CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS Corporate Identity – Does recognition really deliver dollars?

How do you describe corporate identity?
I’d prefer to start by explaining what corporate identity is not. It is not corporate image. An image is what people perceive the company to be, and management does not always have control over this image – such as the image portrayed by unfriendly employees. corporate image can result from an accumulation of unplanned things happening which management is unable to control.
Corporate identity, on the other hand, is what the company does have control over. And when it is well planned with superior visual elements it allows the company to tell its audiences – shareholders, customers, employees and other stakeholders – what it wants to say about itself and how it wants to be perceived. good corporate identity will visually separate and distinguish company and its products and services from all others.
To the public these are visual clues to the differences between one company and another. The process creates brand ownership, and these days more people talk about brand identity and branding than they do about corporate identity. This is because they understand the word brand little better. brand is the face the public sees and accepts for whatever it is. When you have face you begin to have brand you can own. This is why so many companies are now talking about brand ownership, because they realise how powerful and profitable owning brand can be. So, the identity, whether it is corporate or brand, or both, should be the company’s visual statement to the world about who and what the company is and what its products and services stand for.

What role does company vision play in establishing an identity?
It plays crucial role. The corporate vision – who we are, what we do, how we do it and what we want to become – is the foundation. Before organisations even start to develop visual identity they must understand the vision, which usually comes from senior management. And they must be looking to the future to be successful in creating an identity that is long-lived. So the vision must mesh with the company’s long-term goals, marketing strategies and flexible possibilities, because companies change over time. If companies craft an identity plan that embraces the vision while still being flexible enough to adapt to change, then they are on the right track.

What key audience groups, other than customers, should corporate identity programme target?
Besides customers you need good employees. How they perceive the company as good employer affects their job performance. And don’t forget the employees’ families. They are an important audience. Their impressions have an impact on the employees. And then there are potential new employees who may want to work at the company. Good suppliers are important. Companies want their suppliers to provide the enterprise with best quality goods and services and the best prices.
Some publics that are important to organisations are not immediately obvious. These include trade unions, trade and industry associations and the media. And then there are other companies which might become merger or acquisition candidates some time in the future. The way company manifests itself, both in total and in its separate component parts, will impact the way different audiences feel about it.

What is the biggest challenge companies face in establishing clear identity?
The biggest challenge to the company is to understand who they are, what their product or service really is, and who is their customer. Are they high-priced or low-priced, economical products at good price or expensive quality products? Management needs to understand what they are doing in business and who the enterprise is competing against. Does anyone already own their market? If no one is in the market they may be successful without clear identity. But this can become problem when they try to grow. If the identity is not right, it can’t grow with the business. It is important, even at the outset, for small companies to understand how important their visual face is. It becomes increasingly important in the future.

Does the development and implementation of an identity programme need the personal involvement of the CEO, or can the task be delegated?
The CEO is usually the guiding light for great corporate identity programme. Steve Jobs at Apple Computer is good example. They are doing fantastic job worldwide. The Apple visual statements say: “We are one of the best companies in the world, and we have the world’s best products and services.” This comes across visually in everything they do including their symbols, packaging, point of sale material, even the nameplate on computers. Apple won’t do anything without great identity statement. It is hard to imagine world-class identity initiative without the CEO as the driving force behind it.

Do companies need chief identity officer – someone senior who is responsible for the firm’s corporate identity programme?
That depends on the size of the enterprise. large company should have someone to ensure the best corporate branding programme and processes are developed and that they will work for the long term. They should come from either of two functional areas, marketing or design. Getting both in one person is worth striving for. If not, then try two people working together to assure the marketing strategy is well founded and its implementation through good design is looked after.

Has globalisation impacted how companies approach and manage their corporate identity?
Globalisation is not going away. Even small start-up companies should take this into account. Some major corporations think they should look different in every country to blend into the national culture. This is expensive. Changing their symbol or name causes problems both in the short and the long term. By and large people accept each other’s cultural differences as expressed in names and symbols. The key elements of identity should remain the same everywhere. Just consider the internet. You simply have to have single identity on the web. The internet is forcing companies to think about the strategy of single global identity. Nothing else makes sense. Imagine the costs involved in rendering it individually for 50 or 60 separate countries.

What one critical success factor is essential in world-class corporate identity initiative?
Above all else, those working on the identity must fully understand the company, its products, services and its vision. This can take up to six months or longer if it’s major corporation. Intelligent professionals must work together to understand the core business and the essence of how the company is different from all others. It is like surgeon creating new face. Whatever is created, the longer it lasts the better the return on the investment.

How do companies measure the effectiveness of their brand or corporate identity?
Do visual audit based on interviews and analysis. This should be an ongoing pro-cess, undertaken every three to five years. It involves collecting everything the company produces and which is seen by its various publics. It includes letterheads, business cards, vehicles, signage, packaging, ads and so on. The objective is to collect all the visual materials that the company uses and which together says “this is who we are, this is what we stand for”.
Then conduct interviews with senior executives to examine what’s happened with the company – is it any different now than it was three or five years ago when the identity was first developed? Or, how likely is it that something might happen in the future which could impact on the current corporate identity. Changes to the identity’s visual elements can be considered and adjustments made where it makes sense.

Has the internet changed the rules of the game and the way in which companies approach and manage their identity?
It is just another medium. One we never had before which transcends distance. Com

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