Academic journal article Journal of Economic and Social Development

A Theoretical Review of a Terminological Confusion:character, Identity, Image or Reputation?

Academic journal article Journal of Economic and Social Development

A Theoretical Review of a Terminological Confusion:character, Identity, Image or Reputation?

Article excerpt


The last few decades have witnessed significant growth in interest, conceptual development and empirical research in the topics of corporate identity, corporate image and corporate reputation (Abratt and Kleyn, 2012) in the scope of various disciplines including management, marketing, economic, finance, accounting and public relations paradigms. "Research on corporate reputation has identified the benefits of good reputation in explaining how a high-tech firm may benefit and best strategically position itself through its reputation" (Wang, 2013). Higher customer retention rates, increased sales, higher product selling prices, and reduced operating costs are suggested as some of these advantages of a good reputation. Particularly in managerial perspective, reputation is seen as an important asset that can be used for sustaining competitive advantage and for increasing performance. In this respect "a good reputation is identified as an intangible resource which may provide a firm with a basis for sustaining competitive advantage due to its valuable and hard to imitate characteristics" (Roberts and Dowling, 2002). However, despite the broad consensus in the importance of corporate reputation as a strategic asset and its great potential to impact corporate strategy success, corporate reputation as a research object still lacks deeper conceptualizing both in theoretical and empirical approaches (Adeosun and Ganiyu, 2013). This could mainly be attributed to "muddy" nature of the concept as several scholars emphasize noting that the terms identity and image are often used interchangeably with corporate reputation (Melewar and Jenkins, 2002). Considering the term corporate character that was suggested by Davies et al. (2003) together with the aforementioned terms, the need for an extensive review of the terminological confusion in which all these terms are investigated theoretically has arisen.


With the objective to investigate the theoretical confusion regarding the terms corporate identity, corporate image, corporate character and corporate reputation, an extensive review of the corporate reputation literature offered in various databases was conducted. As a part of the design of the survey, rather than suggesting a new conceptual approach or a definitional framework, publications from a wide variety of disciplines including management, marketing, economics, finance, accounting and public relations paradigms have been analyzed systematically and viewed here inductively.


3.1. Corporate Identity

"There are divergent views within the literature as to what is meant by corporate identity" says Van Riel and Balmer (1997) and refer to three main paradigm graphic design, integrated corporate communication and multidisciplinary approach respectively. They assert that the topic has gained popularity among management, marketing, organizational behavior, human resources, strategic movement, graphic design, and public relations academics. Judging by the number of publications for the past decades, they have ultimately proven to be righteous.

Corporate identity has traditionally referred to the physical ways an organization defines itself. "These can include logos, typography, colors, signage, packaging, annual reports and uniforms amongst others" (Dalton and Croft, 11). Marketing paradigm, for instance, readily accepts this definition and use the term identity to refer to "brand imagery and often to visual identity, a product's get-up and logo" (Burke et al., 2011:47). But from the viewpoint of strategic management paradigm, the idea that corporate identity is merely the visual elements of a corporation and it is only these visual elements which could distinguish one organization from another is a bit facile for a number of reasons. First and perhaps the most important reason is that the term corporate identity is the shared perceptions an organization's members hold, in particular those central, distinctive and enduring qualities that guide behavior (Burke et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.