A corporate identity is the persona of the business and is communicated verbally, in writing, graphically, by the values, beliefs and conduct of staff, and in the delivery of products and services.
An effective corporate identity successfully merges the business strategy, culture, and communications, those distinguishing elements of individuality, with the result of defining and identifying the business to the marketplace, and ideally positioning it in the category it wishes to play in. This means that target buyers consider the business when making purchasing decisions which, as we know, is often half the battle in B2B marketing.
A good corporate identity will have:
- Differentiation: it will stand out from the competition.
- Relevance: it will articulate the problem the business solves for its customers.
- Coherence: it will be coherent and consistant with all touch points (or brand experiences eg. a email, an event, a customer walking into the business office) possessing common elements
- Esteem: if it's differentiated, relevant and coherent it is likely to have earned a reputation of value for both its internal and external audiences.
Elements of a corporate identity
A corporate identity is commonly composed of three elements that need to be carefully assembled:
1. Design (logos, uniforms, corporate colours etc.)
This is a physical expression of the company's brand and should be an extension of the culture that is already expressed through the communication style and behaviour of the business. It normally consists of a variety of elements assembled within a common set of guidelines. Some of these elements are:
- Colour psychology
- Tag line
- Powerpoint template
- Product one sheet template
- Spec sheet template
- Partner or prospect communication template
- Press release template
- Case study template
- Business card template
- E-signature banner
- Email template
- Stationery design
- Colour scheme
- Trade show signage
- Blog branding
- Website branding
The guidelines that govern how the identity is applied to the elements above need to be very specific and should include approved colour palettes, typefaces, page layouts, templates and other such design elements to give you a uniform visual appearance:
But 'looking the part' is only one third of the battle, your business now needs to 'talk the talk' (through its communcations) and 'walk the walk' (through the behaviour of staff.)
2. Communication (advertising, public relations, information, etc.)
This is the written expression of the company's brand and should be an extension of the culture that is already expressed through the visual style and behaviour of the business. The key thing to get right here is 'uniform messaging' - you have to tell your market who you are and the problem you solve so make sure that every time you do it it is consistant.
3. Behavior (internal values, norms, etc.)
The way you behave in your business should be influenced by its corporate identity so as to create a coherent experience for buyers getting to know you. If all elements of your business identity (visual, communication and behaviour) are in sync it will help buyer's better understand, and ultimately become more comfortable, with your business.
- Managers need to set a behavioural standard for employees to meet
- Employees need to be made aware of the need to meet that standard
Implementing effective Employee Incentives is vital in resolving this gap between leaderships vision and company culture.
How to determine your corporate identity
align.me Founder and CEO, Hugh Macfarlane argues that a corporate identity, with all its elements, must position the business in the category first and forement as it doesn't matter what the market thinks about you, if it doesn't think about you at all.
You should revisit your corporate identity annually to make sure it is still relevant and effective. Even though taking a long, hard look in the mirror can be painful potential changes that occur over time could mean the identity your business has could be completely wrong for the audience you serve (or want to serve), the market you’re targeting (or want to target) and/or where you’re headed tomorrow (if you know!). Once you figure out who you are, then you’ve got to figure out what you want to become so annual reviews are a good idea.
Finding clarity and confidence in your brand’s personality reveals powerful insights into your organization’s internal culture. It will help staff understand what the brand is about and how they should speak and behave. It can help managers determine what they should be looking for in job applicants, providing a sort of screening filter for the attributes most desirable in prospective employees.
If there is one, primary reason to strategically engineer your brand’s personality inside and out — it is to crystallize the flavor of customer experience you deliver and how you communicate that to your market. This process should influence your strategy for every touchpoint — the tone of marketing communications, the brand’s visual style and design and even how front-line staff should dress.
Hubspot have developed the Marketer's Guide to Developing a Strong Brand Identity, and some extracts are shown below:
1. Work out where your company sits in the market
Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don't rely on what you think they think. Know what they think. A good way to do this is via the The SWOT Analysis:
- Strengths: Characteristics of the business that give it an advantage over others in the same category
- Weaknesses: Characteristics of the business that give it a disadvantage relative to others in the same category
- Opportunities: Elements that the business could exploit to its advantage
- Threats: Elements in the marketplace that could cause trouble for the business
2. Write your vision statement
- What are your most important products and services?
- What products and services will you never offer?
- What is unique about doing business with your brand?
- How would your customers describe your brand?
- Where do you want your company to be in five years?
3. Write your mission statement
- What are the specific market needs the company exists to address?
- What does the company do to address these needs?
- What are the guiding principles that define the company's approach?
- Why do customers buy from you and not your competition?
4. Document your 'essence' or 'personality' Yes, this may sounds very fluffy but it is an important part of the process. When your customers experience your product or service, what emotions do you want the encounter elicit?
- Are you serious and all-business?
- Are you accurate and detailed?
- Are you down-to-earth?
- Are you playful or matter-of-fact?
Hubpost argue that only once your brand is defined are you ready to take it to market with advertising, inbound marketing, a new website, content, and any other element of outward-facing marketing. In doing this it is recommended to write a creative brief will help you define the purpose of each particular piece of marketing communication and ensure your newly created or affirmed brand identity is accurately included.