Stealth Marketing - A Multi-Part Briefing - Part 4

Updated: June 24, 2010

Soon after your company name and positioning have been finalized, you'll want to create a corporate identity program and brand development strategy. This will include the logo or mark your company will use as a visual identifier, a corporate style guide to implement this identity consistently, and guidelines for employees to follow. These are the first steps in building your company's brand.

Branding… Beyond the Logo

Branding is a frequently discussed, and often misunderstood, marketing concept that transcends the mere creation of a corporate logo. Building your brand is the long-term process of burning your company's unique and positive attributes and image into the minds of your customers. It is the consistent, repetitive use of the visual (and sometimes audio) corporate identity to reinforce and establish a positive relationship between the customer and your company.

Branding encompasses both a visual and emotional component, and thus is often difficult to quantify. The repetitive bombardment of consumers with visual images, of say a sleek Jaguar sports car, elicits an emotional response that taps into a consumer's psyche. Branding becomes the "personality" of a company.

Corporate identity and brand development can begin even before the product or service is available to the customer. It is he "promise" to your customers, and the style your company uses when interacting with them. In addition to marketing materials, branding is further reinforced by such things as what your sales people wear on sales calls and the vehicles they drive, the advertising they see and hear, how (and if) you answer your phones, the way technical support treats customers (and how long they are on hold), and what your headquarters building looks like.

While corporate identity is often a key focus of branding and is supported by marketing professionals, a corporation's style is often developed, rather unconsciously, over time. A bit of attention to "style" can make a huge difference in the long run in your customers' perceptions of your company. This may dramatically impact your brand and success.

Creating Your Corporate Mark/Logo

Jerry Jager, Creative Director of JagerCreative a Silicon Valley design firm, has worked with a number of high-tech firms to develop and implement their corporate identity programs. Here he defines the steps professional designers take in creating a successful corporate identity program.

Before the branding process can begin, a company needs to have a clear idea of the product or service it plans to offer, the intended audience for the product or service, the benefits to the customer, and their competition. This is commonly assembled in a company's business plan or positioning brief.

Objectives of a corporate identity program:

1) Provides a consistent, recognizable and visually unique "icon" that portrays a company's fundamental values to its target audience

2) Creates an emotional response in the audience that reflects favorably on the company and establishes a visual reference for the future

3) Ideally, communicates the product or service the company offers

To develop a successful brand image overtime, a company must adhere to a consistent implementation of their visual identity across all marketing materials. This may include company letterhead, business cards, shipping containers, product packaging, advertising, corporate website, sales and marketing collateral, annual reports, direct marketing materials, corporate publications, building and transportation signage, and event signage.

The Phases of the Design Process:

1) Concept Development - analyze the intended audience; define the qualities, strengths and values to be represented in the identity; review competitive branding; identify existing logo likes and dislikes; determine images, symbols, colors, and style as a starting point

2) Design Development - enlist a design team (either internal group or external firm) to develop a corporate identity

3) Design Implementation

4) Production

Sign-off and Buy-in

Agreement on your corporate logo and look & feel often turns into a "battle of wills" at the executive level. Style is a very personal thing. While the executives are normally not designers, nor experts in branding, they know what they like. The result may be a style driven by the CEO's personal taste, rather than your customers' taste - not the best route.

A small focus group of target customers could serve your company well here. Put together your top three looks and get reactions from customers. Then, keep pushing to frame the discussion around the customers' reactions, as opposed to personal reactions.

Once the executives have signed-off, the next critical step is employee buy-in. Employees are the voice and face of the company and brand. Insuring they understand and embrace not just the logo, but also the brand and company image is essential, as they are the ambassadors for the brand.

A quick note on business cards:

One of the first opportunities you'll have to begin a successful relationship with your audience is when you hand them your business card. It serves two critical functions: to provide the receiver with your contact information for later reference, and to establish a positive impression of your company in their mind. Often it is necessary to create a card before your product or service is ready and before you have begun formal work on your company's "look and feel." Even so, invest a bit of money in a good quality interim business card.

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