Knowing the difference between corporate identity (CI) and Brand Identity.
Even some creative companies still get this wrong. A brand speaks to how your company lives and breathes and if you are fortunate enough, the Corporate Identity (CI) is born out of its persona. That’s why you will find that some companies will go through a rebranding exercise after they have found their footing in the market. With some smaller businesses, you will find that the CI is designed before the company has established its brand equity. Given this, the one cannot live without the other, regardless of which came first.
Some companies think the whole Logo “Thing” is a money-making exercise and these companies usually end up having to reinvent or reposition themselves in the market when they get so far in the market and no further. Other businesses think that asking family members what they think of a new logo and using their choice as an approval process. This is not a bad thing if they are your demographic, however if they are not, you might be missing the mark totally.
What does the company breathe?
If you are a small business or start-up business, you usually start off with a 5-year business plan. With your business plan comes a vision, the vision is the underlying backbone of your business future, without a vision there is no path. The logo should be representative of the business and its vision to ensure a prolonged life span. In line with the yearly business plan review you should also look at your CI and your brand entity and see if this is still in line with where your business is growing. It is advisable to retain your CI for as long as possible, unless your business has made a major shift in a whole new direction. The reason for this is that as a start-up you would want to create a sense of stability and become recognised. As a medium sized business, you survived all the startup stumbling blocks and hiccups and you have increase your brand equity. i.e. your brand name is becoming known in the marketplace. Your ideas of where the business should be heading, may be different to the rest of the business world. Some companies will “refresh” their CI, which means minor changes to make it look more modern and dynamic and matches with the growth of the brand culture. In some cases, companies may decide that it is time to relaunch due a change of ownership or brand re-positioning. Then there are companies that will go through a review process and decide that the CI and brand are on a natural growth path and not change a thing.
If you are at a point where you believe that your business needs a brand audit and you can afford it, bring in an independent consultant to review your business. It is advisable that you use one company to do the Brand, CI Audit and brand positioning.
What can you expect from a brand audit:
- Talk to people: The consultant usually develops interview guides and standard questions, then talk to employees at all levels of your organization, current customers, former customers, and even customers-to-be. What are they saying, thinking, or doing in relation to your brand? Engage them through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and/or DIY research. The here goal is to uncover areas of need in your current strategy, identify opportunities, and define or re-define goals.
- Research the competition: Your brand does not exist in a vacuum. Your customers and potential customers see other brands in the marketplace. It is key to find out what are your competitors doing that you aren’t, and vice versa? Why might consumers choose them over you? One of the more cost effective methods is to go online alternatively the consultant can visit your competitors in person to find out first-hand what they are up to.
- Review the business’ web-site analytics: It helps if the consultants have access to the business’ data, you can make as much data available that you are comfortable for the consultant to look at it. The basic data that should be made available for review should be the email marketing system and Google Analytics. The consultant will look at analytics such as your most popular/least popular website pages, user flow on your site, most opened emails—and cross compare against the interviews they performed and your competitor research. What are the key themes and common threads?
- Find the holes: The next step is to compare your brand audit findings to your current reality. Does your brand align with your company’s vision, mission, and business goals for the next 3 to 5 years? Are they mutually supportive . . . or are there other holes? If there are holes, how can you revisit your brand platform or reshape how your company delivers its products/services to better support the brand? The Outcome of the audit should give you: • Goals for the next 3- to 5-years; • Analysis as target market profile; • Build your Business’ brand language; • Review your identity; and • Build the businesses communication strategy
What is a Corporate Identity (CI) Audit
It is key that the Business conducts a CI audit on an ongoing basis. This is usually done by either the brand manager (in large organisations) or an appointed individual in the company (corporate communications officer or marketing manager). Whoever does the audit will need to identify and evaluate each item that represents your company brand. Consider whether the item is present (do you even have it?), consistent with your brand (does it match colours, font, and quality?) and worth keeping (like paper letterhead for some companies).
Once the audit is completed an appointed custodian can set up a shared master folder, where everyone can access all the required material
- Logo Before starting anything you will need to make sure that the logo that everyone has been using is the correct one. These usually come in different formats and colour setups which are used in different applications. Not everyone is familiar with the different applications and if you have a good agency they will supply you the logos in a master folder with brief explanation of usage.
- Letterhead. When looking at both printed and electronic letterhead you need to ask the following; Are they consistent? Ensure that you order similar paper weight, texture and type. Is everyone using the company font(s)? Create an electronic master letterhead template in Word with set fonts and styles.
- Business cards. Do you use the same design throughout the company? It’s easy for “rogue” versions to pop up along the way. Are you using the same print styles and card weight?
- Email templates. Ensure the fonts, sizes and colors match your other branding.
- Email signatures. This is often overlooked. Company-wide consistency with email signatures creates branding unity. Don’t let employees create their own.
- Website. Fonts and colors look different online. Does the logo on your website match your print logo?
- Envelopes, invoices and statements. Double check all envelope sizes and styles and the pieces inside. The inside and outside should match.
- Promotional items, banners, etc. Take inventory of everything with a logo or brand image printed on it. If it’s not accurate, fix it or forget about it.
- Signage. If you are National or international you may be using a variety of signage companies, make sure that your signage is consistent. Some signage companies make up their own colours and inks and this can easily create a difference.
The Outcome of your CI Audit
- A dedicated person of team in your company that takes ownership of the CI.
- A full brand manual that shows you how everyone in the business: How the logo should be used; Corporate colour palette, what branded material is available to individuals in the company. A brand manual can be anything from a double sided A3 that shows logo use, colour and fonts and some basic stationary to an all-inclusive large manual with multiple application over a variety of products
- Larger Companies may have a section that show grid use for marketing, web and advertising and other material, this may be accompanied by a photographic style guide
- You probably won’t save hundreds of thousands, but your consistent image will leave a better impression with the market, and you should save over the long haul.
The brand promise must be aligned with the brand delivery.