What do you want your target audience to see when they envision your brand? To get a clear vision for your company, you’ll need to first figure out your corporate identity.
In this post, we’ll look at what corporate identity is, how it’ll benefit your business today and onward, and how to develop it. Ready to take a step in developing your corporate identity? Create a business website today.
What is corporate identity?
Corporate identity is how your business uses four key branding components (design, language, culture and behavior) to answer the question, “Who are we as a company?” A strong corporate identity improves your brand’s recognizability and memorability with your audience.
Creating a corporate identity
01. Corporate design
Corporate design refers to the visual pieces that make up your brand identity. They include:
Logos. The symbolic representation of your business that follows everywhere you go—online and in the real world.
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Typography. Fonts and stylization can convey your brand’s personality, values, and mission.
Color palettes. While attractive, color psychology can also invoke specific emotional responses from your target audience.
Imagery. A defined style of photos, illustrations, hand-drawn elements, icons can establish a consistent look and allow audiences to instantly recognize your business on—whether visiting your website, engaging with a digital marketing channel or perusing offline promotional collateral.
Brick-and-mortar companies have other visual elements to consider:
Uniforms. Distinctive clothing can make your team more recognizable to consumers and help your employees collectively represent your brand.
Signage. Easy-to-read notices can help people find your business location, as well as navigate around the premises.
Decor. An interior design style that conveys your brand’s personality can help create an immersive experience for visitors and staff.
Packaging. To strike the right balance between marketing and usability, it should be easily held/opened and properly contain your product.
Example of corporate design
Some of the largest companies in the world go to great lengths to ensure consistent internal and external corporate design. The main reason why brands do this is to build trust.
Take Amazon, for instance. As one of the largest and most visible companies in the world, it’s no surprise that Amazon has a defined and controlled brand identity. While its customers are familiar with its smile logo, shoppers can also easily spot recommended products with orange “Best Seller” and black “Amazon’s Choice” labels. The consistent use of the colors and labels across the site not only improve user navigation, but they also strengthen Amazon’s brand identity.
Additionally, the Press center has a dedicated page for external brand imagery. Beyond logos and images of the company products, you can also find information on the company history, Seattle headquarters, physical retail locations, fulfillment and delivery centers and more.
02. Corporate language
Corporate language refers to the guidelines a business follows when communicating internally and externally about the company, its mission and its values. These guidelines describe not only the unique messaging tone used, but also the accompanying visuals.
Businesses apply corporate language internally to align all employees and ensure effective communication, regardless of role.
Externally, corporate language ensures a consistent brand message from channel to channel and situation to situation, regardless of author. These guidelines simplify the creation process for everything from website content to press releases, and business emails to ad campaigns - as part of your enterprise effort.
Corporate language allows companies to smoothly and consistently handle public matters like customer support and reputation management.
Example of corporate language
All of Panera Bread’s website messaging invokes warmth and optimism and revolves around making its customers feel good through eating and experiences. But this messaging goes beyond the brand’s website: If you go to the @askpanera account on Twitter, you’ll see dedicated support representatives answering customers’ questions and issues with the same language and friendly spirit.
The responses under Tweets & Replies also show pre-approved responses to dissatisfied customers. Corporate language enables a brand to quickly and professionally address public disputes, then move them to a private setting or resolution.
03. Corporate culture
Corporate culture often describes the physical office environment and amenities available to employees. Some well-known examples include offices that have game rooms or napping cubicles.
But corporate culture encompasses the larger set of shared brand values and attitudes that directly impact both the employee and customer experience.
Businesses develop policies and procedures to foster this culture among employees both newly hired and tenured, including those that pertain to:
Code of conduct
These policies help create a sense of camaraderie among employees, while also acknowledging an individual’s role and value within a company. Together, they help employees do better work and feel good about what they do, too.
Example of corporate culture
The business world often cites Zappos as a prime example of company culture. The company’s mission is this:
“To deliver happiness through the four C’s: Commerce, Customer Service, Company Culture, Community.”
