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Explain the notion of identity based views of the corporation
In the recent decades, the term of "corporate identity" has dragged the attention of scholars and practitioners in both academic and marketing world. Many research have been done to emphasis the significant of this perception. However, many questions have been raised why the idea of "identity" of the corporation became an appealing issue and what advantage if companies adopted this awareness to grow in the employees' and stakeholders' perception. First of all, we have to understand their identities and elements before turn them into action.
What is the definition of identities in terms of corporate identity? They have been defined in several perceptions since the early of this research. In the beginning of the studies, most of definitions were described in narrow view. One was defined by Andrew Lambert (1989), he stated that "corporate identity describes all those manifestations of an organisation that it enable it to be distinctive." (Lambert, 1989) To make it easier to understand, he compared corporations as human which have different characteristics to differentiate them. However, more explanations have been described in broader meanings afterwards.
On the one hand, many literatures show that there are many social models have been created in use to explaining clearer (Otubanjo and Melewar, 2007). One of the examples is Balmer's (2006) 6Cs (i.e. character, communications, constituencies, covenant, conceptualisations and culture). This model was formed in order to make a better understanding towards corporate identity. In other academics such as French, they also formed the method to reach a deep meaning of corporate identity from their school of thought. One of the literature from Otubanjo and Melewar (2007) quoted the definition of French scholars, Moingeon and Ramanantsoa (1997), that corporate identity is a "set of interdependent characteristics of the organisation that give it specificity, stability and coherence" (Otubanjo and Melewar, 2007).
Although understanding the meaning of corporate identity is difficult and complicate, we have to realize its entire element to make a clear point of view in many dimensions. In this paper, Balmer's literature, commentary identity based view of the corporation, (2008) will be used as a guideline. First of all, for the typed of identities, as Balmer (2008) stated in the paper about the personalities of identities which were divided into six forms (i.e.individual identity, collective identity, juridical identity, national and ethnic identities, the double entendre and triple entendre of identification and identity and multiplicity) can distinguish each identity of every entity. It drew an outline of identities become more understandable. Later, going to the key point which is the corporate identity Quindrivium, the five approaches to identify and identification (Balmer, 2008), the identity concept can be clarified from this content. Bulmer explained that the corporate identity Quindrivium was divided into the following characteristics:
- Corporate identity
- Corporate identification
- Stakeholder identification
- Stakeholder culture identification
- Envisioned identities and identifications
This approach was stated that they are the method to reach a clear understanding the notions of identity based views of the corporation.
Corporate identity is the identities of corporation, the characteristics of the company which show the similarity and difference of them to the others. All those identities are enabling to create a uniqueness of the company. Its trails are included company's activities, quality, marketplace, location, geographical scope, organisational type, structure, procedures and culture (Balmer, 2008).
On the one hand, it was amplify to the wider perspective, corporate identity has important and independent traits which affect apparently to the company such as having a self-determining capability and are vulnerable to being managed and moulded (Balmer, 2008). However, Balmer (2008) also stated that identities in this term can characterize from the relevance between other identities "not simply in terms of what we are but what we are not". It has been said that history is another factor that shape corporate identity. Whether it is age or other characteristics of the firms are the historical materials that differentiate organisation's identities (Blomback and Brunninge, 2009) as well as there are multiple identities in each organisation (Albert and Whetten, 1985, cited in Balmer and Greyser, 2007) refer to organizational characteristics that remain constant over a certain period of time (He and Baruch, 2009).
In this part, it mentioned the identification which receives from organisation. Balmer (2008) stated in his paper that outward bound symbolic communication is the significant factor to summarize and communicate the essence of the corporation (i.e. values, standards purpose and uniqueness). In the early year, the terms of corporate identity was explained that it relates to company's logos and symbols as these were seen as "identifying" the organisation to third parties or stakeholders (Lippincott and Margulies, 1957 cited in Cornelissen and Elving, 2003). It is described as projecting "who you are, what you do and how to do it". It demonstrates itself through products or services, through environments and communications (Lambert, 1989).
Moreover, it is regarding a relationship between behaviour and appearance on the reality and symbolism of the company toward society. It can be said that "whenever behaviour and appearance are linked, real corporate identity emerges" (Olins, 1978-79 cited in Balmer and Greyser, 2007, p.56). The terms of symbolic and communication are the core of this phase. Moreover, the idea of "ideal self" was claimed in Balmer (2008) paper that it could make the company's strategies at risk. For instance, there are many companies might create or set the goal or strategies that cannot be true or cannot turn into the action. This will be a negative point to the companies because they might stick with that ideal and cannot make the commitment to the customers or stakeholders complete.
