What is Corporate Identity?

Corporate identity describes all the characteristics of a company that make it unique and distinguish it from the competition.

Definition of Corporate Identity

The Corporate Identity describes holistically all characteristics of an enterprise, which make it individually and differentiate it from the competition. We strategically develop these characteristics – mission statement, philosophy and values – for companies, formulate them and translate them into a corporate design that makes the corporate identity perceptible.

A brand is an abstract construct and in order to make it more tangible and to distinguish it from others, it is attributed human characteristics. Just as the visual appearance, communication, values and behaviour of a person are described, corporate identity or brand identity is defined with corporate design, corporate communication, corporate culture and corporate behaviour.

By creating unique brand personalities, a company differentiates itself from its competitors. Through a consistent appearance and communication that corresponds to the brand personality, the brand creates an unmistakable perception in the minds of its target group.

The development of the corporate identity is a component of strategic corporate management and at the same time the basis for decisions in all areas of the company.

The corporate identity provides orientation for measures in marketing and defines the appearance and communication concept. But the corporate identity is also used and practised in recruiting, in cooperations and in the area of corporate social responsibility. The corporate identity is a holistic concept that tells what the brand is and what it is not.


In a nutshell

Corporate identity encompasses the corporate culture and philosophy, internal and external communication, behavior towards employees, customers and partners, as well as the visual appearance at every touchpoint.

What is part of corporate identity?

Corporate identity aims to build a strong corporate personality. In order to develop a brand holistically, the following aspects are relevant for a corporate identity:

Each of the elements is interrelated and only if all elements are coordinated with each other, a clear brand image or corporate image is created. The aspects that make up the corporate identity are determined by the brand strategy. The following aspects are therefore indispensable for brand identity:

Brand identity

Brand Purpose

The Brand purpose describes the intrinsic motivation of a company beyond its own purpose. Nike’s purpose in itself, for example, is to produce sportswear and shoes. The purpose of the brand, on the other hand, is to enable everyone to become an athlete. The brand purpose is becoming more and more important for corporate identity: consumers and employees of the younger generation increasingly value purpose.

Golden Circle Template

Brand Values

A clearly defined framework of brand values provides internal and external orientation, in day-to-day business as well as in major decisions. This is the touchstone by which messages, products and campaigns are measured to determine whether they correspond to the corporate identity.

Brand Values Card Deck


The vision statement answers the question of what the company wants to achieve. It reflects the internal view and serves as a guiding star for the employees. It is future-oriented, inspiring, big thinking – but achievable. As a concise signpost, the statement is no longer than one sentence.

Vision Statement Template


The mission statement answers the question of what the brand does. It is addressed to customers and partners and clarifies the added value for them. It is present and describes the performance in a differentiating and memorable way in one sentence.

Mission Statement Template

Brand positioning

The positioning of a brand is also an expression of corporate identity: it shows where the brand is positioned in the market. In order to keep the brand promise, it is essential to include existing potentials and resources in the positioning.

Positioning Cross Template

Brand architecture

The brand architecture helps to either clearly distinguish individual brands from each other or to let them pay off against each other, depending on the context of already existing brands in the company. It is also the yardstick for determining which brands fit the corporate identity.

Brand name

The brand name is often the first point of contact with the brand, even before the target group knows anything about services or products. We create names that convey the right feeling for the respective corporate identity, stimulate curiosity and remain in mind.


A Claim manufactures as concisely as possible a reference to the brand promise. A successful claim can make a significant contribution to brand awareness and perception – and thus become a veritable instrument of value creation.

Distinguishing between purpose, vision and mission

At first glance, it is not easy to clearly distinguish between corporate purpose, vision and mission. On closer inspection, however, they form a hierarchy.

The Brand Purpose is at the highest level, floating above things, so to speak. It answers the question of why the company is in the world. In a sense, it is also addressed to the entire world, namely to all stakeholders of the company, both internally and externally.

The Vision Statement describes the longer-term goal of the company, e.g. a positioning or reputation to be achieved. It is aimed primarily at employees and serves as motivation and orientation.

The Mission Statement summarizes the concrete services of the brand in the sense of a value proposition and is accordingly directed primarily at customers.

Corporate Communication

Refers to a company’s communication strategy. Corporate communication encompasses all internal and external communications activities. Here, too, the aim is to create a clear image of the company in line with its corporate identity. One instrument for this is corporate language. It is used to establish the company’s tone and specific language rules.

Corporate communication includes

Brand Story

Due to today’s abundance of information, it is important as a brand to convey messages that are relevant to the target group. Without a clear, unambiguous message, customers do not understand the added value of a brand offer and promise. As a result, potential customers are lost.

A brand story serves as a tool to invite potential customers into a story that is interesting for them: With an individual narrative for the brand that conveys a clear brand message, is customer-centric and has an arc of suspense.


Definition of an appropriate tone of voice with which the target group identifies. This includes, for example, deciding whether or not to address customers with the polite form of address, certain words that should definitely or definitely not be used, or how to deal with technical jargon.

