Bruce Smith

Anecdote founder

Visual or Brand Identity. What's the difference...

A question potential clients want to know when they call our company is: What’s the difference between a Visual and a Brand Identity?

We thought it only right to explain. Think of it like building a house. One encompasses the foundations, the walls, the roof, windows, and doors and the other is the window dressing. The paint on the walls, the curtains, furniture and so on.

I’m guessing from this analogy you have an idea on which is which but let us explain as clearly and simply as possible.

We’ll start will a brand identity

For those who weren’t sure which analogy was which, a brand Identity encompasses the foundations, and walls, etc..
But how does this analogy work in practice? We’ll split the branding process down into stages to help simplify the process.

Stage one – Defining the verbal expression of the business’s brand

The business’s key attributes

We get all key stakeholders in a room either online or in-person and spend a day working through many exercises to draw out all the key attributes of the business. Not as the business stands now but where it wants to be in say 5 years’ time.

Culture and values

For some, culture and values form the overarching position of the business, take Innocent smoothies as an example. For others, culture and values play a less pivotal role in the position of the business but are essential to understand and verbalise, Why? Because we are all human beings and emotional people. If you can better connect with your staff (productivity) and your customers (revenue), you will be one step ahead of your competition who doesn’t see the value in it.


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Your competitors

We dive deep into understanding your competitors and how they are approaching the marketplace. What are the things they are doing better and what are things you are doing better. How can your business keep ahead or overtake and gain a bigger market share?

Your customers

This is critical. What we find is a lot of businesses believe they know who their ideal customers are and exactly what they want and need from them. But once we unpick these audiences and the business’s key attributes we find there are holes and some big gaps. Also, we uncover huge opportunities which were staring the business in the face. Understanding your customer’s journey through your business is fundamental if you want to grow and scale.

Once we have a thorough understanding of all the above we then go away and distill it down into a written framework which becomes the verbal part of the business’s brand story. These are the foundations, windows, doors etc. Note no creative work has been done yet.

To summarise the verbal part of the brand, the foundations will deliver:-

Your purpose
Why your business exists

Your values and character
What are the things you believe in and act out every day?

Your position in the marketplace
What is your differentiator? Where do you sit in the marketplace and why?


Stage two – Defining the creative expression of the business’s brand

Creative territories

This is where the fun starts. Armed with clarity of the business, where it is now, where it wants to be positioned for the future, and a deep understanding of the customers with who the brand needs to connect, we then move on to exploring how we can bring this verbal framework to life visually.

All agencies approach the creative process in varying ways and depending on who we are working with, we will create and present work in a way which best aligns with the people within the business.

First, we want to define 2 – 3 creative territories which explore the logo, tone of voice, campaign ideas, and brand assets associated with the brand, for example, colours, typefaces, and other graphical elements which amplify the verbal part of the business’s brand story. These are presented in person on sheets to key stakeholders for discussion and feedback.

Creative development

Once we have buy-in on one of the routes we then head back to the studio and begin further development, taking on board any feedback which needs to be incorporated into the developing brand identity.

Generally, the next presentation will be pretty nailed down with a range of applications, for example, stationery, ppt, social graphics, ad campaign ideas as well as rough concepts for a website and any print collateral.

Brand guidelines

Once this brand presentation is signed off we then move into creating a comprehensive set of brand guidelines that everyone within the business and outside the business will adhere to. It becomes the brand blueprint for the business moving forward and provides confidence of what the business stands for verbally and what it needs to deliver visually as well.

Let’s move on to a visual identity.

A visual Identity is basically a lite version of a brand identity. It doesn’t dive deep into the business to understand its key attributes, customers, values, and so on. It purely focuses on the visual side of the business.

A visual identity is great for a new business with very limited budgets as it cuts out an entire stage of the brand process. But with that, you are creating something which may look great but scratch under the surface and there isn’t a decent anchor for what it all means. Your a boat at sea without a rudder.

Let’s take Deliveroo as an example. Deliveroo’s initial visual identity was fine, a kangaroo holding a takeaway bag. It was practical, visually describes the name, and held its own. It got Deliveroo in the game and with it was able to build and scale. But it could only take the company so far before it had to invest in a properly executed brand identity process. The rest is history, the same happened with Airbnb. Would that business be where it is today without going through a thorough branding process? The answer is a definite no.

Now you can read this and say ‘yeah but we’re not Deliveroo or Airbnb, but the point is they started from nothing as well. A visual identity got them in the game, the brand Identity catapulted them into global leaders within their marketplaces.

And that’s the difference between a visual and brand identity. One get’s you in the game and the other capitulates your business further forward than you could ever imagine.

We hope this article has been helpful and answered some interesting questions or queries you may have had. We are always looking to provide thoughtful and useful content to answer the questions you need answering. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, we appreciate your time is precious. Until next time.