Clear brand purpose and positioning.
The first part of establishing a brand identity is determining what your purpose and positioning are. The brand purpose is the big reason for your existence. Brand positioning is the naming of who your product is for and why your product is a better option than the competitors. Defining these will inform your strategy as you create a logo, decide on a color palette, etc. A process called Purpose, Position and Personality is useful for answering these questions
Brand positioning is the process of making the purpose actionable. By naming your target customer and differentiating yourself from the competition, you lay the groundwork for your brand to accomplish your purpose.
Thorough market research
A brand's purpose and positioning can be informed, at least in part, by market and customer research. Research is crucial and for beginners to market research, there is a wealth of content online to help with your branding designs.
One of the best ways to conduct market research is to simply talk to people. Phone interviews allow for detailed discussions and place a helpful emphasis on the human element of research, an element that's essential if you want to make an emotional appeal to customers.
Beyond phone interviews, online survey tools, like Survey Monkey, are a fast way to gather a lot of information, and government resources can also be a powerful tool.
Good market research can also help you determine who your main customer personas are, a term which I'm using here to indicate a slightly different concept than "target customers," which was mentioned earlier. Your customer persona goes beyond just defining what problem a customer has and details some of the professional and personal traits of your focus customers. Defining these traits will help you know what kind of personality your brand should have to be appealing to customers.