Creating a consistent business identity solidifies your company’s image. Your business identity is made up of all the visual elements that establish and reinforce your brand: logo, stationery, web design, marketing materials, signs and more.
Even so, your business identity is different from your business image. Think of business identity in terms of tangible, physical items. For example, most people immediately recognize the Apple logo, a simple sketch of an apple with a bite missing. The logo is part of Apple's business identity.
But when you think about Apple as a company, you think cutting-edge computers and innovative consumer electronics such as the iPod or iPhone. That's Apple's business image. The two should work together: When you see the Apple logo, you think of both Apple as a company and Apple as a leader in innovative consumer products. The result is a brand.
So in order to create an effective brand, developing and maintaining a solid business identity is critical.
Start with Positioning
In marketing terms, positioning refers to how you wish your products and services to be perceived. For instance, although Macy’s and Target both sell clothing, they position themselves very differently. How do you want customers to perceive your company? Are you a low-cost provider? Do you charge a premium for premium service? Do you provide commodities or luxury items? Are your customers high-end or bargain-conscious?
The key is to determine how you wish to be perceived, and think about how you will communicate that desire to your customers. If you provide sophisticated financial services, your business identity should convey professionalism, security, and quality. If you sell green products, your business identity should express your environmentally-conscious stance.
Think about what you provide and what customers want and need, and determine how best to send the right message. Make sure your positioning connects what you provide and what your customers expect.
Create an Overall Identity
A key to building an effective brand through your business identity begins with visuals. Typically, creating a logo is the first step. The following steps should be part of your plan:
- Check out your competition. Do they use traditional styles and colors, or do they tend to be flashier or funkier? Think about how your logo can set you apart from the competition.
- Think about your positioning. What perception do you want to create? Who is your target audience? How can your logo help them understand your company's image? If you hope to convey professionalism, then your logo should reinforce that perception; a cartoon character likely is not the best choice.
- Consider your business name. Some logos incorporate the business name; others do not. If your company is relatively new, placing the company name within the logo is probably best.
- Think about use. A great logo works as well on business cards as it does on packaging or the side of a truck. Consider different applications for your logo, and make sure the colors and images will look great no matter how you use it.
- Think about the future. Trendy designs may look great today, but they may outdate quickly. Make sure what you come up with stands out today but also will look great in 10 years.
Once you have produced a logo, leverage it to create stationery, Web pages, packaging, marketing materials, signs, etc. Use the same color schemes and overall design. If you‘ve incorporated certain graphic elements, apply them to all the pieces of your identity.
When you have developed all the necessary items for your business identity, take the time to create templates for each type of collateral. That way, you won't have to re-invent the business identity wheel. For example, have your designer create a variety of logo sizes and file types; that way different employees can easily apply the logo to new materials. Your goal is to assemble a library of business identity items – employees can simply draw from the library and modify those items as necessary.
Your business identity extends to written documents and presentations, too. If you frequently write proposals, develop a standard proposal template. Sales reps can then modify that document for specific customer uses.
The same applies to sales presentations. Create a PowerPoint template, for example, that includes your business identity. Sales reps can modify the text, but the basic format of the presentation remain consistent, enhance your business identity and continue to build your brand.