Rich Identity

You are welcome to share your thoughts on this article written by Tony Di Donato, Managing Director of Di Donato Partners, Australia

How identity in business has been flattened to a strategic paper.

Ever wondered about what your first real idea was? Think about this… it was the thought of ‘I’, ‘me’ ‘I am’. Our identity is the first idea that ‘pops’ into our head at about the age of 2. This idea is profound; it guides us and shapes us for the rest of our lives. It creates our meaning and enables us to be identified. It is a rich energy—full of life!

In business however, the concept of identity over the past couple of decades has become soulless. It has been relegated to an A4 piece of paper—a strategic template along side the other strategic inputs of a business or brand plan. We have killed its spirit, energy and its deep value.

On a positive note, the next Marketing Manager will always begin the cyclic process of a ‘brand identity rejuvenation’ program—but they really are only proposing a visual re-design or re-positioning exercise packaged in fancy brand language. A sure way to kill any remaining value that might be there deep in its energy vault.

Identity, whether for a corporate organisation or a consumer brand, is a powerful asset when deeply understood and elegantly managed.

The key to understanding identity is not via consumers or target markets, nor competitors or other external influences, it comes from its heritage, myths, core purpose and vision—it comes from respecting identity as a living breathing entity and understanding its relevance in a contemporary marketplace. Short of this, and the loss is tremendous.

Look around and see the ‘same’ businesses and brands that proliferate our world—the tag lines, the promises and even visual cues and symbols, all communicating the same with meaningless differences. Ask yourself, can you really identify the differences between one bank and the next? They say competition is healthy. I think it’s repetitive. Identification is healthy.

Over the past two decades I have been practicing identity design and I’m still learning. I have come to respect its role in business (beyond logo and aesthetics) and the value it brings to consumers in their decision making process. Outside of business, identity is experienced in many rich facets of life and culture, from painting our faces in team colours to the indigenous cultures celebrating their ancestor’s myths, visions and rituals. Identity gives life and I believe it’s the biggest idea there is.

We live in a world where rules are being rewritten. Shifting global economic power, political order constantly under pressure, computer companies selling mobile phones, super-markets selling house branded beers, airline companies selling credit cards— it all adds to a blurring and breaking of old rules. This is the challenge in the modern day business.  This is a grand opportunity for design.

Designers are poised to lead in these changing times using our design-mind beyond visualisation. If we understand the depth of identity and use it as a rich active strategy in helping our client rebuild their businesses and brands, we will have then lived up to our own rich identity.

About the Author:

Tony is the Managing Director of Di Donato Partners, which he founded in 1989. DiDONATO is leading the design world with its revolutionary Business Design model, which holistically brings together culture, identity and design.