My Marketing Thing

Corporate Identity vs. Corporate Image

Corporate Image vs Corporate identity

You hear a lot about ‘corporate identity’ and ‘corporate image’.  They sound about the same – and sound equally dull – but they are actually two different things.

And it is important to know what these terms mean.  Why?  So when some poncy git starts trying to intimidate you by using them in a meeting or a cocktail party you’ll have the upper hand.

Irony note #1: Marketing is essentially about engaging communication.  But when it comes to basic marketing terms, many people feel a strange mixture of boredom and confusion that sees them wandering off towards any beverage with 90% caffeine content.

‘Corporate identity’

Corporate identity is about how you want your business to look to your target market – i.e. those folks you call clients or customers – as well as those other folks that haven’t become customers or clients yet…but you would like them to.  This is generally achieved through the following:

  1. Corporate design: logos, corporate colours, uniforms, etc.
  2. Corporate communication: public relations, promotional material, etc.
  3. Corporate behaviour: values of your business and how those values are demonstrated/promoted

‘Corporate image’

Corporate Image is more about how the marketplace really feels about you.  That’s the scary bit.

Irony note # 2 Marketing is also about clear communication – to be engaging you need to be understood, right? So to clarify these badly titled terms further: it’s okay if you’re not a corporation.  People in small business, even solo traders, still refer to their ‘corporate identity’.  This stems from the corporate definition of ‘unity’, rather than being a corporation in the legal business sense.
Interesting note: the word  ‘corporation’ is also a synonym for ‘paunch’.


My suggestion

Perhaps we should be calling corporate identity ‘Please remember me fondly’ and corporate image ‘Do you love me?’.  Much easier to remember, don’t you think?

McDonald’s – example of corporate identity (Please remember me fondly):

If you think of McDonalds you might think of the golden arches or even just the yellow and red colours used in their promotional material. In the past, you might have thought of ‘Ronald McDonald’ or ‘the unattractive and kinda scary red-haired clown’.  But the clown is being toned down the McDonald’s corporate identity.  Why? Because recent years have seen McDonalds strongly marketing to adults who aren’t attracted to food fights by four year olds and accidental urine on slippery slides.  Think of the ‘McCafe’ push: sophisticated cappuccino and bakery treats.  Very different, very swish.  In the commercial, at least.


McDonalds – example of corporate image (Do you love me?):

Customers (or potential customers) might think McDonalds is great because they trust that the food is fast, and their stores reproduce in number like bunnies.  So for a positive corporate image in this case: convenience is key. Or they might think McDonald’s is not so great because they are dubious about the company’s beef patty production or have concerns around nutrition  (and perhaps this negative corporate image is the fault of films like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me..she inserts into the article casually).  Corporate image can be determined by the marketplace and can be changeable (sometimes depending on our see-saw of our righteousness and lethargy).


Another example of corporate identity vs. corporate image: Apple computers

Apple’s logo image of a bitten-off apple is a strong corporate identity.  You see it A LOT in movies and TV shows lit up on the back of computer screens.  Have you noticed?  That’s called ‘shameless product placement’.

But I digress…okay, back to corporate identity and Apple.  More recently the ‘i’ before a word has also become a strong corporate identity: iMac, iPhone, iTunes, i’m-over-it.  How the marketplace feels about Apple has been up and down over the years.  At the moment, the corporate image is strong.  Their iIdentity strategy has been iSavvy.

While we’re on the subject of Apple Computers, if you want a laugh read this article about ‘Mac Monks’ by Charlie Brooker.  It’s all about how powerful corporate image can be.


That’s enough, I’m sure you’ve got the picture.  Anything to ask or add?  Comment below…

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About Megan

Posted on Dec 5th, 2009 Marketing definition

One Comment

  1. Chris

    Researchers of a new study stressed out that the employee satisfaction affects the corporate image and organizational profitability. “When customers are satisfied, their patronage and loyalty increases, therefore profitability also increases” researchers stated.
    Study could be found here

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