Ideas and insights > Does your division have an identity crisis?

Does your division have an identity crisis?

Our thought leader:

Chris Milan
Chris Milan
Director of Branding and Messaging

Your group or division is an important part of the corporate organization—but is your identity getting lost within your company’s overall brand?

There can be real power in having a strong parent company behind you. But your focus may be very different, and your unique value may not be coming through loud and clear. That can create challenges that can impact your group—and even the company as a whole—including:

  • Market confusion. If your division’s focus is specialized, but the better-known corporate brand is associated with a different or broader array of offerings, you can’t effectively leverage its brand equity—or worse, you may actually be turning off potential customers who don’t know you have exactly what they need.
  • Growth constraints. If your division doesn’t stand out against competitors—or even other company divisions—you’re missing opportunities to expand your reach and grow the business.
  • Employee disengagement. Your people may lack motivation and a sense of belonging if they don’t understand how your division’s work supports the overarching company mission. And other employees may not fully understand your value or purpose, making it difficult for you to partner effectively with other business units for the greater good of the company.

On the flip side, creating a distinct and compelling divisional identity within the larger corporate brand can drive success for both your business unit and the company as a whole.

Those benefits include:

  • A strong foundation for a targeted marketing strategy. When you can tailor your division’s messaging, thought leadership content, and marketing materials and plans to the specialized needs of your target customers, you can increase engagement, trust, and loyalty.
  • Sharper competitive differentiation. Distinct division branding brings your advantages and unique selling points into focus, giving your potential customers an easier way to compare their options—and giving you a competitive edge.
  • Internal partnership-building. Communicating your group’s value in a way that’s clear, relevant, and relatable to your internal business partners sets the stage for building stronger relationships and driving future growth for the business.
  • Raising your division’s profile. A strong divisional brand story tells everyone at your company the critical role you play and how they benefit from the work you do, which can help ensure you are consulted on key decisions and get the resources your group needs to excel. 
  • Talent attraction and retention. A clear, division-specific brand identity helps attract and engage people that relate to your purpose and offerings—even those for whom the parent company brand doesn’t resonate strongly. It can also help boost employee morale, increase motivation, and raise productivity—a win-win-win for your division, your employees, and your company.

So once you’ve identified the need for a strong divisional brand, what steps should you take to create it? Consider the following blueprint.

These seven steps will help you develop and communicate a unique brand identity that highlights your strengths, complements your parent company’s brand, and addresses your group’s specific goals and audiences.

  1. Start with a deep dive into your division’s DNA. Identify your division-specific purpose, value, and culture, and how they both connect to—and differentiate your division from—the company as a whole. Everything you create for your division’s brand should ladder up to these core elements.
  2. Create a messaging framework. Identify the key themes that showcase your division’s value; these should run through all your messaging, and can be tailored to the functional and emotional needs of your specific audience segments. That will help you focus your marketing messages on the most compelling reasons to do business with your group.
  3. Bring out your brand personality. People have an innate desire to build relationships. But it’s hard to build one with your customers and colleagues if your communications are full of corporatespeak. So think about how you want people to feel when interacting with your group, and the personality traits that most authentically capture the spirit of your division. Then use them to give your messaging a distinctive voice and tone that differentiates your group from the overarching corporate brand.
  4. Define your position. A brand manifesto wraps your purpose in meaning and gives it emotional resonance. Create one for your division that captivates your customers and inspires your employees. It can become the centerpiece of your “About” statement on your company website, the theme for marketing campaigns, and more.
  5. Craft a visual identity. Show how your brand comes to life in a distinctive and ownable visual approach that also lives in harmony with your parent brand. It should make your group’s communications instantly recognizable while clearly conveying your connection to the company. Make sure to loop in your company’s brand managers to explore how much flexibility you have within corporate brand guidelines.
  6. Put it all together in a playbook. A succinct document that captures all the elements of your division’s brand, including examples of how to express it, will enable everyone to convey it consistently across all communications touchpoints.
  7. Roll it out. When it’s time to introduce your division’s new brand to the world, consider both your employee and customer audiences.
    • Plan an internal communications campaign and events to engage and inform employees. Consider sending division representatives on an internal “roadshow” to introduce your new brand story to other business units, armed with a presentation deck and handouts (and maybe some fun swag!).
    • Launch an email campaign to customers and prospects that showcases your new brand story and look. Use your new messaging framework to focus on how your division can provide value to them, and why you’re the best choice to meet their specific needs.

And don’t forget the power of your parent company.

Does it have global reach? Is the corporate brand known for its long history or industry innovation? Leverage your company’s appropriate strengths in your new brand story, translating them in ways that are relevant for your customers, markets, and products.

Following this blueprint will help you carve out your own division’s identity while maintaining harmony with your parent company’s brand. The result will be a new narrative and visuals that clearly convey your value to your partners and customers—and will empower your people to tell a consistent, compelling story about your group and your impact on the business.

Does your group or division need a distinctive brand story? JK is ready to help. Let’s talk.

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