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Article: The Brand Identity Prism Guide to Beat Your Competitors

The Brand Identity Prism Guide to Beat Your Competitors

Have people recognize your product? Do people remember?
Here's a guide in using a brand identity prism to gain more identification from the market.

In business, where sales and marketing are extremely crucial, marketers and salespeople are getting a lot of assistance – one of which is the brand identity prism. Not many people know or even familiar with it because of its advanced status and level in the business. The prism shouldn't be neglected or disregarded. It is one of the handiest and most useful tools to make you understand your own brand and business. However, the prism is a complicated matter that requires complete understanding and comprehension. 


Getting a Look into Brand Identity Prism 

Also known as Kapferer's Brand Identity Prism, this method is basically a marketing model that all businesses should use if they want to achieve better success and greater results. The prism comes in a hexagonal shape and six main points – those points represent the six major elements that construct a brand identity. 

Each brand has its own identity. Whether you are in the business of handling goods or offering services, your business has its own identity. It is crucial because it is related to your target market and how you can boost sales and marketing. Brand identity prism is one of the most important tools for businesses that help you understand your business and brand better. Branding has its own storytelling. Without the prism, you may not be able to grasp the ideas or the concepts. It's pretty understandable (and also logical) when business people claim that brand identity prism is a business' indispensable aid that can be used to reinforce brands. Moreover, the reinforcement happens in ways that aren't only consistent but also continuously – reflected through the brand's core values and origins. 


The History 

In 1986, Jean-Noël Kapferer created the so-called Brand Identity Prism to help business people visualize a brand – mostly about how the brand itself is expressed within specific facets. Kapferer is a marketing strategy professor, so he basically understands what he is talking about and the object that he dives into. The prism concept incorporates 6 major brand identity characteristics that can be used to 'describe' a brand. Each part has its own unique aspect and characteristics, but they can interact as a whole – creating a full and functional use. 

Kapferer believes that each brand has its own specific characteristics that identify itself. The characteristics aren't only about the logo – it goes beyond the common visual (design) materials. When a brand is able to manage a harmonious interaction and connection of each characteristic, it is likely doing well (or to succeed) in creating a distinctive and strong brand identity. That's why the brand identity prism is considered one of the most efficient and useful tools in brand recognition. The layout and design may be simple, and yet, it is able to recognize the brand's identity parts – and make them interact and work together. 

If you see the layout of the prism, you will see that these 6 elements are positioned between the client (the Recipient) and the business (the Sender), and the other way around. Besides the 6 points of elements, there are also covered areas that may cover the Internal aspect (Self-Image, Culture, and Personality) to the External aspect (Reflection, Relationship, and Physique). Feel free to draw various paths to connect and join each of the areas. 

The 6 points of brand identity prism include:

  • Physique
  • Personality
  • Culture
  • Relationship
  • Self-image
  • Reflection

According to Kapferer, all of these elements will help business constructs strong and solid brands. In the end, the prism can help with better communication – transparently and clearly. These elements will also help a brand be recognized and remembered quite easily; thus, resulting in its construction. He also believes that strong and solid brands are able to connect (and weave) all aspects of the prism into a complete and effective whole, so they are able to create an identity that is appealing, clear, and concise. 


Each Part Explained

As it was mentioned before, in order for a brand identity prism to work well, you need to break it into individual parts. Each of them has its own signature characteristics that can help you gain a better understanding of your own brand. 


It's about the brand's physical characteristics. It's how customers define the brand (visually) and what are the visual features or cues to help them identify the brand. It covers a logo and style guide, but it also covers the product's presentation, color palette, and iconography. For instance, Pringles is identical with chips and (red) cylindrical container with a bow tie and mustache image on it. iPhone is identical with minimalistic, sleek, and modern because the majority of the designs incorporate those elements. What about brand identity in the service industry? You may not have the actual products, but you can always grasp the 'feel' or 'vibe' related to the brand. Take the example of Airbnb. They may not be able to flaunt their own products, but you can feel their professionalism in every ad they have. Moreover, most of their ads are showing the same thing: People who are comfortable being in the spaces that aren't their real homes, but it feels like one. The major aspect is about visual elements, but physique is also about the feel and the atmosphere associated with the brand. 



