There has been a growing interest in the corporate identity concept over the last 25 years, mainly due to changes in technology, market dynamics and consumer values and behaviour. Deregulation and privatization programmes introduced by governments (Ind, 1992; Markwick and Fill, 1997; Balmer and Soenen, 1998), the internationalization of companies (Schmitt et al., 1995; Meijs, 2002), the availability of a vast amount of choice and information in the market, more sophisticated consumers (Bickerton, 1999), lower traditional barriers to entry, changes in trade channels, decentralized organizational structures and an increased number of mergers and acquisitions (Ind, 1992; Melewar and Harrold, 2000) are some of the factors which have contributed to raising interest in corporate identity.
The visual aspect of corporate identity forms a major part of a corporation’s identity (Melewar and Saunders, 1998). Corporate design is used interchangeably with visual identification. In terms of the visual aspect of corporate identity the dominant view in the literature is that everything the company does underlines its special characteristics. However, there are different views about the components of corporate visual identity. In the corporate identity construct proposed in this paper corporate design is stated as a sub-construct of corporate identity covering corporate visual identity and the applications of corporate visual identity, both of which have further subcomponents.
Corporate visual identity
Corporate visual identity is the graphic design at the core of a firm’s visual identity (Melewar and Saunders, 1999). Corporate visual identity is the outer sign of the inward commitment of a company (Abratt, 1989; Melewar and Saunders, 2000). In other words corporate visual identity is an assembly of visual cues by which an audience can recognize the company and distinguish it from others. Dowling (1994) described corporate identity as referring to ‘the symbols an organisation uses to identify itself to people’ (p. 40). Balmer (1995) examined the use of visual identity by organizations and found that organizations use graphic design for two basic purposes. First, they are used for encapsulating the organization’s cultural values. Second, they are used for underpinning the organization’s communications efforts. Melewar and Saunders (1999) argued that corporate visual identity is a part of corporate identity that companies can use for projecting their quality, prestige and style to stakeholders. The authors constructed a corporate visual identity mix comprising name, slogan, logo type and/or symbol, typography and colour.
Although there is no consensus with regard to the components of corporate identity, the element most largely acknowledged as being part of the corporate identity construct is an organization’s core value, namely corporate culture (Bernstein, 1984; Balmer and Soenen, 1997). There are two different views on corporate culture with regard to its link with corporate identity, which are mainly reflected in marketing academics’ and organization behaviourists’ perspectives (Alvesson, 1994). The first view, which is the functionalist perspective, treats culture as a variable and asks the question ‘what function does culture fulfil in the organization?’ This view is formed by marketing academics. On the other hand, according to the second view, which is the symbolic perspective (social–constructionist view), culture is seen as a metaphor and the fundamental question is ‘what is the meaning of the organization to its members?’ (Schultz, 1994; Rowlinson and Procter, 1999). The social–constructionist view is widely accepted by organizational behaviourist. Corporate culture plays an important role in corporate identity formation. Similarly, Kiriakidou and Millward (1999) argued that culture plays an important role in the development and enactment of corporate identity....
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