The identity model: identity vs reputation / image
Guest blog by Susan Romar
The identity model of Birkigt and Stadler is taught to students at various schools. This model is used in research and reports on identity and image. During an interview with Thomas Lapperre, the theory and practice of this identity model are mapped out and there are differences. First the theory about the identity model will be explained and then the practical insights that emerged from the interview.
The theory: identity vs reputation/image
The identity model was developed by Birkigt and Stadler. According to the model, the identity consists of four elements: personality, behaviour, communication and symbols. The interplay between a company's identity and its image is displayed in the model. When a company wants to change its image, a company must first work on the four elements of the identity model described below.
The personality is the center of the image. The other three elements make up the personality. The personality consists of the core values of a company, what the company stands for and the general objectives.
The behavior consists of the day-to-day operations of the company. How does the company deal with different matters such as with its employees or with its customers?
The communication ensures that the personality of the company is propagated. Through communication, various messages from a company are conveyed to the target group. It is important that the message is the same as the behavior of the company.
The symbolism consists of the corporate identity, logo and website of a company. Strong symbolism allows a company to distinguish itself from the competition.
Identity and image in practice
In practice, this sentence from the theory is not entirely useful: 'if a company wants to change its image, a company must first work on the four elements of the model'. How important it is nowadays that the identity is correct, because companies exist on average for 10 years or they are then taken over. The image is leading, because the target group knows this. Former President Obama can be seen as an example. In general, he had a very positive image. Many people thought he was a good president, he can speak well and he has done many good things for America. His identity is really something else. For example, Obama has had most drone strikes fired, this was on civilians, children and a hospital. (ed. see ao The Atlantic, The Huffington Post and The Bureau Investigates) This may sound like a conspiracy theory, but this is the difference between image and identity.
Research (ed. see the Righteous Mind, Chapter 4) points out that, ultimately, absolute truth, so absolute identity, is secondary to how you are perceived in society. Why is that? Because you may be right, but that doesn't get you it. You may be the best company that is truly eco-friendly, but if people don't see you that way, they're still not going to buy your products.
It's about how you as a company are perceived in the world by your customers. This starts with perception. The theory of identity doesn't really matter, it's all about the image.