Think of your brand as a human. If it were a human, what kind of individual will it be? When you are working on this aspect, you should be able to put yourself in the brand's shoes and answer these questions. 

  • Who are you – if you were a human?
  • What type of person are you?
  • How do you behave?

You should remember that physique would be your brand's face, while personality would be the voice. Personality isn't about 'what you say' (the contents) but also about how you do it. Communication doesn't have to be verbal – and the brand's personality is one way to convey it. This personality part covers colors, attitude, tone, or writing styles. For instance, let's take an example from Nike and its brand personality. Not only do their ads incorporate the swoosh logo, but they also include athletes and assertive next within a frame. The overall ads are 'heavy' with the personality of being athletic, risk-taking, competitive, and confident. Their ads are about personal triumph – not about winning or losing. Nike's personality is obvious through the athletes being displayed and depicted, the positions they are in, the font choice in their ads, and their commanding language. 

Another example is from Coca-Cola. They use the iconic color red as well as the unique typeface – representing joy and happiness. You won't be able to underestimate such an effect resulting from their brand identity – and personality. 



Another element in the brand identity prism is culture. When we are talking about brand identity, culture is related to the origin story of the brand. Where was it born? What is its value? Where does it stay or live? What kind of belief system does it have? What does the brand aim for – what does it live for? 

It's not always about the country of origin of the brand itself. Culture is about the business' mission and how it touches not only its customers but also its workers. It is about a purpose. It describes the working style, staff members' relationships, morals, ideals, and values. For instance, Ferrari is somewhat associated with Italian tradition and love over sports cars, and also with luxury. However, the culture for Apple is consumer-centric, democratic, and working. Toyota has the so-called 'the Toyota Way,' which is about Japanese cultural ideas and concepts. For example, they have 'heijunka' meaning 'work more like tortoise instead of the hare.' It refers to the attempts to minimize waste through workload leveling. 



It's about consumer and brand connection and engagement. It's not only about monetary transactions, but it's more about personal options and preferences. Take a look around. You will see that you are basically surrounded by brands – even thousands of them. Me, personally, being surrounded by brands like Apple, Uniqlo, KicKers, Skechers, and Body Shop – those are just some examples of the tons of brands being used. Each relationship I have with each brand is different. 

I choose Apple for my laptop and phone because I think of the brand as a reliable working and professional partner. Both my MacBook and iPhone are dependable – they never disappoint me. I can work without any worry or burden with them. My relationship is about professionalism, trustworthy and dependability. 

For Uniqlo, I like their simple styles without compromising comfort. They have various styles. They have their sections for sports clothing that I really love. Their fabrics are comfortable, and their designs are sporty-casual. The relationship between Uniqlo and me is about casual, comfort, and relaxing. 

For KicKers, my relationship is about trustworthiness and solidity. The boots have been with me for years, and I like the fact that it makes me casually stylish. For Skechers, it is about sportiness and a casual 'sport-junkie' vibe. 

In business, the relationship is also about interaction (between customers and brand) even after the purchase has been made. What about customer care? Is there anything about social media engagement? Take Apple, for instance, which is able to nurture and recognize their customers' needs. They create Apple Store where customers can get help and also find products – with assistance from in-store personnel. Their brand identity is about loyalty. 



In the brand identity prism, Reflection is often mixed and intertwined with Self-Image – which will be discussed later. They may seem similar, but they have core differences, for sure. Reflection is about your customer – whom do you want them to be? Who is your target market? Whom do you want to reach out to? Basically, Reflection is about a brand that portrays the target audience. It is about (a set of) stereotypical attributes or beliefs of the target market. How do you know to identify them? When you see their ads (or other forms of communication), those aspects would be the highlights. 

In relation to brand identity, you need to understand your target market and customer first. Once you are able to do so, you can steer your brand (and its identity) toward the market confidently. The reason why you can do it is that you already grasp the concept of specificity. It's the main key. 

