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Corporate Face: The Five Masks
by Naseem Javed

 
   
 
   

Every corporation has a face, as imagery, shine and style is inter-layered into a skin appearing as a mask with uplift captured by its distinct name identity and poised to reach the upper stratosphere of stardom. Corporate masks are just like real people, some are exciting and some boring, some you remember and some you forget, some you like and some you simply don’t. Whether you like it or not, at this very moment, your corporate mask is out there on the block, fully exposed and it’s being judged by the global markets. Following are the five common masks and now the question is not which is the best but rather why? Any image is good if it is in sync with your long term plans and can ring cash registers, otherwise these masks can choke and suffocate as so often the main reason of collapse of grandiose business plans. Take a deep breath, be honest but first look in the mirror.

The Hippie Mask

When an image is often a spinning burst of soft and bright colors like a freeze frame sliced from a kaleidoscope, where you hear hip-hop to bebop music from gentle to 140 beats per minute transfused form various eras and styles, where it’s always the right time to ride a brightly green microbus to a watch the whales, and where the sun hardly ever sets. Welcome to the early age hippie-land as here colors are so wildly greenish and so Jello-yellow while images are carefully designed to not only touch gently your soul, but also firmly your wallet. This type of mask is all around us from consumer-packaged goods to all other sectors. Once exclusive to soda pop or soap selling this style with overly slip-n-slide and touchy feely names a very large number of heavy industrial giants from mega petrochemicals to global mining companies have adopted such themes to fit eco friendly trends. Most of the time such imagery does get attention, but high density of this motif makes the imagery overlapping and forgetful unless it is in your face all the time and for this reason alone this it provides the largest billing share to the global ad marketing services.

Identifier: generic and forgetful names wrapped in logo themes.

Evaluation: appears easy and fun to play but works only with unlimited ad budgets.

Caution: How do these identities fit with ever expanding universe of global audience and how truly solid are their name identities and trademarks?

The Mortician Mask

This kind of mask is full of dull, dark and stale colors often fading to black. Dark suits are a must. Artificial smiles, firm hand shakes and powerful scents. Some distant sound of an organ piped throughout the organization, where hypnotized posturing is considered fashionable. Traditionally such masks worked very well before the ecommerce revolution. This kind of image is still very common in old technology based manufacturing or financial services but recently banks are dropping this altogether to adopt the brighter psychedelic fluidity image on a fast track basis. This mortician mask if named after the founders or some great landmark, city or country gets rigidly stuck as limited in its reach in an ever expanding global market.

Identifier: long and descriptor names often initialized just to appear modern.

Evaluation: if the entrapment of old guards becomes an unspoken water-cooler mantra or if despite all efforts the old perception will simply won’t go away.

Caution: the lingering and dying image often kills innovation or hurts moral

The Ivy-League Mask

Here distinct element of intellectual snobbery seems a prerequisite. Sometimes it really exists but most of the time it is just a show. In both cases, the image is driven with an elitist language and style, Times Roman fonts and formal lingo. Projection of wealth, old money and sense of security is the prime thrust. Dark green, dark burgundy and dark blue are the most sought after colors. Famous and literary types of names are used as the corporate monikers. The Internet has made a big punch in style of corporate communications as with a flashy website a mediocre experience can be made to appear as very exclusive and world class expertise.

Identifier: historical names and symbols with legendary quotes and references.

Evaluation: how to balance the image with delivery of quality and promise.

Caution: the increased dilution of classy ideas with mixed skills under flashier websites.

The Cybernaut Mask

Here, image, name and branding things are mouse driven, what you see is not what you get. This image is here today and gone tomorrow. Ingenuity and stupidity are both displayed in a simultaneous interaction. Just don’t blink too fast. Great ideas, packaged as silly brands and named in the most ridiculous fashion are the standard. It works but extremely rarely as the subtly and cuteness before deciphered in the marketplace first kills the cash flow. Colors are mostly out of control, total imagery and business model is translucent while corporate name identity is transient. As technology changes, so do the names. There is constant surgery to an existing name, primarily to accommodate trademark conflicts and secondly because the original name never matched the core business. This is a very crowded area and of the millions of technology companies only less than 1% have achieved some stardom and despite great ideas most brilliant techies along with their smart VCs are mostly chasing each other in masquerade balls all over the world.

Identifier: the most inappropriate, forgettable and technology dependant names.

Evaluation: names and messages are changed and modified every season to cope with technological and evolutionary trends.

Caution: zealous creativity threatens the longevity of the name identity and sudden changes take away customer’s connectivity with the business thus sucking the cash flow and spinning the business in a downward spiral.

The Dinosaur Mask

You can’t ignore the most twisted or irrelevant logos and colors wrapped around intertwined and multiple meaning names, often as a result of long term surgery to any mask. The glory of the past and dynamic mergers and acquisition creates a disconnected train of iconic engines each pulling in a different direction. Here the long corridors and the stale smell of the office will lead you to the old graveyards. Unexplainable color schemes and overuse of florescent lights of the squarely placed massive HQ complex speaks loud and clear of the glories of the past. The corporate names are several feet long. Some get telescoped or initialized to some weird and strange combinations, acronym and initials. Sometimes one can trace the bloody battles of mergers and acquisitions of the past in the lineage of the name where as a mark of distinction a small part of the previous name or just a single letter is preserved. Hence the awkward names with confusing messages.

Identifier: meet the Frankenstein, when several names of businesses are compressed and twisted together.

Evaluation: long names always describe an older process so why show off facial scars?

Caution: any sudden change for a new mask must be deeply intelligent processes otherwise a change may lead into something totally new but its weird concoction would park the image in an undesired carnival parade. Most are too embarrassed to admit such fiascoes or to decide to re-change all over again.

The Faceless Empires

There are millions of other organizations too that do not place any importance to image and name identity at all. Welcome to the largest group of these faceless empires on this planet. Here nothing makes a difference. What name? What image? What identity? Like a humongous school project the bosses run the operation by the seat of the pants without any global identity blueprint, always chasing profit in panic and often in the dark but constantly complaining about lack of attention given to them in the markets. For every well defined image and identity there are thousands of such faceless organizations. The meltdown and commoditization are both critical wake-up calls for this sector.

Makeover-Techniques

These particular masks represent the last century thinking where such image solutions presented by creative agencies of the period molded these types of businesses imagery. Now in a post-meltdown and hyper accelerated global image shifting world most would appear to be almost misfit. No matter what, keeping an open mind is the best way to measure the cost of keeping the current mask, identity and layers of imagery. You can bring in brand new special knowledge in your organization on how to achieve the right makeover, but please do not confuse this with the traditional logo-slogan dependant rebranding processes. Image makeovers, in a post meltdown adjustment are extremely critical today, but first thing you need is a real mirror.


       
   
 
       
   

The Author

Naseem Javed

Naseem Javed, founder of ABC Namebank, is recognized as a world authority on image positioning and global naming complexities. He is currently helping corporations on ICANN’s new gTLD cyber-platforms and lecturing about new nomenclature frontiers and global cyber-branding.
Contact: Naseem Javed | nj@njabc.com .

Toronto - New York - Dubai

 
       
   
 
       
   
Many more articles in Insight & Commentary and Branding in The CEO Refresher Archives
 
       
   
 
       
   
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Copyright 2011 by Naseem Javed. All rights reserved.

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