for communications people
Look them in the eye
Include portraits in statementss
Definition, quantification, design
Corporate image management
Concepts and literature overview
Organograms work on web sites?
into the concepts, and an overview of the literature:
Corporate identity and corporate image
What do the two concepts
Ind, Kennedy, Olins
Being concerned with all
of an organisation´s stakeholders
Olins, Selame & Selame
The importance of corporate communication
Factors that determine
Bernstein, Ellis et
al., Garbett, van Riel
Cortez & Bunge,
Dowling, Ellis et al., Garbett, Kennedy, Olins, ...
Management and audiences
Mission statements versus
Abratt, Dowling, Ries
Shifts in debate focus
From visual to multidisciplinary
Ind, van Riel &
Consistency is not uniformity
The need for organisational
Hooley & Lynch,
The importance of organisational culture and subordinate
Cultures as variables
Barich & Kotler,
Carrol, Dowling, Hatch & Schultz
The corporate image management pattern
Corporate identity and corporate image in the service
Are services different
Bitner, Brookes, Cowell,
Gorchels, Hall, Kinnell & MacDougall, ...
identity and corporate image
notion that the way an organisation or indeed an individual
presents itself can have an effect on how it is perceived
by various audiences is hardly new. In virtually all literature
on the subject of corporate image it is stressed that all organisations,
now as well as historically, have images whether they are aware
of them or not, whether they agree with them or not, and whether
they are controlling their images or are being controlled by them.
notion that the projection of a clear picture of what an organisation
stands for can be of tremendous value in the strategic planning
of the organisation is, however, linked with the marketing era from
the 1950s onwards, as comprehensively described by Kennedy (1977)
and Abratt (1989). Only, however, from the 1970s onwards is a truly
holistic view, linking an organisation´s corporate image with
the organisation´s reality, taken, notably by Olins (1978,
1984, 1989), Bernstein (1986) and Ind (1992).
order to assess the literature of this subject, one must be aware
of two concepts: corporate image and corporate identity.
Their meanings are quite distinct, but unfortunately they are used
somewhat interchangeably in parts of the literature.
often, however, corporate identity is used meaning
the sum of what is projected by an organisation, and corporate
image meaning the sum of the perceptions invoked by what
the organisation projects, as shall also be the case in this overview.
broad, controlled approach to the projection and its desired outcomes
is frequently termed corporate image management.
late 1970s mark a break in corporate image thinking, away from image
mainly based on attributes that can be linked to a company´s
products or a particular brand, towards being concerned with all
of an organisation´s stakeholders. As early as in 1958 Martineau
(1958), in a pioneering article, points to the fact that publics
perceive whole organisations on an emotional as well as a functional
level, and that consequently organisations are well advised to project
clear pictures of themselves in all of their actions. Martineau´s
views are, however, still closely linked to building on brand images.
(1977), in an article that also takes a thorough retrospective view,
is among the first to link an organisation´s image with the
circumstances of its employees, by analysing organisations´communication
patterns, and Olins (1978) popularises a concept which has since
influenced much literature: the corporate personality. In
his later works, Olins (1984, 1989) builds on his views of corporate
image as a result of everything an organisation does, reflected
in three areas: products/services, environments and
Olins does so with a firm emphasis on corporate identity, and especially
its visual elements, rather than on perceptions. However, Olins´underlying
thinking has been highly influential, and his works are among those
most frequently cited in the current literature, not least his famous
remark that corporate identity is
made visible (Olins IN Corporate Image, 1991). Olins´statement
The fundamental idea encapsulates his views:
fundamental idea behind a corporate identity programme is that
in everything the company does, everything it owns, everything
it produces, the company should project a clear idea of what it
is and what its aims are. This can best be achieved through the
development of an appropriate visual system through products/services,
environments and communications. (Olins, 1984, p. 15)
and equally profoundly concerned with the importance of corporate
identity´s visual elements, without altogether sacrificing
the holistic approach, are Selame and Selame (1988). Olins and Selame
and Selame, incidentally all design consultants, share a particular
view, however, when making recommendations as to the implementations
of corporate identity programmes: this is best done through graphic
design, it is claimed.
importance of corporate communication
(1986) firmly distinguishes between, and covers both, corporate
identity and corporate image. He highlights the importance of corporate
communication, and argues that since an organisation has a personality
(cf. Olins, 1978), its should strive to communicate with its audiences
as a person: on a face-to-face level.
