What is the Brand Identity Prism (and How Can It Help Your Brand)?

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An idea first introduced by J. Kapferer way back in 1986, the brand identity prism, sometimes called the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism, is a concept for describing a brand’s identity through its characteristics. The prism diagram is a useful visualization for identifying not only a brand’s core characteristics, but how they relate to one another. According to Kapferer, the strongest brands weave all six elements together seamlessly into a cohesive brand identity and message – with all six facets relating to the brand’s core essence.

Developing and maintaining a strong brand identity requires consistent messaging. Leveraging a robust digital asset management solution like MerlinOne ensures that your marketing and creative teams have access to the most current, on-brand, approved assets for use in every marketing channel. Download our white paper, How a DAM Can Help Marketing Leaders to Unite Their Teams, to learn more about how a DAM can empower your marketing and creative teams to deliver consistent, cohesive messaging for every customer interaction.
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The Six Elements of the Kapferer Brand Identity Prism

A six-sided prism, a brand identity prism features six characteristics, or elements, three on each side. The top elements of the prism represent the marketer, while the bottom represents the consumer. The left and right sides of the prism represent the level of internalization or externalization of the characteristic.

Kapferer's Brand Identity Prism

Screenshot via Inkbot Design

The six brand elements include:

  • The Physical: The tangible physical characteristics of a brand. This brand element includes things like logos, colors, shapes, and other brand assets strongly associated with your brand in the minds of consumers.
  • Brand Personality: The brand’s character and personality traits such as fun-loving, happy and playful, honest and kind, and so on. This element is often conveyed in the brand’s voice, but a brand’s design assets play an important role as well.
  • Culture: A company’s internal culture is an integral facet of a brand’s identity, too. Google, Tesla, Starbucks, Nike, Amazon – for better or for worse, these major brands have all become almost as recognized for their workplace cultures as they are for their products and services.
  • Relationship: This is a big one, representing the relationship a brand has with its audience or its consumers. What does the customer expect to get from a brand outside of the products and services it offers? Great customer service, amazing experiences, and guaranteed quality backed by a lifetime warranty are just a few brand examples.
  • Customer Reflection: What does the target audience look like, or the brand’s ideal buyer? Most brands have a few different buyer personas, but there’s usually one that’s a stand-out, go-to win for the brand – the loyalists. It’s this target buyer that brands should be targeting with their messaging, speaking to that go-to buyer who is more likely than other personas to become an ambassador for the brand.
  • Customer Self-Image: The customer self-image flips the customer reflection on its head, instead representing the customer’s ideal self. What are the target customer’s aspirations, goals, and how they want to look and behave? Brands should aim for messaging that cultivates this vision of the customer’s ideal self to resonate with their audiences.

How the Brand Identity Prism Can Help Your Brand

While it’s not a new concept – it’s been around for more than 20 years, after all – the brand identity prism is still a widely used tool, even in spite of newer brand identity frameworks that have emerged over the years. First and foremost, the brand identity prism forces brands to think cohesively about the various characteristics that make up their brand identity. Simply going through the process of creating your own brand identity prism diagram provides useful insights into how various facets of your brand may be enhancing or detracting from your core brand values.

The brand identity prism provides an informative illustration of the intersection between your brand’s identity (how you want to be perceived) and your brand’s image (how your brand is actually perceived). If your brand identity and your brand image is out of sync, it’s time to examine the brand facets in your prism and hone in on areas where you can fine-tune your messaging and other brand elements to create a more seamless, cohesive brand.

It’s these strong, consistent brands that are most memorable in the minds of consumers. Bringing your brand’s physical attributes, company culture, and brand voice in line with your target audience, your ideal customer’s expectations, and your ideal buyer’s aspirations creates a strong brand that cultivates customer loyalty and builds lifelong fans.

Consistent brand messaging is a near-impossible task if you’re relying on outdated file folder organization systems to keep track of your brand’s most valuable assets. A robust DAM solution like MerlinOne not only puts your most effective, on-brand assets at your marketing team’s fingertips, but it also makes your team more productive with automated workflows, versioning and access control, and even built-in content distribution tools to streamline your workflows. Schedule a demo today to learn how MerlinOne can transform your marketing and creative operations and put a rock-solid brand identity within reach.

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