Have you ever wondered how brands like Apple, Starbucks, and Netflix manage to achieve worldwide recognition and success? The secret lies in their global strategy.
Who are we? What makes us different from our competitors? What can we do to make sure that we’re distinct and recognizable in the marketplace? These are the types of questions you might ask as you build a marketing strategy or write a mission statement, but at their core, these are questions that attempt to get to the heart of your company’s identity. Whether you’re building a new business or running a company with a well-established reputation, chances are you have asked yourself these types of questions. You’ve probably heard the terms “corporate identity” and “brand identity,” and know that they’re important. But how well do you understand what these terms mean, how they are similar, and just as important, how they differ? You may even have heard them used interchangeably, but are they? To develop successful corporate and brand identities for your company, it is important to understand what each one is (and isn’t), and how the two work together to create a clear, appealing, and trusted brand.
What is Brand Identity?
Think of a company you like and trust. Now ask yourself why that might be. Sure, you probably like the products or services that the company provides, but is there more to it than that? Think back to the questions at the beginning of this post. What are the company’s values; what does it stand for? Think of the company’s voice. What promises does the company make to its customers? To society? To the planet? How does the company deal with setbacks? In what ways does the company differentiate itself from others in the same industry? All of these are components of a company’s brand identity, and they are critical to building trust and loyalty.
Your company’s voice, values, what you promise to your customers; what you want the world to think and know about your company; your reputation: all of this is your brand identity. Think of your brand identity as who you are as a company and what sets you apart from your competitors. Of all of the companies operating in the same space that you do, what makes you distinguishable? Why should potential customers and employees choose you over your competitors?
Why Does Brand Identity Matter?
Brand identity builds trust. Customers tend to be attracted to brands that they see as “good corporate citizens,” and they are loyal to brands that they trust. A positive brand identity can also make it easier for companies to recruit and retain top talent, as job seekers today are more likely to want to work for companies that share their values. In turn, an engaged workforce becomes another conduit to communicate your brand identity.
Because brand identity is about your company’s values, when your company has a clear brand identity, decision-making becomes easy. Because all decisions must be in line with the company’s values, the brand identity creates a road map to follow. Whether the questions are about the promises your company makes or how to handle setbacks, your brand identity makes the answers clear, even when the issues and solutions are complex.
Keep Your Brand Identity Consistent
When we’re talking about building and maintaining trust, consistency is key. This means that, once you’ve built your brand identity, you’re going to want to make sure that you have the right tools in place so that every member of your team knows how to execute it. Building customer loyalty and trust takes hard work and consistency, but rebuilding trust after losing it is even more difficult. We discussed how brand identity provides a road map: well, creating a brand guide provides a visual representation of that map. Making sure that every member of your team understands and embodies the brand identity will help to ensure the successful execution of your brand identity, and the brand guide provides them with a comprehensive manual.
Have you ever heard that you’re more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down and share them with other people? Well, writing a mission statement and posting it publicly (like in your office, on your website, on marketing materials, and don’t forget to put it in your brand guide), makes you and every member of your team accountable for upholding it. Since we’re talking about something so powerful, what should your mission statement include? An effective mission statement will do a good job of communicating your brand identity (Who are you? What do you do? What are your values? How are you different from your competitors?) in a concise and memorable way.
If you’re looking for advice on your brand identity, whether you need a brand refresh or a complete overhaul, we’re happy to help. Our experts can help you determine whether you need a whole new brand identity, or if you just need some adjustments to get back on track. If you would like to discuss this, contact us and we’re happy to help.
What is Corporate Identity?
Let’s shift gears a bit. Think of a brand that is instantly recognizable. If you see the company logo without even seeing the name, you know exactly what it is. Like a “swoosh” or a partially eaten apple with no other context. Or maybe you see a certain color and something “clicks” in your brain and makes you think of a brand. Like a particular shade of blue that makes you think of a little gift box that is so famous, the color is named after the store that it comes from.
All of these are examples of how even a single component of a strong corporate identity can elicit a strong response. They’re also examples of why corporate identity is so important to your business.
