Corporate identity. All businesses have one, right?
Not quite. Because while most brands have an idea of who they are and what they offer, this doesn’t extend to a formalised corporate identity. Instead, brand guidelines provide a loose interpretation of a business’ ethos and values, generally from a customer-facing perspective.
So, what exactly is a corporate identity? How do you make one? And how can it benefit you?
In this guide, we’re shining a light on corporate identity, explaining why you need one and how it can affect your existing business documents and assets.
- What is corporate identity and what does it cover?
- Do you need a corporate identity?
- How corporate identity affects your business documents
What is corporate identity and what does it cover?
Corporate identity is the overarching essence of your business. Sometimes hard to pin down, it describes the perceptible identity you want to convey to customers, clients, employees, and shareholders. In short, it should capture who you are and what you’re about as a company.
That’s not to say it’s the same as brand identity, however. Though often used interchangeably, corporate identity differs from brand identity in that it’s not purely a customer-facing function; it applies throughout the business, and should be apparent to staff, partners, and board members alike.
Achieving a cohesive corporate identity can be challenging, particularly if it’s confused with branding. Because while corporate identity does include things like company logo, name, style guides, typography, and tone of voice, it also covers internal communication, corporate behaviour, core values, workplace design, uniforms, public relations strategies, and reputational management, amongst others.
So, lots to cover, and that’s why corporate identity can be difficult to pin down. As a means of firming up your corporate persona, it can be useful to consider three areas of focus, as detailed below.
Design is where corporate identity comes the closest to brand identity. Here, you’re looking to define the design choices that make your business unique, including:
- Style guide and colour charts
- Premises design and buildings
- Uniform design
- Corporate collateral design (business cards, letterheads etc.)
Corporate communication isn’t simply about tone of voice and how you talk to customers. It covers all interactions you have as a business, whether that’s with clients, board members, or internal teams. It should, therefore, cover all bases, including:
- Corporate tone of voice – covering customer, internal, stakeholder and third-party partners
- Internal communications – how are information, updates and news shared between internal teams?
- Public relations – how the business shares news, updates and opinions with its customers and client base
- Reputation management – outlining measures that will help maintain reputational excellence
Behaviour represents the meat of your corporate identity; without it, design and communication can become muddled. It should sum up how your business behaves across all operational fronts, covering:
- Corporate social responsibility
- ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategy
- Philosophy, ethos, and values
- Goals, objectives, and aspirations for future growth
Do you need a corporate identity?
OK, so we’ve covered the definition of corporate identity and what exactly it entails, but the question remains: do you really need one?
While businesses spend big on developing a brand identity, the same often can’t be said of corporate personas, which are sometimes treated as a backburner, an as-we-go-along project. The problem with this approach is that your corporate identity can become disjointed and incoherent, with no clear, unified guidelines to steer the business when it comes to public relations and internal comms.
Therefore, we think you do need a corporate identity, and there are several good reasons why, including:
- It ensures consistency and cohesiveness – A corporate identity ensures that the whole business is singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to interacting with clients, customers, partners, and one another. It upholds certain standards which are required for reputational management.
- It builds authority – Whether it’s customers, clients or investors, people want to interact with businesses that know themselves inside and out. A corporate identity confirms your authority and expertise, lending greater weight and influence to external and internal communications and relations.
- It standardises your communications and messaging – A comprehensive corporate strategy may take time to develop, but the rewards are plentiful. Liaising with clients, managing teams, and talking to customers will become simpler and more streamlined, while onboarding new starters and communicating the company mission will also be much easier to manage.
How corporate identity affects your business documents
Corporate identity holds significant sway over your business documents. From simple things like logos and watermarks to more complex legalese and security considerations, including copyright and trademarks – there is a lot to consider about how a corporate persona can impact your wider business collateral.
If you’re in the process of updating your corporate identity, you need to cover all bases to ensure that your business documents align with the new framework. Below, we look at all the facets of document production which may be affected by corporate identity.
The branding your customers and clients see may be significantly different from your operational collateral and internal communications. Corporate identity requires a more standardised approach, wherein all business documents align with the overarching persona of the company.
Standardisation is among the primary benefits of implementing a corporate identity. But reaching that point can be difficult, often requiring a huge overhaul of your current business documentation to ensure that all collateral is in keeping with your new corporate identity.
Such changes have the potential to affect hundreds, if not thousands, of documents and assets. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to assign the undertaking of such a project to a dedicated administrator, who can ensure that the appropriate changes are implemented.
Style guides, imagery, and structures
While your corporate identity may not be all that different from existing brand guidelines, any changes can still have a significant impact on your business documentation. As touched on earlier, branding generally only covers materials that are distributed to customers and clients; corporate identity requires that all documentation reflects the broader business persona, meaning significant changes may be needed for things like:
- Fonts, typography, and styling
- Imagery and iconography
- Structures and page standardisation
Such changes may sound simple to implement, but the impact can be sizeable. For example, document production may suddenly take much longer than previously, with the potential to throw up roadblocks as a result. Or, sign off may be required from multiple new stakeholders, further holding up the time-to-print of vital business documentation.
Copyrights, trademarks, and watermarks
Changing business documents brings with it a whole range of legal requirements concerning copyright, trademarks, and data protection issues. Add to that a whole wealth of additional security considerations, and a measured, thorough approach is needed when altering business documentation in even the smallest of ways.
To make sure any changes you wish to make in line with a new corporate identity are legal and responsible, ask yourself the following:
- Is information fairly and accurately processed? What additional authorisation steps may be required from a managerial perspective before documents are released?
- Are all the correct permissions in place concerning copyrighted material? What departments may be required to sign off on materials ahead of their release?
- Is the information being stored securely and appropriately? What are the risks from a data protection standpoint? And how might this affect privacy?
So, there you have it, a comprehensive guide to corporate identity and how it can affect your business. For more expert guides and advice, take a look at our resources page, where you’ll find white papers, blogs, and case studies on a wide range of topics. If you’d like to learn about how Perivan can help you leverage an enhanced corporate identity and strategy, visit the homepage or get in touch today.