Last week we addressed why Corporate Branding has taken prominence over product branding. The fact is that companies can no longer rely on service/product differentiation strategies as their mainstay for sustainable competitive advantage because of the rapid rate of service imitation from competitors and the increasing sophistication of consumers in respect of their drivers of consumption.

In the era of Corporate Branding, it is the values and emotions reflected by the organisation itself that will increasingly become the keys to competitive differentiation as the corporate brand itself moves front and centre and client attention shifts from the product to the corporation itself.

In this post I’d like to take this further by looking at 6 of the main differences between corporate branding and product brands

1. Shift in focus from product to corporation

The branding focus shifts from product to corporation. Although obviously the two are still interrelated, there is a change in focus – away from the service/product and its customer and onto the corporation, its ideologies and beliefs. This puts organisational behaviour in the spotlight and, as brand ambassadors, employee interactions are subject to heightened examination.

2. Organisational Culture Health

As a consequence of the increased focus on employee and organisational behaviour, the need for a healthy organisational culture becomes important. In turn, the role of brand management moves from the product level to the strategic level and is recognised as a key responsibility of the corporate executive.

3. From Customer Focus to Stakeholder Focus

The third difference relates to the brand’s targets. While the product brand mainly targets consumers, the corporate brand must target ALL the company’s stakeholders: from suppliers, partners, community and industry groups through to government and other interested parties, so that the the corporate brand must consider the organisation’s multiple stakeholders.

4. Branding Responsibility

While the branding effort for products is the domain of marketing departments of a company, corporate branding requires organisation-wide support. The whole organisation (and I mean everyone) is involved in realising the success of the corporate brand with the audiences the brand is meant to attract and engage. In Taking the Brand Initiative authors Hatch and Shultz argue that ‘successful corporate brand is formed by the interplay between strategic vision,organisational culture and the corporate images held by its stakeholders.’ Successful corporate branding involves insync efforts of all departments. Further to this, successful corporate branding requires the alignment of internal and external communication to create a single clear image across multiple channels and media.

5. Change in Horizons

In contrast to the often short lives of product brands that “live in the present” and are regularly re-branded, corporate brands must live in both the past and the future as they are symbol of the heritage and vision of the organisation, both of which can hold considerable equity with stakeholders.

6. Increased strategic importance of corporate brands

The strategic importance of corporate branding lies not only in its positioning of the company in its marketplace, but in creating internal arrangements, for example to organisational structure, physical design and culture, that support the meaning of the corporate brand.