Corporate identity

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In marketing, a corporate identity is the "persona" of a corporation which is designed to accord with and facilitate the attainment of business objectives. It is usually visibly manifested by way of branding and the use of trademarks.[1]

Corporate identity comes into being when there is a common ownership of an organisational philosophy that is manifest in a distinct corporate culture — the corporate personality. At its most profound, the public feel that they have ownership of the philosophy.[2]

In general, this amounts to a corporate title, logo (logotype and/or logogram), and supporting devices commonly assembled within a set of guidelines. These guidelines govern how the identity is applied and confirm approved colour palettes, typefaces, page layouts and other such methods of maintaining visual continuity and brand recognition across all physical manifestations of the brand.

Many companies, such as McDonald's and Electronic Arts, have their own identity that runs through all of their products and merchandise. The trademark "M" logo and the yellow and red appears consistently throughout the McDonald's packaging and advertisements. Many companies pay large amounts of money for an identity that is extremely distinguishable, so it can appeal more to its targeted audience.

Corporate identity is often viewed as being composed of three parts:

  • Corporate design (logos, uniforms, etc.)
  • Corporate communication (advertising, public relations, information, etc.)
  • Corporate behavior (internal values, norms, etc.)

Corporate identity has become a universal technique for promoting companies and improving corporate culture. Most notable is the COCOMAS committee (ココマス委員会), and company PAOS, both founded by Motoo Nakanishi (中西元男) in Tokyo, Japan in 1968. Nakanishi fused design, management consulting and corporate culture to revolutionize corporate identity in Japan. In the United States, graphic design firms such as Chermayeff & Geismar pioneered the application of modernist principles to corporate identity design.


[edit] Sociological sense

Corporate identity can also have a sociological sense. In any large society members of a minority tend to develop a "corporate identity" where they feel a special bond to any other member of that minority even if they have never met the person before. This bond develops because they generally have similar experiences, face similar discrimination, have similar cultural values, economic limitations, etc.

In the United States, for instance, persons of Arab or Jewish ancestry, blacks, Hispanics, lesbians and gay men, and persons who follow non-Christian religions, among many other minorities, each have a sense of corporate identity. Within a particular group there are feelings of "we have to watch out for each other" and "I have an obligation not just to succeed, but to help others of my group."

A common corollary to this sense of corporate identity is a concern about assimilating into the majority culture to the extent where the minority group ceases to exist for all practical purposes. Corporate identity is promoted, strengthened and encouraged by activities such as teaching the ancestral language, practice of rituals and social customs, observance of holidays, etc., from the minority culture and discouraging marriage outside the particular group or moving to a geographic area where the minority group does not have a significant presence.

[edit] Organizational point of view

In a recent monograph on Chinese corporate identity (Routledge, 2006), Peter Peverelli, proposes a new definition of corporate identity, based on the general organization theory proposed in his earlier work, in particular Peverelli (2000). This definition regards identity as a result of social interaction:

  • Corporate identity is the way corporate actors (actors who perceive themselves as acting on behalf of the company) make sense of their company in ongoing social interaction with other actors in a specific context. It includes shared perceptions of reality, ways-to-do-things, etc., and interlocked behaviour.
  • In this process the corporate actors are of equal importance as those others; corporate identity pertains to the company (the group of corporate actors) as well as to the relevant others;
  • Corporate actors construct different identities in different contexts.

[edit] Corporate visual identity

Corporate visual identity plays a significant role in the way an organization presents itself to both internal and external stakeholders. In general terms, a corporate visual identity expresses the values and ambitions of an organization, its business, and its characteristics. Four functions of corporate visual identity can be distinguished. Three of these are aimed at external stakeholders.

  1. First, a corporate visual identity provides an organisation with visibility and "recognizability".[3] For virtually all profit and non-profit organisations, it is of vital importance that people know that the organization exists and remember its name and core business at the right time.
  2. Second, a corporate visual identity symbolizes an organization for external stakeholders, and, hence, contributes to its image and reputation (Schultz, Hatch and Larsen, 2000). Van den Bosch, De Jong and Elving (2005) explored possible relationships between corporate visual identity and reputation, and concluded that corporate visual identity plays a supportive role in corporate reputations.
  3. Third, a corporate visual identity expresses the structure of an organization to its external stakeholders, visualising its coherence as well as the relationships between divisions or units. Olins (1989) is well-known for his "corporate identity structure", which consists of three concepts: monolithic brands for companies which have a single brand, a branded identity in which different brands are developed for parts of the organization or for different product lines, and an endorsed identity with different brands which are (visually) connected to each other. Although these concepts introduced by Olins are often presented as the corporate identity structure, they merely provide an indication of the visual presentation of (parts of) the organization. It is therefore better to describe it as a "corporate visual identity structure".
  4. A fourth, internal function of corporate visual identity relates to employees' identification with the organization as a whole and/or the specific departments they work for (depending on the corporate visual strategy in this respect). Identification appears to be crucial for employees,[4] and corporate visual identity probably plays a symbolic role in creating such identification.

