Corporate identity can feel like one of those terms that only apply to large corporations. Companies so big they have become household names, like mega giants Johnson & Johnson or Amazon.
The reality is every business venture has a corporate identity, even if some of them are unaware of it. Operating your business while not being aware of your corporate identity can have profoundly adverse effects, especially when your business is on the brink of making a name for itself within your community and industry.
But understanding, developing, and embracing your corporate identity can be immensely powerful.
In this article, we will learn what corporate identity is, and why it’s essential to understand how your business presents itself to the market.
Corporate identity is the collection of all public personas put together to create the face of a company. The overall visual identity system (logos, typography, color palettes), corporate behavior (company mission and values), and communications within and outside the corporation (messaging and positioning) comprise your corporate identity.
Any touchpoint a company has with the public goes helps establish its corporate identity. These are also called “customer touchpoints” or “brand touchpoints.” A few examples are a company's website, social media profiles, uniforms, signage, and blogs, just to name a few.
Let’s talk about the foundation of corporate identity and how each of these components plays its part.
There are three components to any corporate identity. Corporate design, corporate behavior, and corporate communication. Each one of these acts as a pillar to hold up the overall identity of a company. You can look sharp and have the best website in the world, but if customer service always drops the ball, it’ll damage your identity.
Corporate Design is a visual identity system that consists of anything that can be tied to your business merely by looking at it. Including logos, color palettes, fonts, graphic elements, and guidelines. Any sort of asset with your logo or name on it is part of your visual identity system.
The visual identity system is what visually sets you apart from your competitors. It creates trust and loyalty in your customers and shows consistency in your corporation. Seeing your logo on a product tells your consumer that they are buying the best, giving them a sense of comfort that their experience will be the same as the last time they purchased your product.
Producing this feeling of comfort is not easy, nor is it by accident. Seeing your corporate design on a package is great, but it needs to be followed up and supported by outstanding corporate communication.
Corporate communication consists of all internal and external communications throughout a corporation, which means how management speaks to its employees and how the whole corporation speaks to its customers.
Internal corporate communications are emails, Zoom meetings, team meetings, messages posted on a bulletin board, newsletters, and reports given over house PA systems. These are just a few, but it’s easy to understand that it’s all forms of communication at work.
Examples of external corporate communications are marketing emails, website copy, blogs, articles, newsletters, social media, tone of voice, slogans or taglines, videos, flyers, brochures, posters, and radio advertising. Anytime a company makes contact with the public, who is always a potential customer, is corporate communication. Also referred to as a “touchpoint”.
External and internal communications are equally important. It might seem like external is the more important of the two since it only speaks to customers, but internal communication is crucial. Employees are more empowered than ever with access to social media, and if they share a negative experience online that took place at work, it impacts their employer.
The same goes for a positive experience as well. If an employee shares an amazing experience from work on Twitter and they have a thousand followers who retweet the post, and their followers retweet the post, you get the idea. Word gets around fast. It’s free advertising, and all it took was top-notch internal corporate communication.
External corporate communication is essential for obvious reasons. Your visual branding could be perfect, but it’s the words that you use that connect with your target audience. Proper external communication builds brand awareness, establishes a sense of trust and comfort, and speaks to the quality and performance of the service or product you provide.
Corporate behavior is the action a corporation takes when acting as a single entity. This behavior is influenced by legal rules, ethical codes of conduct, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Corporate behavior is important because it reflects the morals and ethics that a company holds. It tells you the exact standard they hold themselves to and can significantly influence how people spend their money—affecting shareholders, stakeholders, and employees.
A corporation’s sustainability is directly linked to its behavior, and if a company is to survive long-term, it needs to be very aware of its public perception.
If a product has a recall, it’s best to take it head-on and admit the mistake as opposed to trying to cover it up. People respect the ownership of an error, and while you might lose some customers, it’ll be nothing compared to a scandal of a cover-up. Trust, once lost, is very difficult to get back.
It’s easy to assume that brand and corporate image are the same things. It’s the way that everyday people talk about the creators of their favorite products, but they are, in fact, different.
A corporation is a product creator, and a brand is a personality a corporation gives to its product. For example, Johnson & Johnson is a huge corporation, but it owns over 100 brands, like Tylenol, Aveeno, Visine, and Splenda.
Another example is Apple. Apple is a corporation, but it has many brands like the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Each one of these has its own brand image that is distinct from the corporate image.
Corporate image is the ethos of company culture, corporate design, corporate behavior, and internal and external communications. By encompassing these elements, it will create an identity for the company as a whole.
It’s the behaviors and actions within a company that create the perception people have of a corporation.
Brand image is the perception or feeling a consumer or potential consumer has about a brand. It is the overall impression, belief, and association that people get from coming in contact with a brand.
Brand image is created through advertising, word of mouth, social media, and branding campaigns. Merely seeing a product being worn or used in public contributes to a brand image.
As we said initially, every business has a corporate identity, whether they are aware of it or not. If you don’t take control of this public perception, the public will create a perception for you. Trying to reshape your corporate image after years of neglect will be a long uphill battle.
By controlling your corporate identity, you ensure that your customers and potential customers have the same experience. Here are some key reasons to invest in your corporate identity.
People need consistency. It’s why most of us have a daily routine. It eliminates unpredictability, uncertainty, and stress. Customers want to know they are buying the exact product they purchased last time. Consistency goes a long way in establishing a solid corporate identity.
We all have a friend or family member who is always reliable. That person is there for us whenever we need them. Your corporate identity needs to be the same way. When people see your logo, colors, and typeface, a feeling of comfort should accompany that. We always turn to those who are reliable.
The whole point of all of this is trust. Without trust, you won’t be able to sell water to a man in the desert. Your corporate identity needs to exude trustworthiness. Once trust is established, new products and services will be met with excitement and curiosity, not suspicion and doubt.
A solid corporate identity establishes you as the authority of your niche. When potential customers are looking for a solution to their problem, the corporation with the greatest sense of authority will be the winner. Authority makes you the premier expert in your industry, and people only want to hire the best.
Creating a clear and undeniably strong corporate identity is complicated. While not impossible, it requires a strategic plan, bold direction, and a precise vision of the result.
Most entrepreneurs and corporations do not have the time or knowledge to execute such an endeavor. The investment you’d make into streamlining your corporate identity would give you a return that is tenfold. While it’s not cheap, it will serve your business for YEARS.
The best route to take is to hire a branding agency.
A branding agency has the knowledge, expertise, and authority to execute a corporate identity campaign that you could never achieve on your own.
Another thing to think about is that you’re too close to your own business. You’re inside the fishbowl, as the saying goes, so you don’t have a clear idea of the point of view of a customer. It’s better to hire someone with an unbiased perspective to help you build a robust corporate identity.
A strategy session is a great way to examine your company's mission, values, and the reason you’re doing business in the first place. Then, through a series of exercises and critical thinking, you can align your values to your messaging, positioning, and visual identity. This allows employees and customers to connect with your brand through shared values.
Two Wolves can put together a corporate identity package that’ll include everything you need—aligning your mission and values with your visual identity, positioning, and messaging for internal and external communications giving you the foundation for all of your future marketing efforts.