Employees make (or break) the new corporate identity

A true story: an organisation cancelled the total corporate identity implementation just one week before launch. The reason: they had not yet informed all employees. So, suppliers and installers of all kinds of branded products had to be called off and the implementation was postponed.

“there is the new logo!”

Fortunately, this does not happen very often, and the nature of the organisation played a significant role in this example. And yet, it is odd. More frequently it happens that the board of directors and employees of the communication department are far ahead of the rest of the organisation when it comes to being familiar with the new logo or visual identity. All kinds of branded products are developed with strict confidentiality and, being afraid that something is being leaked, the new identity is surrounded by mystery. But sooner or later you have to reveal it, with or without a special reveal moment. A party, hoisting the flag in front of the head office, fireworks, bells and whistles… there is the new logo!

Group 79

Take employees along for the ride

Make sure that your employees are included during preparation and actual roll-out of the new visual identity, it is literally and figuratively the new flag with which they should identify. Sometimes that really feels like ‘a must’, especially when employees do not like the new logo. However, with having a proper introduction, a coherent story and a visual identity that fits the identity of the organisation and its employees a lot is gained. Often, something tangible is provided so that every employee has the new logo in their hands and can show it at home. Buying company pride with mirrors and beads. It might sound corny, but it works.

Employees determine the corporate identity?

So, an internal brand activation campaign – more or less comprehensive – should be an integral part of the corporate identity implementation. Besides, the behaviour of employees also determines the (perceived) identity of the organisation. The human style – in behaviour and communication – reinforces the visual identity and vice versa. Let it be congruent, designed on the basis of the DNA of the organisation. And, make sure that the essential, branded materials are available from day one of the introduction of the new corporate identity. Where can I find the new logo? How should I apply it? Where can the application guidelines be found? Is there an online ‘branding tool’ available? And, is the new stationery on hand (including new templates which should come with this)? If you do not sufficiently facilitate this, it is bound to mushroom, old will continue to exist next to new, “the chain is as strong as the weakest link”. And, if a corporate identity cannot be implemented in one go, for example because the required effort or investment is too large to implement everything in one “big bang”, explain which choices have been made and why. Prevent employees from running off applying the new corporate identity in the absence of an appropriate example. An e-mail signature in the Comic Sans with a ‘lowres-somewhere-copy-pasted’ logo? Yes, we still encounter these.

Identity and image model

Years ago, I became fascinated by Birkigt & Stadler’s corporate identity model, and particularly by the corporate identity mix. The entirety is shaped from the core, the actual organisational identity, to communication, behaviour and symbolism. It is fascinating to see how these three components of communication, behaviour and symbolism interact and are truly – or should be – connected to this core. It should not be three, secluded pieces of pie; the delimitation should fade, the individual parts should ideally merge into one another. Four fluid components which determine the bigger picture, the brand.

Do you want committed employees? Involve them!

Ruud Koetsier, partner RGN

The moral of the story: keep overview of the entirety of brand implementation which is not limited to the things where you can stick a logo on. Also consider intangible components, such as behaviour and tone of voice of employees. Besides, these same employees are a very important target group to be informed in a timely manner about the upcoming, new corporate identity. Or rather: involve them. “Do you want committed employees? Involve them!” is my motto. Rather inspire them then to pin them down with rules and guidelines. Show how valuable a well-implemented corporate identity is and ensure that the bigger picture is correct. Internal branding, brand ambassadors, it does not matter what you call it. Ensure that your employees become part of the new “vibe”, that they understand and embrace the new logo and corporate identity, and eagerly awaiting its launch thereby finding their own new business cards with pride on their desk.

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