Updated: Jun 17
Think about any of the items you're purchasing. How did you find out or even think about buying those products? Would you remember a brand or organization with an image of their logo? Some companies have excelled at making their brand or company well known.
This blog aims to provide you with the necessary information regarding what corporate identity is, it's importance, and what it takes to improve your corporate identity.
What is Corporate Identity?
Corporate identity is how a company or organization introduces itself to the public. Companies who excel in creating a brand identity are companies who people know by their image, motto, and name. Developing a Corporate Identity is not as simple as it may seem.
Corporate identity is very similar to personal identity. An organization needs to leave a significant first impression on the media and people. Think of a new job on its very first day. You want to make sure that your appearance is acceptable, you're on time, and you're making a great first impression. The same applies to an organization creating its corporate identity.
Marketing a product can be difficult when the firm has a negative corporate identity. For starters, if the business has poor negative feedback for its customer service, it would be difficult to advertise and sell goods. Also, a company must have a corporate identity to market a product or service.
You probably think of logos, letterheads and business cards when you hear 'corporate identity'—and that's part of it. Your corporate design is all the things you would typically associate with the visual identity of a company, including logos and taglines, colors and fonts, paperwork, flyers, web design, social media and all that jazz. It's also your workplace furniture, staff uniforms, and any logos that cover cars and vehicles in your company (if you have one!).
Corporate branding, though, is more than a design; it is you as an organization you are. So, on the one hand, it includes those elements of corporate design, but also your culture, values and internal and external communications.
Corporate identification is distinct from symbol identification, as well. Picture an international corporation like Procter & Gamble: the corporation has one global identity — one slogan, one set of principles and corporate culture. Then, it has hundreds of brands within the corporate umbrella — Gillette, Pampers, Pantene — each with an independent brand image. Even a smaller (for now) company with only one brand can still distinguish between the customer-facing brand and the overall corporate identity.
Corporate identity is expensive. No corporate identity is even more expensive. - Ben Bos
Why is Corporate Identity Important?
You already have a corporate identity, whether you know it or not, just like you have a brand image, whether you are actively managing it or not. It's just a matter of whether you want it to be left to chance — with a logo here, a social media cover over there and anything else that creates a hodgepodge over time — or whether you want to create something that supports your business goals.
Considering both sides of corporate identity is also important: your design, yes but even your culture and personality. If you want an example of the warning, just look at Uber. Uber launched a new corporate identity in 2016—remember as they moved from the old black-and-white 'U' to two new icons representing the 'bit' and the 'atom'. (Err...Ok!)
Not only was the new design criticized, but more importantly, it ignored deeper issues surrounding brand perception along with a disjointed culture and an unfriendly work environment that later resulted in charges of sexual harassment. Having a cohesive brand image involves bringing all facets of your business into account — and repairing what isn't working. You may think that all of this is too big and unnecessary for a small startup like yours — it might seem stupid to talk about 'culture' when it's just you and a co-founder — but it's far more efficient (and more comfortable) to get things right from the start than having to fix things later.
Building a corporate identity proactively would:
Make sure all of your communication is consistent and coherent;
Let you distinguish yourself from your competitors; and
Help you effectively engage with clients, employees and investors.
Still, convinced? Let's look into what constitutes a proper corporate identity.
What are the elements of Corporate Identity?
More than just design, your corporate identity is: it is who you are. It is all you stand for, inside and outside. It all starts with your reason to go to work every day and why should anyone else care.
People don't buy what you're doing, they're buying why you're doing it. - Simon Sinek
A company's values and culture are also crucial in shaping corporate identity. Google is renowned for creating a friendly workplace setting and was named the best business culture tech organization in 2018. But it's about more than the exciting ice cream trucks and table football, and it includes things like flexibility, creativity space, shared values and confidence. The culture of a company is embodied in its leadership (that's you!).