Zappos’ leadership prioritizes a positive company culture to ensure their customers receive a similarly unparalleled experience.
Of course, employees must adhere to legal and behavioral standards as well as those that create a shared set of attitudes and values.
04. Corporate behavior
Corporate behavior refers to the guidelines that ensure every team member embodies the brand’s values and interacts with customers in a consistent manner.
Corporate behavior goes beyond telling employees to greet every customer with a smile or that the customer is always right in a dispute. Instead, a company’s core values, philosophies, and brand promise influence the guidelines for corporate behavior.
When a brand’s representatives understand the why behind their customer interactions, the relationship between brand and consumer strengthens.
Example of corporate behavior
Trader Joe’s has long been known for its friendly and empowered staff—so it’s no surprise to see its employment page promote how members of the “Crew” work to help create a “fun, friendly and informative shopping experience.”
This has ended up becoming a huge differentiator for the grocery store brand, even catching the eye of academics from places like the University of Minnesota and Pepperdine.
Why should you create a corporate identity?
The corporate identity examples above show that both customers and employees benefit from a strong corporate identity. Some may even argue that creating your corporate identity is one key step in becoming a successful small business owner:
A clear and concise corporate identity can help your:
Project expertise to customers, employers and competitors
Make your brand more recognizable and memorable
Control your company’s narrative
Develop a long term vision for the company and plan your business growth
Build a team that knows exactly how to support and implement it
Build trust and loyalty from within, improving employee satisfaction and decreasing turnover.
Empowers employees to provide a positive and consistent customer experience.
How to create a corporate identity
Now that know what a corporate identity consists of and why you need one, let’s learn how to create one:
01. Define who you are
Start by asking some basic questions about your company. (It’s likely you thought about these while starting a business):
What does your company do?
What types of products or services do you provide?
Who do you serve?
What makes your company unique?
Write down the answers to these questions. Now, it’s time to edit: The clearer and more specific you can convey these points, the easier your audience can recognize it.
02. Get clear on your mission
Even if today is your first day in business, you’ve probably envisioned your company’s future. To get specific, answer the following questions:
Why does your company do what it does?
What is the value it will bring to your target audience?
What is the big-picture goal of your company?
How will you change your customer’s lives and the world at large through your mission?
If the first step summed up the What question about your business, this exercise will help you concisely summarize How and Why.
03. Write your executive summary
Once you’ve brainstormed what your company will achieve and why, document it in an executive summary. Think of this as an overview of your business plan. It will include your:
Products or services
Unique selling proposition
For those of you that want to scale your business, you’ll use the executive summary when you attract partners, find investors and focus on your business development. But even if text is an internal document, it’ll help you lay the foundation for a strong corporate identity.
04. Create your brand imagery
At this stage, you’ll work on your corporate design. Set up a style guide where you save all of your brand visuals and guidelines in one place, and instruct your team to work from this set of design assets and rules.
Start to piece together each of the elements for your brand:
Choose a color palette of no more than two or three colors.
Select two or three fonts and define the styles that will be used for titles, headers, paragraph text, and so on.
Gather up imagery you want to use or, at the very least, that accurately represents your desired look.
You can also include things like icons, textures, and other visual assets you plan to use in all your marketing. With the basic styles defined for your brand, put them to work.
05. Develop your messaging
You can use much of what you defined in the first three steps as the foundation for your brand’s messaging and tone. Define your corporate language in its own branding guide. Make sure to include:
Visual language and tone
Written language and tone of voice
Brand descriptors and keywords
Mottos or other catchphrases
Company’s origin story
Employees throughout the company can use this document to communicate with one another, such as when giving feedback, navigating conflict, working with customers, coming up with content and handling requests and feedback.
06. Document your company’s policies
A centralized list of company policies will create a strong corporate identity that all employees can familiarize themselves with and put into practice. You may use among a variety of formats, including a code of conduct, core values statement, and HR Manual. Your employees will usually spend their first days reviewing these documents, so clearly set the right tone and expectations upfront.