Concerned with learning which attributes to work on in the management
of a corporate image, Bernstein identifies an organisation´s
nine audiences and nine communication channels, that, however, relate
closely to a for-profit environment. He also introduces the so-called
spiderweb method that can provide management with an idea
of their organisation´s image without the need for extensive
surveys. The method ranks a number of attributes according to (management´s
views of) the organisations reality and its publics´perceptions,
and is able to highlight matches and mismatches.
role of corporate communication in building corporate identity,
and through that corporate image, is also the theme in Garbett´s
and van Riel´s works. Garbett (1988) lists six factors that
determine corporate image in Garbett´s equation:
diversity (lack of cohesion)
furthermore presents a comprehensive model for conducting a communication
audit that should address content and media as well as graphics,
and complement market research. This, Garbett argues, will help
identify where in an organisation the conceptual (planning) stages
and the implementation stages of various communication efforts belong;
something which according to Ellis et al. (1993) is becoming increasingly
important as organisational communication becomes increasingly affected
by technological change.
van Riel (1995) in detail describes communication-related instruments
for measuring corporate identity and corporate image, but concludes
that due to the ambiguity of the concepts they cannot be measured
in their entirety.
(1988), Olins (1989), Dowling (1995) and van Riel (1995) prove the
need for conducting communication audits, not least because such
audits are able to also cover audiences that are otherwise frequently
overlooked: organisations´internal audiences.
good overviews of the principles behind a communication audit are
provided in articles by Cortez and Bunge (1987) and Ellis et. al.
(1993). Both sources point to the effects of organisational communication
on staff attitudes and performance. Ellis et al. (1993) sum up the
motivating role of effective communication and the internal
benefits of a controlled corporate image:
people receive adequate information to do their jobs, are informed
about their role in the organization´s overall mission and
where the organization stands in the outside environment, their
contribution to that mission is likely to be more effective.
(Ellis et al., 1993, p. 142)
is the theme which became so highly evident in Kennedy´s work
(Kennedy, 1977), and which also forms a vital ingredient in the
works of Garbett (1988), Olins (1989), Dowling (1995) and van Riel
and Bunge (1987) define the communication audit as
fact-finding analysis, interpretation, and reporting process that
studies the communication philosophy of an organization (p.
43). This is frequently done against a background of desirable criteria
(Ellis et al., 1993). Cortez and Bunge see the communication audit
as a vital management tool, and list three reasons for this:
requirements of today´s emphasis on planning
increasing importance of management systems with adequate information
flow to support decision making
need for motivating factors in order to avoid staff stress
and Bunge name the following phases of a communication audit, which
do not differ fundamentally, whether a communication audit is performed
in a for-profit organisation or in a not-for-profit organisation,
or whether the organisation deals in tangible products or intangible
and Bunge´s approach is more closely related to organisational
effectiveness than to the management of corporate identity and corporate
image. Nevertheless, they see consistency in communication as the
key to improved internal understanding of the organisation´s
structures, aims and values something which, according to
Garbett (1988) or van Riel (1995), relates strongly to the formation
of an organisation´s corporate identity and corporate image.
less on the communication process and more on the ability of management
to formulate the corporate mission that is then conveyed, Abratt
(1989) presents a conceptual model that links the development of
a set of management systems with the perceptions of each of an organisation´s
Although essentially outlining the fundamental principles of corporate
image management, the article by Abratt is fairly unique in its
approach, in that it is concerned with targeting the individual
minds of members of internal and external audiences directly at
strategic management level, with relatively little regard for the
projection of an identity at various tactical levels.
The article furthermore questions the validity of the arguments
used by authors advocating a focus on visual corporate identity
elements, when some of the very same authors themselves manage graphic
design consultancies; a problem that becomes evident when assessing
the literature, but one that is seldom commented upon.
