Corporate identity: the
concept, its measurement and
Cees B.M. van Riel
Graduate School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and
John M.T. Balmer
Department of Marketing, University of Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow, UK
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.
European Journal of Marketing,
Vol. 31 No. 5/6, 1997, pp. 340-355.
© MCB University Press, 0309-0566
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), Margulies (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...