Building a strong Corporate Brand for a start-up
(Marketing @ ngena – Part I)
After 2 years at ngena (https://www.ngena.net), where I joined as Head of Marketing in August 2017, I haven’t really shared a lot of information about what I have been doing here and what progress ngena’s Marketing activities made under my leadership in this period. So, it’s time to look back and take a glance at the multiple projects my team and I worked on in the past 22 months. Therefore, I am planning to publish a series of articles in the upcoming weeks, starting with Part I about ngena’s Corporate Branding.
Getting dressed for Success
In a life of a Marketer, you don’t get too many opportunities to build a Corporate Design and Brand Identity from scratch. Normally, when you join a new company, the Corporate Design rules are pretty much set in stone and there is not much of an impact you can make unless you persuade your CEO to do a complete rebranding of your company’s Corporate Design Guidelines.
However, I was somehow lucky when I started working at ngena that not much existed in terms of Branding: yes, a logo and a PowerPoint template had been designed by an agency in 2016, a font and some colors, shapes and colored world maps where defined while setting up the new founded company. And yes, a one-page website was online. But apart from that, there was not much to build upon; no Corporate Design Guidelines, neither for internal use nor for use by our 25 global alliance partners was available. Nor did we have all necessary office templates for Word, Excel, E-Mail Signatures. Not to mention: no image library to source pictures or branded technical icons existed.
As a result, and very much unsurprisingly, people were pretty insecure about using what was there and they weren’t very confident in how to build consistent branded marketing material. Therefore, the appearance of the material that was there, was varying to a huge degree, every PowerPoint slide looked slightly different and no clear brand identity could be recognized.
Starting our visual journey
So, in January 2018, we decided to analyze the available brand assets in more detail and separate the good from the bad. For this task, we decided to work with a professional graphical designer and we chose Alex Ketzer, who runs a small graphical design agency in Cologne (http://www.alexketzer.com/).
The scope of this project was to
- give ngena’s brand a clear visual identity, that would stand out in comparison to other brands in the industry and could be easily recognized.
- develop an extensive but easy to use Corporate Design Guide.
- optimize some of the existing brand assets.
- create all necessary templates and brand assets necessary for our day to day work.
The Design Style Guide had to visually reflect, support and visualize the “key brand values ngena stands for such as high speed, connectivity, security and innovation. It should represent the speed of light of our global fiber network as well as the speed of service, we provide to our customers”.
Internally, the purpose of the guide was to give all employees – but also all partners of the alliance – a clear guidance on how the brand was supposed to look like and how colleagues and partners could create their own documents based on the newly created guidelines: be it in Word, Powerpoint, Video, Online or other ways.
Optimizing what was excellent: our logo
Everybody really liked the original logo, so we started from here. With its rainbow colors, it ideally reflected our global approach of offering services worldwide and via multiple telecommunication partners with their different colored corporate logos. Moreover, the idea behind ngena’s logo resembles a bit to the multi-color Olympic Rings, designed in 1913 by Pierre de Coubertin, which were also meant to be truly international.
But while the original logo was a strong brand asset, it also had some weaknesses: while the white logo could be well read on a black background, the multi-colored version was not optimized for dark backgrounds. In addition, the outline of the logo was not bold enough, so looking at it from a distance (e.g. on sign posts at fairs), you could not recognize it well. So, we started slightly optimizing the logo and its colors, making the outline a bit thicker and the colors a bit stronger when being used on black or light backgrounds.
The image on the left shows the old and the new colored logo after optimizing the colors. The image on the right shows the bolder ngena logo, the red line indicates the slightly increased line size by 33%.
Our Fonts stayed the same
The logo is built using the “Proxima Nova” font, thus we stuck with this font type for printed material and for online use, while using “Calibri” in open Office documents, as it is pretty close to “Proxima Nova”.
Getting rid of some unnecessary brand elements
Another objective of the project was to tidy up the brand a bit and make it leaner and neater. Therefore, we got rid of the colored shapes that our old brand collaterals contained, which were also used very inconsistently within ngena.
A world full of images
The next step was to create a convincing pictorial world and image library, which ngena did not have. Especially the images had to express the very idea behind the ngena business model and needed to reflect the already mentioned “key brand values such as high speed, connectivity, security and innovation”.
