Corporate Identity: A Paradigmatic Shift in the Theoretical Construction of its Meaning

87 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2008

See all articles by Olutayo Otubanjo, PhD

Olutayo Otubanjo, PhD

Brunel Busines School, Brunel University, London

T.C. Melewar

Brunel University London; Middlesex University - Business School

Nelarine Cornelius

University of Bradford - School of Management

Date Written: November 11, 2008

Abstract

Purpose of this paper: This paper aims to develop a longitudinal analysis of the theoretical construction of the meaning of corporate identity between 1970 and 2008.

Design/method/approach: A series of theoretical evidences are presented to argue that the construction of the meaning of corporate identity has witnessed an ongoing stability and change over time. Thus, a 'theoretical framework of movement', which describe the ongoing change and stability in the construction of the meaning of corporate identity, is presented. More importantly, a schema, which gives a representation of a 'paradigmatic shift' from the search for a universal 'definition' towards an 'understanding' of the concept, is highlighted.

Findings: The review of theoretical literature indicates that the meaning of corporate identity was constructed theoretically as corporate personality and CI mix between 1970 and 1985. The stability witnessed during this period was cut-short following the construction of corporate identity as corporate distinctiveness in 1985. This construction continued unabated until 1995. Following this stable period, the theoretical construction of corporate identity changed dramatically to the notions of 'central', 'enduring', 'distinctiveness' (CED) and image between 1995 and 2008. Second, theoretical evidence will be drawn to argue that the stability witnessed in the construction of the meaning of this concept as corporate personality and CI mix extended beyond the 1970 to 1985 period into 1985 to 1995 and the 1995-2008 periods. Third, it is also conceived that work on the construction of the meaning of corporate identity witnessed a paradigmatic shift from the search for a universal definition to 'understanding' between 1995 and 2008. Fourth, a framework of synthesis highlighting the emerging overlaps in the ways that the meaning of corporate identity has been reconstructed through social theory model is identified.

Theoretical implication: Although the meaning of corporate identity has been fraught by heated disagreements, it however appears that a consensus is gradually emerging. The clusters of accord in this study provide ample evidence in this regard.

Practical implications: This paper provides scholars with a broad view of the meaning of corporate identity and it gives insights into the scope and boundaries of the meaning of the concept. An insight into the boundaries and scope of authors' conceptualisations of corporate identity provides the basis on which other managerial issues (i.e. strategy, planning, management, measurement of corporate identity etc) that depend on a clear understand the meaning of corporate identity can advance.

Limitation of study and future research direction: This study is limited to the theoretical construction of the meaning of corporate identity. Unfortunately, it fails to account for how firms construct the meaning of this concept. An important future research direction might be to understand how firms construct the meaning of this phenomenon over time.

Originality and value of paper: The review of literature indicates that existing studies on corporate identity has focused mainly on the attempt by authors to establish a universal definition for corporate identity or to draw social theory models to explain the meaning of this concept. This paper makes a departure from extant theory and adds to existing literature by providing a longitudinal analysis of how this constructed has been constructed. Specifically it analyses how the construction of the meaning of corporate identity has witnessed a stability and change over time.

Keywords: corporate identity, corporate personality, corporate identity mix (CI mix), Central, Enduring, Distinctiveness (CED), image, ongoing, change, stability

Suggested Citation

Otubanjo, PhD, Olutayo and Melewar, T.C. and Cornelius, Nelarine, Corporate Identity: A Paradigmatic Shift in the Theoretical Construction of its Meaning (November 11, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1299668 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1299668

Olutayo Otubanjo, PhD (Contact Author)

Brunel Busines School, Brunel University, London ( email )

Kingston Lane
Eastern Gateway Building
Uxbridge, Middlesex
United Kingdom

T.C. Melewar

Brunel University London ( email )

Kingston Lane
Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH
United Kingdom

Middlesex University - Business School ( email )

The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT
United Kingdom

Nelarine Cornelius

University of Bradford - School of Management ( email )

Emm Lane
Bradford, West Yorkshire Bd9 4JL
United Kingdom

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