6 tips for a coherent corporate identity
So how do you achieve coherence without diluting your brand? The following six tips can help:
1. Determine the distinctive brand elements
To be able to determine which requirements an expression must satisfy, you have to investigate which combination of corporate identity elements ensure brand recognition. Most brands have only two or three truly distinctive brand elements, the so-called ‘distinctive brand assets’. When one of these elements falls away, with the consequence of a decrease in brand recognisability, it’s a sign that this needs to be a fixed element in your communications. By supplementing your brand with optional identity elements, you create unity in diversity: a recognisable brand image with sufficient flexibility to allow individual messages to stand out.
2. Identify your general identity and brand guidelines
Strong brands record their corporate identity and brand guidelines, but not at a detailed level. Therefore, do not completely lock-down your corporate identity (application), but give users a (mainly defined) degree of freedom. In one expression more freedom may be needed than in another. With a design architecture you can determine the degree of freedom needed and define the degree of freedom per category. Determining and recording the ‘distinctive brand assets’ can also help.
3. Train the brand skills of employees
When guidelines are less detailed, you have to check whether certain interpretations work. Testing is no longer about literally checking the application of the guidelines, but much more about feeling whether the right thread links the core message and visual appearance. Sense of design as well as the feeling and knowledge of the brand is crucial. Employees can be trained for this so that they can learn how to determine whether certain expressions connect with the brand. By regularly assessing and discussing all of the interpretations as a core team, you develop everyone’s skills and create a central starting point for the development and assessment of interpretations.
4. Work closely with User Experience teams
Corporate identity and brand are no longer created for just (marketing) communication departments. Increasingly, a User Experience department (UX) has ownership over the digital (elements). In order to ensure that the brand experience remains consistent online and offline, close collaboration between the two departments is necessary. Clearly define everyone’s tasks, responsibilities and powers. This prevents unpleasant situations and optimally utilises each of the disciplines.
5. Create a platform for testing and inspiration
Where previously all interpretations of a corporate identity were neatly named and visualised in the brand guidelines, it’s no longer possible as there are now a huge number of ways that these interpretations could be used. That is why it is important that employees receive help in developing and testing communications in other ways. Companies build their brand values better when they have implemented processes that test whether the brand carriers are in line with the brand positioning. The use of tooling helps with this.
A simple solution is to introduce a central email address (a design helpdesk) where elements can be sent for review. Trained marketing and communication staff can answer the incoming questions. A more advanced solution is to implement a brand portal where expressions must pass an approval process. Those which are approved can then automatically be included in a ‘Best Practices’ section and serve as inspiration for future statements. Because this can be extremely time-consuming for the reviewers and frustrating for the uploaders, the organisation often opts for brand audits. Assessment takes place afterwards. The examples from this (good and bad) can then be made available for inspiration, as do’s and don’ts, in the brand portal.