Effective Corporate Image Or Expensive Cosmetics?

Brian Monger

Achieving a corporate image that works means it should not be merely cosmetic. All organisations seem to recognise the need for an effective corporate persona or image, yet few succeed.  Nearly always the ‘image’ change starts and finishes with a change of logo, letterhead, and new signage. The costs are usually considerable and the results usually do not justify the expenditure. Advertising agencies and designers get a little richer, but nothing else really happens, particularly for the customer, so the exercise is largely wasted.

For a change of image to work it must be based on specific objectives aimed at giving the organisation some advantage in the market over the competition. The change of image must reflect a change in marketing approach. It must signify to the customer that something new (and better ) awaits.

It must be based upon an effective, valid and sustainable corporate strategy which recognises the need for differentiation and have a true market orientation. The image changes that work are the ones that only reflect a change for the better in the way an organisation is going about its dealings with its market.

Good imaging is based on good ‘positioning‘ in the market. This simply means creating the right offering to meet the markets expectations and needs. Selecting the right position is like having a reserved parking spot in the customers front yard. Not achieving it is like parking in a no standing zone along with several of your competitors. The objective is to identify a strong (and differentiated ) position in the perception of your market and reinforce it with the correct imaging. There is no point in an image that has little differentiation between your organisation and its competitors, or one that has no relevance to what the organisation  really is.

In a competitive market place without effective differentiation and positioning, all the products and companies start to look the same to consumers. This situation is not changed much by only adopting cosmetic changes. Your customers are not stupid. They will see past the new logo (assuming they noticed the change) and the new reception area. If it doesn’t deliver the goods according to the expectations created then it will not work.

The other basic mistake that image changers often make is to forget their own employees in the process. The change to them can often be meaningless or be a cause for irritation. A properly planned and executed programme should use the opportunity to have a positive impact on employees. Without their support, no real changes for the customer will be possible.

When considering a change of image or a new image for a new enterprise, six basic questions need to be addressed.

1. What market(s) do we want to be in and what are they looking for?

2.  How are we currently perceived?

3. How well is the competition positioned in the market and are there any unfilled gaps ?

4. What position do we need to adopt that will work for us and that can be sustained against competitive pressure?

5.  What image do we need to project to reinforce our positioning and how can we best project it?

6. How can we best implement the programme (for maximum benefit)?

Too often business executives take corporate image for granted giving it little attention. Yet, the image projected by that business, whether large or small is a major part in projecting their positioning. Just as impressions of people are formed by look, speech, dress and perceived behaviour, an image of a business is formed from its presentation and behaviour in the market place.

Getting outside help? 

A good service will ensure that your organisation’s   image and positioning are right for today and, more importantly, is in line with the organisation’s   marketing strategies and objectives for the next decade. The approach needs to be based on a total system approach, which combines an in house analysis, planning, procedure, competitive analysis programme, qualitative market research, strategy formulation or analysis and implementation tactics.

The consultant needs a system that takes the organisation  through a process of re evaluation of its marketing aims which will result in a strategic positioning of organisation  and products that will focus the resources and efforts of the organisation to achieve better results. Whilst the process may take a little longer it usually does not cost more than the mere cosmetic treatment.”

It is generally accepted that a corporate or business image seems to have about a ten year life cycle but the “livery” a business dresses itself in should have the potential to be extended for 20 or 30 years. For instance, Shell have marketed their petrol under the same sign for at least 30 years but their logo has been subtly revamped over the years to keep it fresh and up-to-date. Coca-Cola have fairly well used the same branding since its introduction but again the familiar signage has undergone minor face-lifts over the years.

What’s more, companies which don’t get it right the first time tend to keep trying until they find something that does work. Effective imaging lasts longer and costs less because it doesn’t need to be changed as much.

Many companies make cosmetic changes to their signage and logo believing that is enough. Often it is done for the simple reasons of ” updating an old image”, despite the fact that there was very little wrong with the existing one. For example, some years ago one of Australia’s leading professional bodies spent thousands of dollars of its  members funds on what apparently was just such an exercise.  Research into the change in image could identify no other salient planned changes. Nor did many of the practitioners involved see anything wrong with the current logo.   Indeed most felt pride in it, and it was certainly well recognised  and respected by the general business community their customers.

The most successful livery changes have reflected and follow changes in organisation  behaviour including detailed strategies designed to position the organisation  to reach the maximum number of customers in the targeted market.  Image changes should be part of an overall strategic marketing plan and the launch carefully timed for major impact.

For example, one bank’s livery change received immediate public recognition without extra funds spent to promote the change. Good design and a year of careful planning ensured a fast, efficient change-over.  Stationery stocks were deliberately run-down so stationery in the new styles could be distributed for re-launch, which meant there was no waste. Maintenance of premises was deferred and a rush programme in the new livery started appearing at launch.  Signs were changed over the Easter break in an all-out effort to make impact.  The launch was timed for the Wednesday after Easter with all staff involved.  Costs were largely recurring costs covered in the organisation’s normal running or maintenance programmes.


One thought on “Effective Corporate Image Or Expensive Cosmetics?

  1. Pingback: Effective Corporate Image Or Expensive Cosmetics? « SmartaMarketing

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