All this dream and mission, your fundamental principles, your philosophy and behavior — it has to be influenced by you and your staff, integrated in everything you do, and brought to life through your organizational architecture. It is here that your design comes in. Yay!
Nothing is more related to a company than a logo — think of the Nike's swoosh, McDonald's golden arches, or Coca-Cola's red script. Well done, it's becoming your company's iconic symbol that inspires positive emotions and represents everything you stand for. Easy, huh?!
The website is at the heart of any modern ecosystem of companies. It's the platform for all of your advertising and product details, it's the one spot online where you have complete control of and it's where most of your consumers ultimately end up, at some stage in their shopping path.
The next most important online platforms after your website will probably be your social channels. Whether you're focusing on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube or the latest trendy network, you're going to want to make sure that you're projecting a consistent corporate image across each channel.
They mustn't forget the real world with all this hysteria about internet materials: the box, whether you have a physical product, as well as some products and publicity collateral such as mugs, posters, pens and other fun stuff. These all have to fit in with your corporate identity and also tell a cohesive story.
Who writes letters? Okay, once you do this you're going to want to talk about your corporate style! This includes your letterhead and envelopes, slips 'with compliments' (you know those little pieces of paper with a quick "Thanks!" message or adding a personal touch to a gift you're sending) and any other company communication as well as your business cards.
Most definitely, when you try to persuade clients or collaborators that you are the next AirBnb or Instagram, you'll spend a majority of your time on pitch decks. You're going to want a beautiful prototype for things like PowerPoint or Keynote that helps you to show your company effectively and reliably at all times.
Many people run online businesses, but you may be able to grow your organization and create a proper office space at some point, or you may have a street team out to promote an event, or you may need to deliver. Your corporate identity extends to your physical office or store, as well as how you also present your employees and other people representing your company.
It takes time to build a corporate identity, so there's no point in developing something for where you are today — it'll be out of date before it's even made an impact! Instead, let's say over five years, you want to look forward to where you are trying to get to for your business:
Where do you wish to be in five years from now with your company?
What's your organization's internal structure, and what do you want your team to appear as?
What new products and services do you want to launch?
Looking ahead like this will help ensure that the identity you are developing now will not only be relevant in years to come but will even help you get there.
The Elements of a Strong Corporate Identity
Effective corporate identities are cohesive — they link three elements: the value proposition that you bring to your clients, the capability infrastructure that helps you to build that value, and the collection of goods and services that exploit those capacities to execute against your value proposition.
Consider IKEA and its mission; "to create a better everyday life" by providing "a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them" for examples of simple and very unique identities.
Or Apple, which is, "committed to bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software and services". Apple leverages its exceptional ability to build and create their operating systems, hardware, computer applications, and facilities to provide superior ease of use, streamlined functionality and creative design of new products and technologies for its customers.
Companies often wind up on their growth path serving so many different customer segments and so many different needs with disconnected product groups, capabilities and strategies that it is impossible to define what the company is about. While such companies may be okay at many things or may have been great at some point in their growth, their lack of focus creates a struggle, in the long run, to be excellent at anything.
To build the kind of brand that fuels growth, move away from your portfolio and industry's existing limitations and evaluate how you can maximize what your business is successful at generating unique value for consumers. Several companies start by determining the critical ways in which amount can be made five years ahead in their market; then decide on which of these value propositions their business has the right to compete with their distinctive capabilities. They then focus the bulk of their company's resources on building that identity by strengthening the most critical skills and more tightly aligning their portfolio around their value proposition.
It was an age-old challenge to define a clear purpose in the world — for individuals and organizations. But if firms can find the courage to declare what value they can create and for whom, they can commit to a path to building greatness in that area. This has proven to be not only a winning strategy for financial results but also an incredible motivator for employees, who perform at their best when they know how to fit into a broader goal. At Cinemagic, we aim to empower organizations globally to tell a better story. And what better a story than the identity of your organization?