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Open Manifesto

Branding is the greatest gift that commerce has given to culture.

A conversation between Wally Olins and K.F.

{14th of November 2008}


Briefly, what is the difference, if any, between a corporate identity and a brand identity?


Well at one level, of course, brand identity and corporate identity and reputation, all of these words, stand for the same kinds of things. There is no doubt though that the semantic difference between brand identity and corporate identity is profound. ‘Corporate identity’ is an academic, almost loose woolly term, whereas a ‘Brand’ is about money. So when you start talking about a brand you start talking about a subject that is very close to a corporation’s real interests.


Do you mean Corporate Identity is something more cosmetic?


Some people might think so. If you like, it’s a derivation of another phrase ‘house style’ which is no longer used and which implies an external presentation of the organisation. Corporate identity doesn’t necessarily imply external. ‘Brand’ certainly doesn’t imply external, although some people think it does.


But when you talk to a commercial organization about brand strategy they know that it is about money and is therefore worth talking about. The long-term implication is that it puts brand strategists and brand consultants right at the heart of the business world. Corporate identity does not do this. This also has knock on implications we can talk about later if you want, in relation to advertising agencies and so on.


Before we get into that I’d like to talk about a wider issue, about your views on how  branding, and its associated activities, has broadly shaped our society today.


(The rest of this article is available, in print, in Open Manifesto #5)


Wally Olins is a co-founder of [brand design company] Wolff Olins and was Chairman of the company until 1997. He is Chairman of Saffron Brand Consultants. He was awarded a CBE in 1999. He was nominated for the Prince Philip Designers Prize in 1999 and received the Royal Society of Arts’ Bicentenary Medal for his contribution to design and marketing.


He is one of the world’s most experienced practitioners of corporate identity and branding. He has a particular interest in and experience of the branding of regions and nations.


He is currently Visiting Fellow at Said Business School in Oxford, and Visiting Professor at Lancaster University and Copenhagen Business School, and holds seminars on branding and communication issues around the world.