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Identity Forum: Corporate identity versus brand identity


'Corporate identity' is only really useful to denote a collective endeavour such as an organisation that behaves in a corporate manner. It is not more effective at communicating what we now understand to constitute a corporate brand. A brand is the total experience of a distinct and consciously branded identity, corporate and other.

All 'marked out' identities are identities that are consciously 'branded' and so it makes sense to hold these identities as brands. Only some types of brands are made up of collections of coordinated entities. This typically means identities that behave in a corporate manner. Versus, identities that are branded as products or services. The traditional distinction between types of brands has been corporate brands and consumer or product brands, although this is partly problematic as many corporate brands are also consumer brands.

If the terms 'corporate brand' was to be superceded by 'corporate identity' as Tony's post suggests then where are we left with when it comes to consumer or product brands? Do these brands then, by the same logic, become consumer or product identities? Highly unlikely for obvious low level reasons. And, it seems that in the same vein, it's being suggested that only consumer or product brands retain the term 'brand' and that corporate brands be referred to as corporate identities?

It seems to me that to revert to 'corporate identity' an obvious trick will have been missed. As a (1) brand consultant 'corporate identity' does not offer a more effective way to hold an identity that behaves in a corporate manner and that can also be seen to be held in a corporate manner by a collectively 'identify-able' audience such as a (2) target market. This would appear to be a step backward, no matter what Google Labs uncovers in common published language usage. There seems to be no real case to be made based on common language usage. Common language usage does not reflect expert opinion and high level management insight. A proper and full definition of what constitutes a brand has yet to be taken up in the mainstream media.

Corporate identity is a description of one aspect of a corporate 'branded' identity and as Tony's casual study appears to indicate it is also a useful (and common) way to identify institutions as corporate identities. And, if we're endorsing corporate brands as traditional institutions then we're probably not doing our jobs properly as brand consultants. Yes, I would agree, brand consultants are also identity consultants but, to my points, identity consulting is subject to brand consulting, which, critically, includes brand strategy. Brand strategy is not tantamount to business or corporate identity strategy.

A recent development in distinguishing types of brands has been to make a distinction between business brands and consumer brands, both of which can handle a further qualification (or extension) of a brand as a corporate identity – were we ever to need to point out this distinction at all.


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