Whether you just launched your business or organization, you already have a few years under your belt; you cannot deny that establishing a corporate identity and distinguishing yourself from a myriad of rivals can be a struggle. But, what even is this concept called corporate identity? In this hypercompetitive world, how do you establish one and use it to ensure that your business will outlast the competition?
Corporate Identity, Branding, Brand Identity, and Brand Image? What’s the Difference?
Apple, Google, Qantas, Twitter, Givenchy, Patagonia. What do these brands have in common? If you guessed that they are industry leaders and are easily recognizable brands, then you’re right. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, no one even needs to explain what these companies offer. One glance at the company name will suffice, and your brain automatically processes what these companies do. Maybe it’s because of the quality of their products or services (in the case of the airline), the easily recognizable logo, or even the catchy name. But one thing is for sure: the success of these companies is largely due to their strong corporate identity that has been achieved through successful branding.
But what exactly is corporate identity? Corporate identity centers on the visual aspect of a brand—one look, and you know exactly what services or products a particular company offers. A strong corporate identity communicates how a company wants to be remembered by the customer and helps the consumers tell them apart from their competitors. Color/color combination (Google, Microsoft, the Olympics), logo (Twitter, McDonald’s, the Red Cross), size and type of font (Coca-Cola, 3M, Unilever), product design (Apple, Mercedes-Benz), packaging (Chanel No. 5, Tic Tac), and slogan (Nike’s “Just Do It” or M&M’S “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands”) are some of the visual devices used to communicate corporate identity. Uniforms (think flight attendants and UPS’ iconic uniforms), signage, and vehicle graphics can also be used to promote the business and make it more memorable. Corporate identity is independent of the company’s performance, and these visual devices can be modified or improved over time. The process of creating a strong and effective corporate identity is called branding.
Although the three terms are sometimes used interchangeably, corporate identity is not synonymous with either brand identity or brand image. While corporate identity deals with all things visual (outfits, logos, taglines, etc.), brand identity deals with the quality, features, benefits, and other attributes of your product (or, in some cases, the service). If you want consumers to see your product as high-quality or project a professional aura, then you want to work hard to cultivate brand identity.
On the other hand, brand image is the emotional aspect of your business strategy. The quality of your product or service and the effectiveness of your corporate identity can influence the public’s perception of your company and elicit emotion from potential consumers. Brand image is how the public perceives your company, products, or services. Moreover, brand image is entirely dependent on factors such as customer experience, corporate values, company history, reputation, advertising, etc. Does the company exude trustworthiness or the opposite? Do customers associate my products or services with quality? These are just a few questions you must ask yourself when evaluating your brand image.
The Importance of a Unique and Memorable Corporate Identity
Maybe you think that you can get away with a poorly designed logo or a ridiculous-sounding company name, but consider the benefits of a unique and smart corporate identity:
- A good corporate identity is the literal face of your company. Just like humans, it makes you recognizable and sets you apart from the sea of competition. For example, when shopping, some consumers look at the price of a product first, while others prioritize quality. Many people, however, are visual creatures who can be swayed by the physical aspects of the product, such as a nice and sturdy packaging, an elegant font, or a cool-looking logo.
- A strong corporate identity can lend your company a professional and trustworthy veneer. If you are confident that the quality of your product or service is outstanding, but you’re still struggling with sales and people’s perception of your brand, maybe it’s time to reconsider your branding. Maybe your company’s font borders on ridiculous (think comic sans), or the company name is decked out in garish neons or forgettable neutrals. Or maybe your logo looks like something drawn on an early version of MS Paint, or your product’s packaging is flimsy. It’s time to reevaluate your strategy and take a page off the book of today’s leading brands when coming up with a good corporate identity.
- Besides better promotion, improved corporate identity can also foster loyalty among your existing customers and attract new ones. It might seem superficial, but most consumers naturally want to be associated with high-quality brands with attractive corporate identities. Revamp your branding if you’re struggling with attracting new customers and keeping old ones.
Boost Your Corporate Identity with these Simple Branding Tips
If you’re struggling with creating an excellent corporate identity, consider these simple branding tips to get you started.
- Consider your company’s history and original values. Before creating or revamping your corporate identity, please take a moment (or even a day) to return to your company’s core: its history. What motivated you to create this business in the first place, and what was your original goal? Is your corporate identity the embodiment of your company’s history and goals? What were your core values, and are they still the same? Perhaps you value quality over quantity, reliability, innovation, sustainability, or commitment to your community, but do they reflect your corporate identity?
- Take the time to evaluate your brand’s strengths and weaknesses and your (current or prospective) customer perception of your company. After reevaluating the past, assess your business’s current strengths and weaknesses and how these can be used to your advantage when developing or improving your corporate identity. You can talk to them personally if you want to know what your customers think about your company and if your corporate identity is effective. If you have a large corporation and personal interaction is impossible, you can conduct surveys or gather feedback online. A simple survey or feedback can sometimes turn your blind spots into strengths and improve your corporate identity. You can also mitigate negative perceptions and improve your company’s reputation through feedback.
- Identify your current and future goals for your business so they will reflect your corporate identity. For example, do you want to simultaneously prosper and support your local community? Perhaps you want to manufacture quality yet environment-friendly products? Or your ultimate goal is to be the most successful and innovative IT company within five years? Whatever your goal, it’s always a good thing for them to be embraced when you’re creating or refining your corporate identity.
- Take a page off other companies’ playbooks when it comes to branding. Don’t be afraid to check out other businesses’ logos, fonts, packaging, uniforms, or advertising if you need some inspiration. Look at their websites or social networking pages to assess what you’d like for your own business. Be inspired to create and refine your corporate identity when you see impressive logos, packaging, or typefaces. In your search for a better corporate identity, there will be instances when you’ll learn more from simply awful corporate than from good ones.
- Keep it consistent, relevant, and unique. If your goal is to boost sales while touting your product’s quality, ensure that your corporate identity is consistent. You can’t boast of quality when your product’s packaging breaks down easily, or your service is subpar. Know your target audience, and ensure that your branding is relevant to their demographic. Lastly, ensure that your corporate identity is unique and memorable so your customers can easily set you apart from your competition.
Author: Daniel Lummis, Senior Marketing Consultant at Bladon WA. Daniel has worked in the Marketing and Branding industry for over five years. Bladon WA is a promotional and corporate branded product supplier based out of Perth, Western Australia.