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Values, positioning, behavior and co. - What is a corporate identity?

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"Who am I - and if so, how many?" This is the title of a well-known book by philosopher and author Richard David Precht. But you could also ask yourself the same questions as a potential customer in relation to a company: Who is this company actually? What does it stand for? What distinguishes it from the competition? Why should I buy from this company and not from another?

The question of who you are is a question that companies ask themselves just as many people probably ask themselves this question more frequently in the course of their lives. If you want to answer this question for a company, you should take a closer look at corporate identity. And now we'll take a closer look at it. 

What is corporate identity?

Corporate identity (CI for short - or corporate identity) encompasses all the characteristics that give a company its own identity. In the literature, the CI is also paraphrased as "appearance", "strategic concept" or "communication concept". The corporate identity is intended to create a corporate personality with a high recognition value and thus also help to differentiate the company from competitors. To summarize briefly: A CI serves the self-presentation and perception by third parties, it makes a company unmistakable.

There is more to corporate identity than meets the eye - because appearance includes 4 components: Culture, Design, Behavior and Communication. And we will now take a closer look at these 4 components of the CI. 

Corporate Culture 
The corporate culture includes the philosophy of a company, vision and mission, mission statement and also all values a company wants to stand for. Within the framework of the corporate culture, companies define their basic variables and beliefs, which will guide their actions and which will also show up in the design and all other areas of the CI and the company. 

Within the culture definition, companies define what they are for and why they do what they do (mission). The vision as part of the culture defines where you want to go and where the company should be in the next few years - the values describe the "how" of how you work. These 3 building blocks shape the corporate mission statement and help with the following aspects: Identification (including customers and employees), orientation, differentiation (from competitors) and motivation. 

The corporate culture forms the basis for design, behavior and communication. 

Corporate Design 
Corporate design is the collection of the entire visible appearance. This includes logo, color concept, image, font and the design of e.g. a website. We have already dealt with corporate design in some detail. If you want to know more about it, you are welcome to take a look at the 3rd part of our series of articles on relationship marketing - here the focus is on corporate design. 

Corporate Behavior 
Corporate Behavior as a component of CI is about the behavior of a company. This behavior exists both internally and externally. 

In the internal code of conduct, a company specifies how the management style should be, how employees should be treated in general, what freedoms there are, but also how motivation should be provided. The management style provides an insight into how employees are treated and the freedoms they have, and thus also allows a conclusion to be drawn about what is offered in terms of motivation. 
⁠The external behavior of a company is reflected in the way it deals with (potential) customers, the importance of customer loyalty, the choice of partners, suppliers and cooperations, and also in the way it deals with the competition. 

Corporate Communication 
As soon as it has been determined which basic variables a company has, which values it stands for, how its appearance should be and which behavior is not only desired but also demanded, then this can be implemented in communication. 

If, for example, the value of respectful, honest dealings has been established, this should also be reflected in dealings with customers, employees or suppliers. It enters all stakeholders and shareholders of a company equally. 

Within the framework of corporate communication, a decision is made as to what should be communicated, how and where.

Why is a corporate identity important? 

Creating a company's identity is a comprehensive process in which a number of building blocks must be defined and combined. With all this effort, the question naturally arises whether and why a CI is so important. 

Yes, defining an identity is important - and it is becoming increasingly important. There are decisive reasons for this: 

  • Companies are perceived as a whole - and this perception should be understood as a unit. Appearance, communication and behavior are directly related. 

  • Every company has an identity, whether it is defined and written down or not. So it's better to be actively involved in defining and shaping the perception, isn't it?

  • The CI also includes the internal view and the self-image of a company. These two aspects can be decisive, especially in a time of shortage of skilled workers, whether candidates decide in favor of a company or not. 

  • The CI is important in order to distinguish oneself from the competition. Especially in a time when we have an oversupply in many industries and areas, it is essential to stand out. 

Examples of a corporate identity 

To make it easier to imagine what an elaborated corporate identity can look like in practice, here are a few prominent examples:

Corporate Culture and Google 
Google is probably the most famous example of corporate culture in action. The U.S. technology company lives employee motivation with a variety of perks and according to the OKR method: "Objectives and Key Results" is a method in which each team and each employee sets their own goals. These must be challenging and are reviewed in short cycles. In addition, developers, for example, have the "20 percent time" rule and are allowed to work on whatever they want on one out of 5 working days. At Google, it's part of the corporate culture to take time out at the foosball table even in the middle of the day.

Mc Donalds and corporate design 
The famous yellow "M" - customers find it on every product, on the website, in every advertisement, simply everywhere. It has become established over time and has a high recognition value.  Mc Donalds' chosen red, which can be found on the packaging of French fries or a Happy Meal, for example, is also typical of the brand and customers recognize the corporate design everywhere. 

Corporate Behavior and Adidas 
"Sport keeps us physically fit. Physically and mentally. Sport brings us together. Sport has the power to change lives," says Adidas. And this attitude is also reflected in the company's behavior, for example in its dealings with employees: training, continuing education, but also the health of employees are important, and that's why trainees can do their workout right on site in Herzogenaurach (Group headquarters location). And they can do so on various sports equipment and sports fields. 

Corporate Communications and IKEA
"Are you still living or are you already living?" - the motto of the Ikea Group. As part of its CI, the Swedish furniture store has specified that communication and the tone of voice should be friendly and direct. Addressing customers should convey a friendly and familiar feeling, as should the working atmosphere. Feeling at home and comfortable is what it's all about. And this begins directly when you visit one of the many branches and is also reflected in conversations with employees.


Defining a corporate identity with all its building blocks is important. Large companies from the practice show how it's done. "Who am I - and if so, how many?" Companies can make this clearer by addressing their own identity. 

In the process of defining such an identity, it is also possible to develop a brand personality to give the CI additional human characteristics. We covered how to do that and what exactly a brand personality is in Part 2 of our series of articles on relationship marketing. You can find it here

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