Corporate identity: clarifying the concept
There are divergent views within the literature as to what is meant by corporate identity. In this article the authors refer to three main developments in the area which variously equate corporate identity with graphic design, with integrated corporate communication and last, with a multidisciplinary approach which draws heavily on organizational behaviour. Each of the three approaches has tended to follow a separate line of development and it would appear that the literature on each of the three strands has started to reach maturity. Increasingly, writers are drawing on several of these strands and this has led to a multidisciplinary approach. The characteristics of each of the three aforementioned strands will be discussed in the next section.
Corporate identity: the graphic design paradigm
Originally, corporate identity was synonymous with organizational nomenclature, logos, company housestyle and visual identification. Many corporate identity practitioners had (and have) their roots in graphic design and understandably a good deal of importance was assigned to graphic design. The authors contend that graphic designers have been hugely influential in two regards, in that they articulated the basic tenets of corporate identity formation and management and succeeded in keeping the subject on the agenda of senior managers. Of note are North American practitioners who were the first to create managerial interest in the area and include Selame and Selame (1975), Marguiles (1977), Carter (1982) and Chajet (1992). They were followed by UK design and communications consultants such as Olins (1978, 1989), Bernstein (1986), Jackson (1987), Ind (1990) and Pilditch (1970) and then by German (Birkight and Stadler, 1980), Dutch (Blauw, 1989) and French (Hebert 1987) practitioners.
The role of symbolism is now assigned a greater role and has grown from its original purpose of increasing organizational visibility to a position where it is seen as having a role in communicating corporate strategy. Notable with regard to the latter is Olins (1978) who classified visual identity into three main types (monolithic, endorsed and branded) which he observed was used by organizations to reflect an organization's strategy, branding and communications policies.
Corporate identity: the integrated communication paradigm
The realization by graphic designers and marketers of the efficacy of consistency in visual and marketing communications led to a number of authors arguing that there should be consistency in formal corporate communication (Bernstein, 1986; Schultz, Tannenbaum and Lauterborn, 1994). The breadth, complexity, and importance of corporate communications was pointed out by Bernstein who argued that organizations should communicate effectively with all of their stakeholders. Implicit in Bernstein's (1986) comments, and those made more recently by Grunig (1992), is that the corporate communication mix and its management is fundamentally different from and is more complicated than, the marketing communications mix.
Corporate identity: the interdisciplinary paradigm (marshalling the corporate identity mix)
Starting with Olins (1978) and followed by Birkight and Stadler (1980) the understanding of corporate identity has gradually broadened and is now taken to indicate the way in which an organization's identity is revealed through behaviour, communications, as well as through symbolism to internal and external audiences. Both academics and consultants have realized that defining identity can be problematic and as such the recently formed International Corporate Identity Group (ICIG) whose steering committee includes academics from Strathclyde, Erasmus and Harvard Business Schools, together with leading consultants, have decided not to give a definition of corporate identity but rather a statement which articulates the multidisciplinary nature of the area and its difference from brand management. The so called "Strathclyde Statement" will be found in the Appendix.
In recent years academics have produced important work on the area such as Abratt (1989), Albert and Whetten (1985), Balmer (1994, 1995), Larcon and Rietter (1979), Ramanantsoa (1989), van Rekom (1993), van Riel (1992, 1995) and Wiedmann (1988). Increasingly academics acknowledge that a corporate identity refers to an organization's unique characteristics which are rooted in the behaviour of members of the organization. Many of the above scholars conclude that the management of an organization's identity is of strategic importance and requires a multidisciplinary approach. They argue that senior managers can narrow the gap between the actual and desired corporate identity through marshalling the corporate identity mix (communications, symbolism and behaviour).
Corporate identity management (CIM)
The rationale for CIM
The objective of CIM is to establish a favourable reputation with an organization's stakeholders which it is hoped will be translated by such stakeholders into a propensity to buy that organization's products and services, to work for or to invest in the organization (Balmer, 1995; van Riel, 1995). There is evidence to support the notion that a favourable corporate reputation gives an organization a competitive advantage (Beatty and Ritter, 1986; Caves and Porter, 1977; Fombrun and Shanley, 1990; Greyser, 1996; Klein and Leffler, 1981; Maathuis, 1993; Milgrom and Roberts, 1986; Stigler, 1962; Wilson, 1985 and Worcester, 1986).
The literature on corporate identity sees corporate identity management as taking into account an organization's historical roots (Ramanantsoa, 1989) its personality (Balmer, 1995; Birkight and Stadler, 1980; Olins, 1978), its corporate strategy …