3 steps to a better Corporate Identity

  • Guest Blogger


Guest Post by Lesley Tian from StrategiCom, a leading B2B brand strategy consulting company with offices across the globe.

As companies constantly seek ways to stay relevant with market trends, its adoptive capacity, that is, its ability to adopt new business models and technologies and tap upon certain market trends, gains increasing importance. A company’s Corporate Identity (CI) is a powerful concept, that when managed properly can be a fundamental contributor to its current and future adoptive capacity.

CI is of particular benefit to gauge how far a company can stretch its operations to take on the demands of changing customer needs, while still being perceived as relevant and competitive. Recall Porras and Collins’ Built to Last:

Organisations cannot endure without developing a solid core from which they can confront a changing and hostile environment.

When evaluating the relevance of corporate identities, it’s good practice to work from the bottom up and ask questions like:

  • What is the CI of my company?
  • Is it well-recognised?
  • What is it recognised for?
  • Is the CI relevant to my stakeholders?
  • If not, what should be done?
  • What is the impact in terms of change management?

It’s then time to go about auditing and if needed, rejigging your Corporate Identity. Here are three steps to get you thinking:

  1. Know the current situation of your corporate identity. Though there’s no universal definition for CI, it can be typically considered to include:
    • Symbolism: reveals some of the basic traits of your identity by interpreting organisational symbolism such as logotypes, corporate signatures, typestyles, formats and colours
    • Integrated marketing and communication: to ascertain your external marketing and communication efforts through a heuristic analysis of its historical roots and its current areas of internal conflicts
    • Members’ behaviour: assess members’ behaviours using qualitative methods like (a) the laddering technique, which relies on means-end interviews to reveal the dominant values of employees, or (b) the Balmer’s Affinity Audit (BAA), which relies on collecting data through various qualitative methods such as semi-structured interviews, observation and examinations of documentaries.
  2. Determine the desired corporate identity. Periodically assess the alignment between the your identity and strategy going forward, as it will be constantly subjected to changes especially in its products and services. Some useful methods:
    • IDU method (by Rossiter and Percy) – illustration below: Discover the benefits that key stakeholders think are important (“I”), the ones that are delivered (“D”) by the company, and finally those that are perceived as unique (“U”) when compared to other companies in the same category.


    • Bernstein’s Spiderweb (illustration below): Aims to generate a representation of the salient attributes of the corporate identity. For instance, relevance and desirability.


  3. Convergence study. A clearly defined CI can only become a source of competitive advantage when people converge around a central mission. They need to address questions like
    • Is there internal congruence on the perception of our CI?
    • Are we satisfied with the amount of convergence around our identity?
    • Are the internal and external perceptions of our CI aligned?
    • Are there internal or external signals that reflect our CI as blinding us to market changes?
    • Which stakeholder group would be anxious or threatened by a CI change?
    • Which stakeholder group would be better served by a change in our CI?

A comprehensive CI audit will indicate if change is necessary. Two situations when a CI change won’t be necessary are when the CI is strong and relevant, or when the CI is not desired by the company but perceived as strong by stakeholders. In the latter case, relevance rather than change is what’s required.

Where a change is essential, it can take two forms:

  • Evolutionary change: when the CI change is a by-product of successive strategic and operational changes over a long period of time. For instance, Shell (picture below) alters the shape, colour, and typography of its symbol to keep it up to date, but the basic elements have been around for almost a century.


  • Revolutionary change: Swift transformation of CI followed by realignment of strategy and operations. GlaxoSmithKline was formed in 2000 and today, boasts a wider portfolio of pharmaceutical products than ever.

Whichever way you decide upon, the process won’t be painless. It will encounter resistance and will demand change management, that needs more than mere political skills to preempt and overcome (recall Carly Fiorina’s fraught overseership of the HP-Compaq merger). The management must be willing to accept changes, including to the management itself, so that they can help internal and external stakeholders cope with the identity crisis.

Finally, remember that if you ever decide to undertake a CI change, consider it carefully and follow up the decision by the will to take bold initiatives to assess the congruency between the CI and the firm’s business strategy before these two critical components drift too far apart.

Adapted from an original article by Lesley Tian that first appeared in the march 2010 issue of Brandbank, StrategiCom’s journal of brand strategy. Original article follows:

The Corporate Identity: When Do You Change It?
Author’s profile
Lesley Tian’s keen interest in organisation and community cultural patterns is reflected in her firm understanding of geographical and cultural differences of various countries, and her research interest lies in the branding of companies in the context of different cultures and languages. Her skills were utilised in a research study on green energy with Professor Gerhard Apfelthaler during her stay in Austria. Lesley interned with StrategiCom in 2007 and 2008 and joined the firm full-time in 2009 where she worked on clients such as Swee Hong Construction Engineering, Marshal Technology and Hu Lee Impex.

About StrategiCom
StrategiCom is a global B2B brand strategy consulting firm headquartered in Singapore with 11 offices and 110 consultants & researchers around the world. The industries it serves include Information Technology, Oil & Gas, Petrochemicals, Commodities Trading, Business Services, Pharmaceutical, Medical & Healthcare, Transport & Logistics, Construction & Real Estate, Precision Engineering and Electronics Manufacturing. StrategiCom’s consultants, researchers and proprietary methodologies provide the catalyst for companies to transform from traditional businesses into differentiated brands.


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