Corporate Design

We translate the brand-strategic foundations of corporate identity into corporate design. The corporate design or CD is the visual expression of the corporate identity. It makes it clear at first glance what the company stands for – with an interlocking design system.


The image or symbol that people use to optimally identify a brand at first glance, even if the name cannot be seen. MORE ABOUT LOGO DESIGN


Fonts used by companies or partially even exclusively designed for them, tell a lot about the character of the brand –Colours are carriers of meaning, both culturally and emotionally. conservative, factual, lovely, disruptive, etc

Color scheme

Colors are carriers of meaning, both culturally and emotionally. From colours, observers infer certain (brand) characteristics. Therefore the composition of a colour climate is a central part of corporate design. MORE ABOUT THE COLOUR SCHEME

Corporate Design Elemente Bildstil

Imagery style

Images have the power to communicate emotions and messages directly. Essential for this is not only the motif itself, but the mood of the picture: light, colour climate, contrast and composition. MORE ABOUT THE IMAGERY STYLE

Design grid

The design grid or grid serves to arrange, systematize and stage content. Design laws and principles support the eye movement and thus help to capture content.


A concise icon system facilitates the communication of content and can contribute significantly to the identity of a brand. Ideally, the brand can be recognized by the style of the icons. MORE ABOUT ICONS

The corporate design elements are applied in all digital and analog touchpoints – from the website to the corporate architecture. Thus, the external appearance significantly shapes the way the company is perceived by outsiders: Customers, suppliers, partners and potential employees.

Corporate Design Elements

Corporate Design Elements echovai and SIDES

Corporate Design Manual

Rules for the use of all corporate design elements are documented in the Corporate Design Manual. Clear and binding guidelines make processes efficient and prevent visual arbitrariness. In the brand manual, we create transparency for the consistent application of corporate design elements for customers and trades.

Brand Design Manuals

Examples Brand Guidelines


Corporate identity is often used synonymously with corporate design. In fact, however, corporate design is a component of corporate identity, namely the visible component. In the case of persons, the appearance would correspond to the respective appearance and behavior in public, the clothing, the gestures, what someone says and what he or she recognizably takes a stand on.

Corporate Culture

Corporate identity is intended to create a “we-awareness” internally by establishing a corporate culture, the corporate culture. Based on shared values and social norms, corporate culture defines how a company is structured and how members communicate and work internally and with external trades. Organizational culture operates at and between all levels of a company: at the leadership level, in management, between teams and among colleagues, between employees, customers and partners. This includes

  • practiced values
  • Standards
  • Code of conduct

These are intended to ensure that organizational members act and make decisions in line with the strategic direction.

Corporate Design elemens after Rebranding from SimplyDelivery to SIDES

Corporate Behavior

Corporate Behavior regulates the behavior of the company and its employees both internally and externally. This includes

  • Purpose
  • Leadership style
  • Interaction of colleagues with each other
  • Behavior of company employees towards outsiders
  • Behavior of the company towards the media and the public

The last point in particular is about ensuring that corporate behavior and the corporate identity concept are coherent in order to create the desired corporate image in the eyes of the public, customers, the press or potential employees. This also includes dealing with criticism.

Corporate identity as a concept of strategic corporate management

Corporate identity encompasses the identity of a brand. Since a brand is an abstract construct with the intention of suggesting a certain feeling, this construct can be controlled. In the course of corporate management and corporate planning, it is essential to deal strategically with the brand in order to be able to achieve set goals. Because a company is not automatically a brand. Only an implementation in behavior, communication and design that corresponds to the strategy leads to a successful brand positioning. A clear strategy, which is reflected in all components of the brand identity, makes the brand recognizable and credible for partners, employees and customers. The corporate identity must therefore be strategically developed, maintained and lived.

Corporate Identity: 9 examples

To better understand the concept of corporate identity, we present companies that have shown that consistent implementation of brand strategy can lead to a strong brand personality:

  • DCSO

    The starting point is the dome, which is composed of many units, representative of community members. The theme of cybersecurity runs through the color scheme and iconography. The protective sphere can be depicted from different perspectives and still form a recognizable element – such that the brand can be recognized even without a logo.

  • Branding Beispiel Ben & Jerry's

    Ben & Jerry’s

    Everyone knows the brand’s playful ice cream packs. Although the innovative flavors and fair ingredients help Ben & Jerry’s maintain a strong position in the market, it’s the branding that has transformed shoppers into loyal customers who are happy to spend a little more on their ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s have created a brand world that puts activism and solving the problems of our time at the heart of the brand.

  • Branding Beispiel Patagonia


    Quality that lasts is founder Yvon Chouinard’s credo. A strong focus on quality and sustainability is the brand’s recipe for success. For years, the company has posted sales in the millions, despite – or perhaps because of – a minimal marketing effort. Instead, the company focuses on consistent branding that makes quality and sustainability tangible and thus leads to a loyal community.

