Corporate identity

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Corporate identity or CI for short (from corporation for 'society', 'company' and identity for 'identity') is the entirety of the features that characterize a company and distinguish it from other companies.

The corporate identity is thus the company's self-image, not to be confused with the image of others ( corporate image ).

The term cooperative identity is used in the context of social groups and non-profit organizations .


The sum of the characteristics of a company represents the corporate identity. The concept of CI is based on the assumption that companies as social systems are perceived as people and can act similarly. In this respect, the company is assigned a quasi-human personality, or it is seen as the task of corporate communication to help the company achieve such an identity. For the observer, a person's identity is usually derived from their visual appearance and the way they speak and act. If one regards a company as a personal, psychologically mature actor , its identity can be conveyed with a strategy of consistent action, communication and visual appearance. If these complementary parts result in a unified whole, a stable perception of this actor with a specific character, the corporate identity , arises .

According to Helmut Schmitt-Siegel, corporate identity characterizes the personality of a company with a self- image that emerges from the inside out , based on an action plan for a visibly lived value system or the development of a distinct corporate culture (see also Thomas J. Peters / Robert W. Waterman) .

"Corporate identity is the process through which cultural identity is created and further developed." "... when the corporate culture is independent, specific and meaningful and forms an authentic whole with its forms of expression"

- AB Schnyder : Journal: Leadership + Organization in 1991


A distinction is often made between different areas of corporate identity:

Corporate behavior
Corporate Behavior, or CB for short, describes the behavior towards the public and stakeholder groups (customers, suppliers, partners, employees). Corporate behavior is shown, among other things, in financial behavior (monetary), staff management, in the real tone (non-monetary) and in the reaction to criticism. Corporate behavior is the description of the behavior of a company from the outside. Often there is a discrepancy between the self-perception, the guidelines of a company and the real behavior.
Corporate communication
Corporate Communication, or CC for short, encompasses all corporate communication - both internally and externally. Corporate communication is used in advertising, in public relations and in internal company communication. They are intended to convey a uniform appearance and strengthen the associated image.
Corporate culture
Corporate culture describes the object and behavior level of the company and thus forms a concretization of the corporate philosophy.
Corporate Design
Corporate design, or CD for short, is understood to mean visual identity. Corporate design is used and a. in the design of company logos ( company logo , company signet ), corporate wear (work clothes), letterheads, business cards, online appearances, the corporate architecture of the company buildings, coloring. Corporate design is increasingly being expanded through additional sensory features such as the acoustic appearance ( audio branding or corporate sound) or the olfactory appearance (corporate scent).
Corporate language
Corporate Language, or CL for short, describes a targeted, specific language level that is used in the company.
Corporate philosophy
The corporate philosophy, or CP for short, includes the self-image of the company founder and reflects his original intentions. It thus forms a fundamental level of meaning and values ​​for the company with information on values, norms and roles.
Corporate soul
Corporate Soul, or CS for short.

In practice, these areas are not clearly separated from one another. However, the concept of the corporate image is particularly separated . The corporate image is not part of the corporate identity. It shows the external image of the company and the effect of its services, whereas the corporate identity embodies the self-image.

Further important constitutive factors for the corporate identity are the company history , the organizational structures , the vision and the mission statement (goals and self-image). In colloquial language, the term CI is often incorrectly used when actually only the CD is meant - in the Anglo-Saxon area, on the other hand, no distinction is made between CI and CD.


  • Roland Bickmann: Opportunity: Identity. Impetus for the management of complexity. Springer, Berlin a. a. 1999, ISBN 3-540-63488-6 .
  • Klaus Birkigt, Marinus M. Stadler, Hans J. Funck (eds.): Corporate Identity. Basics, functions, case studies. 11th, revised and updated edition. Redline Wirtschaft at Verlag Moderne Industrie, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-478-25540-6 .
  • Dieter Herbst : Corporate Identity. 2nd, completely revised edition. Cornelsen, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-464-49056-4 .
  • Ingrid G. Keller: The CI dilemma. Farewell to false illusions. 2nd Edition. Gabler, Wiesbaden 1993, ISBN 3-409-28706-X .
  • Waldemar Kiessling, Florian Babel: Corporate Identity. Sustainable corporate management strategy. 4th, revised, expanded edition. Ziel-Verlag, Augsburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-940562-47-0 .
  • Heinz Kroehl: Corporate Identity as a Successful Concept in the 21st Century. CI 21. Vahlen, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-8006-2485-0 .
  • Robert Paulmann: Double loop. Basic knowledge of corporate identity. Hermann Schmidt Verlag, Mainz 2005, ISBN 3-87439-660-6 .
  • Thomas J. Peters , Robert W. Waterman jr .: In search of excellence. What can be learned from the best run US companies. 9th edition. Redline Wirtschaft at Verlag Moderne Industrie, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-478-81310-7 .
  • Gerhard Regenthal: Holistic Corporate Identity. Successful design of form, behavior and communication. Gabler, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 3-409-12079-3 .
  • Wolfgang Schmittel : Design, Concept, Realization. Brown. Citroën. Miller. Olivetti. Sony. Swissair. ABC edition, Zurich 1975, ISBN 3-85504-038-9 .
  • Helmut Schmitt-Siegel : corporate culture. A way to market success (= look through the economy, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt am Main 1990, ISBN 3-924875-49-9 .

supporting documents

  1. in the magazine leadership + organization. Quoted from