Magazine article New Zealand Management

Corporate Identity: Does Recognition Really Deliver Dollars?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Corporate Identity: Does Recognition Really Deliver Dollars?

Article excerpt

A company's identity and reputation affects every aspect of corporate life: share price, recruitment, sales, even the successful implementation of an acquisition strategy. Corporate identity guru Elinor Selame is an internationally recognised expert, author, speaker and consultant on identity, brand asset management and visual communications strategies. She is co-founder of BrandEquity International, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm whose corporate clients included Eastman Kodak, IBM, Levi Strauss, Amoco Oil and Bank of Boston. The author of three books on identity, Selame writes regularly for communication industry magazines including Business Age, Chief Executive, Public Relations Journal, Brand Marketing and Trademark World.

A former president of the United States' Brand Design Association and its Package Design Council, she talks with James Nelson about why a company's corporate identity is crucial and how it helps an enterprise to explain and differentiate itself.

How do you describe corporate identity?

I'd prefer to start by explaining what corporate identity is not. It is not a corporate image. An image is what people perceive the company to be, and management does not always have control over this image--such as the image portrayed by unfriendly employees. A corporate image can result from an accumulation of unplanned things happening which management is unable to control.

Corporate identity, on the other hand, is what the company does have control over. And when it is well planned with superior visual elements it allows the company to tell its audiences--shareholders, customers, employees and other stakeholders--what it wants to say about itself and how it wants to be perceived. A good corporate identity will visually separate and distinguish a company and its products and services from all others.

To the public these are visual clues to the differences between one company and another. The process creates brand ownership, and these days more people talk about brand identity and branding than they do about corporate identity. This is because they understand the word brand a little better. A brand is the face the public sees and accepts for whatever it is. When you have a face you begin to have a brand you can own. This is why so many companies are now talking about brand ownership, because they realise how powerful and profitable owning a brand can be. So, the identity, whether it is corporate or brand, or both, should be the company's visual statement to the world about who and what the company is and what its products and services stand for.

What role does company vision play in establishing an identity?

It plays a crucial role. The corporate vision--who we are, what we do, how we do it and what we want to become--is the foundation. Before organisations even start to develop a visual identity they must understand the vision, which usually comes from senior management. And they must be looking to the future to be successful in creating an identity that is long-lived. So the vision must mesh with the company's long-term goals, marketing strategies and flexible possibilities, because companies change over time. If companies craft an identity plan that embraces the vision while still being flexible enough to adapt to change, then they are on the right track.

What key audience groups, other than customers, should a corporate identity programme target?

Besides customers you need good employees. How they perceive the company as a good employer affects their job performance. And don't forget the employees' families. They are an important audience. Their impressions have an impact on the employees. And then there are potential new employees who may want to work at the company. Good suppliers are important. Companies want their suppliers to provide the enterprise with best quality goods and services and the best prices.

Some publics that are important to organisations are not immediately obvious. …

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