To find images that would express this idea, we looked for stock pictures (for cost reasons we did not make an own photo shooting) that showed different movements from cars, trains, airplanes etc. in a sort of a light tunnel that contained certain light effects that would appear within these movements. We called those pictures our “Tunnel view” series and we described it as follows: “The tunnel view represents the VPN tunnels we build to deliver secure and reliable network services. In its colors, the images also represent the ngena logo colors, that stand for the diversity of our global alliance network.”
For a second series, we looked for “People in Motion”, showing office workers that would be in motion in typical business situations, e.g. at the airport, on a moving stairway, in the office etc. Both series were photographed using a long-time exposure effect, so that the speed of light and movement was seen in the pictures. In addition, we added a colored line to the people’s movements, to give those pictures a link to the colorful “Tunnel View” images and to add some idea of the “Speed of light” of our technical networks.
People Image Series – built from stock images
At the end of 2018, we hired Uwe Nölke & Team (https://www.team-uwe-noelke.de/ – see his blog article about the ngena shooting here) to shot portraits of our Management Team, our Editorial Bloggers Team and some other office scenes for the HR section of our new website, which was still under construction at that time. He also shot some background images for our “People in Motion” series with our colleagues in the office and added the portraits to those images later, so that they would look more “on brand”.
People Image Series – built from our photoshoot in office
People Image Series – (on the left) used as backgrounds for portrait images and (on the right) as stock images for our brand identity
A second part of the image library was the development of an Icon Library. As ngena works in the telecommunications industry, many technical drawings are created to show the technical set-up of our platform and networks. A lot of technical icons are standards, used by almost every telco provider. But to create consistency in our technical documents, we agreed it would be necessary to have our own, ngena specific icons available.
Specially designed icons for technical explanations
We thus created more than 50 different icons, that represent different parts of our technical solutions and that now can be used by ngena employees to create branded technical presentations and graphics.
To add another visual element to our collaterals, Alex came up with the idea to create a “rainbow line” as footer element on many of our documents (see images below) that perfectly reinforces the idea of offering a real global service with our multiple alliance partners that are already incorporated in our logo.
Our Corporate Visual Identity quickly advanced
Once the image and icon library were developed and the Design Guide had defined the overall look and feel of our visual identity incl. font types, the colors palette, logo types, graphical elements etc. we started to build our first collaterals in our new design. From brochures, post cards, flyers, posters, compliment cards, business cards etc. – everything was properly defined by Alex and our team in our Design Guidelines and later on produced. Beyond that, we created a set of easy-to-use Office templates for Word, PowerPoint, Excel, e-mail signatures etc. and made them available via our social collaboration tools and Intranet.
Next to this, we started to rework all existing documents, especially a huge number of inconsistently looking PowerPoint files: In several weeks and with the help of Anna Müller, a graphical designer specialized in PowerPoint presentations (www.formatallee.de), we re-designed more than 150-slides and created a Master PowerPoint template deck, that ngena colleagues can now use to create their individual but “on brand” slide decks.
New Work Experience – Our Corporate Design graces our offices
To create a real 360-degree brand experience, we also put some efforts in re-designing our office interior, which you can see in the pictures below. We put up some wall boards with our branded world map and the alliance logos of our partners.
As you can see, the door signs continue to contain the colored line, our font style and bolder white on black ngena logo.
Even the doors were decorated with a semi-transparent logo and the grid motif from our world map.
Training was key
Everybody knows, that a project like this doesn’t stop with the creation of the actual material. It rather starts when the people need to be convinced and trained to use the new material appropriately. Therefore, we set up several 90-min. training sessions and explained the new brand guidelines to all colleagues. We also produced a short 90sec. video to showcase the changes and additions for our internal communication. As people really loved the new brand experience and the new material started making their lives much easier, it luckily wasn’t too difficult to convince them to use the new material that we created.
A special “thank you” goes to my colleague Alisha who joined ngena in April 2018 and since then has made a huge contribution to this project. She was a big help, when it came to the roll-out of all brand elements, worked very hard on the creation of countless PowerPoints and was responsible for creating the 360-degree experience in the ngena office. And she even created this 90 seconds film that summarizes nicely the progress we made: enjoy watching it!
The story doesn’t stop here
But this was just the start of my little journey in ngena’s new discovered world of Marketing. Read in my next article, how this trip continues to the online world and how we built a new web experience with our new Corporate Website.
Stay tuned for my upcoming blog articles.