Corporate image and corporate identity are two key marketing tools. The creation of both for a business utilizes personnel from marketing, branding, design and copywriting and draws heavily on behavioral psychology. In a global marketplace, crowded with brands, it is the elements of image and identity that attract attention, maintain consumer loyalty and, overall, sustain business success. The essential difference between the two is this: corporate image is the public perception of the company, whereas corporate identity is how the company wants to be perceived by the public.
Corporate identity concerns a company’s visual appearance. The company logo is a central part of this, as are website design, annual report, company stationery -- both paper and electronic -- signage, retail outlet design and any other items, such as mugs and pens, produced by the company as client gifts. Companies tend to modify the corporate identity at intervals. Radically changing a company’s visuals is not recommended as it confuses consumers and leads to perceptions of instability and a change in company values. Modernization of the corporate identity is more effective when the core visuals remain easily recognizable.
Building and maintaining corporate image requires some different methods and skills to those used in creating corporate identity. The corporate image is public perception, and handling that perception is crucial. Public relations personnel protect and promote the corporate identity to create an image in people’s minds. This includes managing negative media stories. The ultimate aim of a company is the exact alignment of corporate identity with corporate image, so that the public views the company exactly as the company wants to be seen.
Corporate image and identity are both facets of establishing a brand. Brand identity is more important, overall, than either of these two tools, which support the brand. Brand identity gives products a personality and set of values that establish it in the consumer’s mind as embodying these things. This includes brand benefits, performance, values, quality and customer service. Brand image, by contrast, is how consumers perceive a brand overall. Companies work on the consumer experience to maintain brand image and ensure that consumers think about the brand in the way a company wants them to.