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?” Corporate identity is the action a company undergoes in order to achieve a good perception from their target market. It is obtained through corporate design, corporate communication and corporate behavior.
Corporate design includes the brand assets that make your company unique and stand out from the competition. A brand’s corporate identity design is visually reflected in its logo, name, slogan, uniforms, buildings, business cards, and more.
Corporate communication is how your business disseminates information to the employees, investors and customers. This includes public relations, internal communication, reputation management and other external communication efforts.
Corporate behavior is the essence of a company. Through the corporate behavior, a company should show its brand values and philosophy. Corporate behavior is how you present your brand to the community at large, including customers, clients, employees, and investors.
What Is Brand Identity?
Brand identity is how an organization wants to be perceived by its audience. It is the message that your customers receive from the company brand. This message should be consistent and set guidelines so that your target market will always recognize your brand.
What Is Brand Image?
Brand image or corporate image is the current external perceptions held by consumers. It is the overall associations and beliefs your customers or potential customers have about your brand. Corporate image encompasses the overall impression that consumers have in their mind about your brand from a variety of different sources.
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 a corporate identity manual and principles. Here are four reasons why.
- Cohesiveness. Establishing a consistent corporate brand 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 organizational 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 corporate 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.
Establishing Positive Brand Image
Conversely, brands that establish and maintain a respected corporate identity are rewarded with a corresponding positive effect on the company 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 visual 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.