Your corporate identity is how you present yourself to your consumers, the public, investors, and your employees. It is a statement that reflects the history of your brand, your corporate mission, and the methods you take to achieve your goals. In short, your corporate identity is a reflection of your brand and the value that you provide to your consumers. A strong corporate identity is supported by the fact that you, as a startup, do what you claim to do and that you do it well.
Difficulties in Developing Your Corporate Identity
So why do so many startups struggle with creating and institutionalizing their corporate identity? Often, startups try to keep up with a fast changing market by attempting to counter their competition’s efforts and reach increasingly diverse target markets.
Expanding one’s target market is an integral part of growth, but when you attempt to deliver value to a diverse set of segmented markets you run the risk of never being able to identify what your company is actually about. Or, startups fail to bridge the gap between what they perceive their value to be and how consumers understand it.
Identifying the value that you provide to consumers can also impact this process. Often times, you are aware of the ideal way that you provide value to your consumers. That is, your startup does exactly what you intend for it to do (whether that is to provide a specialized service, product, or experience) and your customer understands this value in the exact same way. Unfortunately, there is often some disconnect between what you think you do and what your customer thinks you do. Even otherwise small discrepancies between the two can inhibit your ability to establish a strong corporate identity.
Take this as an example: you, as a startup, think that the value your product provides to your consumers is that you streamline the employee hiring process by providing software to weed through applicants before the interview stage. Instead, your customers see your software as a replacement for traditional hiring processes and use it in lieu of a larger hiring team. Here, the difference between a complimentary process and a replacement process is significant. Yet, the same product elicits these two very different responses and ultimately two different values.
Understanding how your product provides value to your customer requires consumer feedback and research into how your product is used, perceived, and understood by others. By streamlining the relationship between perceived and actual value, you can identify how your product and brand is perceived by outside audiences.
Getting Everybody on the Same Page
Your customers, media, your team and partners all play a role in shaping how your brand is perceived and grown. Crafting a brand is a collaborative process between external and internal forces rather than a top down endeavor. Engagement with your customers and eliciting their feedback on the strength of your brand allows you to conduct a thorough audit of your public perception.
Market research firms can be a pricey expense but can do the heavy lifting for you and offer valuable insights. Before you embark on this research, ensure that your internal team is fully aware of the nuances of your corporate mission, the value you intend to provide, and the methods you will take to achieve this value.
The Importance of Personality
One of the primary development focuses for your corporate identity should be on personality. The personality of your brand should be reflected in your public image and in your marketing content. It can also be a meaningful way to develop your internal corporate culture and work environment. All businesses have a personality that describes how they act, behave, communicate, and react. Mercedes Benz is “luxury”, Disney is “magical”, FedEx is “reliable”.
Your corporate personality is what makes you relatable to your target demographics. It can also be a focal point through which build your team and company culture. The work environment for a company that has a “fun” or “youthful” personality will attract and retain different team members than a “serious” or “traditional” firm will. Neither are better or worse than the other, though your corporate and brand personality should be reflective of the value you provide.
Visually Presenting Your Brand
The ways that you present yourself to the public and to the media are also critical. While most conversations about corporate identity focus on graphic design and visual content, the personality and emotions that your brand evokes cannot be underemphasized.
Your logo, marketing content, and digital presence should all reflect your unique corporate identity. Incorporating consumer testimony and reviews can help to evoke emotional responses to your product and emphasize your commitment to customer relations.
One Last Thing
Developing a strong corporate identity takes time and relies upon the input of your consumers, team, and partners. Take this feedback seriously and use it as an opportunity to strengthen your external and internal relationships. You may need to update your corporate identity over time to respond to public perceptions of your product and brands. A total rebranding takes significant effort but expect to make small tweaks to your content and digital presence as you receive feedback from your team, consumers, and the media.
It can also be helpful to research and evaluate your competitor’s brand perception and see how they interact with their consumers. While it is unwise to model your corporate identity off of your closest competitor’s, it can be invaluable information to understand how consumers understand similar products. As you strategically develop your corporate identity, look for ways to incorporate it into multiple channels from your logo to your company and team culture. Seek out and incorporate feedback from your stakeholders to strengthen your brand identity as you grow.