There is a huge difference between a corporate brand and a corporate identity (ID), but it’s very easy for many to confuse them or think that they mean the same thing.
In order for a corporate brand to be successful, it needs to have a strong corporate identity, though a corporate identity does not necessarily need to build a corporate brand. Confused yet?
In my previous article, Why Your Logo is Important, I explained the importance and qualities of a good logo, and left you with a working definition of what a corporate ID actually is:
A corporate identity includes not just a logo, but also rules and regulations imposed by a designer on how it should be used, against what colour and with what type of fonts. This is the finding foundation of establishing your corporate identity and branding your business with it lending more uniformity, presence and strength.
Do not confuse corporate image and corporate identity with each other either. Corporate image refers to a business or company’s standing in society. Big businesses try to promote their image by supporting a variety of charitable causes such as fighting poverty or becoming eco-friendly. It doesn’t matter if your business or company is a one-man show right now, your corporate image carries with it associations, whether positive or negative. The Internet always remembers.
A corporate identity is built up through understanding your target audience, the niche of your business and the personality of your product. For example, the McDonalds corporate identity consists of strong use of yellow and red in its logo with a simple arching M. It has a clown for a mascot and has been in business for over half a century. They have a strong corporate presence in our world, but recently their image was smeared due to the questionable quality of their food. The way they have now sought to try and reverse this was by launching their Transparency Campaign.
Corporate branding refers to the relationship between the company and its consumers. The bigger the following, the bigger brand, the better the profits a business makes. And this all because of something called ‘brand loyalty’. Customers want to be associated with a brand and buy products like an adidas shirt, or Nike shoes, and pay more for that specific product even if there are several other products of the exact same quality. Why? Simply because they feel safer with their brand of choice that they have come to know and love over the years.
The corporate brand is built on the foundations laid out by the corporate identity. This is why you rarely see big companies making massive changes to the corporate identity, as it might estrange their market from them. A particular example of this was when Coca Cola tried to rebrand itself in the 1980’s as ‘New Coke’ which resulted in public backlash and a drop in sales that forced them to revert back to ‘Classic Coke’. Another example is the clothing store, GAP, who changed their logo quite dramatically in order to establish a more modern look and feel. Once again, the response from the public was so severe that they were forced to revert back to the old logo.
I mentioned it in my previous installment, and I’ll say it again: it is so important to employ a professional and experienced graphic designer who understands these issues that stem from a brand’s corporate ID. It is also why you can’t rush the process. Creating a corporate ID may take anything from several weeks to several months if you want the job done properly.
Your corporate ID will be placed on everything associated with your business; your business card, a delivery van, the delivery man’s cap and t-shirt, pencils, signage on the front door etc. It is vital to go with a consistent look and feel on anything that gets branded. Remember to ask your designer to determine the guidelines of your corporate ID which is also known as a brand manual and determines the rules of application for your identity in terms of fonts, colour and the logo.
All the major brands have a brand manual which is usually available on their websites where designers can research the brand and how they are allowed to use it. For example, you are not allowed to alter the Coca Cola logo in form or colour when using it in association with your business (with their permission of course). You are not allowed to stretch or crop it in any way, which is kind of the rule of thumb for most brands out there. There are some, like adidas, whose specific brand requirement is that their name should never be spelled with a capital a.
In my next article I will take a bit more of an in-depth and technical look into corporate ID, from the colours that work through to where and when it’s appropriate to use your slogan with which font etc. Watch this space.4