Every business has one – no, we’re not talking about a logo – we’re talking about a corporate brand, something tangible, a flag that customers, employees and other stakeholders can rally around. And while every business on the planet will have one, many leaders feel less than sure-footed when it comes to defining their brand and what it actually stands for.
This isn’t an uncommon issue. At Mobas we speak to countless business leaders who are exceptionally adept when talking about their firm’s products and services but become tongue-tied when it comes to describing their own business.
If you’re looking for advice on defining, building, recognising, championing or simply ‘living out’ your corporate brand, then a cursory look online would suggest that this is a particularly well-trodden path. There appears to be an endless supply of articles, books and keynote talks offering advice. But when we scratch the surface, the majority of these pieces offer little in the way of actionable advice for a business who cannot boast the brand recognition of Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola or Uber. And this is why we’ve put together this report: to offer a practical guide for 99% of businesses who deliver exceptional value for their customers but lack the branding might of the world's leading’ brands.
Understanding what makes a corporate brand
Some brands just seem to have it nailed! If we asked 100 people to name the world’s ten top brands, we could be pretty confident that the same names will appear time and time again. But brand recognition mustn’t be confused with what a brand stands for. The reason we all think of the same top brands is inextricably linked to their advertising clout. In Q3 2020, the UK's leading brands spent a total of £2.4bn on advertising, so it’s hardly surprising they have good levels of brand recall. But you don’t need to be a multi-national business to have an effective corporate brand that delivers, quite the opposite: every company will have one – even if they don’t realise it!
Confusing branding with a brand can be an easy mistake to make. People often assume that your visual brand – a smart colour palette and a company motto – is enough to get you through, but they’re wrong: a corporate brand runs deeper than this. Defining a clear and distinct business identity is critical for your business as you set a strategy that will guide you, your team and your broader stakeholders. A corporate brand can set you apart. It will help you recruit the best and brightest people. It will help you keep them too. It can help you to differentiate your proposition from your competitors’. It can be something that everyone can be proud of.
Defining and articulating a corporate brand
Many firms struggle to articulate their brand. The main reason being that they seek to portray themselves as something they’re not. Often businesses try to impose a brand onto an organisation, rather than nurture and develop a brand from within. You can wear someone else’s clothes, but you won’t become them. It needs to come from within.
A brand is not just:
A sales pitch
Owned by marketing
A brand is:
A reflection of the essence of the offering
Our promise to every staff member and stakeholder
Present and consistent at every touchpoint
Visually + through the culture + in our language + in ways of working
Owned by everyone in the business
The flag that we can all get behind
Most people believe that the core purpose of adopting a corporate brand is to have a unique and consistent look and feel across every medium. While this is important, we feel it goes much deeper than a set of brand guidelines. When we talk about what makes a corporate brand at Mobas, we focus on these key points. A successful corporate brand isn’t a logo: a corporate brand is a well-defined and clearly articulated mission, vision, values, and personality. We typically go further still and define an essence, which is often just two or three words, that exemplifies everything that an organisation is.
A brand map is then used as the key reference tool for a host of materials that will bring a brand to life. From the tone of voice guidelines to how we answer the phone, from the look and feel of our website to the terminology used in our terms and conditions, from the type of personality we want in our recruits to the way we develop staff. Everything can be referenced against the brand map, which acts as a guiding principle or North Star.
“Brands that work communicate consistent values and behaviours that are more important than their logo. They can unite very different products or services under one service-led umbrella.
“Successful brands create a strong point of difference, one that appeals to their target market.
Their brand enables them to be bold and creative while presenting a believable and consistent face to the world.”
Shelby Haslam, Director of Strategy
Having said that, a brand needs to be honest about what a business actually is, that doesn’t mean it can’t be aspirational. A well-defined brand, that represents a business on its best day, so long as it’s rooted in the best and brightest elements of your business, will stretch people and encourage and empower them to do their best.
At Mobas a brand is not a badge, it is the rock on which a business or product is built, an essential tool for growth and profitability. Brand transformation, as we call it, creates brands that take a lead in their markets, that exceed the expectations of customers and that unify and motivate internal teams. To Mobas a brand is a shared cause that everyone believes in. If your brand is rooted in your business, its people, personality, vision and mission, then you’ll be well on the way to creating a brand that will be memorable and resonate with your audiences and stakeholders alike.
For us, a brand comes from within the business and defines the offering in a unique way that appeals to the customers of today and tomorrow. Our brands are designed to support a business’ plans for transformation and growth, so we look five and ten years ahead to the company you want to become. Radical market change has become the norm, so we pitch our brands ahead of the current market in a way that draws audiences to them.
Critically, by defining the brand we create confidence and an ability to develop marketing campaigns or communication programmes that are right first time because they are based on a clearly recognised and understood brand promise.
For your brand to be memorable, it must be engaging, relevant, understandable and, above all, consistently delivered. By working out how your business stands above its competitors and how this can be communicated, we’ll bring the brand to life, capturing insight from your customers and motivating your teams to achieve great things.
How to bring your corporate brand to life
Once the legwork is done and the brand has been defined, the critical step is to bring it to life and ensure your team, customers and stakeholders are able to recognise it. This final hurdle is just as important as all of those already cleared. Often a corporate brand will fall flat on its face if it is poorly communicated to staff. This is why the launch is such a critical phase in all of our brand projects at Mobas. Once we’ve assembled the pieces in one place, our brand map, we begin to explore how we communicate the brand and brand essence so that the team can bring it to life. Every company is different. Some firms may love all team town halls, others prefer a more personal touch, with printed literature, office decoration and clear communications. Whichever route you choose, the result should read like a manifesto that clearly and passionately expresses the brand persona, its essence, and the experience that consumers will have and share through each engagement.
To help any new brand ‘bed in’, we typically focus on five areas:
1. Telling the brand’s story We are all programmed to respond to stories, so we encourage businesses to use people stories, case studies, photos, interactive design, the office itself and often an actual timeline to highlight where the journey your business has been on and importantly, how these foundations have been built to provide for a positive future.
2. Bring the brand to life visually We haven’t forgotten our mantra that a brand isn’t a logo, but we can use creative imagery, signs, graphical devices and office decoration to link the newly defined brand to design to the workplace, public-facing documents and website. The most important thing here is consistency and making sure the brand is actually protracted wherever it features.
3. Use your team The most successful launches are ones where the whole team are taken on the journey. To avoid any top-down brand projects, we always seek to involve as many stakeholders as possible in our process. Whether that’s staff interviews, customer research, staff surveys and including various voices in our workshops, we find that taking the whole team through the project increases the likelihood of adoption at the time when the newly defined brand is launched. One effective way to do this is to create a team of brand ambassadors, who work throughout the process and can act as guardians once the new brand is unveiled and takes its first tentative steps.
4. Highlight your customers We always include an element of customer research in our brand transformations. No matter how small the projects or how minor the changes, brand transformations are a great reason to reconnect with your existing customers, former customers and prospects so don’t forget them in your launch plans and use this as an opportunity to remind them why your business is special.
5. Use technology The Covid pandemic has reshaped the way we use technology and there is now naturally a greater emphasis on interactive experiences with your brand. Some businesses we work with use video or animation to communicate their brand. Since video appeals to both sight and sound in a quick burst of stimulation, it captures the attention of the viewer immediately and makes a lasting impression, so we’d certainly encourage businesses to embrace technology and use it to represent your brand in innovative ways around the office.
Where next? Ready to talk? Why not get in touch with the Mobas Transformation team to discuss how we can help you bring your corporate brand to life.