Identity, Image and Reputation

How to differ identity and image?

According to Paul A. Argenti, “a company’s identity is the visual manifestation of thecompany’s reality conveyed through the organization’s name, logo, motto, products, services, buildings, stationary, uniforms, and all other tangible pieces of evidence created by the organization and communicated to a variety of constituents” and the image is then the reflection of the organization’s identity. The identity program is a success, when these images accurately reflect the company’s reality. In an intensive competition, companies should pay more attention to their identity and image and make them more powerful.

Why to create an Identity? How to create and control identity?

There are several things that will contribute positively in creating an organization’s identity. First a company should think about an inspirational corporate vision, which includes the company’s core values, philosophies, standards and goals. Secondly, the company’s name and logo also shape a company’s identity and differentiates them in the marketplace. This allows the consumer to recognize a product of a certain company very quickly and effortlessly. Last, consistency is very important for a company’s identity. The organization’s vision should manifest itself throughout all identity elements, including names and logos.

A method that has been used successfully to create or change a company’s identity, includes six steps:

  1. Conduct an identity audit / How is your current image respectively reputation?
  2. Set identity Objectives
  3. Develop designs and names
  4. Develop prototypes
  5. Launch and communicate the new identity to the public
  6. Implement the program

The identity-building can be controlled and managed by an organization, in contrast to the image part of reputation.

How to build a solid reputation?

For a good reputation the organization’s identity and image have to be aligned. Therefore it should be a goal to first shape a unique identity, and second to project a coherent and consistent set of images to the public. A good reputation is favorable because it can give companies a competitive advantage by attracting and retaining the best talent, loyal customers, and business partners. Employees can be a good starting point to build a strong reputation, as they need to have the company’s vision and value in mind when acting with customers. Philanthropy and Social Responsibility could offer visibility and importance in the eyes of many constituencies.


“The example of General Electric slogan change in 2003 illustrates perfectly how it could be difficult and dangerous to modify the identity of a company, Indeed, The change was a long process but we know today that it had given very good results. This is a summary of a newspaper article just before the launching of the new slogan.

After almost a quarter-century, General Electric will no longer ”bring good things to life.” It is taking the risky step of replacing the familiar corporate slogan with one meant to laud its innovations in areas far a field from prosaic products like refrigerators and night-lights.

On Sunday, the New York office of BBDO Worldwide, the General Electric agency since 1920, will introduce the theme ”Imagination at work.” The campaign presented offbeat examples of imagination’s aftermath, like what would have happened had a modern-day G.E. jet engine been strapped onto the airplane the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903.

The goal of the aggressive overhaul, to be supported with more than $100 million worth of television, print and online advertising, is to play up the conglomerate’s efforts in realms like medical technology, robotics, media and financial services.

”We bring good things to life” first appeared in 1979, predating the appointment of Mr. Immelt’s high-profile predecessor, John F. Welch Jr., under whom G.E. flourished until hitting some rough waters in 2001.

” ‘We bring good things to life’ is a great line and speaks to the benefits we bring, and I was hesitant to move away from it,” said Ms. Hu, general manager for corporate advertising and marketing communications. ”But we needed a new articulation that is part mission, part vision and part strategy.” Research among consumers showed that the slogan being retired primarily invoked lighting and appliances, she added. Those areas now account for only 6 percent to 7 percent of the revenue of G.E., according to the company.

Analysts and corporate identity consultants were divided on the wisdom of relegating ”We bring good things to life”. Some worried that General Electric was abandoning decades of building its corporate brand image, a foolhardy endeavor at a time consumers are bombarded with more advertising than ever. ”I’m surprised they felt they couldn’t breathe new life into the current theme when ‘Imagination at work’ seems to be a less differentiating way of saying the same thing,” said John Lister, chairman of Lister Butler in New York, a corporate- identity-consulting company. Michael Watrous, president and chief executive at Straightline International in New York, another consultant on corporate and brand identities, said G.E.’s top executives ”were going down the wrong road.” ”We know there has been a change of management and we know the company wants to move on,” Mr. Watrous said. ”But it’s our feeling the equity G.E. has in ‘We bring good things to life’ is very solid, and there’s an opportunity to build on what the company already has.”

Some analysts and consultants agreed. ”Most advertisers change campaigns more often than you or I change underwear,” said Gary Stibel, principal at the New England Consulting Group in Westport, Conn., ”and that’s why more advertising is not as effective as it was before.” ‘Imagination at work’ is certainly something G.E. has a right to say,” he added, ”but it has mighty big shoes to fill.’ “G.E., for the first time in many years, is being questioned,” Mr. Stibel said. ”So perhaps it’s time to make a dramatic move, without walking away from its legacy.”

The fate of ”Imagination at work” is important not just for G.E., but for BBDO as well, because two top executives who were recently promoted to new responsibilities at the agency were involved in its creation and development. 

GE Imagination at work ad


Published in: on July 2, 2008 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment