In 1997, a Frenchman by the name of Laurent Pontegnier had a software company that got into a huge billing wrangle with France Telecom. In the course of receiving a blizzard of faxes, letters and e-mails from the phone giant, "I noticed that all of the correspondence from France Telecom was inconsistent," he recalls. "Different logos, typefaces, placement of communications on the page; it was a total mess! I couldn't believe that these were coming from the same company." So he contacted the corporate identity department and offered to develop a customized software solution to help improve the firm's corporate image. "They were completely seduced," he says. Not long after that he sold his company to a competitor and launched Identiform, which now offers CI-Mail, a Microsoft Outlook add-on billed as "the only branded e-mail software program available today." Along with Identiform's flagship product, CI-Office, a web-based application described as "high-end corporate document management software," the company is making its first business push in the States, with Mac and PC versions of both products, a San Diego office, and a website at identiform.net.
Not that this is any off-the-shelf DIY letterhead program; it requires the collaboration of a design firm and runs from $10,000 to $50,000. The company is seeking strategic alliances with design firms to further its software synergy; partners so far include Landor, Berni Marketing & Design, and Designscout.com. Julia Wade, VP-client services at Berni, says, "Identiform protects the creative vision while enabling the client to easily implement, manage and revise the new identity - with seamless integration across all communications platforms."
European clients include Peugeot, Air France, and AXA, the world's largest insurance company. "They were not the result of a billing dispute," quips Pontegnier.