© Steve Pinkston
“Image is everything” – Andre Agassi
As a cornerstone for building an effective marketing program, your corporate image, or identity, plays a critical role in delivering the right message to the right people. Your corporate image helps set the stage on which your message will be delivered. But to communicate the right corporate image you must first know who you are and how you want to be perceived by your customers.
So what’s involved in defining your corporate identity?
Most companies want to be perceived in a way that will encourage customers to do business with them. And to do that you must first know what sort of “personality” appeals to your customer. With what sort of identity will your customer feel comfortable doing business?
Most people think of a corporate identity as a visual thing. And the visual thing is a big part of it. But your corporate identity is, or has the opportunity to be, much more than visual. Your corporate identity goes way beyond the logo and stationery.
The image of your company includes words and graphics that speak volumes about your company and give your organization its own distinct personality. Your corporate image plays a large role in forming your customers’ opinions about your organization.
Just like the clothes we wear, your corporate identity serves the organization best when it involves the proper mix of personality and appropriateness. You don’t wear clothes to the office simply because you like them or they are fashionable. You carefully select them for good taste and suitability. And just as your clothes reflect your personality and good taste, your corporate image reflects the personality, quality and integrity of the company it represents.
To a great extent, the visual identity of a company is determined by how its products and services appear in print. But it is also determined by the way in which it deals with its customers, vendors and employees and in the manner in which your marketing messages are delivered. It helps to think of your corporate identity as your corporate personality.
It’s similar to how we think about (or describe) people we meet. The first impression we get is about physical appearance. How do they dress, what is their hairstyle, are they stylish or dowdy, are they neat or messy? This correlates with a corporation’s visual image. What message does your company logo, letterhead, business paper and literature deliver? What is the style of your office building? What does your reception area look like? How do your employees dress in and out of the office? These are all first impressions and are critical for establishing credibility.
Second, you think about an individual’s personality. What is their humor, is it dry or raucous. Are they clever or are they unimaginative. Are they honest or dishonest. Serious or frivolous. Pretentious or demure.
These same type of characteristics can be used to describe how a company performs when doing business and work in tandem with the visual image to create a corporate identity. These characteristics are intangible but play a very large role in determining the identity of either a person or the personality of a company. How does your company deliver its message?
Does it include humor or not. Is it serious or more entertaining. Is it cerebral or direct? Is your company trustworthy? Does your company engage your audience or does it simply barrage them with data. These qualities help define the personality of your company and it is important for them to agree with the visual image and to be in sync with your marketing effort.
So you see, a company’s identity (or personality) is determined by the way a company does business, and a large part of the way a company does business is determined by the manner in which a company solves its marketing problems. Your marketing effort is quite likely to be the first introduction a potential customer has with your company. And with only one chance to make a first impression, it is critical that your marketing program relate the correct corporate image. If your corporate identity doesn’t coincide with your marketing direction, it’s time to change. You are sending a mixed message and a mixed message causes confusion. Confused customers tend not to buy. An appropriate, consistent visual image that agrees with an understandable and concise message develops a clear corporate identity that will always serve the marketing effort, and your company, well.