Branding is big. Big with a "B." In fact, so big that the estimated branding spend of U.S. companies last year was approximately $600 billion in total, with $31 billion spent on social media branding alone. Some companies used these funds to create award-winning advertisement campaigns, drive revenue, and generate a dedicated customer base. Others flushed it down the toilet.
What's the difference between those companies who maximized their branding spend and those who didn't? Brand identity.
A brand is what companies use to distinguish their product from others in the market - such as a symbol, logo, name, word, sentence, or any combination of these. A company's brand identity focuses on how they want to be perceived by consumers.
Great things happen when companies align marketing with their brand identity. When they don't, money is wasted and the brand is damaged. Here are three key components of brand identity, along with some examples of big companies doing it right.
Consistency The number one contributor to a cohesive brand identity is consistent messaging. Staying on message keeps all marketing efforts funneling to a common goal instead of pulling in different directions.
When it comes to staying on message and cultivating a brand identity, Google does it best.
Not only has the technology behemoth managed to stay true to their ambitious mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," but they also have carefully positioned their identity as the world's most valuable brand. Just like the restructure that split up Google and created Alphabet, the company uses dedicated social media accounts to further focus their messaging. Just check out their employer branding Twitter account @lifeatgoogle.
Authenticity Many companies struggle with maintaining a believable and cohesive brand identity. The culprits are often a lack of originality and authenticity.
Perhaps the best example of an immersive brand identity, Disney has consistently been ranked as one of the world's most authentic and valuable brands. Cohn & Wolfe, who releases a yearly Authentic 100 list, bases the selectees off of three distinct drivers - reliable, respectful, and real.
When it's chilly in the office. pic.twitter.com/JrOvZkjVAz— Disney (@Disney) July 22, 2015
Disney keeps it real by not being afraid to rely on their core values of imagination and entertainment. Keeping in line with their visual storytelling heritage, nearly every post on Twitter includes a photo or GIF. Instead of the combative wittiness that Wendy's and other companies have become known for, Disney has maintained tremendous brand loyalty by always staying true to their identity.
Audience The best brands listen. Netflix demonstrated the power of staying in tune with their followers by addressing a proliferating issue back in 2015 - binge watchers falling asleep and missing their shows. To solve this first-world problem, they created Netflix socks.
It was silly and brilliant, resulting in over 1000 media placements, several awards for creativity, and 6.5 million additional subscribers. More importantly, it showed the special relationship between the audience and the brand.
The billion dollar brands weren't built in a day. Even companies that don't have the marketing budgets of Google, Disney or Netflix still have to keep aligned with their brand identity. Those that stay on message, focus on authenticity, and know their core audience consistently rank as the most respected and beloved brands.
What are some other brands that are really in touch with their brand identity?