Corporate branding is where branding agencies really earn our keep.
Why? Because branding a corporate entity is trickier than branding a product or person.
How do you make a corporate entity appealing in the eyes of customers? Is it even worth the effort, given that customers mostly engage directly with products and services?
The short answer is: definitely. To unpack the longer answer, in what follows, we’ll take a look at these key questions and topics:
- What is Corporate Branding?
- Why is Corporate Branding Important?
- How Does Corporate Branding Work?
- The Corporate Branding Framework
- Corporate Branding Examples
- The Takeaway
You’ll see that by defining and managing how your company is perceived—by customers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders—corporate branding is the one of the most surefire paths to sustained business growth.
What is Corporate Branding?
Corporate branding is the process of building awareness and equity around a corporate entity, as opposed to a product, service, or person.
Because they touch customers’ lives more directly, product and service brands are often the brands that customers are most familiar with, and more likely to establish a personal relationship with.
As we’ll see in the next section, however, branding your corporate entity is increasingly important, especially in a dynamic political and economic era of unprecedented corporate transparency.
Building awareness and equity around a corporate brand begins with defining a framework for the brand before defining a strategy for ways to communicate that framework to stakeholders.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, let’s take a look at why corporate branding is so important for business growth.
Why is Corporate Branding Important?
Now, more than ever, people care about the companies behind the products and services they use.
Digital and social media have resulted in unparalleled levels of corporate transparency, and customers are looking to engage with purpose-driven companies who share their values. They’re also looking to hold those companies accountable for their promises.
Corporate branding ensures your customers are aware of what your company stands for and the ways it’s different than the competition.
By leveraging emotional priming, branding builds awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, equity.
Unlike marketing, branding has a cumulative effect. So, the relationships you establish with customers grow deeper and more meaningful the longer they engage with your brand.
In the long run, branding is a better driver of business growth than repeated marketing activation initiatives. It’s one of the most effective ways to build preference and loyalty and transform your company from a commodity to an experience.
The benefits of branding don’t end with customers, though. It’s just as important for internal stakeholders.
A well-defined brand is the only way to ensure employees are aligned with the values and culture that are the foundation of any successful business.
Corporate branding includes the definition and communication of your employer brand, the way your company is perceived by internal stakeholders.
A well-defined and effectively communicated employer brand is how the world’s top brands attract and retain the industry’s top talent.
As we always say: the best job candidates will always want to work for the best brands.
How Does Corporate Branding Work?
Once you understand its many benefits, the next question becomes, how can I put branding to work for my company?
As we mentioned earlier, there are essentially two parts of corporate branding: the corporate branding framework and corporate branding communications.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
The Corporate Branding Framework
One of the most important aspects of corporate branding is ensuring your brand is well-defined.
The corporate branding framework is one way to outline these components, examine them in relation to one another, and make sure they’re aligned and mutually supportive.
The framework is laid out with internal brand components on the top line, external components on the bottom line, and universal components (those that are both internal and external) on the middle line.
Ideally, the framework should be defined in a workshop setting by key internal stakeholders (usually the executive team).
Some components may already be defined, and it is simply a matter of documenting them. Others may need to be defined or refined by the group by answering the questions in each box.
In either case, the answers should be concise, straightforward, authentic, and timeless.
Once all nine components have been defined, the next step is to see whether they are cohesive and mutually supportive.
Each of the framework’s vertical, horizontal, and diagonal axis highlights a different facet of your organization.
The diagonal axis beginning in the top left corner highlights strategy; the diagonal one starting in the bottom left, competition. The horizontal axis highlights communications, while the vertical one illuminates interaction.
In a clearly defined brand, the components on each axis are cohesive and aligned. The stronger the connections, the stronger the framework. The ultimate objective is to define a rock-solid corporate branding framework.
The Corporate Branding Communications Strategy
Just as important as defining your brand is communicating that brand to the world.
Corporate branding is an opportunity to examine exactly where and how you are communicating your brand and identify opportunities for improvement. This is where the corporate branding communications strategy comes in.
