Corporate identity is often seen as a collection of visual elements, which are used in various applications to promote the image of an organisation. Originally, it was synonymous with organisational nomenclature, logos, the housestyle and visual elements, but in time visual identity and corporate strategy have become inextricably linked.
Some marketing specialists regard corporate identity as the core of an organsation’s existence, made up of its history, beliefs, philosophy, technology, people, its ethical and cultural values and strategies. Corporate identity also helps determine the positioning of an organisation in terms of its markets and competitors.
Corporate identity: not easy to define
Academics and marketing consultants concur that corporate identity is not that easy to define. Instead of compiling a definition, academics from the Strathclyde, Erasmus and Harvard Business Schools and leading consultants developed the Strathclyde statement which articulates the multi-disciplinary nature of corporate identity:
“Every organisation has an identity. It articulates the corporate ethos, aims and values and presents a sense of individuality that can help to differentiate the organisation within its competitive environment.”
“When well managed, corporate identity can be a powerful means of integrating the many disciplines and activities essential to an organisation’s success. It can also provide the visual cohesion necessary to ensure that all corporate communications are coherent with each other and result in an image consistent with the organisation’s ethos and character.”
“By effectively managing its corporate identity an organisation can build understanding and commitment among its diverse stakeholders. This can be manifested in an ability to attract and retain customers and employees, achieve strategic alliances, gain the support of financial markets and generate a sense of direction and purpose. Corporate identity is a strategic issue.”
“Corporate identity differs from traditional brand marketing since it is concerned with all of an organisation’s stakeholders and the multi-faceted way in which an organisation communicates.”
Corporate identity: why it is important
In the highly competitive arena within which Stellenbosch University has to operate, factors such as the need for consistent visibility and communication, as well as innovative measures to counter excelating media costs are becoming more important. A clearly defined and positive corporate identity is of vital importance for success and growth. Such a corporate identity, by making Stellenbosch University stand out among its competitors, leads to a positive attitude towards the institution, both nationally and internationally. It helps the University to attract teaching staff, students and administrative staff of the highest calibre, as well as commercial and industrial partners.
The danger lies in the assumption that we only communicate when we set out to, and the complacency that Stellenbosch University is well known. Our corporate image is much more than a common visual identity. It is a picture in the eyes of our various stakeholders, made up of jigsaw pieces ranging from visual elements to perceptions of campus culture, language issues, academic standards and service delivery experiences.
The objective of this Corporate Identity Guide is to establish a strong visual identity for the umbrella institution, which is to be applied with the required flexibility in recognition of its diversity. Flexibility should, however, not be mistaken for a laissez-faire application of the visual identity.
The use of corporate identity rather than reputation or image is not without significance. The word ‘corporate’ denotes an entity that is large and has many facets – something which ‘reputation’ or ‘image’ cannot do. It is an internationally recognised term that gives an immediate impression of a large and imposing organisation. That it is a term usually found in the commercial world does not detract from the nature of our organisation as an academic institution. The term corporate identity has the additional advantage of placing the University firmly among its commercial and industrial partners in the modern world.