The definition of the corporate visual identity management is:[5]

Corporate visual identity management involves the planned maintenance, assessment and development of a corporate visual identity as well as associated tools and support, anticipating developments both inside and outside the organization, and engaging employees in applying it, with the objective of contributing to employees' identification with and appreciation of the organization as well as recognition and appreciation among external stakeholders.

Special attention is paid to corporate identity in times of organizational change. Once a new corporate identity is implemented, attention to corporate identity related issues generally tends to decrease. However, corporate identity needs to be managed on a structural basis, to be internalized by the employees and to harmonize with future organizational developments.

Efforts to manage the corporate visual identity will result in more consistency and the corporate visual identity management mix should include structural, cultural and strategic aspects.[5] Guidelines, procedures and tools can be summarized as the structural aspects of managing the corporate visual identity.

However, as important as the structural aspects may be, they must be complemented by two other types of aspects. Among the cultural aspects of corporate visual identity management, socialization – i.e., formal and informal learning processes – turned out to influence the consistency of a corporate visual identity. Managers are important as a role model and they can clearly set an example. This implies that they need to be aware of the impact of their behavior, which has an effect on how employees behave. If managers pay attention to the way they convey the identity of their organization, including the use of a corporate visual identity, this will have a positive effect on the attention employees give to the corporate visual identity.

Further, it seems to be important that the organization communicates the strategic aspects of the corporate visual identity. Employees need to have knowledge of the corporate visual identity of their organization – not only the general reasons for using the corporate visual identity, such as its role in enhancing the visibility and recognizability of the organization, but also aspects of the story behind the corporate visual identity. The story should explain why the design fits the organization and what the design – in all of its elements – is intended to express.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Pat Matson Knapp, Judith Evans, Cheryl Dangel Cullen (2001). Designing Corporate Identity: graphic design as a business strategy. Rockport Publishers. ISBN 1564967972. 
  2. ^ Balmer, 1995
  3. ^ Balmer and Gray, 2000; Dowling, 1993; Du Gay, 2000
  4. ^ Bromley, 2001; Dutton, Dukerich and Harquail, 1994; Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000
  5. ^ a b Van den Bosch, 2005

[edit] Further reading

  • Veronica Napoles, Corporate identity design. New York, Wiley, 1988. With bibl., index. ISBN 0-471-28947-7
  • Wally Olins, The new guide to identity. How to create and sustain change through managing identity. Aldershot, Gower, 1995. With bibl., index. ISBN 0-566-07750-7 (hbk.) or 0-566-07737-X (pbk.)
  • Alina Wheeler, Designing brand identity. A complete guide to creating, building, and maintaining strong brands, 2nd ed. New York, Wiley, 2006. With bibl., index. ISBN 0-471-74684-3
  • Balmer, J.M.T., & Gray, E.R., (2000). Corporate identity and corporate communications: creating a competitive advantage. Industrial and Commercial Training, 32 (7), pp. 256-262.
  • Birkigt, K., & Stadler, M.M., (1986). Corporate identity. Grundlagen, funktionen, fallbeispiele. [Corporate identity. Foundation, functions, case descriptions]. Landsberg am Lech: Verlag Moderne Industrie.
  • Bromley, D.B., (2001). Relationships between personal and corporate reputation, European Journal of Marketing, 35 (3/4), pp. 316-334.
  • Dowling, G.R., (1993). Developing your company image into a corporate asset. Long Range Planning, 26 (2), pp. 101-109.
  • Du Gay, P., (2000). Markets and meanings: re-imagining organizational life. In: M. Schultz, Dutton, J.E., Dukerich, J.M., & Harquail, C.V., (1994). Organizational images and member identification. Administrative Science Quarterly, 39 (2), pp. 239-263.
  • M.J. Hatch, & M.H. Larsen, (Eds.). The expressive organisation: linking identity, reputation and the corporate brand (pp. 66-74). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kiriakidou, O, & Millward, L.J., (2000). Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 5 (1), pp. 49-58.
  • Olins, W., (1989). Corporate identity: making business strategy visible through design. London: Thames & Hudson.
  • Schultz, M., Hatch, M.J., & Larsen, M., (2000). The expressive organisation: linking identity, reputation and the corporate brand. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Stuart, H, (1999). Towards a definitive model of the corporate identity management process, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 4 (4), pp. 200-207.
  • Van den Bosch, A.L.M., (2005). Corporate Visual Identity Management: current practices, impact and assessment. Doctoral dissertation, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands.
  • Van den Bosch, A.L.M., De Jong, M.D.T., & Elving, W.J.L., (2005). How corporate visual identity supports reputation. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 10 (2), pp. 108-116.
  • Van Riel, C.B.M., (1995). Principles of corporate communication. London: Prentice Hall.

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