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Identity crisis?

posted on January 25, 2013 in Branding,Design

If someone mentions the words “corporate identity” to you, it might convey corporations such as British Airways and other huge players, with marketing budgets running into the squillions.

And if your company is not quite in the BA league, you might easily think that this is not something you need to worry about.

But that’s not true.

Every company has an identity: formed from the perceptions of your customers, potential customers, suppliers and employees. It might be good, bad or downright ugly; but it exists.

If your identity isn’t quite what you would like it to be, there are ways to improve it – without paying an arm and a leg to one of those corporate identity specialists that make top law firms look like good value for money.

The first and most important thing is to make sure your corporate identity is coherent. In other words, you’re conveying the same message wherever you’re seen.

You should also position yourself as different from your competitors. What do you do that’s better than they do? Can you solve clients’ problems more effectively, more cheaply, or in a more innovative way?

The values of your company should also be clear to everyone who deals with it – and everyone who represents it. This extends to such things as how the phone is answered, the way leads are followed up, and the overall quality of service. If you can offer excellent personal service, clients will tend to come back for more.

Then there’s the design element. Everything from your stationery, brochures and your website to your vehicles (if you have any) should reflect the same strong values.

Obviously, that’s something that we can help you with. If you have a strong and powerful corporate identity, visible on your website and your sales and marketing material, you’re instantly streets ahead of rivals with nondescript or boring ones. And you won’t have to remortgage your house to get the benefit of our experience.

We’ll look at this whole subject more deeply in another blog. In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your corporate identity, talk to us.

Stock horror

posted on October 12, 2011 in Branding,Design

It’s funny. People want their websites to be unique, distinctive and fresh. Some pay many thousands of pounds for their website design and copywriting, but overlook one vital area – photography.

Yes, it’s the old problem of photo library shots, or stock shots as they’re also known.

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of going down this route.

The disadvantages are many. First, stock shots are bland, tired and boring. They tend to sap the creativity out of your website even if it’s superbly designed and written.

Second, they’re overused. They’re like that Jack Vettriano painting of the couple dancing on the beach, or that photo of the jetty in the Lake District that you’re always seeing in people’s houses. Far from standing out, stock shots make websites disappear into the herd.

Third, they’re anonymous. They say nothing about your company; nobody believes that smiling girl on the telephone actually works for you. (If she does, she must have an awful lot of jobs.) In fact, they suggest that your service might be as cosmetic as your photos.

Fourth, the people in them look like models (probably because they are models). They might be very good at dressing or immaculately shaking hands across an office desk, but they don’t give the impression they could solve clients’ problems. Again, this is a subliminal negative.

We could go on. But let’s look at the advantages.

First, they’re cheap.

And, er, that’s it.

In today’s digital world, you only have a few seconds to grab a potential client’s attention. Your rivals are only a click away. Is it really worth losing him or her just to save a few pounds?

We can create original photography for you that will make your website shine out like a beacon in the drab, uniform world of stock shot sites. And we can also offer a range of other design-led solutions that bypass the stock problem. Neither route need be expensive.

In fact, they’re far more cost-effective than the alternative.

A final thought. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words; but most websites stuffed with stock shots are worth only a few – and they’re not very polite.

Brief encounter

posted on May 27, 2011 in Branding,Design

In an earlier blog, we looked at the concept of corporate identity. Let’s now see how you would go about forming it (if you’re setting up a new company) or changing it (if you don’t much like your existing one).

In either case, the best way to start is with a brief. This could be for you, your fellow directors, and ultimately for your design agency. (We can recommend a really good one, if you’re struggling.)

Keep the brief simple; go for the big picture rather than the detail, which can be fleshed out later. Some people like to use a big sheet of paper to jot down words, phrases and thoughts and link them up to each other.

The first stage is all about your company’s personality. What should it be? What do you want to evoke in the minds of the public when they think of your business?

Obviously, if you have an existing identity, ask yourself at this stage how people perceive it – and why it might not be the right perception. We’ve worked with a number of companies which are dynamic, creative, problem-solving, friendly and go-ahead…but whose websites and other aspects of their identity are staid, pedestrian and dull. Improving their corporate identity has often transformed their profitability as customers and prospects come to realise what they’re really like to work with.

Stage two is the really fun part: brainstorming. Get together with a few colleagues and come up with some ideas that can reflect the personality of the company. The identity should be distinctive (and preferably unique), easy to reproduce across formats and sizes, flexible and appropriate.

One law firm we worked with insisted on using the same design on the cover of their corporate brochure as on their business cards. It worked on the cards but looked frankly out of place on the brochure.

The logo is an important part of the identity, of course. Probably you won’t want something like the London Olympics one – and definitely won’t want to pay the £400,000 its development allegedly cost.

What your logo should do is reflect your company’s personality, evoke positive and warm feelings, inspire, attract and set you apart from your rivals.

The name of a company is also vital. The best ones are short and memorable (so “Thereallynotbadatallcompany” is probably best left on the shelf), easy to pronounce, and ideally positive in tone. Avoid overused terms like “solutions” in your company name. Also make sure that it works across different languages; even if you’re not an international player now, you might be one day.

This reminds us of the story of when Coca-Cola first began selling its famous drink in China. The name Coca-Cola rendered phonetically in Mandarin Chinese sounds like “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, neither of which quite conveys the thirst-quenching and refreshing qualities the corporation wanted. It’s probably an urban myth that they ever marketed it as such. One true blunder, though, happened to KFC: trying to translate their “finger lickin’ good” slogan into Chinese, the phrase they ended up with actually read “eat your fingers off”. Ouch!

Stage three is to compile a checklist of all the items the new identity will be used on, from business cards and compliment slips to websites and van liveries.

Having produced all this, pass it over and talk it through with your friendly neighbourhood design agency, light the touch paper, stand well back – and wait for your stunning new corporate identity to be revealed to the world.

If it’s a good identity, the benefits will become increasingly apparent over time. These will include differentiating your company, making your message consistent, boosting your professionalism and raising your standards.

Not bad for something that started on a single sheet of paper.