[This article was written by Daniel Lummis.]
Congratulations! You’ve just opened your startup business to the global market. (If you don’t actually have one, let’s just imagine you do.) It may be a bit small, you may only have 3 employees including yourself, and you may only be operating out of an apartment, but that’s okay. Every business has to start somewhere. We can assume you’ve already worked out much of the clockwork behind your business, including what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, and why you’re doing this in the first place. But you might be missing an important aspect of your business – that is, what your business looks like on the outside.
Sure, your hypothetical startup may only have a small apartment for an office, but by founding your startup in the first place, you have effectively opened yourself up to the vast battlefield that is the corporate sector. And in this battlefield where success is measured by how many people recognise your company, how will people be able to remember – or even get to know – your company without an identity? Branding is one thing and marketing is another, but what you really need to develop is a strong corporate identity.
As a hypothetically forward thinking, progressive, millennial minded entrepreneur, you might be put off by the term “corporate” in corporate branding. But despite what the term suggests, your corporate identity has little connection to suits, ties, and high-rise buildings. Your corporate identity is simply what defines your company and what makes it recognisable to you, your employees, other companies, and most importantly, your customers. In this article, we’ll show you how to build a strong corporate identity that will help your company stand out in the big, bad world of business.
Step 1: Define the Soul of the Company
Some people might think about a multinational, multi billion dollar company with over one thousand employees and see a heartless, soulless monster that is only out for your money and not much else. That might be true to a certain extent, but unless that company operates an actual scam, but all companies do have a soul, even though you as a customer might not be able to see it. You as the startup entrepreneur, therefore have to do the same and properly define the soul of your company.
But what is the soul of a company? To put it in simple terms, the soul defines all of the values and philosophies of your company, what it believes in, what it strives to achieve, and why it does what it does. In other words, the company’s soul is defined by its vision, mission, and core values. If done correctly, the soul of your company will be one that will resonate with your employees, encouraging them to contribute more to the company.
Step 2: Build a Brand Identity
Great, so now you have a solid company philosophy that your employees can believe in. But how do you extend these sentiments to your customers? This is where your brand identity comes in. Though the terms “brand identity” and “corporate identity” might seem similar, brand identity is actually a part of your corporate identity. Brand identity constitutes all of the visually marketable aspects of your company, which includes your company logo, your company’s colour palette, your products’ aesthetic motifs, and even your employee’s uniforms.
You should remember that the brand identity is an extension of the soul of your company that will be visible to your customers. So as you develop your brand identity, you have to keep your company philosophy in mind and make sure that your customers will be able to see that philosophy shining through. In other words, you have to align your branding elements to your target market, so if you have any experience with visual design or marketing, they will be put to good use here.
Step 3: Spread Merch
Now that you have a brand identity that resonates well with your company’s philosophy, it’s now time to use that design language to spread word about your company to the world. Although you should always let your products do the talking, if you want to take things a step further or if your company doesn’t sell any physical products, you may want to look into producing merchandise or corporate gifts (or “merch” as the cool kids call it). Simply take any generic product – pens, cups, shirts, caps, notebooks, the sky’s the limit — have them done up in your company colours, slap your logo on it, then spread them out to the world. It might cost you a bit, but if implemented strategically, you’ll be able to reach your target audience much more effectively than other advertising methods.
Step 4: Respond to Feedback
There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ corporate identity, although some companies can arguably get pretty close. Even then, no company is capable of creating a highly competitive corporate identity on their very first try – not even the most easily recognisable ones. You should know that, unless you’re lucky, your brand will not immediately catch on in your target market. Your company will most likely only attract a very small portion of your target customers over the first few years.
But don’t be discouraged if your brand doesn’t reach the audience you want it to reach. Instead, take the time to listen to the audience that you already have, like your first customers and even your employees. They, as consumers, will probably have something to say about your brand. Take the time to listen and collect their feedback, and use it to improve aspects of your corporate identity – maybe your logo or design motifs doesn’t really reflect what your company is and what it does. If you don’t really feel comfortable with changing your brand identity, know that even the most popular companies in the world change their logos every so often to reflect changing times.
As said earlier, there is no such thing as a perfect corporate identity. A great one, though, will be one that is easily recognisable to consumers, accurately reflects the company’s values and beliefs, and is capable of accommodating changes and improvements over time. Following the aforementioned steps may not give you immediate results, but at the very least, they will guide you and your company on the right track.
Daniel Lummis, Marketing Consultant at Bladon WA – Bladon WA are a promotional products and branded corporate merchandise supplier in Western Australia. They have been helping small businesses with their offline branding campaigns since their establishment in 1988.