This article was contributed by Devin Pickell.
No guide or book can claim to cover every element of corporate branding. There’s just too much to discuss and too many variables to consider. A good resource, however, will provide you with a framework for your corporate branding strategy.
This is one of those guides.
In the remainder of this guide, you will discover how successful companies influence customer perceptions by developing a corporate branding strategy. Before we get too far into this guide, though, let’s first define the basics.
What Is Corporate Branding?
Corporate branding is how an organization presents itself to its employees, customers, and the rest of the world. The marketing department, which creates the content that consumers and the public engage with, is most visibly engaged with corporate branding.
Your corporate branding is not static. It will be impacted by every engagement you have with the public. That covers how your employees engage with the public, customers’ impressions of your products or services, and your physical or digital presence.
So, now we’ve got the definition covered, it’s time to review the backbone of a corporate branding strategy. Here’s an eight step framework you can reference.
1. Appoint Or Nominate Relevant Stakeholders
The first step of a corporate branding strategy involves identifying who will be responsible for devising the strategy and monitoring its implementation. Managing the marketing of your brand messaging is generally the responsibility of the marketing and communications team.
Every element of your business needs to implement your brand values.
After all, you cannot have brand messaging that says, “we deliver great customer service” if your customer service is underwhelming. Equally, the idea that you’re a friendly company will quickly unravel if every time a person interacts with your company, they engage with unhelpful staff.
There should be people responsible for ensuring that you implement your brand values across every department. You need to have such a system in place for your corporate branding strategy to be a success.
The ultimate owner of the brand is the CEO, who bears responsibility for business performance across all departments. The executive committee and the board should monitor the brand performance to ensure that it supports the strategy.
2. Consider Your Position & Existing Reputation
An articulated corporate branding strategy needs to align with certain expectations. You should offer good support, and the products or services you provide need to be of high quality. These things are the basic building blocks of a successful corporate brand.
Your corporate branding strategy will build on this.
When thinking about your branding strategy, start by considering your business’s current position and existing reputation. One of the most important factors that will impact your strategy is the size of your business.
Let me explain:
- Established business: well-known brands have an audience and brand reputation. These companies are often risk-averse because the branding strategy needs to align with the expectations of the audience.
- New company: companies with a small customer base often have more freedom to define a target audience and brand voice. There are fewer customer expectations.
Essentially, the larger the company, the less freedom you will have with your brand strategy.
Let me provide you with two examples, so you have a better idea of what I mean.
AppSumo is a $100 million-plus company. They have an established audience.
AppSumo has a distinct corporate brand. It’s kind of “hipster-alternative”. The content and marketing material they produce are conversational, often irreverent, and fun. The company representatives often sport tattoos and are happy to show them.
Pivoting away from this irreverent brand voice to something more formal would change the way people think about the brand. Especially their super customers. Any change to the brand might result in millions of lost revenue.
There’s not much scope for creative freedom here when it comes to corporate branding.
Nextiva is another example of an established brand. We have over $200 million annual revenues and provide cloud PBX, enterprise VoIP, and unified communications solutions to our customers.
The company has a distinct brand identity and way of presenting itself. A drastic change in how we communicate with customers could result in millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Established companies are more risk-averse. It’s understandable. There are plenty of examples of failed rebrands that highlight the dangers of taking things too far.
On the other hand, the smaller your company, the more creative freedom you have. Changing your brand voice might result in you losing clients, but the consequences will be more limited. Equally, the benefits could be greater.
Changing your corporate branding could help you acquire more customers than you lose. So, before you do anything, consider your position. You need to be aware of the opportunities and risks associated with your corporate branding strategy.
3. Consider Your USP
Next up, think about your Unique Selling Point (USP).
Your USP is what sets you apart from your competitors. You need to identify those special factors that make your business stand out.
Your USP should attract customers to your brand.
You should be able to incorporate your USP into your corporate branding. It should be a key part of the message that you communicate to your audience.
For many years, Avis was the second-largest car rental company in the world. That’s a problem when you want to be number one.
The advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach helped Avis turned that number two position into a strength. The “we try harder” campaign highlighted the company’s strengths. For example, Avis provides better support, more competitive pricing, etc.
Four years after the campaign launched, the company’s market share rose from 11% to 35%.
That Avis example nicely illustrates the power of effective corporate branding. The company knew its USP and had those basic building blocks in place.
Death Wish Coffee is another nice example of a company with a clear USP communicated through its marketing and sales material. The tagline for Death Wish Coffee is “World’s Strongest Coffee.” The messaging here is clear.
Death Wish Coffee has identified its USP and communicates that with the public. Aligning the corporate messaging with a great product helps the company acquire new customers.
4. Define Your Brand Voice & Corporate Brand Guidelines
Your brand guidelines provide a framework for how you engage with the general public. The guidelines define things like the colors used in your marketing materials, the size of your logo on marketing assets, etc. It also covers things like the brand voice.
Finally, your brand guidelines can help you sidestep issues like how to pronounce the company name. Yes, Nike isn’t the only company that faces this issue.
