Every globally-recognised blue chip company (such as Nike, Starbucks and Virgin) started small. But even when first starting out, they all recognised the importance of corporate branding and the benefits that a clearly-defined corporate brand strategy would bring to the table. This is true, whatever the size of a business, from the very smallest, to the very largest with very few exceptions.
Branding is much more than just a company name and a logo. It’s far deeper than that. A name is not what defines a person, or a company. It’s what you stand for that does. And having a beautiful logo will create attraction, but only if that external beauty is backed up by real internal substance. Branding encompasses everything that a business stands for. Think of it as its personality and its values. These are what make certain companies stand out from the crowd – hugely important in a crowded marketplace. Developing a great corporate brand that seamlessly flows through every member of staff and every customer touch point will inevitably increase sales and lower costs – leading to higher profit profits and happier shareholders.
Your corporate brand is who you are, what you do, why you do it and who you do it for. It’s your promise to your customers, setting clear expectations about the quality of your company, your products, your people, and so on. It’s the biggest thing that differentiates you from your competitors and should be thought of as the soul of your business plan, influencing every aspect of your marketing strategy. Not having a clear brand proposition is not an option for progressive organisations.
It’s easy to spot a company with strong corporate branding – it’s in their DNA, experienced in everything they do, and at all customer touchpoints. From day to day tasks like how the phone is answered, how staff are dressed, whether deliveries arrive on time and in good condition, the quality of the customer service process when things go wrong, whether the products or services do what they’re supposed to, and so on – right through to the more strategic elements of brand positioning, pricing strategy and competitive differentiation.
At the core of good corporate branding is consistency. Look at Apple. They’ve established a very strong position over the decades and are as modern now as any new start-up. They are perceived as being a design-driven and innovative technology company offering a diverse range of űber cool products and services. Their stores, staff, packaging, product design, advertising etc. all reflect strong corporate brand values.
Corporate branding strategy
So how do you develop a strong corporate brand? Start with your ideal. What do you want your company to stand for? Why should customers deal with you? What makes you different? A comprehensive corporate branding strategy requires focus and discussion, with complete commitment from senior management, especially important as research will probably suggest some bad behaviours that most companies would prefer to shy away from. It can add significant value in terms of helping the entire business and management team to implement their long-term vision, create unique positions in the market, and bring excellence into all areas of the business. Once they’ve clarified and agreed on the characteristics of the business they want to represent, the brand strategy needs to cascade down into all areas, with everyone believing in and embodying the stated brand values. To ensure this happens, get all staff involved in the branding process at every stage. A brand is often experienced by customers through interactions with staff, after all.
Sales and marketing materials
Once your corporate branding is defined, you should review all your current sales and marketing materials. Does your brand identity truly reflect what you want your brand values to be? Do you have brand guidelines in place? If your organisation is all about tradition, heritage and expertise then the words, colours and images you use need to reflect that. Look at the difference between Jaguar and Smart, and how dissimilar their corporate branding is. Their showrooms are different, as are their staff uniforms and the look and feel of their websites – one is all about prestige, power and heritage; the other is about fun, friendliness and colour. Every model in the range will reflect those brand values even though each car in the range may look different. A company’s brand strategy should be at the heart of a business, influencing every aspect of customer communications. Even with a small business, a corporate brand defines who you are and your promise to both your internal audience and to your external one. When both believe in it, your brand equity – its value – will increase. You’ll see improved loyalty and advocacy, and experience far less price sensitivity for your products or services.
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