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Corporate image and corporate identity are so similar that they sometimes seem interchangeable. Both refer to the way a company presents itself to the outside world. While the two terms might seem the same, they have different meanings and implications for the company. Corporate image is the way a company looks in terms of its logos, corporate colors, design and other visual stimulation. On the other hand, corporate identity includes the effects of the type of organizational culture at the corporation in relation to the way it reflects on the company.
One way to better understand the difference between corporate image and corporate identity is to consider a company that has recently been acquired by another. A change in corporate image is one of the first things consumers and other people will see. If a bank has been acquired by another bank, the new bank will immediately change the logo, letter heading, and other visual signs of the old bank to reflect its own corporate logos. This change will be seen by people passing branches of the old bank in the form of new signs and designs. The corporate color of the new bank will also be reflected in items connected to the bank, including letters, informational booklets, and checks issued to customers. The new company is simply trying to establish its own corporate image on items that formerly belonged to the other bank, which it acquired.
The corporate identity is simply the culture of the new bank, which replaces that of the old one. This includes how the bank relates to customers, what the bank pays its employees, how the employees dress, how management communicates to its employees, the hours of operation, and the welfare package in place for employees. The corporate identity is the definition of what the bank stands for — its motto. It answers the question of the guiding principles and ethics governing the brand of the bank.
A difference between corporate image and corporate identity is that the corporate image is easier to change as opposed to the corporate identity, which is more lasting. If the company logo is old and the company is trying to capture a younger market, it may redesign the logo to appeal to the younger generation, while still maintaining elements of the old design with which the older generation can identify. In contrast, a company might find it harder to change the perception its consumers have about it.
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