Do you need a new corporate identity?

Corporate identity (CI) is something most people running their own business feel quite vague about – something, they might feel, that’s to do with branding and marketing perhaps, but the kind of thing only huge multinationals have to worry about. It sounds so… corporate, after all. To shed a bit of light on CI, and what it can do for the average dental practice owner, we spoke to Alex Graham, Breathe’s creative director.

OK Alex, so what is CI?

It’s another word for rebranding, which most of the time is about getting people to take another look at your business. If you want people to reassess what you do, or take notice, the best way to do that is a rebrand.

What’s the process?

Initially we have a discussion about what the client is trying to achieve and what they’d like to carry through from their existing corporate identity. We’ll explore different ideas about how they can access different markets and try and find ways of aligning that with their values. With top level projects – for instance, in dentistry, Harley Street practices – the client should expect a range of ideas to show how their values and personality can be formalised into various logos.

Often the groundwork will have already been laid for the marketing messages in the form of USPs (unique selling points) and a shortlist of brand personality traits (when you describe the brand as if it were a person). Then the designer is briefed, and it’s their job to come up with concepts around the USP.

I usually do a range of around three interpretations focusing on the USPs and brand values; one evolutionary, which means taking the existing corporate identity and refreshing / developing it based on what already exists; one revolutionary, which means something completely new based on what we have discussed; and one somewhere in between.

How often should dentists be commissioning work on their CI?

A good CI will last far longer than a website (which usually needs work every three years or so) as long as it is backed up with interesting ideas and supporting communications. Ideally you don’t want to be changing the core brand too often because then you’ll lose the equity that builds up over time, and in that respect it’s very good value – there’s no reason why it shouldn’t last a lifetime, just like a decent set of dental implants…!

How much does it cost?

Return on investment is the key thing, and the key to ROI is design effectiveness. Unfortunately rebranding is one of those things where ROI isn’t always measured. The CI I did for Breathe in 2010 achieved 900 per cent ROI – and won a DBA silver [a Design Effectiveness Award from the Design Business Association].

The main thing more money buys is more ideas and more depth of concept. For £1,500 basic I could show you two or three ideas and how they might be applied. With more investment I can show you all sorts of things we could do, and then work with you to develop them.

Bigger projects will include a brand book, which is a guide to the new brand and how to use it; including design style dos and don’ts, the colour palette, typography and general pointers as to how the logo and typographic style should be consistently applied.

How do you know if you can trust the designer?

For me, it’s less waffle, less chat. If they waffle on about design for hours and promise the Earth, that should ring alarm bells. A good designer can show you their work and you’ll have a gut feeling that it’s had a positive impact on that company and it carries clear messages.

How do you know it’s worked?

You can’t expect everyone to suddenly buy your services, but when you do CI right, along with appropriate marketing, straight away you should notice new enquiries and old leads getting back in touch. Long term, if you deliver a consistent brand, it will work magic for you and will feed your communications forever.

If you’ve ever played the Logo Guessing Game with your kids you’ll get an idea of how powerful this can be. My kids can guess logos even with 90 per cent of the logo covered up or missing, which shows how you can really embed them into the mind through clarity of concept and consistency.


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