What visions, feelings and thoughts come to mind when you think of Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream or Nike? The mention of each company name probably called to mind some type of thought, feeling or vision, whereas Sally's Imports (a store you are probably not familiar with) does not. That's because each of the first four companies has created a distinguishable company image.
A company image is the combination of the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions and visions people have about you, your products and services, or your company.
Note, it is what others think and feel about your business, not what you think or what your sales literature and sales staff says. Your image might precede your actual contact with a prospect but it will certainly follow all customer contacts and set the stage for future interactions. Consequently, even the smallest of companies should be aware of and do whatever is appropriate to promote its image.
Your company image is both a simple and complex concept. It's simple because successful companies create images that are easily described and recognized by their target audiences. It's complex because it takes many discreet elements working together to create an image. Some of the elements that create an image are advertising, marketing communications, publicity, store locations, prices and product positioning.
Your company image is also your identity in the marketplace. Your identity is not exclusive to you. A competitor may have the same image as you. For example, think about two grocery store chains that operate in your region. Both may have an image of offering quality products at reasonable prices. You might feel equally comfortable in stores of both chains, think they hire competent and friendly people and appreciate each enterprise's contribution to your community.
Your company image, however, may differentiate you from your competition. Using the grocery chain example again, two chains may offer quality products at reasonable prices. However, one chain might not be as clean or brightly lit as another. Its employees might not be as helpful and friendly. You may choose the clean, brightly lit, friendly store because of those image attributes alone.
Interestingly, your company has an image even if you do not undertake any activities to try to build one. If you're successful, you have customers. And, your customers have thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions about you and your products and services.
Even if you do not advertise, distribute flyers, pass out brochures or issue press releases, it might surprise you that the following items will quietly, yet actively, create a company image. (Your image is created by more than this list of items, but reviewing this list will give you an idea of how the simplest of things may leave an indelible impression.)
Your company logo. Does it evoke the desired thoughts and feelings in your target audience?
Your Web site. Is it zany and full of wild colors or conservative and designed with muted colors?
Product packaging. Do products from the same line look like they came from the same company?
The look of your business cards, letterhead and invoices. A look is created with color, paper quality and type style.
How your store looks, even how it smells. Your window displays are essentially advertisements for people passing by.
The location and hours of operation of your store.
How employees interact with customers in person and on the phone.
How your phone is answered.
How you and your employees are dressed.
The Importance of a Company Image
Company Image and Positioning
Company Image and Marketing Communications
Creating a Company Image