A corporate identity is more than just a logo

There’s a bit of a mis-conception and confusion around the precise meaning of ‘corporate identity’ because it tends to get mixed up with the term ‘brand’ which is a totally different subject. So lets clear this up first with a very simple example:
Macdonald’s is a ‘brand’. It is a restaurant that sells low-cost meals in a fast and friendly environment being particularly attractive to families with young children.
The ‘corporate identity’ of McDonald’s comprises the golden arches ‘M’, the happy clown, the brought-to-life hamburger characters, the attitude of the staff, their uniform, the interior design of the restaurant look, even the way in which they answer the telephone. And all these individual elements have the single purpose of reinforcing the brand image or identity of McDonalds.
A corporate identity must give the recipient an accurate impression of the brand of that company.

Take a look at the two posters that you might find in the window of a hairdresser’s. If you had never experienced the service of either company, their corporate identities would give you sufficient clues to allow you to make an accurate assumption on a few basic points. For example, one might assume the pink one would be the cheapest and that the brown one might provide a better quality cut. But these assumptions are purely based upon the look of their corporate identities.

Harrods is a luxury goods retailer in Knightsbridge in Central London. Their clients are the wealthiest and most discerning people in the land. The corporate identity therefore has to reflect this, so imagine how one would react if their impressive lit signage had one of the letters unlit because of several dead or flickering light bulbs. This lack of attention to detail changes the image of the company in a negative way even though this has absolutely no bearing on the quality or nature of the products in the store.

A corporate identity is used to give the recipient an impression of what they are likely to experience if they use that company. And a good corporate identity will portray that precisely. If the corporate identity gives a different impression than the reality of using the company then confusion will inevitably result which will affect the user’s future decision to use that company.

Would one really be convinced of the credentials of this courier service (below)? If you had an international package to deliver, would you trust it to this company based on the corporate identity you see (the age and condition of the vehicle and the signage)?

As a final example, imagine making a telephone call to The Boeing Airline company and the first voice you hear says: “Hello, Boeing. What do you want?” If this doesn’t fit with what you would ‘expect’ from this company, then the corporate identity has failed! Similarly, if you responded to a small ad in the local newspaper for a dog walker and their telephone is answered with: “Good morning, for dog walking services, please press one; for dog sitting services, press two; for overnight dog minding, press three…”

A corporate identity is more than a logotype. It represents a company’s products, services and behaviour. And once in place, the company’s products, services and behaviour should live up to the corporate identity. In a lot of case, easier said than done.