An example of the Reflection aspect is when you have a business producing biodegradable cosmetics items. It's highly likely that your target market would be women, whether it their 20s or 30s, living in busy cosmopolitan areas, into modern living, and follow a vegan diet. Cigarette ads are also the business that does this Reflection aspect quite well. If you pay attention to their ads, you will see that most of their ads are portraying a fun, modern, and trendy people with trendy lifestyles. The manufacturers want to create the (desired) impression of the cigarette images and brands. 



As it was mentioned before, a lot of people would mistake Self-Image and Reflection – thinking that they are similar. Reflection is about the brand portraying the target market, while Self-Image is about the customers– and their ideas related to themselves. It's about how they VISUALIZE themselves. It's about customers' identity and how they feel related to using the brand. 

For instance, some people associate BMW with luxury and being exclusive, so they are more comfortable driving it than Jeep. In the meantime, some people associate Jeep with masculinity and sportiness – and they are comfortable driving it. Some people feel cool and confident when they are wearing Levi's, while others feel sexy and feminine when they are using Victoria's Secret perfume. In this matter, brand identity is the reflection of the customers' identity and view of themselves.


Brand Identity Prism Example

After we have discussed the brand identity and also the prism, here are two examples of the (seemingly) similar brand: Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Both are aerated drinks, and yet they have completely different personalities and detailed parts. 

For Coca-Cola:
  • The Physique: It's an aerated (cold) drink with a red logo and curvy font. The bottle is generally full of moisture
  • The Relationship: It's like a buddy!
  • The Reflection is about spending quality time with family
  • The Personality is about excitement, sharing, happiness, and joyful
  • The Culture: MNC, old US, and urban
  • The Self-Image is a cool and happy soul
For Pepsi:
  • The Physique: Blue, red, and circular
  • The Relationship: Like a (casual) fling
  • The Reflection is about being young, bold, and free
  • The Personality is about being youthful, fun, and smart
  • The Culture: American, smarter, and younger
  • The Self-Image is cool and social

As you can see, even two brands that look similar have their own differences – and these differences are obvious because everything starts out from the core. You can say that they have a different brand identity – which is unique and special to their own. In Coca-Cola, the target market heavily lies on families and bonding, while for Pepsi, the target market is focusing on youth – and about them being social, fun, and cool. If you are able to understand your brand, you should be able to hit it off quite well and start out with a good foundation. 


Utilizing Brand Identity Prism

Don't forget about brand identity – and how each brand has its own characteristics and personality. The prism will work like a charm if you are able to focus on each of the facet parts. After all, your main purpose is to design and create consistency. When working on the prism for the brand identity, you should ask these questions to yourself:

  • What is my mission? What about the mission statement?
  • Who will I choose as my brand's representation? Who has the perfect image that fits with my brand?
  • What kind of impression do I want to invoke from people coming to the store and viewing my products?

After you have created the prism, think about making a summary of your brand. Not only should it describe your identity as a business, but it should also have a unifying concept. The prism is also useful for reference. You can still use it for everything – such as daily communication or monumental decision. Don't forget that the prism can be revised and changed. It would be a good idea to revisit it regularly – and then update it. It will stay relevant to your (business) goals' changes.



Creating an identity isn't exactly easy. It's a process that takes a long time – it certainly doesn't happen instantly. If you take a look at brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, or BMW, they have spent years (even decades!) to build an identity and hone the brand. 

To start out, you need to identify your needs (as a business) and reach out to a myriad of target markets. Using the prism can be a huge help – it helps you set off your goal and create a solid foundation. Moreover, you need to have a unique branding strategy (which is personalized to your own brand), so your methods would be different from the others. 

From this aspect, we can learn that identity is crucial. It what gives your brand 'soul' – a personality. Yes, the prism can help you with the process, but it doesn't speed up your brand awareness or development. It may take decades, so people would be familiar with your name. With a brand identity prism, hopefully, you can have a good start and hone your unique brand.

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