Corporate image and corporate identity are two key marketing tools. The creation of both for a business utilises personnel from marketing, branding, design and copywriting and draws heavily on behavioural psychology. In a global marketplace, crowded with brands, it is the elements of image and identity that attract attention, maintain consumer loyalty, and, overall, sustain business success. The essential difference between the two is this: corporate image is the public perception of the company, whereas, corporate identity is how the company wants to be perceived by the public.
Corporate identity concerns a company's visual appearance. The company logo is a central part of this, as are website design, annual report, company stationery --- both paper and electronic --- signage, retail outlet design and any other items, such as mugs and pens, produced by the company as client gifts. Companies tend to modify the corporate identity at intervals. Radically changing a company's visuals is not recommended as it confuses consumers and leads to perceptions of instability and a change in company values. Modernisation of the corporate identity is more effective when the core visuals remain easily recognisable. As Paul Temporal explains in an article on "Branding Tips," in general, people don't like dramatic changes in the behaviour of people they know, and this applies to companies.
Building and maintaining corporate image requires some different methods and skills to those used in creating corporate identity. The corporate image is public perception, and handling that perception is crucial. Public relations personnel protect and promote the corporate identity to create a corporate image in people's minds. This includes managing negative media stories. The ultimate aim of a company is the exact alignment of corporate identity with corporate image, that is, the public views the company exactly as the company wants to be seen.
Brand Identity and Image
Corporate image and identity are both facets of establishing a brand. Brand identity is more important, overall, than either of these two tools, which support the brand. Brand identity is defined as the "total proposition" a company makes to consumers, according to Paul Temporal at BrandingAsia.com. This proposition includes brand benefits, performance, values, quality and customer service. Brand identity gives products a personality and set of values that establish it in the consumer's mind as embodying these things. Brand image, by contrast, is how consumers perceive a brand, overall. Companies work on the consumer experience to maintain brand image and ensure that consumers think about the brand in the way a company wants them to.