What it takes to develop a Corporate Identity

Previously, we looked at the differences between branding and corporate identity. Now, we will investigate it takes to develop a successful corporate identity for your brand. Corporate identity is not just about picking a colour palate and a nice logo, it has to encompass everything that your brand stands for, how it relates to other brands and represents how you communicate with your consumer base. It requires the creation of a visual language that can be used in all areas of your brand and therefore, it is not as simple as slapping a cute symbol onto a business card and running with it.

Here are 4 steps to guide you through the beginning of building a corporate identity:

1. Do Your Research:

On Yourself
First things first, you need to look at your brand and company as a whole and consider what makes it the brand that it is. Consider what your brand message is, what you stand for, and what you want customers to see when they look at your brand.

On Competitors
Next, take a look at your competitors. Really do your research on what makes them stand out, what colour palates they use, what logo they have, and what their customers think of them. This is a crucial part of building a corporate identity because while you need to stand out from other brands, you cannot ignore what they are successfully presenting to their consumer base.

On Your Consumers
It is also important to look at your ideal consumer and understand what they are looking for in a brand, which brands they are loyal to and why, and why they might choose your brand over another. An easy exercise here is to create an imaginary ideal consumer/buyer persona, with all of the attributes that your ideal target market has (age, gender, likes and dislikes, salary range, spending habits etc). Put this consumer in front of your company and consider what they would like about your company, and what would make them walk away and choose your competitor. (This exercise is also useful for developing a brand voice that your consumers can relate to).

On what is Needed for your Corporate Identity
Lastly, take a look at what your brand has and what it needs. Most brands consider a basic corporate identity to include a logo, colour palette, typography, photography/illustration, web design, video, interactive elements, and data visualisation. There is no need to jump straight into the actual design of these elements just yet, you are merely appraising your brand and seeing what it already has, and what it needs to take it to the next level.

2. Define what makes you Unique

Building on what you have researched, you now need to define what makes you stand apart from your competition. Looking at what they are doing successfully and what you want your brand to represent, you need to work out what it is that your brand is bringing to the conversation that is different and unique. Define what the essence of your brand is. This is an important part of the process, as your corporate identity is built on your brand and what it stands for.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your mission statement?
  • What are the core values of your brand?
  • What is your brand’s value to your customers?
  • What is your brand voice?
  • Do you have a tagline or brand story?
  • Do you have specific visuals that are important to your brand?
  • Does your brand need to change over time? Or does it need to be timeless?

3. Develop Creative Elements

Next you need to put together the creative look and feel for your brand. From your research into your brand and competitors, put together a corporate identity manual that lays out the visual outline for your brand. A corporate identity manual needs to lay out the research into your brand values, as well as the visual creatives that will represent these values. Now it is time to look at the creation of creative visual elements that will represent your brand.

There are many ways to represent your brand visually, and therefore you need to be extremely careful with this process. The brand needs to be able to translate across print and digital media, internal and external letterheads, email signatures, social media creatives, and advertisements. Therefore, it is important to select typography and a colour palate that will work across all platforms, while not getting lost amongst your competition. Though it can be a good thing to allude to popular competitors in terms of colour choice, (e.g. the streaming platforms YouTube and Netflix both make use of bright red to attract attention), it can also be an opportunity to make your brand stand out from the crowd (e.g. the streaming platform Twitch chose to use bright purple branding, and subsequently became known for that colour).

Brainstorm words, visuals, imagery, concepts, and phrases that work with your brand’s essence and slowly begin to pick the ones that trigger the strongest emotional response – both to you and the internal brand staff and to the ideal consumer. The imagery can be as abstract or literal as necessary, depending on what your brand does, or what kind of feeling you want to express in your consumers.

For example, Nando’s uses a chicken as its logo. This is not an abstract logo at all, it directly tells you what they do and what you can expect from their brand. It is fun, quirky, and maybe even a little cliché, but the rest of their corporate identity carries on this feeling and it works because of the tongue-in-cheek way in which they present their brand. On the other hand, Mediclinic uses a simple square logo that is much more abstract. It presents a clean, clinical, and professional air that is calming for those who are looking for healthcare that they can trust.

You can see why the first two steps are so important here, as though the visual elements might seem like the whole point of a corporate identity, they are merely a part of creating a brand that presents itself very carefully in order to become trustworthy and consistent. All of the visual elements need to reflect the brand’s essence and core values.

4. Strategise Implementation

Lastly, make sure to strategise how you will be implementing your new corporate identity across all of your platforms. Remember that a good corporate identity is built over time. If pieces of it are not working or are not receiving the responses that you were hoping for, it is okay to revise it! A brand is not set in stone and a strong brand is one that evolves as it is needed. But, do not revise it too often, as this will make it hard for your consumers to develop an attachment to your brand – so, just make sure to stay true to your core brand values, your mission statement, and your brand’s value.

Just Remember:

Your corporate identity needs to be designed for both your consumers and your internal staff – it should resonate with both groups. This means that it needs to be distinct to stand out from others, memorable and visually impactful, flexible and able to evolve, and importantly easy to apply to your brand.

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash