image Archivos | Allegro 234
Considering brands as an experience and a concept that transmit identity, reputation and relationship between the company and its audiences, we face a reality where those elements will be more or less relevant according to the interests and needs of each public in particular:
- If the audience consists of clients and customers, identity will be more relevant through image communication.
- For shareholders, reputation will be more relevant when presenting the business value proposition as well as metrics of its performance.
- When it comes to the company’s managers and employees the relationship between both audiences will prevail over identity and reputation.
In all cases, the brand is present. The change is the communicative relevance of the elements the company wants to convey.
During the last years, brands were created responding to an “industrial” reality which today seems to be far away, linear and, in some cases, limited.
Until not long ago, the company itself represented a system that kept a sometimes precautious relationship with its environment and which also admitted the existence of something farther and without a direct relationship with it: The Universe.
Today, company and system are two different things: Ikea is the company; the system involves vendors and customers.
The environment is an attractive part for the system, and therefore, it tries to attract it. Again, referring to Ikea, the environment is formed by potential customers, new designers or other companies whose offer is a complement to its own offer. The universe is represented by everything beyond the environment and which has no influence on the system and the company. However, due to the information available, both companies and universe are not unknown to each other.
Within the universe, attractive segments for the company also exist. They comply with the target of sharing values, possessing shared knowledge and going through similar experiences. They still need to be “properly introduced”, i.e. that communication is established.
Identity is shared by the system. The company’s brand begins to be associated to other brands in the system. As usual, all this involves many risks, but several opportunities as well.
The alumni of a Business School are a good example of this. People’s names and last names are a good representation of their identity. Adding a business school brand to yours conveys something else about that person. “John Smith” means something specific for those who know who he is. “John Smith, MBA from INSEAD” means something else for those knowing who he is and for those who do not as well. Neither better nor worse: just different.
From a professional point of view, a brand becomes a guarantee in its environment. Within alumni’s community it works as a reference of values and features of shared identity.
Besides, some business schools are asking their alumni to get involved in the admission process of new students. Are they employees of the institution? No, but they certainly they are part of the system.
The company, as far as the construction of its identity is concerned, is a multidimensional system. It appears as a business and as representative of its products and services, it is managed according to the desired behaviour of strategic variables, both internal and external to the company, under the latter’s control though, and comes into existence from functional and emotional elements which build its value proposition.
Within the company, a shared identity is practical and emotionally valued, differentiates the organisation and creates a sense of belonging. To external audiences it means credibility and becomes its emotional difference.
Companies, being more than their business model, seek not only for results but also for a deep share of feelings. More than making profits, their aim is generating emotions, being ethical and conveying a personality of their own. This is called attitude.
This model of company requires a strong identity to create a credible and relevant image to their different audiences. Its attitude transcends the people who create and manage the business.
A shared identity is practical, it makes the Organisation a different one, it helps to create a sense of belonging, it conveys credibility and it makes the emotional difference
Identity comes before image, and is an intrinsic part of the institution. It is built on the grounds of history, traditions, and the present and desired future. Internal and external people are part of it. Identity is present in the corporation, in its products and in its services.
Image stands for and communicates such identity. Its major challenge is to maintain the coherence between the conveyed concepts, and the business model and the “idea into action” of the institution.
It is must to have consistency between identity and image in the long term to achieve better incomes and results, and build sustainable value.
Brand goes beyond an aesthetic matter, or a sum of specific events. Its origin is in the people who created the institution and is among those who share values and the idea. It is translated into a strategy, feeds the business value proposition, and generates a unique experience, emotionally relevant and functionally desirable.
Brands are for those people who interact with the company, since they are part of their business processes, belong to the organisation and manage its resources. Summing up, brands are relevant for the environment, unique for the system and admired by key audiences.
At the time of studying the situation of each company regarding identity and image they can present one of five possible situations.
- If the apparent identity and image are high (1), we face an institution which, after generating a consistent identity, has achieved an image aligned with its idea in action. It is an entity which shares values with its audiences and communicates them correctly. This includes cases that go from consumer goods, like Zara, to institutions like Karolinska Institutet.
- If the company presents a strong identity which does not finally reflect a strong image (2), the latter possesses a great opportunity that so far has not been exploited. It is known, respected and understood, it generates likeness “¦.but it is not capable of creating a close relationship with its audiences. This might be the case of some Eastern Europe brands.
- If both identity and image are low (3), we are in front of a commodity, and this could be a strategic option taken by the company
- If image is high and identity isn’t (4), we are in front of Nabuco Donosor’s statue: a giant with mud feet. In the past we saw this type of giants and effects were devastating. We refer to cases like Enron and WorldCom, where an image was rapidly built without making sure whether a true identity was supporting it.
- Finally, if both image and identity are average (5), we are in the “limbo”. The truth is that to overcome this situation two movements are required: first to finish building a strong identity and then do something about the image. Many companies are in this situation, mainly due to the following two reasons:
- It is a comfort area, since not much may happen in the short run, but if certain factors are taken into account, such as change speed, broke inertia, perfect competition and higher demands of audiences (which eventually will all become clients) a problem is beginning to appear.
- Resignation. We have lived and grown with the paradigm of being the best. Being the runner-up is no good. This statement is tricky, since you can accomplish being the best in the world in something, the best of the region in something else and customers may finally purchase products and services from the best in the neighbourhood, because it is precisely the latter the one they share their values with.
Identity and image are different concepts; however at the time of building a brand, in many cases image has received more attention than identity. Success lies on the fact of image and identity walking hand in hand, in that what one stands for, is what the other one really conveys.