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. 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 to you 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), or 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 not only communicates how a company wants to be remembered by the customer but also 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 something that is of high quality or projects a professional aura, then you would want to work hard in cultivating brand identity.
Brand image, on the other hand, 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 perception of the public about your company and elicit an emotion from potential consumers. Simply put, brand image is how your company, products, or services are perceived by the public. Moreover, brand image is entirely dependent factors such as customer experience, corporate values, company history, reputation, advertising, and so on. Does the company exude trustworthiness or the opposite? Do customers associate my products or services with quality? These are just a couple of questions you need to 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 is what makes you recognizable and what sets you apart from the sea of competition. When shopping, some consumers look at the price of a product first, while others prioritise 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 a professional and trustworthy veneer to your company. 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 just 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.
- Apart from better promotion, improved corporate identity can also foster loyalty among your existing customers and attract new ones. It might seem superficial, but the majority of 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, take a moment (or even a day) to go back 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 your 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, as well as your (current or prospective) customer’s perception of your company. After reevaluating the past, asses your business’ current strengths and weaknesses, and how these can be used to your advantage when it comes to developing or improving your corporate identity. If you want to know what your customers think about your company and if your corporate identity is effective, you can talk to them personally. If you have a large corporation and personal interaction is simply 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 perception and improve your company’s reputation through feedback.
- Identify your current and future goals for your business so they will reflect your corporate identity. Do you want to prosper and support your local community at the same time? Perhaps you want to manufacture quality yet environment-friendly products? Or your ultimate goal is to be the most successful and most innovative IT company within five years’ time? Whatever your goal may be, 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 company’s playbook when it comes to branding. Don’t be afraid to check out other business’ 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 own 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 throughout. 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, make sure 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 been working in the Marketing and Branding industry for over five years. Bladon WA are suppliers of promotional and corporate branded products, based out of Perth, Western Australia.