A corporate brand identity is the first way a company communicates to its customers and stakeholders. And behind every successful brand is a compelling story. A truly great corporate brand begins with a strong brand positioning strategy that becomes the framework for how it drives customer perception, empowers sales efforts, and influences purchasing behavior. Avoid a hollow corporate identity with the following key elements; “The Three Cs,” and watch how your brand builds recognition and loyalty with your target audience.
Be Clear. Without first defining a clear brand positioning strategy, a corporate brand identity is likened to a house finished with trendy tile and paint but lacking quality framing to ensure it stands the test of time. Beguiling branding – names, taglines, and visuals – won’t resonate with markets without the hard work that goes into supporting positioning. Branding triggers feelings. Positioning is about informing and defining those feelings. First, determine what defines your company, then select the brand elements that communicate that message.
If a company has positioning and messaging that are clear and succinct, cohesive corporate and brand identities can be developed. Names, logos, and marketing materials – should all express a consistent message that consumers, employees, investors, and the media will understand. Clarity is achievable even if products are marketed to varied market segments. Focus on a timeless message. Updates to logos, colors, and visual materials are not uncommon, but the core brand positioning and company names get fewer makeovers. Aim for an enduring appeal that is less susceptible to future trends and market shifts.
The McDonald’s brand is an outstanding example of clear positioning maintained through clear brand identity elements. Every aspect of their brand – name, logo, color palette, and packaging to their overall brand message – communicates a well-defined position their target audience. At McDonald’s core, it promises friendliness, approachability, and fun.
Be Consistent. It’s crucial to create your positioning strategy and to ensure the message is consistent across your brand, meaning it has to be inherent in the name, tagline, visuals, and marketing. As soon as you confuse your audience, you lose them. Furthermore, if you release brand or marketing materials that violate your company’s brand positioning strategy, you will also risk losing the equity you have built up to that point and possibly alienating existing customers.
One of many examples of this occurring is when RadioShack rebranded its corporate brand to The Shack in 2009 in an attempt to appeal to a younger audience. Not only did this rebrand fail to reach a new audience, but it also alienated them from their existing, older demographic. The brand never recovered, even after a hasty rebrand back to its original identity.
Be Compelling. For a brand to remain compelling to its market long-term, its brand identity should be rooted in customer connection. Creativity, competitive differentiation, tone, and feeling can all be elements of a compelling brand story. However, today’s consumers no longer detach product preferences from corporate brands and are loyal to brands that they can relate to and trust. Great brands recognize the importance of authenticity and have strong self-awareness and market-awareness. They accurately represent value propositions and differentiators while remaining open to the future. Consumer research, competitive audits, internal surveys, and interviews with executives, marketing, and sales are all useful tools to validate strategies.
Buyers consistently rank brand trust as the most important influencer in buying consideration. Loss of trust can have significant financial implications. The Economist considered 8 companies with highly publicized breaches in consumer trust – such as Volkswagen, Uber, and Wells Fargo – and assessed the impact to company value at a median loss of 30%. If you lose the trust and loyalty of your customers, the world’s greatest names and logos can’t save you.
When thoughtfully developed and executed, a strategic corporate brand identity speaks volumes and stands the test of time. Its components build continuity and trust by sharing a clear message across all brand components – from a corporate name to product branding materials to social media posts. Brands should regularly seek input and feedback from customers, employees, and investors and stay abreast of competitors and changing market forces. Admitting a brand’s flaws provides the springboard for strengthening its identity. Start with these baseline elements for a timeless message.