(1993) draws upon the ideas of Ries and Trout (1986) of corporate
image as a positioning device, links corporate vision, employee
performance and customer relationship building modelled on
the achievements of a number of airlines and underlines the
vital role of market research in turning corporate image into an
Dowling (1995) takes this one step further when discussing corporate
reputations: the sum of perceptions (corporate image) when held
against audiences´values and expectations. Only against individuals´value
systems can corporate image be truly judged, and thus an organisation
has multiple corporate images although it may strive to have only
one, Dowling argues. In this respect Dowling is in fact echoed in
most earlier and later literature, although often rather more implicitly.
in debate focus
the 1990s, Ind (1992) has produced one of the more significant books
of the early 1990s covering corporate identity, corporate image
and corporate communications, with a very strong emphasis on managerial
realities such as unit rivalry or political pressures, whereas van
Riel and Balmer (1997) provide an end-of-the-nineties statement
of affairs relating to the three paradigms of corporate identity
visual, communication and interdisciplinary at a stage
when each of the three is claimed to have begun to reach maturity.
sources conclude that it is an organisation´s roots and overall
performance that make up its corporate image, and that the area
is thus multidisciplinary. While this has been the approach since
the outset of holistic corporate image thinking in the late 1970s,
it is evident that in the 1980s numerous design consultants seized
the opportunity to gain a high profile through the corporate image
debate and literature. Some consultants, with their undisputed experience,
added significantly to the debate, but their contributions switched
much attention to the very tangible area of visual identity. Generally,
the literature of the 1990s reflects much less of such bias.
is not uniformity
investigated the corporate image literature, one may feel inclined
to agree with van Riel (1995) when he states:
is surprisingly little evidence in the literature to support the
assumption that a positive company image is of great importance.
However, there is a steady increase in the number of publications
containing material that could help to form a basis for this claim.
Usually, this material is implicit, although sometimes it is made
explicit. (van Riel, 1995, p. 112)
is also surprisingly little evidence in the literature as to in
which types of organisational structures a controlled corporate
image can most successfully be achieved. Again, the material is
frequently implicit, but there are several indications that the
flexibility and open internal communication needed in order to manage
corporate image is best achieved in organic systems with relatively
entrepreneurial management structures. The need for organisational
flexibility in achieving market success is proved by Hooley and
Lynch (1985). Consistency, thus, is not uniformity.
The top manager, however, remains in a central role; in order for
corporate image management to succeed it requires a strong and charismatic
personality with excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
This is perhaps most evident in van Riel´s work (van Riel,
importance of organisational culture and subordinate images
vital to the understanding of corporate identity and corporate image
is the debate about the effects of organisations´internal
factors. Hatch and Schultz (1997) criticise the literature for paying
too little attention to the complexity of organisational culture
in descriptions of organisations´personalities, identities
Dowling (1988, 1993) and Carrol (1995) have investigated this area,
but, claim Hatch and Schultz, in most cases organisations´cultures
have been treated as variables rather than contexts. Dowling (1988),
however, did manage to highlight the importance of subordinate images,
for example that of a profession, in determining corporate image.
an altogether alternative view, rather than questioning the established
approach to corporate image management as such, Barich and Kotler
(1991) introduce the concept of a marketing image. They argue
that it is certainly important for organisations to manage their
corporate images, but point to the fact that audiences´perceptions
of exchange value in transactions with an organisation are separable
from their overall perceptions of the organisation.
corporate image management pattern
if slightly different angles of view are taken in the various texts,
it is evident that there is a certain pattern:
organisations have corporate identities as well as corporate images,
but these can be confused or controlled (see e.g. Olins, 1978,
1984, 1989; Bernstein, 1986).
identity and corporate image are reality-based, and thus reflect
an organisations´policy, strategy, etc. or indeed
the lack of it. However, an organisation´s corporate identity
and corporate image will also influence its strategic planning
(see e.g. Bernstein, 1986; Olins, 1989, Dowling, 1993; Hatch and
are influenced by their backgrounds, and organisations must acknowledge
this and strive to get to know their audiences closely. A knowledge
of the organisation´s audiences, gained through market research,
is a prerequisite for any corporate identity and corporate image
Communication audits are often mentioned as being particularly
important, in that they are able to also cover audiences that
are otherwise frequently overlooked: organisations´internal
audiences (see e.g. Garbett, 1988; Olins, 1989, Dowling, 1995;
van Riel, 1995).
must be clear and complement strategy and culture, and internal
as well as external communication must consistently convey
a clear picture of the organisation and its aims (see e.g. Bernstein,
1986; Ind, 1992; van Riel, 1995). If an organisation´s mission
statement possesses such qualities, it is likely to become an
important rallying point (see e.g. Abratt, 1989; Klemm et al.,
an organisation can present itself consistently, then the amount
of familiarity that audiences have with the organisation is widely
believed to correspond with how favourably audiences look upon
the organisation a strongly positive halo effect (see e.g.
