Brand identity versus corporate identity – how to tell the difference

Brand identity and corporate identity are surely separate entities. On the one hand, a business has its own inimitable personality that’s conveyed (perhaps) through playful messaging and colourful visuals. Then there’s the other part. The part that’s less interesting and seldom acknowledged.

For fun read brand identity. For uninteresting read corporate identity. But are these perceptions realistic or simply stereotypes that have been repeated so often they’ve become accepted?

Join us as we explain how to differentiate brand identity from corporate identity. The answer might just surprise you.

corporate rebranding

Brand identity in a nutshell

Conjure up a brand in your mind. You don’t have to like their products or services but probably have a solid grasp of their values anyway. 

Take a moment to answer the following questions…

  1. What are the company’s values?
  2. What contributions does it make to society?
  3. How does it look after its customers?
  4. How is it different to its competitors?
  5. What is its tone of voice?

The answers to these questions are tailored messages specific to the company’s sector and audience. Most importantly these elements help build trust and loyalty – while also differentiating the brand from rivals.

The importance of brand identity

When trying to understand brand identity versus corporate identity it’s helpful to focus on trust. Would you buy a laptop from a tech giant just because it was cheap? Probably not. 

Instead, you’d want to know…

  • The level of technical support included with the product
  • What current customers had to say about the laptop
  • The overall build quality (how long would it last?)
  • How the device compared to others in its class

The answers to these questions would give you insight into the company’s identity – allowing you to create a profile. From this will evolve a perception of the brand that informs your buying decision.

corporate brand identity

Corporate identity in a nutshell

Brand identity versus corporate identity: let’s break down the differences further. Remember the brand you thought about earlier? You’d probably recognise it through the logo alone and associate it with a set of values. This is an example of corporate identity at its very best – because it triggers a switch in your mind that provokes a strong (and usually favourable) response.

If that’s true, then why waste time trying to understand brand identity versus corporate identity? After all both help customers understand a company’s values, its mission, and the elements that successfully differentiate it from competitors in the same sector.

Think of the two opposing faces on a coin. Brand identity is a company’s personality. Meanwhile, corporate identity is the image it presents to the world. Logos, colour palettes, and digital assets are all examples of signifiers that make a business instantly identifiable to its customers.

Corporate identity versus brand identity – can one exist without the other?

So far we’ve focussed on corporate identity versus brand identity. And this makes each sound like an independent element that has zero association with the other. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

True, a company can achieve brand recognition by creating a strong visual image that’s instantly recognisable. In which case, why bother constructing a brand identity? The mission had already been accomplished. And yet the brand identity underpins the company’s persona by explaining (a) what it does; (b) what it stands for; (c) what makes it different.

Let’s reverse this scenario. Imagine a company with clearly defined values, a strong and hard-working team at its core, and a world-beating product that’s hands down superior to anything offered by its competitors. 

But unfortunately…

  • Its imagery is inconsistent across digital channels 
  • Messaging is uneven – varying across media
  • Logo sizes and fonts are used inconsistently

In short, the company’s identity has become a random collection of disorganised parts that makes it harder for customers to understand its purpose and what it stands for. Unable to decipher the puzzle, prospects instead gravitate toward a competitor brand they can understand.

corporate identity definition

Collaboration is key

It’s not really a case of brand identity versus corporate identity. This conjures up a visual image of two opponents working out their grudges like characters in a computer game. And this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Brand identity needs to be expressed consistently if it’s to become memorable. That’s where corporate identity comes in – using its powers of cohesion to assemble pallets, words, and assets into a recognisable form.

Of course, the reverse is also true. A collection of consistent images and messages were strewn randomly across digital channels means nothing unless underpinned by a set of comprehensible values and key differentiators.


Creating your brand and corporate identity

Whether you’re starting from zero or refreshing your brand, the process can be daunting  – especially if you’re not a marketing specialist. That’s why it makes sense to enlist the services of experts with proven experience in this area. Contact us now to arrange your free consultation and take the first step.