Essentially, a corporate identity (CI) manual is created for companies that wish to present their brand consistently across all internal and external marketing material. When a CI manual is presented to the company, it creates consistency, which in turn, leaves a positive and lasting impression of the company to existing and future clientele.
In short, the duty of a CI manual mainly focuses on the physical look of a company’s brand. It generally includes a logo and marketing material, such as business cards, letterheads, email signatures, and a website. These all come with a set of guidelines.
However, it is important to remember that corporate identity is not the same as corporate image:
- A corporate image is the perception of the company by its various audiences. It has to do with how it appears to outsiders, such as the community or potential consumers
- Corporate identity is what the corporation chooses to use to shape those perceptions
To make it easy for employees to present the corporate identity consistently, the CI manual provides a set of instructions for how to present the company’s branding and how to describe the business accurately.
Besides comprehensive design standards, companies generally manage their identity through:
- Language: Specific words and phrases for services
- Distinctive themes and messages: “Taglines”
- Actions and policies: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
As a company grows and more people are involved, the very essence of the brand is being expressed by multiple managers and communicators. The CI manual will enable you to reign in all of this and maintain standards, as well as build upon a brand as the company and its story evolves and grows.
The benefits of corporate identity
In today’s fast growing and competitive market, it is imperative to establish your corporate identity standards as it ensures that everyone within your company from employees to branch managers are all representing the company in the same manner.
Having a strong corporate identity not only conveys your company’s ideals, motives, and objectives but also tells the market that your brand is here to stay. This gives future clients confidence in the stability of your brand.
Another benefit to having a corporate identity is that it creates consistency. This is incredibly important when starting out as this defines your company’s image and ensures that your brand will be recognisable no matter where your brand is placed.
The purpose of a corporate identity is to:
1) Create a consistent and clear visual identity for your company
2) Convey that your company is a professional and reliable organisation
3) Establish your brand equity and standardise your company’s visual presentation
These lay the foundation to a successful brand and works hand in hand with your brand strategy and brand identity. Although most marketing agencies sometimes confuse or overlap the three, it’s always imperative to remember that corporate identity focuses on:
- The visual outlook of your brand – The voice of your brand
- Your brand strategy – The position of your brand
The elements of a CI manual
The core of the brand
Your CI manual should have a complete outline of your brand and all its components:
- Explain your brand values – What does your brand stand for? What does your brand represent?
- Brand promise – What do you consistently offer that your clients value?
- Brand image – What perception does the public have of your brand?
- Message – What do you want to tell your target audience?
- Goals – What do you want to achieve for your brand?
An eye-catching logo
Your brand’s logo is the most valuable, tangible symbol of your brand. You need to make sure that everyone understands exactly how it is to be used. Offer horizontal and vertical representations of your logo as well as logos with and without your brand tagline.
Include logo designs for brand extensions as well. Specify acceptable sizes the logo can be reproduced at as well. For example, what is the minimum size that your logo can be reproduced and still be legible? Also, specify the colours the logo can be reproduced in.
Develop a colour palette
Provide the specific Pantone (PMS) colours of the brand colour palette:
- Include primary, secondary, and tertiary colours at minimum
- Identify how these colours should be used in the logo and in branded communications
- It’s also important to provide the RGB, HEX, and CMYK equivalents of the colours in your colour palette for varied uses
Have a specific style for your typography
Identify the specific fonts that should be used in branded communications, including typeface size, line height, kerning, and so on if your brand fonts are customised in any way. Furthermore, specify the fonts that can be used in header vs. body text, online, offline, etc.
Know your logo’s dimensions
Your CI manual also needs to explain where your logo can be positioned in ads, on promotional items, on letterheads, on business cards, and so on. Similarly, include instructions related to acceptable sizes and the amount of clear space that should be around your logo or other brand elements at all times. For example, it’s very common for brand guidelines to state that there must be clear space around the logo that is at least half the width or height of the logo.
Have the right pictures
The photos and images used in your branded materials and communications say a lot about your brand persona and they need to match consumer expectations based on your brand promise. Therefore, your CI manual needs to show examples of the types of imagery to be used.
Develop your original brand voice
The voice, tone, and style of the messaging and copywriting in your branded communications are critical to developing your brand. To ensure consistency, you need to include instructions related to voice and style. For example, should branded communications be written in a friendly, uncomplicated style or a highly professional, technical style? Furthermore, if you have specific style requirements related to grammar rules, word usage, and so on, include those instructions in your CI manual.
To make things as simple and error-proof as possible, it’s a good idea to include templates for common uses of your logo and brand elements. For example, include a template complete with specific measurements and dimensions for all elements for your business cards, stationery, branded advertising, presentations, promotional items, etc.
Include the do’s & don’ts
You can either include examples of brand applications throughout your CI manual along with examples of how to use your brand elements the wrong way, or you can include a separate section filled with the do’s and don’ts of how to use your logo and brand elements across varied applications.
Time to put a face to the name
Whether or not you currently have a CI manual, it is essential to make sure that your branding and messaging shows the full picture of your business. As you can see, a lot of design and planning goes into your CI manual and let’s face it, not all of us can be design and marketing gurus. Leave the design and strategising to us and we will actualise your corporate identity requirements.
It’s time to get your business on the map with a structured CI manual!