How can smaller organisations gain competitive advantage by building and leveraging corporate branding?
Corporate branding is just as important for start-ups and SMEs as it is for larger companies.
By branding we mean your visual identity – the physical, recognisable markers that distinguish you from your competitors. It’s usually made up of your logo, along with the specific colours, fonts and images you use to identify and promote your business.
Branding is different to your brand. Brand is made up of the visual, branding elements plus the experience that people – such as your customers, employees and suppliers – have of your business through their interactions with you.
Your branding should become recognisable and, over time, associated with your reputation, resulting in better conversions.
Why bother with corporate branding?
Every business of every size faces competition. The challenge is finding ways to stand out and differentiate from competitors (for the right reasons of course!).
Your business’ visual identity is one area where you have complete control. As an organisation, you decide how you are represented across all touchpoints, such as your website, brochureware, social channels and company stationery.
Use your corporate branding as a point of difference, to appeal to your audience, to position the business against your competitors.
Your corporate branding will in many cases help shape the first impression of your business, so it’ll be important to make the most of your visual identity in conveying how you want your business to be perceived.
Enabling growth aspirations
For businesses with growth ambitions, it’s important to set out with corporate branding that will support and represent your business as it grows in size and into new markets.
People want to be proud of the business they work for. Great brands with impressive branding find it easier to attract talent. This helps to reduce recruitment costs
How to do it
Think big and beyond
Planning is a key part of running a successful business, and your branding should be factored in.
When looking at your corporate branding, make sure you take account of where you see your business going and how your identity can help you get there. How you portray your company can help or hinder in achieving those goals.
The earlier you look at your branding, the easier it will be to develop and implement the blueprint for future activity. It’s tough to take a long-term view when working with limited resources, but it will pay off to do some of the thinking and work now and reap the benefits later.
Understand your market
If your identity is to differentiate you, you’ll need to make sure you have a good understanding of the market. What would resonate with your target audience?
How does your competitors’ branding look? Start as basic as what colours are they using and make sure you are setting yourself apart. How do you want to be positioned in relation to them? What’s the gap you’re filling?
Align to your brand values
Your corporate branding should be a visual representation of your brand values and whatever it is you stand for as a business.
There is no magic formula or model for this. It needs to be something that is relevant to your audiences but also differentiated; something visionary but credible to who you are and also accountable.
Managing corporate branding
Post-development and launch, the critical success factor will be consistency in implementation.
Inconsistency in branding can be confusing for audiences and generally creates an unprofessional impression that’s damaging to your reputation.
As branding elements are used in the course of everyday business, it’s helpful to have some guidelines in place to make sure the identity is being used and promoted in the correct way.
Show you mean business
For any business, branding should be seen as a necessary investment in the pursuit of differentiation and building reputation. Overlooking the part of corporate branding can hinder your corporate goals.