What is an identity? Simply put, it’s how people know you. Sure, they recognize you by your appearance, but they also attribute certain characteristics and behaviors to you as well. Your history, reputation, and goals also influence your identity.
Corporate identity is much the same. It’s how your customers, the competition, and the general market know your company. Your appearance is your corporate name, logo and products. Your history, reputation and goals are what come to mind when consumers see your logo. They represent your corporate identity.
Corporate Name– What’s in a name? Plenty!
If you are trying to get into the marketplace, you should avoid family names and initials. Leave those for the well- established corporations whose names are already well known household words. As gratifying as it is to see your family name on the door, building, or product, it’s more practical and effective to choose a name that’s easy to remember and has something to do with either the attributes of your products or the benefits your customer receives from your products.
These days there’s so much competition and noise out there you must be as consistent as possible to avoid confusion at all costs. When you choose a corporate name that relates to your products, you get a double whammy with your customer and the industry. When they hear it or see it, they can identify with your product. Your name reinforces what you are selling! Make your corporate name work for you in the marketplace.
If you have the luxury of choosing your corporate name, try to keep it to two or three syllables. People can’t remember names that are four syllables or more. They tend to shorten them anyway to one or two syllables, like Bud for Budweiser and Coke for Coca-Cola. It also helps if your corporate name starts with an A or a B to get on top of the alphabetical listings. That is one reason we chose “Barefoot” – two syllables and starts with a “B.”
Corporate Logo– A picture is worth 1000 words!
Before you design your corporate logo be sure to take into consideration that it will be depicted online and in most print situations, such as labels, within a rectangle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your logo has to be square or rectangular, but it should fit into that space. Some corporations choose some stylized version of their name, or the initials of their name, as their corporate logo. This allows them to use their logo in a line of text on websites, emails, and social media. A name that is used as the logo reinforces both.
Like the corporate name, the design of the corporate logo should have something to do with the product the company makes or the benefits the company’s products offer. Ideally the logo should be the same as the name. For instance, Apple’s logo is an apple, and Barefoot Wines’ logo is a bare foot print. Using your logo as a depiction of your name gives you a big advantage in the marketplace. Your corporate name and corporate logo are more easily remembered.
You can also choose a logo that depicts some unique or desirable aspect of your product, like speed, dependability, strength, status, or fun. This form of graphic association with your product’s desirable qualities will help you in the marketplace. Again, this reinforces your message.
Your logo design should be simple, crisp, and clean. It should be easy to read and easy to scale. If your corporate logo is the same as your product logo, it must adhere to the limitations of the retail marketplace. It is common to have several versions of your corporate logo, one for close up viewing, one for 4 feet away, and another for 20 or more feet away. For instance, we had 4 different versions depending on whether it was for documents, labels, cases, or ads. The further away they were viewed, the less detail. The logo that we used on our shipping cartons, which could be viewed from up to 20 feet away in multi-case displays, for instance, we referred to as the “cartoon” foot!
Logos that work in the retail environment must be readable at a distance, must fit on a label, stand out in poor lighting, and distinguish themselves from the thousands of other logos out there vying for your customers’ attention. Your logo can’t be vague, fey, or mysterious in any way. Don’t make your customer guess what your logo is. On the contrary, make it simple, with as few colors as possible. Make it easy to understand, with solid edges and no curlicues.
Corporate Owned Brands– To brand or not to brand?
That is the question when it comes to putting your corporate brand identity on your product. If your corporate brand identity is different than your product brand identity, you may choose to add your corporate brand name and logo to the products’ brand name and logo. But now you have two brand names on the same product and that can cause confusion.
There are good arguments on both sides of this issue. But it ultimately comes down to your corporate reputation, the appropriateness of dual branding, and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so in your particular product category.
If your corporate name conjures up a positive feeling in your customers’ minds and throughout your distribution system, then yes, by all means, add your corporate name to your product brand name. But if you have a negative or unknown corporate reputation, adding it to your product can work to your disadvantage and actually hurt sales.
For instance, if your corporation has a reputation for producing high quality products at higher price points, the lending of your corporate name and logo to new, popularly priced product can work as a value queue to help your customer make the purchase. They will think they are getting the same high quality for less.
On the other hand, if your corporation has the reputation of producing “cheap” products, you might do well to leave your corporate name off that new high quality product you just released. When a brand name changes, or an acquisition of “their brand” is obvious, the customer can experience anxiety. Will the quality be the same? Or will they cheapen it?