So what is the difference between corporate identity and brand identity? Because make no mistake, they are different. Think of it like this: if your brand identity is who your company is, your corporate identity is the image it presents to the world. Think of your company’s advertising, website, social media. All of these are part of your company’s corporate identity. In fact, corporate identity comprises every representation of your company across all media. Think logo, color palette, fonts, letterhead, uniforms, business cards, company swag, and more.
A clear and distinct corporate identity makes you recognizable and differentiates you from your competitors. If you have built a strong corporate identity, your customers will recognize your company whether they see you on social media, your website, or on a logo t-shirt across the room. Like the little blue box in the example above, something as simple as a color can be enough to spark recognition if your corporate identity is strong and unique.
While a logo is a significant component of corporate identity, branding goes beyond just the logo and encompasses the overall perception and reputation of a brand. To learn more read our article “Branding vs Logo“.
Again, Consistency is Key
Just as with your brand identity, consistency is critical to a strong corporate identity, and providing your team with the right tools is a great start. To keep your corporate identity consistent, create a style guide that includes all of the components of the corporate identity. And be specific: Include exact color palettes, fonts, and sizes, as well as logos and specifications for print and digital media. Think about all of the ways you might need to use these components (mobile and desktop versions, print and digital, all caps vs. caps and lowercase etc.) and provide the necessary variations. If your team has the tools, they’ll use them. And of course, we’re happy to talk with you about your corporate identity design needs, whether you need a complete corporate identity, just certain components, or some help with consistency and getting things back on track. Contact us and let’s chat about our corporate branding services.
Corporate Identity vs. Brand Identity?
Before we talk about how corporate identity and brand identity relate, it’s interesting to consider them independently. It’s important to understand the difference, and that’s one aim of this post, but let’s talk about what each one can (and can’t) do without the other.
First, let’s talk about a strong corporate identity standing alone, without a strong brand identity to support it. A strong corporate identity can achieve brand recognition on its own, so mission accomplished there, right? Well, sort of. Corporate identity can put a visual image of your company out into the world. So your company is recognizable, and…what else? Without a brand identity, do potential customers know what you do? Do they know your values, what you stand for? They see you, but they don’t know who you are, what you do, or why they should choose you over your competitors. So, you’ve got one piece of the puzzle, but you’ll never complete it, because you’re missing a piece.
Now, let’s reverse it and think about a strong brand identity without a strong corporate identity standing next to it. Think about a company that is incredibly good at what it does. In fact, this company’s products are far better than its competitors in the market. The company is a great corporate citizen and has great procedures in place to ensure consistency of the company’s values in everything it does. Every member of the team understands the brand’s mission and works together to achieve the company’s goals. However, the company’s corporate identity is inconsistent and it doesn’t have good brand recognition because of that. There is no official social media presence, and the look and feel of unofficial accounts is inconsistent. Employees even communicate on their own social media to get the word out, but they have no style guidelines, so logos, fonts, and colors are all over the place. The brand has a great message; it’s just not getting out in a consistent and organized way. The missing pieces are reversed, but still the puzzle is impossible to complete.
The Magic of Branding: When Corporate Identity and Brand Identity Team Up
As you can see from the previous two examples, while corporate identity and brand identity are two distinct areas of branding, each is dependent on the other in a comprehensive branding strategy. Let’s talk about that puzzle again. Corporate identity and brand identity are equally important parts of that puzzle, and when all of the pieces are there and the puzzle is complete, the picture comes together like magic. But when pieces are missing, you can’t complete the puzzle. While you can’t see what isn’t there, the void it leaves is clear, and it is obvious that the puzzle isn’t complete. Just as in the examples above, neither corporate identity nor brand identity is a complete strategy without the other, and if one or the other is missing or needs a refresh, it’s critical to be able to identify which one and find the missing pieces. Understanding the differences between the two, and the unique components of each, is fundamental to creating the right brand strategy for your business.
If, after reading this, you’re wondering if your corporate identity and/or brand identity could use an update, if you’ve been thinking something in your brand strategy isn’t working as well as it should, or if you’re building a new brand and need some help to do it right, we’d love to chat with you. Drop us an email: we’re happy to help.