Bernstein, 1986; Garbett, 1988).
identity and corporate image management is an ongoing, long-term
process, in which the monitoring of developments, with subsequent
adjustments, is highly important (see e.g. Olins, 1978, 1984,
1989; van Riel, 1995).
stages in the corporate image management process are typically
defined (by e.g. Olins, 1978, 1984; Ind, 1992, van Riel, 1995)
strengths and weaknesses
and creating communication
outcome is not easily measured due to the ambiguity of concepts
and the difficulty in quantifying perceptions (see e.g. van Riel,
design does play an important role, especially as it can supply
many of the symbols and metaphors needed to achieve cohesion.
However, visual communication is merely part of a whole (see e.g.
Bernstein, 1986; Garbett, 1988; Ind, 1992).
regarding the implementation of a corporate identity programme
should be clearly allocated (see e.g. Olins, 1984, 1989; Ind,
motivation and empowerment of staff is mentioned in virtually
every text, indications of a need for central control are evident,
and the vital role of the organsation´s top manager is often
identity and corporate image in the service sector
very large part of the literature on the management of corporate
identity and corporate image relates to for-profit organisations,
and often to organisations in product (tangibles) manufacturing.
is thus a smaller proportion of the literature that covers corporate
image management in the not-for-profit sector and the service sectors.
Much of the latter literature is influenced by writers concerned
with adapting the traditional marketing mix of 4 Ps product,
place, price and promotion to suit the specific needs of
the service sector. Such writers include Brookes (1988), advocating
a 5th P, customer servicing, as well as Cowell
(1984), and later Zeithaml and Bitner (1996), who recommended expanding
the 4 Ps that they claim have been developed primarily for the manufacturing
sector to 7 Ps, adding people, physical evidence and
(1995) finds that corporate image can play an even more important
role in services marketing than in product marketing. As services
are intangible and often depend on personal interaction, audiences
look for a wider display of the organisation´s competencies
than is the case in product marketing, and the impact of the communication
of management´s visions through employees on towards the customer
becomes greater, Gorchels argues.
This echoes Levitt´s views (Levitt, 1981) that the less tangible
a product or service is, the more the sum of other impressions count
to the customer, as well as those of Schmitt et al. (1995), who
describe how an organisation´s aesthetic and experiential
aspects gain in importance when the organisation deals in intangibles.
(1993) argues that since
competitive advantage exists
in the eyes of customers
(p. 610) much attention should
be paid to corporate image in strategic management, but also claims
that this is often neglected due to the difficulty in allocating
an orthodox valuation to [such] intangibles as they
rarely have an exchange value
Corporate image management, then, can clash with the tenet that
one cannot manage what one cannot measure; something which greatly
concerns sources writing on corporate image in the not-for-profit
sector (e.g. de Saez, 1993; Kinnell and MacDougall, 1997).
effects of physical surroundings in the place where the service
is provided have been examined by Bitner (1990, 1992), who found
these so-called servicescapes to have a significant impact
on both internal and external audiences´perceptions, as well
as having a potential for being used as a differentiation tool.
The importance of the servicescape is further underlined by LeBlanc
and Nguyen (1995) in their examination of the two main components
of corporate image introduced by Martineau (1958) functional
and emotional and their meanings in the service sector today.
literature overview was written in 1998 and reviewed in 2003. For
an up-to-date selection of corporate identity and corporate image
identity: a guide to resources, a fine albeit very graphic
design oriented resource run by the Rochester Institute of
Technology, Rochester, NY.
International Corporate Branding & Identity Center, a good
source for articles and papers. Access to most resources requires
membership, but free membership is offered in exchange for articles,
papers and presentations.
Olins, the agency run by, amongst others, corporate identity
and corporate image guru Wally Olins himself, offers some insightful
articles on current themes.
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M.J. (1990) Evaluating Service Encounters: The Effects of Physical
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M.J. (1992) Servicescapes: The Impact of Physical Surroundings on
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