First of all, we should go back to the question that "Who is stakeholder?" Neville, Bell & Menguc (2005) stated the example of stakeholders that consist of shareholders, consumers, business partners, government, media, local community, the natural environment and employees. Otherwise, it means "any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organisations purposes" (Freeman, 1984, p.46, cited in Mason and Gray, 1999)
The stakeholders or stakeholder groups' identifications with the corporation are the most essential in this relationship and those identifications were constructed from the perception of stakeholders towards organisation. In addition, this awareness has come from corporate communications and symbolism in the last step. Experience of the organisation is also the key figure to form identity to every stakeholder (Balmer, 2008). It can be said that identification means answering the question of "What specific stakeholders fit within a specific category?" (i.e. naming the persons and parties that fill a certain stakeholder category) (F.J. Vos and C. Achterkamp, 2006).
On the other hand, there are an issue has been raised that today most companies have focused more on outsourcing and it affects to employees by employees' identity become less important as stakeholder brand identification receive more attention (Balmer, 2008). This goes to the question that is it worth changing?
Stakeholder culture identification
The difference in this school of thought is there are more emphasise on a corporate culture than the corporation (Balmer, 2008). The significant issue is drawn on the relationship between stakeholders and organisational culture which create the sense of participation. As Balmer (2008) stated in his paper that stakeholders identification to the group are likely to occur when they found the connection with the company and when that company gain high reputation. Moreover, when the organisation is perceived to be individual and prestigious, stakeholders will identify with the particular entity (Punjaisri, Wilson and Evanschitzky, 2009).
Nevertheless, the members of stakeholder can identify their strong identification by emphasised their similarities and differences with other associates of cultural grouping which are called "out group" (Balmer, 2008). The stakeholder identification also represented its varieties of personality by different persons or organisations. Each group have to take note of stakeholders and their concentration in dissimilar approaches (Grüner, 1997). Besides, "Latin school of thought" has risen up to describe the significance of individualist relation that looks for products or service in order to connect with others, with a community or a tribe (Badot and Cova, 1995, p.11, cited in Jallat and Wood, 2005).
Envisioned identities and identifications
From the prior study, there are only a few has ascertained in the concept of organisational image: employees conceive how others perceive their organisation. While the majority, marketing scholars, have focused on organisational behaviourists relate to employee perception instead (Balmer, 2008). Moreover, the notion of "external image" has been emphasised (Dutton et al., 1994, cited in Balmer, 2008) and raising more concern about the idea of "beliefs about beliefs" (Balmer, 2008).
Hence, in this final part, the main idea is to focus on envisioned from the others towards us. Not only in terms of corporate to corporate but also corporate to stakeholder/s or stakeholder group and between stakeholder and cultures (Balmer, 2008) in order to differentiate the organisation and gain more reputation from altering the disadvantages and bring the advantages to the improvement.
Why, or why not, does it have a utility to scholars and managers of corporate branding?
As the essential of identities has been stated in the previous part, it indicates that there are abundant of advantages that scholars and managers of corporate branding should adapt the crucial of corporate identity to their framework in order to develop their research or enterprises to meet the success.
For scholars, in the past several years, the importance of study in terms of corporate identity was ignored and devalued from the fact that it could enhance organisations to the better way. Moreover, the prior studies were confined this issue in narrowly perspective and in the similar circumstance (i.e. Western countries) (Balmer, 2008). To unlock or expand new vision would be the great opportunity to increase its acknowledgement and disquisition. On the one hand, the advantage of research is it would amend some defects of previous studies and motivate the study in more dimensions especially in corporate identities.
In terms of managers of corporate branding, it is essential to understand the identities of the corporation for the reason that a strong identity can help them align with the market, appeal investments, encourage employees in order to discriminate their products and services with the competitors (Melewar and Karaosmanoglu, 2006). Stuart cited in Balmer and Greyser, revealing the corporation (2007) about the importance of this aspect that "if the corporate identity is well managed, then the resulting corporate image will accurately reflect the values, beliefs and strategic direction of the company." Those are all significant reasons to adopt the framework to the companies and clarify the whole perception towards their staffs and stakeholders. In this case, manager is the key figure (Balmer and Greyser, 2007) who controls the clear point of view of which identities are suitable to identify the corporation. On the other hand, company's identities are also the important factor in order to position company's strategies. Moreover, the utilities of identities are too essential to be ignored. Various social activities whether they are wars, alliances or revolutions all having issues of identity at the core (Balmer, 2008).
