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How Building a Business Identity Works

What is Your Position?

If you read our "Building your Marketing Plan" article then you probably have an idea of what positioning is. In that article we stated that positioning is the perception your target audience has of your product. Planning your product's positioning must involve taking into consideration such issues as the competition and how their products are perceived, the needs and desires of your target audience, and the element of mystique or drama that your product or service naturally has about it.

In crowded markets it is very important to position your product appropriately. Think about the advertising messages your audience is bombarded with every day. In order to stand out, your product has to have a clear position their minds. But how do you come up with the positioning for your product?


First, you have to determine a broad positioning. This means determining if your product should fall into a niche, be a low-cost-leader, or a product differentiator. These are each very different strategy highways, and will take you in different directions when fine tuning your message. Think of the qualities of your product, its strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities you've uncovered, the pricing you've considered, and your target market to determine which broad position you will be taking.

Next, you will have to determine specific positioning. This could be based on a certain quality or benefit of your product such as ease of use, durability, reliability, safety, convenience, etc. In some cases you may even be able to position your product based on two qualities. For example, think of Volvo. Safety and durability are their primary and secondary positions.

Taglines and positioning statements

Once you have a specific position developed that fits your business, your products, your goals, and your customers' needs, turn that position into a single statement that can be used with your logo on everything that comes out of your business. Sound hard? Of course it is. You have to be creative and often getting help from an outsider such as a public relations firm or ad agency is a good idea because it's a fresh set of eyes looking at it more likely as your customers might look at it. Or, at least get a good consensus from family, friends, associates, and your employees. Talk to as many people as you can.

Your tagline isn't something you want to change. It will be used in your advertising messages, on promotional items, posters, banners, your web site... you get the idea. Make the right decision from the beginning and stick with it.

Business culture

Creating a business culture is also an essential element of establishing your identity as a company. A business culture pulls in the total experience, meaning the complete vision and mission for your company. The culture has to be communicated and enmeshed with your style and image. Your vision and mission must not only relate back to your position, but should also dictate the manner in which you communicate who you are to your customers.

Vision statement

A vision statement is a business's guiding image of success, formed in terms of their contribution to society. It is a more emotionally-derived statement that elicits a visual image of the company's destination. It is the dream that brought the whole thing to reality. Perhaps you saw a problem and your vision is the solution to that problem. Your vision is the final product. For example, an architect's vision is the final product of his design. An artist's vision is the final artwork that he creates.

Similarly, your business vision is the ultimate goal of what you are trying to accomplish, or how you are trying to alter the current landscape in your market to make it better.

Here are some examples of company vision statements:

  • From a state department of education. --Each school will exemplify a community of virtue in which caring, justice and fairness, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, and service learning are regularly expected, modeled, taught and celebrated as an integral part of the curriculum and daily school operation. Working in partnership with family and community, these practices will result in improved student achievement, safe, orderly school environments, and citizens that are contributing members of society.
  • From the American Probation and Parole Association. --We see a fair, just and safe society where community partnerships are restoring hope by embracing a balance of prevention, intervention, and advocacy.
  • From a hotel chain. --To be a premier hotel company by exceeding industry standards through innovation and team member excellence, ensuring the satisfaction of our guests and shareholders.

Mission statement

A mission statement is defined as a business's guiding principles that state what the company's goals are, what their values are, and where they are headed. The mission statement defines the company's overall plan in a succinct and interesting manner with a tone reflective of the tone of the business itself. It should answer questions like:

  1. What needs does the business address? Or, what is the purpose of the business?
  2. How does the business address those needs?
  3. What are the principles and beliefs that guide how the company addresses the need?

Here is some examples of mission statements

  • From a home healthcare company-- "To improve the quality of our customers' lives."
  • From a a big brother/big sister organization.-- "To make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth, primarily through a professionally supported, one-to-one relationship with a caring adult, and to assist them in achieving their highest potential as they grow to become confident, competent, and caring individuals, by providing committed volunteers, national leadership, and standards of excellence."

Employer branding

Employer branding is the image your company displays to potential employees, and builds with employees once they're onboard. Much of your employer branding will overlap with your corporate identity. In fact, according to a survey by The Conference Board Inc., New York, the goals of corporate branding and employer branding have significant overlap at about 90% of all companies.

Employer branding helps employees internalize a company's values and goals. By creating a unified feeling among your employees, you can more effectively communicate that same message to your customers. Effective employer branding also promotes good customer service and a consistent message throughout your company.

This article should have given you some ideas about what your business identity could be, or at least how take steps toward determining the information you need to set up your business identity. Now we'll go into how to put that information down on paper into written guidelines for use by you and your employees, in order to help achieve consistency in how your image is displayed to the public. After all, you don't want to waste all of that time and effort you spent coming up with your company's position by allowing a mishmash of images to float out to your customers.