Brand identity and brand image are two very important terms for companies that are often confused with one another. This article presents a definition of the two terms and how they are different from one another.

Definitions and explanations

Brand identity

Brand identity is essentially the way the company wants to be perceived by its target market.  The tangible and visible aspects of a brand are all part of its identity, for example, its logo, design, colors, name, symbol and tag-line. It basically signifies the overall look of the brand, and hence, it helps in creating a distinct picture of the brand in the minds of the consumers.

Brand identity is linked with the vision, mission, positioning, objectives, culture and relationships of the company. It is the way an organization wishes to be perceived by its customers, which is not essentially the same as the way its actually perceived by them. It represents the way a brand is presented to the market. When brand identity is successfully presented to the market, the company is able to achieve brand loyalty, greater credibility and good returns.

Brand identity is achieved when organizational members put in their collective effort to develop a product that has unique features. It is the way the organization wishes to be acknowledged by its target market. In this regard, branding and marketing strategies play a vital part in enabling organizations to communicate their identity to their potential customers. It comprises of brand personality, vision, position, associations, etc., which seek to differentiate the brand from other brands in the market.

Brand image

Brand image refers to the way the brand is perceived because of the associations held by consumers in their minds; in other words, it is the perception of the brand by customers. it is based on the perspective, beliefs and impressions that customer hold about the brand. Brand image is basically what the customers feel about the brand when they hear its name.

Customers determine the brand image on the basis of the overall personality of the brand. Brand image does not develop with a single experience of the brand; rather, it develops over a long period of time, either as a consequence of the marketing campaigns of the brand, or the personal experiences of the customers with the brand. Hence, based on the interactions of the customer with the brand, a positive or negative brand image may be developed in their minds. Each customer may perceive a brand in a different way on the basis of their personal experiences and interactions.

Difference between brand identity and brand image

The major points of difference between brand identity and brand image are discussed below:

1. Meaning

Brand identity refers to the way the organization wants its customers to perceive the brand; it is basically the way it presents itself to the outside world. On the other hand, brand image is the way the customers perceive the brand because of the beliefs, associations and impressions that have developed in their minds about the brand.

2. Aspects considered

Brand identity includes all the visual aspects of an organization, for example, its name, logo, symbol, design, color, etc. On the other hand, brand image includes the visual characteristics of the brand, as well as its associations, for example, its reliability, quality, efficiency, etc.

3. Nature of activity

Brand identity is created with the active involvement of the company, while brand image is passive in nature as it is generated by the customers who have actually used the product.

4. Determined by

Brand identity is determined by the way the company puts itself across to its target market, whereas brand image is determined by the experiences and associations of the customers with the brand.

5. Representative of

Brand identity is representative of the actual position of the firm, that is, its vision, mission, objectives and fundamental values. On the other hand, brand image is a representation of the way customers think and feel about the brand.

6. Essence

Brand identity is tangible, i.e., it is a recognizable feature of the company and its overall outlook. It is the way the brand is presented in the market; in other words, it is the face of the brand. Brand image, in contrast, is intangible, i.e. it is basically a reflection of the external face of the company. It is the way the customers perceive the brand, on the basis of the way the company interacts and communicates with them.

Brand identity vs brand image – tabular comparison

A tabular comparison of brand identity and brand image is given below:

Brand identity vs Brand image
Refers to the way a company wants the customers to perceive its brand Refers to the way customers actually perceive the brand
Aspects considered
All visual aspects of an organization All the visual characteristics of the brand, as well as its associations
Nature of activity
Active in nature as the company is involved in developing the brand identity Passive in nature as it depends on the customers who have bought and used the product.
Determined by
How the company presents itself to its target market The interactions and experiences that the  customers have had with the brand
Representative of
The company’s actual position, including its mission, vision and objectives The customers’ feelings and associations with the brand
Tangible Intangible

Conclusion – brand identity vs brand image

To conclude, it can be stated that it is very important for a company to live up to the brand identity it has generated and the way it has presented itself in the market so that a positive brand image is created in the minds of the customer. One of the most important assets of a company is the perceptions of quality and intangible connections that come into the minds of the consumers when they think about the brand. Hence, it needs to make sure that their brand image is in conformance to the brand identity, i.e. the way the customers perceive them is the same as how they want to be perceived.