with how willing customers are to share this demographic info, but you will probably only get 50-60% of people to answer the survey. By combining the 2 methods, however, some strong directional signals should emerge.

As a best practice moving forward – by far the best way to collect this data is during onboarding when customers first sign up. You can use facebook login to access age, gender, and birthday. However you now have to prove to facebook that you are using this data to tailor the ux of your site or app after the cambridge analytica scandal.

A non-facebook approach is just asking for the data during user onboarding with a quiz or another kind of interactive Q & A that will deliver them a more personalized experience. We recommend doing both.

Once you have all your data you will have a good understanding of the demographic breakdown of your good customers and bad customers. For instance – you may find that women are generally more valuable customers than men, and that they live in suburban areas and are mostly in their 30’s. As you can imagine – your visual id and voice will be much different after knowing this than say if your customers were men in their 20’s living in urban areas.

Customer Value Prop

After you have a really good feel for who your customers are (both the good ones and the bad ones), you can start to zero in on why they love your product. The customer value prop is usually the cornerstone of your branding guidelines and a lot of the brand ID will flow from this.

We like to break this up into 2 different value props – high level and low level. Some companies can get by with just a low level value prop, but the companies that really succeed in building a strong brand go beyond the basic product or service they are providing and they move their brand story a bit higher than that.

A good example of this is Casper. This company hit the market and was immediately successful based on their low level value prop – an affordable high quality mattress that is shipped directly to customers in a compact box with a nice guarantee. However there were tons of other entrants to the market with similar products so they needed to differentiate themselves by developing their high level value prop. As a result they have repositioned the brand around “giving you a better night’s sleep.” This not only resonates with customers on a higher level but it also allows them to expand their offering beyond just mattresses.

Defining your low level value prop is easy, but defining your high level value prop is much harder. Here are a few simple steps to make sure you get this right:

  1. Write down all the reasons why you think your customers like your product/service
  2. Ask yourself (or your group) “but what does that give them?” over and over again until you can’t answer anymore
  3. Once you reach the final answer to that question ask yourself “can I build a relevant brand around that” and cross off ones that don’t make sense

Here’s an example in action…

Casper mattress example

Low level value prop: an affordable high quality mattress that is shipped directly to customers in a compact box with a nice guarantee.

“but what does that give them?”

They get to save money compared to buying from somewhere else

“but what does that give them?”

Extra money to spend on other things

“can I build a relevant brand around that”

Not really…

Let’s try again

Low level value prop: an affordable high quality mattress that is shipped directly to customers in a compact box with a nice guarantee.

“but what does that give them?”

A more comfortable mattress

“but what does that give them?”

They will sleep better

“but what does that give them?”

They will be less tired and have more energy and be happier

“can I build a brand around that”


As you can see this make take many tries and you will hit a lot of dead ends before you feel like you have really nailed a high-level value prop that makes sense considering your customers, competitors, and your current and future product roadmaps.

Visual brand ID and voice

When it comes to figuring out what your visual ID should be, you will need the help of an in-house designer or an external design resource. With the above information they will provide you with a logo, color scheme, typography (fonts), and photo direction.

When it comes to voice, its fairly straightforward to define how you want to “sound” to your customers, but you will likely need the help of a copywriter to execute this well. Some example of brand voice descriptors could be:

  • Friendly
  • Authoritative
  • Funny
  • Sarcastic
  • Inspiring

Once you find the right adjectives for your brand, work on some copy with your copywriter and just do some trial and error until it sounds right!

Tag lines

Now that you have both your high level and low level value props defined, along with your voice guidelines, you can start to crank out tag lines. Tag lines should not only communicate your value prop but do it in an eloquent and clever way. We have found that the best way to do this is to get help from copywriters and just simply come up with as many as you can. Certain words and positioning will start to emerge as feeling right and you can firm it up from there.


All of the above should provide most of what you need to get a solid brand guidelines document put together. To review, here is what you should have by the end of it:

  • Name of brand
  • Who your customer is
  • Consumer value prop
    • High level
    • Low level
  • Visual ID (colors, fonts, photo styling)
  • Voice (tone of marketing copy, brand personification)
  • Marketing tag lines that convey value prop

Once you have all of these components you should start to see things falling into place. Strategic decisions will get easier, customer acquisition should be more efficient, and organic growth should accelerate as your customers start to become brand advocates that promote your business.

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