Graphic designers frequently play a prominent role in launching or repositioning a company. When they create a look (or new look) for a company’s stationery, brochure, ads and web site, this often goes by the name of an “identity package.” Don’t let this convenient term mislead you into believing that a company’s identity consists of merely the logo and look. No, every company has an identity or image in the minds of its customers comprised of at least nine other factors besides the graphic look.
How your market perceives your company should be deliberate, calculated and coherent rather than accidental and confused. Think about how you’d like your company to be perceived along these dimensions. Then investigate whether or not actual perceptions match your intent – and adjust your marketing to reinforce the qualities you want your customers to associate with you.
Components of Company Identity
1. Values. Do you stand for stability, like Prudential insurance? Innovation, like 3M? Educational curiosity, like the Discovery Channel? Social consciousness, like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream? Child-friendliness, like McDonald’s? Rugged individualism, like Marlboro cigarettes? Personal freedom, like Harley-Davidson motorcycles? Serendipity and tradition, like the local hardware store whose owner knows where everything is and has parts and tools dating back to the previous century?
2. Personality. If the company were a vegetable, which one would it be? If it were a cartoon character, would it be Bugs Bunny, Wonder Woman, Road Runner or Dick Tracy? If it were someone in a high school yearbook, would it be Most Likely to Succeed, the Homecoming Queen, the Nerd or the Class Clown? From the company’s personality can flow ad campaigns, kinds of special events to sponsor, company colors and typefaces, corporate gift selection, even the talent chosen to record company voice mail messages.
3. Behavior. Your company’s image includes not only how you promote yourselves but also how you act toward customers and the public. Things like how you answer the phone, how you greet shoppers, how cheerfully you correct mistakes or accept returns, how aggressively you negotiate contracts all become bound up in one composite image.
4. Price. How much you cost in comparison to competitors often becomes part of your image. If you’re tempted to keep price out of the equation until someone expresses a desire to buy, think twice. When you’re candid about pricing, you cut down on the number of “tire-kickers” you need to deal with. Above all, make sure your pricing fits with the other components of your image.
5. Range. Customers should understand the spectrum of products and services that you sell. If you handle only, say, commercial cleaning accounts and not residential, or only, say, bookings of locally based and not nationally prominent speakers, make sure your specialty becomes part of your company image. If it’s not part of your company name or company slogan, include your focus in your ads, brochures, sales letters and other promotional pieces.
6. Geographical roots. Where did your company come from? If you’re a locally owned family business competing with multinational giants, make sure people know that. If you’re selling nationally but rooted in a picturesque corner of the country, make hay out of that. The state of Vermont determined that companies linked to it were able to charge more for their products than companies headquartered elsewhere, and it took steps to make sure outsiders don’t try to horn in on its brand equity.
7. Longevity. Moody and Regan, a printing company in Waltham, Massachusetts, wisely and impressively uses as its tag line, “Established 1898.” Whenever you’ve been around much longer than competitors, you can profitably incorporate that into your image.
8. Slogan. Which brand “tastes good like a cigarette should”? Which car is “the ultimate driving machine”? What product are you not supposed to “leave home without it”? Even local or specialized companies can achieve this kind of awareness with their clientele.
9. Benefits. What do buyers get when they purchase from you? Most companies provide intangible, emotional benefits (Volvo cars: safety; Hallmark cards: friendship; Victoria’s Secret: sensuality) as well as tangible, practical ones (Burger King: inexpensive, satisfying meal; Boston Pops: a fun night out; Kodak: photos with true-to-life colors).
When both you and those who buy from you know clearly what these benefits are, and when those benefits match the other dimensions listed above, you undoubtedly have a comprehensive, effective company image. Congratulations!