Branding and corporate identity

Branding was strictly a subset of marketing when I started my marketing career in 1958. It was hardly ever practiced by business-to-business marketers, and certainly not by small companies.

Corporate Identity was a different matter. Any business was encouraged to develop one, particularly if your stock was traded on an exchange. The corporate name, logo, stationery and annual report were the main elements of a corporate identity. And if you had a building, your signage became a part of your ID. And if you had a large ad budget, part might be set aside for “corporate advertising”.

Today there’s little emphasis on corporate identity as a lone discipline. It’s been replaced by corporate brand, which can also be called the masterbrand. Many of the principles and activities of product branding and of corporate identity programs were adopted and integrated into the corporate brand.

The firms who served corporations in either product branding (normally ad agencies) or corporate identity (usually graphic designers with business sense) have changed as well over time.

Today there a couple of dozen highly regarded branding consultancies. Most are global in scope. Some evolved from corporate identity firms of long standing. Others were offering market research and counsel about packaging goods branding. Now the “branding” industry is huge. You’ll find a dozen substantial practitioners even in a dusty ole cow town like Denver.

Branding and corporate identity have merged and grown. Today, the corporate brand development is a vital activity, even with smaller companies that, someday, want to be big ones. Today, in many companies, marketing is actually a subset of branding. How things change over time.

Martin Jelsema

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