A corporate branding communications strategy begins with identifying the various channels where customers engage with your brand.
From your website and social media accounts to your email marketing and paid search campaigns to your traditional advertising and public relations campaigns, your brand exists across a wide spectrum of interconnected touchpoints.
It’s essential to ensure your corporate brand is consistently and cohesively communicated at each and every one of these touchpoints.
The communication strategy also outlines the various target audiences at which your corporate brand is aimed.
What are the unique customer segments that engage with your brand? What are their unique demographics (age, gender, location, etc.) and psychographics (motivations, goals, needs, and challenges)?
To ensure the consistency and cohesiveness of your messaging, a corporate branding communications strategy outlines your brand’s verbal identity guidelines, including the overarching brand narrative that should connect your disparate brand messaging, as well as the brand voice in which that messaging should be delivered.
Informed by these guidelines, the strategy should also include a messaging matrix with examples of how your brand should be communicated in each of its channels and to each of its audiences.
By defining where and how your brand engages with its audiences, an effective communications strategy gives you the tools to ensure your corporate brand framework is consistently and compellingly communicated. This is what corporate branding is all about.
Corporate Branding Examples
For evidence of branding’s impact, you need look no further than the world’s top corporate brands.
In these brands, all the elements of branding come together in a brand experience that is engaging, inspiring, and instantly recognizable.
The best corporate brands are driven by purpose, and Accenture is no exception.
Accenture’s purpose—to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity—guides the company’s strategies and priorities, as well as the opportunities it creates for its more than 500,000 employees.
Accenture’s corporate brand reflects the human ingenuity of its employees and their commitment to using technology to benefit the company’s customers.
When it comes to communicating their brand, Accenture’s latest brand campaign, “Let there be change,” is designed to inspire organizations to embrace change and create more value for the world.
The campaign depicts the power and beauty of both global and local change through the lens of Accenture’s expertise.
According to Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, “Exponential changes in technology were transforming the way we work and live before COVID-19, and now its impact has raised change to a new level… In this moment, to emerge stronger there is only one choice: embrace change and ensure that it benefits all—your customers, people, shareholders, partners and communities.”
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble’s corporate branding is similarly centered on the organization’s purpose: “To touch and improve the lives of the world’s consumers.”
P&G goes to great lengths to ensure that purpose isn’t just a buzzword. The brand’s purpose is clearly articulated, with specific and measurable metrics.
The brand makes specific promises tied to its purpose and ensures those promises are kept. The goal is to be both “a force for good and a force for growth.”
By tying the practical goal of any business, growth, with a more purpose-driven goal, doing good, P&G is able to cultivate a corporate brand experience that is both good for the world and good for their bottom line.
P&G’s purpose also informs the initiatives and territories the company chooses to focus on. This includes the social causes they invest in, in the effort to ensure the communities where they live and work are flourishing.
Like P&G, Intel is a corporate brand with a slew of unique sub-brands.
As is common to fast-growing businesses, however, Intel’s portfolio of increasingly complex and technical brands quickly got out of hand. The overall brand experience became confusing to internal and external stakeholders.
Branding enabled Intel to reign in the chaos and better engage its myriad audiences.
A central big idea, “Thrilling leaps that create the new normal,” unified the experience, allowing the company to extend its corporate brand across its many product brands with the “Intel Inside” swoosh.
The resultant master brand was focused on the potential of the company’s technology for the next generation.
This future forward approach was communicated via a brand communications strategy under the tagline “Leap Ahead,” which doubled as an internal mission statement for the utmost in corporate branding alignment.
The process of building awareness and equity around a corporate entity, corporate branding is essential for businesses looking to establish sustained growth.
Products and services may be the brands that customers are most familiar with, but branding your company is essential in a dynamic political and economic era marked by unparalleled corporate transparency.
By enabling you to define your branding framework and consistently communicate that framework through a communications strategy, corporate branding gives you the tools to ensure your brand is cohesive, engaging, and inspiring to those it serves.