Leslie Pinkerton, Marketing Content Manager, 8/9/17
The terms corporate identity, brand identity, and brand image are often interchanged, but are, in fact, distinct from one another.
- Corporate identity is about internal activities that shape perception.
- Brand identity is how an organization wants to be perceived by its audience.
- Brand image is external perceptions held by consumers.
All three are woven together, but each must be considered separately when building your brand. It all begins with corporate identity.
What is Corporate Identity?
It can be difficult to define corporate identity. Much more than your corporate culture, it must answer the question, “who are we?”
How do you present your brand to the community at large, including customers, clients, employees, and investors? A brand’s corporate identity is visually reflected in its logo, name, slogan, uniforms, buildings, and more. But what do people think of the corporation when they see those things? What thoughts, positive or negative, first spring to mind?
Importance of Corporate Identity
A strong corporate identity is vital to – and instrumental in – shaping people’s sentiments about your brand and its products or services. In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s vital for organizations of all sizes, missions, and purposes to establish basic corporate identity principles. Here are four reasons why.
- Cohesiveness. Establishing a corporate identity ensures that everyone in the organization represents it the same way every time they interact with clients, stakeholders, and potential customers.
- Expertise. A corporate identity helps project your brand has a trustworthy expert in your industry.
- Reliability. A carefully crafted and cultivated corporate identity helps standardize your brand’s visual presentation across all channels.
- Authority. A strong corporate identity sets you apart from the competition and makes your brand readily recognizable through design, communication, and action.
Shape Your Identity or It Will Shape You
Every organization is a living, breathing entity, continually growing, changing, and responding to outside influences. It’s easy to see, therefore, how your organization’s corporate culture is inextricably linked to its branding. Unfortunately, many companies ignore managing and protecting their identity until a crisis forces them to confront some harsh reality.
A perfect recent example of this is Uber. The company has gone through a streak of internal and external scandals that culminated in a rash of resignations and removal of founder Travis Kalanick as CEO. The brand also received a lot of criticism in 2016, when it decided to launch a new visual identity, but failed to acknowledge its disjointed corporate culture and global perception. Another example experts often refer to is when HP’s then-CEO, Carly Fiorina, miscalculated what the reaction would be to the firm merging with Compaq, a company which did not reflect the established values and identity of HP’s founders.
Conversely, brands that establish and maintain a respected corporate identity are rewarded with a corresponding positive effect on their brand’s image. A good example is Apple which, after 30 years and just a few minor missteps, is still seen as an innovative and pathbreaking brand.
Other companies that illustrate how important identity is to brand include Coca-Cola, which focuses on spontaneity and customer delight; Target, a company that consistently delivers an exceptional retail experience; and Southwest Airlines, whose distinct corporate personality is reflected in its fun approach to get travelers from points A to B. What do all these organizations have in common? They are brands millions of people know and trust.
A strong corporate identity adds tremendous value to your brand and can, in fact, be its strongest asset. Properly developed, it creates a bond between you and your customers, helps establish staying power, and ultimately sets the stage for all future customer interactions.