Combining corporate identity with product niche

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One of the dilemmas facing businesses is the need to promote all their products and services on a limited budget.

Everyone knows that it’s usually more effective to focus on promoting only one key product or service in a single communication.

If you operate on the internet and have multiple products and services with unrelated markets, this is not a problem.  You simply treat each one as an individual ‘business’ and promote each product separately without regard to the others.  Many internet marketers operate multiple businesses, some under their own personal corporate identity and some under other names to maintain the strength of the identity articulated in each market.

But if you have bricks and mortar business – or an internet business – where there is a certain amount of overlap between your market segments, what do you do?

The ideal situation is to promote both corporate identity and product simultaneously, but how is this possible? After all, the corporate strategic positioning may differ from individual product or service positioning.  The corporate entity has to appeal to all it’s markets whereas product markets are often tightly niched.

On the internet people usually search for what they want in a very specific manner. In a bricks and mortar retail situation, a customer may be looking for something specific, but when they walk into the store, there are other items on display which may also interest them and become part of their purchase.  On the internet and with physical B2B selling, this is not usually the case.

In the latter two situations, the customer is focused and it’s best to provide them with what they’re looking for and close the sale as quickly as possible before attempting to interest them in other products or services.  If you don’t, the chances are they will not find you as a supplier for their requirements because you’ll be advertising broadly while they are searching narrowly.

So, in these instances, how is it possible to combine an overall corporate identity in a tightly focused marketing message?  And is this even desirable?

Once again, it depends on the business you’re in.  With a bricks and mortar business, the answer is that it is possible and it is desirable.  In an internet based business this may also be the case if you have a number of products within the same market segment, for instance ‘internet marketing’.  By creating a credible corporate identity and building trust through excellent products and services, you will increase cross sales between overlapping market segments.

The best way to achieve this is to create a strong corporate identity ‘template’ which remains the same irrespective of what the marketing message / product may be. This means that every communication has the same presentation ‘feel’ about it, even though the actual product message may differ from communication to communication.

Consistently using the same corporate logo, corporate colors and fonts, as well as the same corporate language, allows the identity to become firmly established in the market place.  Creating a corporate strategic positioning message (often referred to as a ‘tag line’ or ‘slogan’ or ‘U.S.P.’) allows the core value proposition of the company to be consistently communicated to the market. Eventually the message and the ‘look’ become synonymous in the market mind – each will trigger a ‘memory’ of the other.

The specific product or service positioning message is given prominence in the communication, with the corporate message under-girding it in the ‘template’ that is being used.  This allows the market to identify with the corporate image i.e. their perception of the company’s stability, reliability and credibility which opens them to accept the specific product message.

Why is this so important? People feel more secure making a purchasing decision if they trust the vendor.  A strong corporate identity helps to create this trust, therefore articulation of a strong corporate identity together with a specific product message is desirable.

Some key points to consider when creating a corporate identity are:

Your market preferences:

  • what type of language does your market use and what type of language do they expect from you?
  • what colors appeal to them?
  • what fonts will work best?
  • what kind of image should you have?
  • what kind of message will be most meaningful to your market?
  • is your market segmented?  If so, these criteria need to be applied to each segment.

One of the simplest ways to find out what the market preferences are is to create samples of a corporate identity based on a variety of options that you feel will work.  These options can be presented to a typical cross section of your market using focus groups, polls or competitions.

Getting feedback from the market can be invaluable in determining which approach to adopt before spending huge amounts on commissioning agencies, designers and writers.  If the ‘test’ market response favors one approach significantly over another, this favored option will obviously become your choice.  If there is no significant differences, choose the one with a slight margin.  Tweak it and test it until the response increases.

Then ensure that this identity is defined and clearly communicated to everyone responsible for creating communications so that it is correctly implemented across the board.

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