Organizational Communication Case Study: Coca Cola Company

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Communication and Organizations


Organizational Communication Case Study: Coca Cola Company


Hugo Zwier – 335216
Justin Verhulst – 335279
Geert van den Hoek – 321047
Spencer Bates –

Table of Contents

Page 2 – Concept: 'organizational identity'
Page 5 – Data: Coca Cola Company

In this case study of the Coca Cola corporation Coca Cola's corporate identity will be analyzed. This will be done through analysis of a few advertising campaigns. In this way, Coca Cola's external identification attempts can be understood from an organizational communication perspective. However, to understand these 'branding' efforts it is imperative to know what the concept of 'organizational identity' is about and what its key aspects are.

First of all, it is eminent to be familiar with 'identity' in order to grasp the concept of 'organizational identity'. Identities can be explained as 'structures or patterns that can be recognized and validated as unique, autonomous and relatively stable in time and space' (Cheney et al., 2011: 108). Historically seen, the Latin word 'identitas', where the concept of identity comes from, highlighted the similarity between individuals. So back in the days the concept focussed less on differences, but more on sameness. Identity nowadays refers to 'something special that characterizes a social entity and sets it apart from its surroundings' (Cheney et al., 2011: 108). So in one sense, boundaries are created that set the person or organization apart from its direct environment. This is necessary for an organization to understand the organizational purpose and its functioning, as well as to make sense of their environment. Basically, this means that boundaries are necessary for the identity-holder to get to know themselves. Relevant here are also the different views taken on identity, as discussed by the famous sociologist Durkheim. In ancient or tribal societies identity was mainly given to the individual or in other words, injected into the individual. The individual did not have a choice here for the exploration of their own identity. On the other hand, there are the modern societies in which the individual could achieve and shape their own identity; the individual had a choice available and could therefore carefully manage and negotiate their identity. This information is necessary to understand, because the modern society view is the view taken on organizations; they can carefully manage their identities. This should be considered when looking at the external communication or, in this case, advertising and affiliation of Coca Cola.

Now that it is more clear what identity is about, it is eminent for the Coca Cola case to elaborate on identity management and organizational identity. As explained above, an organization will set boundaries that make them unique. Albert and Whetten (1985) define the organizational identity as 'the central, distinct, and enduring dimensions of an organization' (Albert and Whetten, 1985). This definition implies that certain dimensions of an organization will remain central, as they are enduring. This might be true in some cases, but in general it should be stated that one of the most central elements of organizational identification is that organizations' identities are dynamic and adaptable. In other words, organizations have the ability to adapt their 'dimensions' to new situations and to changes in their surroundings. Change and variation are central parts of organizational identification. Elaborating on this, identification is done by associating with and referring to both internal and external resources. Might there be a change in these resources, it might also mean that the identity changes. The main point here is that the identity consists of several elements that can both be dynamic as well as continuous. Simplified, this means that the organizational identity consists of a few essential dimensions that can be managed and that...
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