Establishing a corporation, as some industry experts might say, is easy. But building a corporation in terms of prestige, recognition and influence is something else altogether.
A highly extensive list of preparation goes into starting a corporation intending to become an industry leader. The budget is carefully planned and set down to the most minor department's needs. Business models have been carefully studied — what is the best for your industry or the corporation? Staff members, from employees to managers to administrators all the way to the board of directors, are hired, and processes are drafted for all of them. A state-of-the-art website is planned and designed, featuring ways to track customers and verify an email address. Even how products and services are dispatched to your clients and customers has been laid out.
But there's one all-important piece of the company that needs to be considered as well. It hovers above all: the corporation's identity. An identity is a form of marketing in itself and in some ways, more effective than any B2C or B2B tools. After all, the corporate identity propagates the company's brand and will be intrinsically part of how the business develops. Furthermore, its identity will continue to grow and scale up the way the business will. Any data-driven marketing will likely refer back to a company's corporate identity. This identity is the business's face that both consumers and employees will see.
Apples and Oranges: Corporate Identity vs. Brand Identity
In drafting corporate guidelines that delineate the identity, it's crucial to differentiate corporate identity from a brand identity. Why are they such useful marketing tools, and what makes them different from one another?
Simply put, corporate identity is about the internal activities that shape the perception of the business while brand identity is how an organization wants to be perceived by its target audience.
Diving a bit deeper, a corporate identity is built through three elements: corporate design (logo, typography, business cards and other brand assets), corporate communication (how the business disseminates information to employees, investors, external stakeholders and customers), and corporate behavior (core values, brand promise and philosophy).
Essentially, the corporation develops its own identity by working on the elements mentioned above, and from there, the brand identity is cultivated. The corporation creates an image of its design, company culture, values and even external communications. The combination of its values, virtues and company culture then result in its brand identity.
This is what the customers will see and first think of when they consider the corporation. A business’ brand identity is, ultimately, the image that the company wants the customer to think of when they hear the name and see the identifying corporate logo.
Brand Matters: Does it Still Matter Today?
Consider Google. As a brand, it's ubiquitous everywhere and synonymous with IT excellence. But how people perceive Google as a brand is different from how they think of Google as a company. People instantly think of Google's corporate identity as one of great prestige. It's a corporation that prizes high excellence in its employees straight out of the hiring process while presenting what might be limitless possibilities in terms of company indulgences. Their corporate headquarters are famous for being as out of the box as possible from typical corporate buildings. Therefore, it's no surprise that the services and products that the company develops out of this corporation echo that out-of-the-box thinking and industry-leading drive. Google's corporate identity is as unforgettable as its digital one.
A corporation and its identity still matter in these modern, ever-changing, and highly complex times. Companies and brands change, get absorbed and transform all the time. But a strong, reliable corporate identity maintains its prestige, both in domestic and international markets. It's even more important to remember that an established, admirable identity needs to remain intact as a corporation grows.
Construct A Corporation: Guidelines in Building the Identity
The logo legacy
A company's logo is the absolute centerpiece of its visual identity. It's the corporation’s logo for years to come, appearing on the building’s branding, the offices, correspondences and even the products that the corporation will produce. In constructing a corporate logo, you need to choose a balanced structure, from its height relative to width, along with a classic logotype. There's no need to jump at the first fancy font you see — the logo has to be a timeless piece that you won't suddenly get tired of midway through growth.
Think of Apple's iconic logo. At one glance, consumers and workers know exactly what it signifies, as it's been the same for a long time. And this logo appears in everything: Their icons, products, press releases, equipment and more.
The power of the senses
The logo stimulates the visual representation, but the identity is more than what is just seen in print. Corporate identity can also include triggers for the other senses. The architecture and interior design of the headquarters, even to the texture of the surfaces, can be indicative of a corporate identity.
Think of Apple and its trademark sleek, ultra-thin and hyper sophisticated corporate offices. Think of the Marriott or other famous five-star hotels with their signature fragrances wafting through their halls. Don't overlook the other senses when delineating corporate identity because both employees and customers will consider these things as part of the experience when they interact with your company in any way.
Fly the colors
A corporation's identity also includes its colors. There is particular precision in choosing colors that will instantly indicate a company's name. Consider the power of Tiffany blue — it's a specific shade of blue that immediately calls to mind the name of the world-famous jeweler. A corporate manual on identity should choose these colors by name or number, with the precise shade taken from printing codes.
These colors could be from physical printing (Pantone, which is the most widely used, and CMYK) or digital colors (RGB or HTML). Whichever the case, it's critical to remember that these colors could look different between mediums, so crosscheck thoroughly for the perfect equivalents in digital and print media. This way, every piece of branding and corporate material remains consistent throughout. It applies to printing on the letterheads to social media banners. Building this consistency establishes the brand.
A company and its culture
Company culture is more than just a buzzword used by human resource personnel during hiring. It's the intangible area of corporate identity that staff and employees will associate with the corporation. The values, missions, goals and vision of the corporation should also appear as part of the corporate identity guidebook. Again, think of Google's fun, exhilarating, non-straitlaced approach to company culture. Compare it to the rigid precision and sophistication of a Fortune 500 financial operation that requires full business dress for its employees.
Every company will have a different approach to company culture during these modern times. Some will choose Google's relaxed approach, while others continue to maintain the air of business formality as it leads to the appearance of serious, trustworthy professionals. Whichever is the case, this atmosphere and culture need to be indicated in the corporate guidelines to remain consistent.
Watch your tone
Communication will take place every single day during your corporation's lifespan. The tone used during these conversations shouldn't just be consistent — it should also be a part of corporate identity. The tone of printed material (from advertising material to business emails and letters) should be the same, building part of the corporate identity. It's the corporation's linguistic style; some companies prefer a more laid-back approach (think of Wendy's and its now-signature, sassy tone, particularly in its social media), while others prefer proper intonations and phrasing.
Also, there might be certain common words and colloquialisms that are familiar to your niche or industry. Using these words is indicative of the market your company is in. To this end, it's essential to indicate the tone in the corporation's guidelines and create email, snail-mail and correspondence templates. This makes it far easier for employees to maintain the same tone throughout different methods of communication and growth hacking.
A corporation's identity is its manifestation as can be interpreted by the senses. As a corporation scales up growing and expanding to a more global presence, its identity becomes more iconic. It's the face of the corporation itself and what customers and colleagues will grow to recognize instantly. The right combination of features, typography, company culture and sensory triggers can create massive brand awareness, improving recall and creating an ever-growing identity.
Aaron Chichioco is the chief content officer (CCO) and one of the web designers of Design Doxa. Aside from his expertise on web/mobile design and development, he also has years of experience in digital marketing, branding, customer service, eCommerce and business management as well. For more information about Aaron,...