March 7, 2005

Corporate Branding

These days, a word, “brand,” is getting more popular than ever. Many corporate managers use the word, “brand,” as a cliché for their project management, or many consumers all over the world are attracted by luxury “brands,” Prada, Gucci, and many…

So, let’s think about what the hell of this word “brand” means??

[What is a brand?]
Although the definition of brand itself is controversial, let me define a brand as “timeless value for the customers, which belongs to the company.” It means that company’s brand is not related to the change of time and it is aimed at their customers.

[Why branding?]
In the middle of 80’s, due to the high growth of Japanese economy, many companies were trying to expand their business to different fields which they never explored. Like Japan Airlines or Santory, many companies called themselves “life industry.” At this time, similar movement, Corporate Identity (C.I.) Activity, was occurred. This C.I. activity focused on the company’s point of view rather than customer’s point of view. Companies changed their name and redesigned new logo according to the expansion of their business fields.

However, branding, now people call, is different from the past movement, C.I. activity, because the market and economy have been totally changed since that time. After our market reached the certain maturity, now the companies have to change their management to opposite direction, returning to their main business. So, recently selection and concentration became more popular keyword. During the process of selection and concentration, branding significantly takes an important role as a company’s guide. To clarify the company’s value and future, now branding is one of the biggest interests in the business.

[How to create a brand?]
So, we understand the significance of branding, but how?? There are two stages, invisible and visible phases.

First of all, we must realize what our company is and where it is going to the future. Without knowing ourselves and our future vision, we cannot achieve a solid and consistent brand image. In other words, branding starts from defining the identity of the company. This stage, invisible phase, is very essential and important.

In the following visible phase, once the corporate identity is set, we can turn it into something visible such as logo, products, advertisements, and so forth. Here, it is important that this visualization process has to be done as a whole company to create a sense of unity. Everybody and everything related to the company have to be involved in branding.

There are some points to be considered about branding. First, communication of branding needs to be “easy to understand,” “easy to remember,” and “easy to convey” just because brand needs to be shared with everybody. Second, a brand needs to be recognized in both reasonable and emotional ways. Neither only a numerical vision nor only a futuristic dream is enough to create a brand. Moreover, the most important point is to create a unique brand image with thorough consistency as a whole company.


We can see a good example of the second phase, brand visualization, in brand strategy of IBM ThinkPad. IBM Design created and distributed a poster throughout the company that visualized the questions: “What is the ThinkPad?” and “What kind of user is it for?” This campaign really helps the employee to understand not only the concept of the laptop computer but also the company’s business style and the target customer.

Lastly, I want to introduce the interesting data about brand ranking announced by Interbrand, brand consultant company.

Every year, they calculate brand values and report the ranking in BusinessWeek magazine. Many interesting findings are shown here. Toyota beaten Mercedes and got the first position among automobile companies because of its stable management and environmental consciousness. And of course, the world’s biggest boom, iPod, contributed a largest brand increase for Apple.




1980年半ば、経済の成長に支えられ多くの日本の企業はこぞってその事業領域を拡大していった。日本航空やサントリーなどのように、自身を生活産業と呼んでいた企業もあった時代である。そんな当時でもブランディングに似た、C.I. (コーポレート・アイデンティティー)活動という動きがあった。このC.I.活動は、顧客の視点からというよりも企業側からの会社のイメージ作りという性格が強かった。この活動のもと、企業は事業拡大に伴い、その名前を変え、新たなロゴをデザインした。






上記の第二段階の好例としてIBM社のThinkPadのブランド戦略があげられる。 ThinkPadの開発に当たり、IBM デザインは、「ThinkPadって何?」とか「ThinkPadのユーザーって誰?」といった質問をヴィジュアル化したポスターを制作、全社的に配布したのである。この活動は社員にそのノートパソコンのコンセプトを理解させるにとどまらず、企業の経営方針や顧客の姿を理解させることにも役に立った。