Brand guidelines are vital for any business. They help establish certain expectations.
Using the same color scheme across all your products makes it easier for people to recognize your goods. That instant recognition is important, especially in a world where consumers have so many options.
According to Lucidpress, companies with consistent branding have a better chance (3-4 times) of generating brand visibility. Consistency adds value to your brand, builds familiarity, trust, and improves the brand image.
Your guidelines should be comprehensive and easy enough to understand. They also need to be accessible to anyone who would need them.
Many organizations claim to have brand guidelines (95% according to that same Lucidpress report). Only a handful of businesses have consistently enforced policies. Creating and enforcing your guidelines will help your business establish a recognizable identity.
Related: Deciding your brand color scheme? According to consumer data, which primary color you choose could have an impact on how your audience views your brand. It’s called color psychology. For example, blue is the color most associated with trust, red is the color most associated with speed, black is most associated with high tech, and so on.
5. Review Your Marketing Channels
You should review the channels you are using when creating your brand guidelines. As an established business, it’s good to audit the different channels you are using, paying particular attention to channels where you share visual content.
You need to review the content you are creating for each channel. The goal of these audits is twofold:
- Ensure you have coherent messaging between channels. You also want a coherent visual identity.
- Identify any channel-specific considerations. You might need a set of guidelines for video content, for example.
Every time you start using a new channel, you should do this basic review.
It’s good practice to set up periodic channel audits as well. For example, you might do an annual audit of the various marketing channels you are using. These audits are a chance to review how you are delivering content against your brand guidelines.
It’s that enforcement part of the brand guidelines where most companies seem to fail. More on this later.
6. Consider How Employees Interact With the Public
The majority of your corporate branding strategy should be focused on the way you market the company. That involves defining your brand guidelines and ensuring that there’s coherent messaging across all your marketing channels.
You must also consider how employees live up to your brand values as well. After all, your employees are the face of the company. They deal with customer support issues, help make sales, etc.
Global brands invest a lot of money in employee training. Apple, for instance, has a whole set of guidelines defining how employees in an Apple store engage with the general public. As you can imagine, with Apple under Steve Jobs, nothing was left to chance, as this article illustrates.
Employee training helps you establish and build that brand reputation.
When setting out your corporate branding strategy, consider how you will share your brand goals with employees. This is particularly important for employees that have a customer-facing or public-facing role. A great way of sharing this for large groups is through seminars and workshops.
Naturally, you should also run branding workshops with people in your marketing department.
7. Track Brand Performance
There are many different ways to track brand performance. You need to define which approach works best for your company and set relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPI). It’s good to set branding KPIs related to the products or services that you offer.
For example, you might track things like the number of returns you receive. A higher rate of returns than expected indicates you are providing goods that customers aren’t satisfied with. Failure to deal with this issue promptly can result in your company getting a bad reputation that will harm all of your corporate branding efforts.
Whatever your approach, set clear trackable targets you can use to judge the success of your corporate branding strategy. Part of that will be customer retention and growth.
Brand tracking is another evaluation method.
Brand tracking helps you measure your brand’s health and analyzes how consumers feel about the products/services and the company. You can use brand tracking to keep an eye on competitors, identify new opportunities, as well.
8. Make Changes When Necessary
Your corporate branding strategy will forever be a work in progress. You start by defining your goals and objectives. You develop and execute your strategy, monitor and review the progress and then repeat.
The monitoring and evaluation element of your corporate branding strategy is critical.
Part of the review process involves ensuring you deliver on your goals. You must also set aside time to check your corporate branding strategy is still relevant. That involves reviewing your brand’s logo and other branding elements to ensure it’s appropriate with the times and the products or services you offer.
You can see how a company like Amazon has done this when you review their logo, for example.
Amazon is still probably the Earth’s biggest bookstore. The tagline from 1998 no longer reflects the company, though. That little arrow linking A to Z, which implies they sell anything you can think of better represents the company.
If you identify changes that you need to make, sit down with your team and evaluate what needs adjusting. Change can also be beneficial and is often needed. Your organization needs to keep up with the rapidly changing business marketing and branding landscape.
A robust corporate branding strategy helps enhance the value of your brand by creating unique positions for your services or products. It puts you in a better position to compete effectively with your competitors, implement a long-term business vision, unlock leadership potential within your corporation, and build a unique bond with your customers.
This guide provided you with a framework for implementing a corporate branding strategy. If you haven’t got one yet, start by identifying or nominating the people responsible for developing your strategy. Once you’ve done that, review your current circumstances. You need to review the dangers and opportunities available to your company.
Finally, develop your corporate branding strategy, and codify it in your brand guidelines. You should also think about how you want your employees, especially customer-facing staff, to represent the company. You should conduct periodic reviews as well to ensure the branding strategy is relevant to the needs of your business.
Author Bio: Devin Pickell is a Growth Marketer at Nextiva. He combines his skills in content marketing, SEO, data analysis, and marketing strategy to meet audiences at the right moment in their journey. He has helped scale SaaS brands like G2 and Sphere Software, and contributed to G2’s traffic growth of more than 1 million visitors per month.