The core of an identity is »individuality«. With respect to a company, this mainly refers to the ability to differentiate and recognize the company in all media and channels of communication. Importantly, this »consistency« mustn’t come with uniformity. Whether or not the result of a conscious decision, every company has a certain personality from the beginning. How it is led, which goals it has, and how they are realized determine the company’s character, its identity. Every company should take the time to check whether its actual identity (still) conforms to its goals and its current as well as future social-economic environment.
A closer look at a corporate identity often reveals that changes in the company’s goals are not utilized because they are not recognizable from the outside. Potential advantages over the competition are not realized in such cases: an example is a small long-established handicraft business that has acquired advanced technologies but doesn’t communicate them and wonders why the market doesn’t react to these advances. Another example is a metal company that has become a telecommunications giant as a result of buying and selling shares, which is however still perceived by the public as an old-fashioned inactive tanker. Contents and communication obviously don’t match in these examples and cause confusion. These companies don’t have a consistently followed identity. They hence don’t have a clear, distinguished, and trustworthy profile.
To create a coherent and convincing picture, a company has to know exactly what it is, what it can do, and where it wants to go. These are the most important elements of the corporate-identity process. These questions have to be clarified at the beginning, for which it is essential to consciously look into the company, its goals, its employees, and its competition. The company’s identity has to be developed and defined on the basis of its strategic goals, its strengths, as well as the expectations of its customers and partners. To be effective, this identity must be communicated authoritatively and clearly.
Corporate identity has typically and wrongly been reduced to visual appearance, i.e. corporate design – it has been set equal to designing a logo, a letter head, a brochure, or a new luminous sign on the company’s roof.
This basic misconception has led to the situation that uncountable amounts of money are thrown away for superficial »make-ups«. This may save some money and time in the short term, but it is a misinvestment in the mid and long term. Thousands of corporate designs have been created in this way. When the financial budget is tight and quick successes are crucial, many managers avoid the complex corporate-identity process. Such short-term thinking does not agree, however, with strategically leading a company.