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  • AJ Cheponis

4 pitfalls to avoid while developing your corporate identity

Corporate identity isn’t an antiquated marketing concept, but rather a valuable positioning tool.


All companies think about and struggle with Corporate Identity (CI) – it’s the elephant in the room for start-ups and well-established businesses alike.


Many companies fail to ever fully establish a thorough CI due to a variety of reasons. Many of the problems with brand identity management are rooted in the inability of company leadership to fully define what their business actually stands for, or how they might create a clear vision of that identity once discovered.


But why does Corporate Identity even matter? Isn’t it just one of those antiquated marketing concepts that keeps leaders pseudo-busy and in constant discussions with overpaid marketing strategists? Not so fast…


CI has always been, and remains, one of the most important tools for positioning a company in the marketplace. CI can be the primary tool in attracting talent and retaining team members. It is the glue that a company develops to hold its workers to a common cause. So much more than an agreed upon color scheme or the design elements on a website.


If we can accept the assumption that CI is important, what are the primary reasons why so many companies still miss the mark?



1. The Google effect

Most of us have, what I call, the ‘Google effect’. We view the CA-based web giant with their impressive CI, and immediately get into analysis paralysis. We create excuses: we’ll never be able to implement so many great employee perks; we can’t build such beautiful offices; we can’t develop such detailed recruiting and on-boarding processes. We use Google, and other tech giants, as our dream-castle and never take action, forgetting that we’re not competing with multi-billion dollar international mega-conglomerates. Our worlds are smaller, and our actions can be as well.


2. The problem with the onion

The development of CI is not an easy task and often very painful. To fully succeed with the definition of the soul of your company—what values you represent and what differentiates you from competitors—you need to peel away the eye-stinging layers of the onion to get at the core. Simon Sinek gave a brilliant TED talk on this issue, and urges founders and seasoned entrepreneurs alike to start with the WHY your company exists — the heart of your onion.



3. Inspiration overload

You have studied successful companies, you’ve listened to Simon’s TED talk, you’ve read the latest research about workplace culture and CI, and you’re ready to implement your long list of ideas.


The problem now is you may find no takers to get things done. The solution: avoid inspiration overload. Don’t try to implement everything that you have identified as a need at once. Create a strategic plan, and work on those activities on your list that will make the biggest and most immediate impact. For most companies, the workplace culture and the way teams work with each other is a good place to start. How do your employees operate in their physical space, virtually through technology, and outside of work to create the bonds you need to develop successful teams? For others, the talent search, hiring and on-boarding, will be the most important area of focus.


Identify your weakest link for the implementation of your CI, and work toward small, attainable wins within defined parameters to address it. This can create the momentum you need to overcome bigger barriers that stand in the way of your vision.



4. The ‘Thank god it’s over’ effect

It is undeniable that resources, sweat, and tears are needed to develop a robust CI. The process is often uncomfortable and exhausting. At the end, a company’s leadership will have created a long, detailed outline to share with employees, and kick-off the implementation of identified actions…before locking the document in a drawer and forgetting about it.


The work on CI may have made a difference in that moment, and potentially even for the following 2-3 years to come if implemented correctly. But afterwards, the CI begins to go stale and loose its impact across the organization.


That’s why it’s important to make your CI documentation the bedrock of EVERYTHING you do in your company. Every new marketing campaign, HR process, sales approach, and company gathering needs to be based on and organized around your CI statement. YES, it’s that important and useful of a tool!


It makes a lasting difference whether your marketing campaign uses pictures that accurately portray your brand rather than canned photos that were downloaded in a hurry from a photo-sharing platform. It matters if you take your team on a trip to New Hampshire for an inspiring and productive code-camp or invite them to beer and chips around the corner.


There is a tangible impact if your sales materials are printed on high-quality paper with inspiring and outside-of-the box messaging instead of the same old PDFs you’ve been producing at the last minute.


CI is the backbone of all companies. And yet, it’s often the most overlooked and underutilized instrument in creating strong brand positioning in the marketplace. CI affects all parts of your business, and you need to commit time and resources to get it right.


It can ensure that you will attract the right talent, talk to the customers that are the best fit, and find partners that speak your language. And above all, it’s the glue that keeps your team focused, happy, and operating at top performance.




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