  • Branding Beispiel lululemon


    The Canadian It-label for yoga and sportswear combines functionality, comfort and aesthetics with the yoga philosophy of life. Lululemon communicates it in their Purpose: Living a life in practice leads to a more purposeful life – on and off the mat. Lululemon expresses the attitude of many yogis in their branding.

  • Adobe

    Every year, Adobe is named one of the most attractive companies in the world. This is not only due to modern offices and healthy meals, but also to an appreciation that runs through all structures. Employees are the focus: Paid training and flexible working hours are designed to contribute to physical and mental health. With its “Adobe Cares” program, the brand promotes the motivation and commitment of its employees, who are the most important asset in the creative process.

  • Airbnb

    The rental and travel platform Airbnb stands out for its welcoming and inclusive language for hosts, guests, and employees alike. Acceptance is a core brand value that is also lived out in internal and external communications. The brand slogan “Don’t just go there. Be at home there,” suggests that everyone belongs everywhere in the world, regardless of social and ethnic background or sexual orientation.

  • Branding Beispiel Oatly


    Sold out – It’s not uncommon for this to happen at Oatly. Demand for their oat milk products is often greater than what Oatly can produce. Strong positioning and transparent communication make up Oatly’s branding. Swedish roots and sustainability is ingrained in the brand DNA. With its rebellious branding and provocative campaigns, Oatly draws attention to the health and environmental consequences of oat milk over cow’s milk.

  • Apple

    The bitten apple is arguably the most famous logo in the world. Since its inception, Apple has focused on relationships with its customers and building a loyal community. The branding of the brand achieves the suggestion of certain emotions and invites consumers to become part of the Apple community. With the “Shot on iPhone” campaign, Apple puts its customers at the center.

  • Fritz-Kola

    The Fritz company has made soda drinking political. With opinionated advertising and initiatives that fight right-wing radicalism and homelessness, Fritz-Kola sets itself apart with more than just its flavors. Since 2003, the soda has stood for a radical but at the same time sympathetic attitude. This corresponds above all to the attitudes to life of the younger generations. The logo now dominates the image of counters in numerous bars.

Corporate Design elements after the rebranding of DCSO

The corporate identity strategy pursues the following goals


  • Transparent and cooperative processes lead to better collaboration
  • Better performance through a sense of community and brand understanding
  • Higher loyalty to the company through greater satisfaction
  • A clear vision helps employees work toward a common goal
  • A common understanding of the brand leads to efficient communication


  • A consistently established corporate identity is more quickly and better remembered by the target groups.
  • A distinctive brand image sets the company apart from its competitors
  • Clear messages create an understanding of the added value of the brand among customers
  • A tangible and tangible brand identity creates customer loyalty
  • A corporate culture that is lived out attracts outstanding talent
  • New products and services benefit from positive brand image

Templates for creating a corporate identity

  • Mission Statement

    The mission statement states the value proposition.

  • Positioning Cross

    Define for whom and for which needs the brand offers solutions

  • Vision Statement

    Define a specific goal that the brand wants to achieve within a defined period of time.

  • Brand Purpose Board

    Align the social added value, the needs of the target group and your own goals.

  • Buyer Personae

    Define for whom and for which needs the brand offers solutions

  • Golden Circle

    Get clear about the why, how and what of your brand and build the strategic basis with it

  • Identity Prisma

    Define the brand identity on 3 different levels with the identity prism template.

  • Brand Wheel

    The brand steering wheel according to Esch is suitable for a systemic analysis of the brand.

  • Brand Values Card Deck

    Develop brand values with examples and exercises and define what the brand stands for

  • Brand Key

    The Unilever Brand Key is a brand strategy model, focuses on competitors and target groups.

  • Brand Wheel

    The Unilever Brand Key is a brand strategy model, focuses on competitors and target groups.

  • Personality Sliders

    Define the brand personality: with the Brand Personality Sliders template.

How much does a corporate identity cost?

The cost of a corporate identity depends on the scope of the project. The size of a company, whether subcontractors need to be considered, and which communication materials need to be created all influence the cost of a corporate design.

The Alliance of German Designers has drawn up a remuneration agreement that provides orientation for designers and companies in the calculation of services. The AGD’s design remuneration agreement sets an hourly rate of 105.00 € per hour (net). Accordingly, the following guideline values result:

BRAND AUDIT: from € 1,200
BRAND STRATEGY: from € 15,000
Brand Story: from 7.500 €
NAMING: from 7.000 €
Corporate Design: from 15.000 €

Birgit Joest

About the author

Dr. Birgit Joest

As a brand strategist, Dr. Birgit Joest managed international brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Telekom and O2 before founding the branding agency Helder with Maurits den Held. Birgit Joest is an advisory board member, certified StoryBrand Guide and board member of VdU Berlin.


    Ansprechpartner Helder Design

    Dr. Birgit Joest


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