Today, it’s end game in the CPG world. Large corporations, that control distribution and access to the market, are quickly snapping up small independent brands that have managed to demonstrate market share in spite of the monopolization of shelf space by the Big Boys. Many of these smaller, independent brands have customers who might not continue being loyal if they knew that their favorite brand was purchased by a big corporation. But big family-owned corporations may feel compelled to put their family name on their products in spite of this challenge.
Many big corporations wisely choose to continue producing their acquired brands without feeling compelled to emblazone them with their corporate logo. They continue to sell them under their original logo and wisely don’t rock the boat.
There is, however, an advantage to applying a well-known corporate brand to a formally independent brand, and that is access to new markets and the securing of additional shelf space. When an independent branded product is presented to a chain buyer, it is generally viewed as a small player with questionable customer service and limited capital for price reduction programs and advertising promotions.
But when a bigger well-known corporation approaches that same buyer, they can ask for a simple line extension, rather than a new product placement. Having the power of the big corporation behind the formally independent brand can be a big plus with the gatekeepers.
Corporate Values– What do you stand for?
This is quickly becoming the largest single factor in product marketing today. Your customers want transparency. They want to know that you use sustainable practices. They want to know that you treat your labor fairly and with respect. And they want to know how you stand on the existential issues of the day.
Now, the products you sell, the packaging you use, the labor you employ, and impact of your products and practices speak volumes. Your consumer can no longer ignore the mounting scientific evidence that nonsustainable practices are actually hurting them personally and their families. Now they will choose products and even pay more for products that tout sustainability.
One way or another, all your customers will be impacted, if they haven’t already, by climate change, micro plastics, and health issues. Through increased taxes, repair bills, medical bills, insurance premiums, fire and flood damage, they are paying the true price of unsustainable business practices. And they know it!
So, now your customers want to vote with their purchases for corporations whose values reflect their own. It’s no longer enough to tout corporate values like “ethical” if your practices are viewed as unethical. Now, your brand identity as well as your corporate identity are at stake.
For instance, If you customer knows that less than 10% of single-use plastic containers are recycled and that they wind up in the ocean and water table, where they break down into micro plastic that are ingested and incorporated into the food supply, how can you say you are “ethical?” On the other hand, if you use biodegradable packaging and have a low carbon footprint, you can state a more timely, more desirable, and more credible corporate value such as “sustainable.”
Some corporations have elected to form “B” corporate status. Like a “C” Corporation, they have an obligation to return a profit to their shareholders and be subjected to quarterly financial audits. But a B corporationalso subjects itself to quarterly audits of its personnel and environmental practices. This is a relatively new form of corporate identity that communicates positive, transparent, and measurable sustainable practices to their customers in the market at large.
Corporations that tout and practice sustainability have a big advantage in the marketplace. They will not only attract new customers, but they will turn their existing customers into advocates. Especially where consumer packaged goods are concerned, customers realize that they use these products every day. They choose a brand whose producer cares about their health and welfare and that of their children and grandchildren.
Today’s customers want to know what you stand for. Is it competition at any price to the environment, or your customers’ health? It’s not so much what you say or what you post in the reception area. Your corporate values are written all over your products, your packaging, and the publication of your labor practices. You are judged by what you do. Make sure that your corporate values are in line with your customers’ values.
Your corporate identity includes your corporate name, logo, products, values, and reputation.
Family names and initials used as corporate names require a positive sales history to be recognizable. Newer, unknown corporate names and logos should have something to do with your product to help your customer and the distribution system identify, locate, and remember your company. That way, you can better reinforce the message you want to send through your products, services, and practices.
Be sure to respect the realities and limitations of the marketplace when you design your corporate logo. When it comes to designing corporate logos, the key is to realize the extremely short attention span of the market. Make it understandable, distinguishable, simple, clear, clean, and crisp!
Depending on your corporate reputation, you may or may not choose to add it to your products depending on how it will affect access to market and sales.
Corporate identity is a double-edged sword. It takes years to develop a corporate identity that becomes a household word. But once it is widely known, your corporate practices are of great interest to your customers. They recognize your name, and now you are, well, famous. That fame can work against if you violate the brand promise your customers expect from you and your products.
Your customers expect you company decision-makers to read the news and be aware of the well substantiated existential threats that unsustainable product contents, production, and packaging practices pose to their health, welfare, and the environment. In fact, according to AC Nielsen, corporate product producers that include sustainability as one of their core values are positioned to have the competitive advantage as this megatrend continues to unfold.