From Icon to Involvement


In the best of cases a new corporate identity enhances the market’s perception of the organization and is a boost to employees’ belief in the company’s culture. It’s time to put the focus of identity back into corporate identity. There is an emerging opportunity to use the launch of a new corporate identity to help employees find meaning in their work and discover important alignment with their employer. It’s time for corporate identity management to move from an emphasis on the mark to the meaning behind it. For over 25 years I have been a participant and observer of the maturity of the corporate identity discipline. There was a time when only the largest and most sophisticated organizations consistently embraced the discipline necessary to introduce and manage a new corporate identity. Now I see widespread application of solid design management principles that produce attractive corporate identities and the rules to maintain their consistent use. With the fundamental practice of introducing new corporate identities in place now is the time to take the discipline of corporate identity to a new level. Historically, introducing new corporate brands has reflected traditional hierarchal management structures. You know, the identity was created behind closed doors and introduced by senior management (usually the CEO) describing the aesthetic of the new logo and in some cases describing the semantic meaning of the new made-up corporate name. Employees sat, listened carefully, occasionally looked over at each other sarcastically rolling their eyes and took their new logo sweatshirt home to use for the next painting project. (Okay that’s a bit cynical, but frankly I have seen it happen too often.) If we want corporate identity launches to have more meaning and sustained impact then its time to change the way we define and introduce new corporate identities. As we know, corporate cultures are going through dramatic change. Employees from Generation X and Generation Y are becoming the engine that is driving growth and innovation in organizations around the globe. The younger demographic segments have a much different perspective on its role with its employer and what it takes to motivate their high performance. Successful organizations are relating and communicating to younger employees in a whole new way. The most innovative companies today are proving that hierarchical management structures are yesterday. The true energy of innovation lies with the collective, not the few. Today’s leaders inspire high performance not by demanding it, but by igniting the passions of employees, the closer to the customer the better. Engage employees, don’t dictate what they should do or feel. Inspired employees create inspired customers. Polly LaBarre, captured this new trend in the way organizations are managing their cultures rather succulently in a recent blog post in MIX. “We’ve reached a real inflection point when it comes to how we organize human effort. The most inspiring organizations today are actively experimenting with what gets people out of bed in the morning–and what fires up their imagination, initiative, and passion. And the best bosses understand that their power comes not from maintaining control, but from devising ways to unleash more freedom, creativity, and contribution.” Her point of view is certainly worth reading Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat provides an additional perspective about engaging “millennials” to consistently deliver innovation that keeps Linux a head of the curve as the leading open source software provider. “A lot of companies think that the way to be more innovative is to put a group of creative people together. But your most creative ideas are going to come from people on the front lines who see a different way of doing the jobs they do every day.” A new corporate identity creates a powerful opportunity to reengage an organization’s target market. It also is a great platform to help employees get in touch with the true identity and character of the company. Connecting customers with a new identity is old science and built upon a proven set of practices. But engaging today’s young employees takes a very different approach. Launching a new corporate identity internally is more important than ever before and it needs to meet employees where they are, where things are the most real for them. It’s where their work intersects with their activities that will find its way to impacting a customer. If they can relate to the new brand, their passions are more likely to be ignited. Customer brand engagement starts with internal brand alignment, not with a dog and pony show. It’s time we change the way we introduce new corporate identities to reflect the way the most innovative cultures are operating. If you are about to introduce a new corporate identity, spend less on a laser light show, posters and imprinted tchotchkes and more on fostering internal brand alignment. Focus on helping employees relate to the brand’s values on their terms, you may be surprised by how the power of alignment will spark the kinds of innovations that will ignite the promise behind that new logo. Why not invest in the culture that is represented by your shiny new corporate logo? Move the emphasis of launching a new corporate identity from introducing the icon to inspiring employee involvement in the culture. Focusing on helping employees, especially younger ones, identify with the culture represented by the new logo will definitely elevate the acceptance and ROI of introducing a new corporate identity. Does your organization believe that managing corporate identity is the responsibility of the corporate communications department or is a cross-functional partnership with HR and the leadership team? How many of your employees take pride in the corporate logo because it represents the culture that inspires them?