So what is corporate branding? It is obvious that all forward-thinking organisations understand the importance of branding, but that does not mean that they necessarily understand what is required to deliver a strong corporate brand. The purpose of this article is to explain what we mean when we talk about corporate branding. To Abacus, there are two sides to the equation we need to consider when answering this question. The strategic brand proposition and the creative brand proposition.
Creative brand proposition
We all have an inside and an outside that is unique to ourselves as individuals. The outside is what we show to the world, and that is what we meant by the creative brand proposition. It is our visual identity. In a business sense, you have to make sure that your appearance is appropriate to the world in which you work. What is appropriate for one type of job may not be appropriate for another. This is what most people think of when they talk about corporate branding, but it is really only half the equation – and not the most important half at all, at least as far as we are concerned.
Strategic brand proposition
The other half is your inside self. This is your character and personality, your principles and standards, your beliefs and opinions, your passions and purpose. It is what makes us who we are, it is what defines as an individual. If we were to put a weighting on the relative importance of the strategic and creative sides of the brand equation, we would always argue that the strategic side accounts for 75% and the creative side about 25%. Why? Well, people might be attracted to something that looks beautiful, but they will only continue to be attracted if there is genuine depth to that beauty. As with humans, so with brands.
We have developed a philosophy called V5 for explaining what is meant by a brand voice – values, views, vows, virtues and vision. Views are statements you strongly believe in about the sector your business operates within. Values are statements about the way your staff should operate towards each other and customers. Vows are pledges you are willing and able to make in response to the statements outlined by your views and values. Virtues relate to the inherent expertise and experience of your people, the IP of the business, and the investments it has made in running things as effectively and efficiently as possible. Finally, a vision is the long term plan for the business. How long do we mean by long-term? Normally somewhere between three and five years.
Long enough to be meaningful, but not too long to be meaningless. Then – and only then – you can work on your mission statement. That’s normally something that defines how you intend to work towards your vision statement, bearing in mind the V5 factors involved in creating your brand voice. We recommend that a mission statement should be renewed annually to make sure that it retains its resonance and relevance.
The chicken or the egg?
You would normally want to have a strategic brand proposition in place before you work on your creative brand proposition, but it’s not essential. After all, we exist as individuals with a visual identity even if we don’t have a formalised internal side in place to define our character and personality (in fact, the latter often takes decades to come together). The more important question is, can you get by with only one half of the equation in place, and the answer to this is, yes, of course, you can, but your sales and marketing efforts are likely to be severely hampered by doing so. You see, your strategic brand proposition is what informs the tone of voice in which you wish to speak with your customers. It helps to educate your employees, associates and partners about acceptable forms of conduct. It is the fundamental essence by which recruitment decisions ought to be made.
The four marketing fundamentals
And, allied with a strategic marketing plan that is formulated upon the basis of a clear, comprehensive and considered understanding of your business goals, financial forecasts and investment funding (to ensure that your messaging is clearly understood too), any organisation is going to be in great shape when it comes to branding, communications, lead generation and conversion – the four marketing fundamentals required for any successful sales funnel.
First impressions count
But to talk solely of a strategic brand proposition would be remiss. A creative brand proposition is just as important. We only get one chance to make a first impression, so we have to make sure that it’s a good one. That means everything visual about your business – its name, logo, colour palette, typefaces, photographic style, graphics and, of course, the overall design style. After all, a brand is most often experienced visually in the first instance via your sales and marketing collateral – such as your website. And this needs to be consistent with everything else you produce to support your sales team’s efforts – brochures, presentations, videos, stationery, POS and so on. And then it has to be linked to your lead generation activities in whatever form they take – advertising, direct marketing, conferences and exhibitions, sales promotions, social media, email, digital ads etc.
Don’t cut corners on content
And one final thought – it is about the way that you express yourself implicitly and explicitly. As individuals, there are three factors that determine how we communicate – the words we use, our tone of voice and our body language. The most important of these three is our body language, followed by our tone of voice and – lastly – our words. It doesn’t quite work like that when it comes to branding, but it is easy to see how body language represents our creative brand proposition, our tone of voice is our strategic brand proposition, and the words we use is our overall content. In business, these three factors are of more equal weighting – so make sure you get good content in place too. And that means investing in a decent copywriter to create powerful messages that are enjoyable to read and easily comprehensible.
It is perhaps the most often overlooked factor by organisations when creating new brands. They think they can save money by writing the content themselves. We would say that nine times out of ten this was a false economy.
Raising brand awareness
Brand awareness means – obviously – awareness about your brand. That’s a simple thing to state and an obvious thing to want, but that does not mean it is an easy thing to achieve. The first task is to identify who you want to know about your brand – and that means your universe of potential customers. You then need to decide what messages you wish to convey about your brand to this pool of suspects. And then you need to decide how much you wish to invest in raising brand awareness. Once you’ve done this, you can work out which are the best media to use to do so. In fact, non-paid marketing such as PR and social media is often better at raising brand awareness than traditional marketing methods.
Corporate branding agency London
So, there you have it. If you’re looking for a corporate branding agency in London, you can find out more by visiting www.abacusmarketing.co.uk – we would welcome the opportunity to chat to you about your corporate branding ambitions in more detail. Please contact Stephen Taylor-Brown on 020 3858 7836 or email [email protected] – we are always happy to meet up without cost or obligation to discuss a brand identity brief.