A visual identity has to work at many levels. It must be aesthetically and visually creative, represent some idea, character or quality and it must also be instantly recognisable, memorable and develop appropriate associations and perceptions of the organisation it represents.
A possible definition of visual identity is: “The core visual elements of name, logo, colour and type that combine to form the company brand”
The management of the corporate identity is the concern of a number of organisation functions including; executive management, design, marketing, branding, IT and advertising.
There are established and accepted models of identity and branding strategies that can be matched to organisation structure and for most generic types of corporate and marketing strategies. These norms and models help to guide organisations in making identity decisions. For example, many companies that are based on a functional organisation structure use a ‘company brand’ with one standardised visual identity for all of their activities. Through time the visual identity builds recognition and audiences grow to identify the company by its distinctive logotype.
Financial and banking services typically adopted the company brand approach using one name and one visual system throughout, it is sometimes known as a monolithic identity structure such as NatWest in the UK or AIB in Ireland.
FMCG companies generally adopt the ‘separate brands’ approach with the company or corporate brand performing an endorsement role on its range of branded products, such as, Nestle-KitKat. Others such as United Distillers adopted a similar brand based approach but with no visual acknowledgement of the company or corporation brand on the branded products.
However, the pace of change, competition for market share and the turbulence of the modern economy is forcing companies to re-think their brand identity strategies. For example, throughout the nineties, 3M moved from a superabundance of brands to a ‘master brand’ that linked all its values and products thus reducing the number of separate brands from 1200 to less than half that number.
In his Dissertation as part of undertaking the MBA Design Management at the University of Westminster, Martin Gaffney researched trends in corporate brand identity and corporate strategy, the results of this study show that there has been a marked increase in the number of Irish Financial Institutions who have developed separate brands for existing and new products. Developments such as these suggest that the traditional ‘monolithic identity structure’ is not fulfilling the multiple demands of the new economic environment in the long term.
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