Corporate Face: The Five Masks

Naseem Javed | January 24,2013 11:13 am IST

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 dependent names.

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


Naseem Javed author of Image Supremacy is a world recognized authority on global naming and brand name identities complexities and expert on ICANN gTLD dot name global cyber branding affairs. He is founder of ABC Namebank, ...