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Corporate identity: Your logo is not your brand

No logo is designed without an enormous amount of thought and creative purpose. It reduces everything about your company into one vital visual, your name. Or in some instances, merely a symbol. And, naturally, it needs to be designed in a way that will make it unique and memorable.
What's in a name?

Details, delicate and sometimes infinitesimal, need to be considered such as colour, fonts and spacing. And it's all documented millimetre by millimetre in that essential manual known as the corporate style guide - the lifeblood (and sometimes bane) of any advertising agency. But those millimetres are crucial. This logo, after all, is going to appear everywhere that you profess ownership and engagement, and it must look exactly the same every time it appears. It's the 'out there' unique insignia of who you are - the bold inscription of colour and form that encapsulates your distinctive character across all communications such as web design, print media, television, and including buildings, d├ęcor, uniforms and stationery.

But in essence a logo is merely the shortcut key to everything your organisation stands for, the physical expression of your company's brand. Behind it stands the layered impressions that make your logo meaningful. Behind it lies your corporate identity.

What constitutes corporate identity?

Corporate identity is the way a company or large organisation views itself. How successfully it conveys this view to customers, employees, business associates will depend on the strategic route chosen to effect impact, influence and sustainability. Many elements interweave to create the basis of a company's identity: philosophy, culture, history, values, mission and vision. These are entrenched in such measureables as product performance, service standards, staff motivation and technical sophistication - all of which blend with the visual statement of your logo. Your name. Who you are. Your documented brand appearance.

Corporate identity is how people recognise you - but not necessarily how they feel about you. How they feel about your identity is the 'in there' mental impression they may have of your company. And that would be your brand image. How the world knows you is one thing, how they feel about you is another. That vital 'inner' view is the basis of your brand image. Corporate identity is fixed, enduring and consistent. Corporate image however, can be positive, negative or neutral - it can fluctuate, it changes overnight one way or the other. To get identity (your view of who you are) and image (the way your customer sees you) to blend in harmony, you need strategy.

Corporate identity as strategy

Whatever strategy a company employs to enhance positive impressions, build brand image effectively, attract more customers, and position favourably in terms of markets and competitors - it needs to ensure that corporate identity remains clear and constant.

It's here that marketing and advertising has to get up close and personal with the 'not-to-be-trifled-with' documented identity manual.

You need to be aware that:
  • the reflection of logos, fonts, colours must be true across all reproductions
  • the house-style is followed meticulously
  • attention is paid to language, tone and taglines
  • details are devilishly important
  • consistency in appearance is crucial
  • the perception of continuity is vital for customer confidence
  • something as simple as the wrong sized logo can effect the strength of a company's position
And above all, agencies need to be aware that:
  • you are helping a company to create reliable and instant recognition
  • your work serves to entrench a brand image in people's minds
Corporate identity as brand personality

If corporate identity is the way you differentiate yourself in a roomful of competitors; the physical representation of who you are repeated meticulously across every space you can think of - then brand is that delicate linkage between physical and emotional perception. Brand is who you are but your brand is more than identity. It is not simply your logo splashed everywhere. Brand evokes feelings and expectations. It expresses the personality and character of a business. Customers must have confidence in a brand, it must be consistent not only in appearance, but in delivery.

If a major company with a powerful corporate identity has an expressed social responsibility programme, then many customers may view this favourably and associate this good feeling with the logo. In other words the logo and the brand will resonate positively. Or perhaps a high-tech company may come to be associated with clean corporate colours, unfussy advertising, green initiatives, etc, then that company will be viewed as both edgy and future-focused. Every time those logos appear, the impressions in the market will be reinforced and soon the identity is synonymous with brand.

But... one mistake... and brand reputation is in tatters overnight (for instance using an ad that even minimally degrades women or culture or race). In the minds of viewers, they suddenly see that corporate identity in an entirely different light.

Business, brand and balance

Brand image must remain consistent with a company's ethos. And you can't to that with a logo alone. While corporate identity must be strategically managed to build commitment among diverse stakeholders, promoting your visual identity in line with documented guidelines is only the first step on the ladder. It has to be reinforced by product quality and client service. Obsessing over the exact dimensions of your logo while your product is faulty or your staff are ill-trained, is very likely to lead to epic fail.

Ultimately your business is ethics, high standards and customer satisfaction - and your logo is simply there to remind everybody of this. Corporate identity and brand image are always about the value you deliver.

AMcomms' press office

AMcomms is an independent and spirited CAN-DO agency that understands what it takes to run a business and build a brand. We offer a range of creative solution-focussed services across all media channels and partner with digital and PR agencies to ensure integrated delivery on all our client campaigns.