Hence, after it can be seen that there are plenty of advantages in raising the notion of identities to all members of the brand and stakeholders. If the alignment successes, it will make the brand to be the star brand. To meet the triumph, we should adopt the five approaches to identify the identification, Quindrivium model, to the framework to find success. In this case, Louis Vuitton (LV), the world famous luxury brand, will be used to indicate the importance of the identity based view of the corporation.
First of all, for any organisation or brand, we have to realise what is our "identity". The reason that company has to emphasize this significant issue is to align the company to the correct trend. For LV, why this luxury French brand still have a large space in the marketplace although the products price has remained going up until now (in this recession period) or there are various competitors in the same segment. All can be answered that is because of its strong brand identity. The company has identified characteristics of the company from competitors by LV started from a trunks and luggage retailer then extended their products to purse and bags before entering the fashion market (Martin, 1995). The company' trails has been designated and clarified to the world that LV is one of the oldest and most legendary company produce guaranteed products made from high quality materials for high-end customers. The company rules some of the highest prices in the international fashion market for its products to show the prestige and wealth of its consumers. This is summaries of the company's identity.
After the company has positioned itself, identification is derived from this stage. As it was stated that symbolic is the significant key to communicate company' identity to stakeholder, LV has created its iconic LV monogram and logo to catch attention of media and stakeholders besides it also cause brand awareness. The reason that most companies use symbol, logo name or logo to promote their company is because people have more ability to remember and relate to the symbolic or visual than language. As it was claimed that "all of the observable and measurable elements of a firm's identity manifest in its comprehensive visual presentation of itself" (Alessandri, 2001, cited in Jun and Lee, 2007). Moreover, LV has highlighted on the commitment to its customers on both quality of product and service to maintain and enhance its reputation (louisvuitton.com).
For the next stage, when the company's identities have been communicated to the society, stakeholders will perceive that essence and identify themselves towards organisation: perception effects behaviour (Balmer, 2008). stakeholders are conceived as being actors that: (i) provide essential means of support required by an organisation; and (ii) could withdraw their support if their wants or expectations are not met, thus causing the organisation to fail, or inflicting unacceptable levels of damage. In this case, LV's stakeholders can be customers, business partners, media or employees etc. and every single group has their own relationship with the company. Moreover, any individual stakeholders can have different identity in different period of time and with different corporate (Balmer, 2008) same as LV's stakeholders who can have dissimilar identities with other brands or when the time changes.
On the other hand, when we talk about stakeholder's identity, we cannot deny that the most significant element is its employees (Olins, 1991, cited in Balmer and Wilson, 1998). They are dominant on customers and other stakeholders' brand perceptions in distributing both functional and emotional (de Chernatony, 2002, cited in Punjaisri, Wilson and Evanschitzky, 2009). Nevertheless, outsourcing has been focused on recently in order to decrease company cost (especially in IT business). The most important case study is Kodak, one of the first companies provide outsourcing in IT service abroad. It is like a two-edged sword; the company can take advantages from it but have negative effects as well. Apart from lack in service and product quality, lost its brand identity is another significant issue that follows (Emerald group, 2005).
Back to identity issue, after stakeholders identify themselves into the company's category, they will build a strong relationship with the corporate culture. For instance, if LV's customers want to make a relationship with the brand, they would purchase its products in order to create a relational cognition. Moreover, to emphasise the strong identification, we can differentiate our company from the different groups or competitors. For example, brand loyalty will occur with LV's stakeholders when they compare the brand with the others. Its logo (LV monogram) is another factor to create the distinction, contradiction and build prestige to stakeholders. Genuinely, the more valuable and reputation brand does, the more customer loyalty the brand gets.
Finally, after the first four stages have been completed, the last part is comparing to the others and how the others see our corporation. This is the most significant process in order to consider how the company's performance and is it good enough. The result is company can see its strengths and weaken points and bring it into development to achieve the success. Moreover, the company can sustain its space in the marketplace and enhance corporate reputation. We can differentiate our corporate with other corporate, our company with the stakeholder/s or stakeholder group and between stakeholders and culture as it was mentioned earlier. In case of LV, the reason that this brand can exist and gain more and more reputation in the society nowadays is because of its strong identity that unique and full of quality and value in its products and services. This is all the essential of "identity" for every corporation that should adopt and adapt all strategies toward their company and stakeholders. Furthermore, management is also cannot be ignored because it is compared as a guide to take company to the right direction.
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