Corporate Identity…What’s It Really Mean and What’s It Really Do

corporate IDBy Dennis Brennan – Sr. Art Director

Everyone talks about corporate identity (well, not everyone…but those of us in the business do!). But just what is corporate identity?  Well, what it’s not is merely a company’s name or logo.

Corporate identity is a strategy that defines a company’s values, its personality…its brand. Done properly, it accurately communicates these elements to a company’s customers, providing a clear image that helps set the company apart from its competitors.

With the advent of the internet and its global nature, corporate identity has become more important than ever in ensuring that companies present a consistent image throughout all of their marketing materials. Consistency needs to carry through in the use of the logo, tagline, color, typography and a well-conceived system of design for all “promotional” materials.

This includes websites, direct email, banner ads, social media venues, etc. in addition to more traditional printed materials such as letterheads, business cards, sales brochures and catalogs, signage, packaging, investor communications, promotional items and magazine advertisements.

The logo is, of course, the anchor design element that visually identifies a company. It should be distinctive, uncluttered, easily recognizable and should attempt to graphically reflect the nature of the business.

Attention should be given to logo design to be sure it reproduces correctly in any application, from printing it on a ballpoint pen to huge trade show booth graphics. Today’s online uses can present specific challenges due to the resolution and limited color restrictions of computer monitors.

Carefully developed design standards should be clearly documented in a corporate identity manual for use by the entire company as well as outside vendors to provide a cohesive visual system within which all graphic materials can be produced worldwide.

These guidelines should provide accurate details on use of the company logo, specifications for colors and fonts, and should include detailed examples of marketing materials from business cards to the website, advertisements to large format graphics. It’s also important that this be a living document, incorporating updated information and applications as needed.

Some of the best examples of good corporate identity include consumer giants such Coca-Cola, Apple Computer, General Electric and Nike. Not surprisingly, these well known brands are instantly recognizable not only by their distinctive logos, but by how they communicate their brand message with unerring uniformity.

Of course, these companies have enormous budgets for the development and execution of their valuable corporate identities. However, even for smaller companies negotiating their way through the choppy waters of business-to-business marketing, the need for excellence in creativity, consistency and execution is just as critical. Those of us whose companies or clients are selling to other businesses have the same challenges…in fact, we need to do more with far fewer resources. And we can!

Now more than ever, it is absolutely essential that companies project a clear, consistent message of who they are and what they can offer to their customers. Developing and implementing a comprehensive corporate identity strategy is a vital part of accomplishing that goal.

As products and technologies continue to converge, corporate branding, positioning and messaging become primary differentiators…making the development and protection of the corporate identity a major player in any company’s long term success.

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