Guest blog by Suzan Romar
The identity model of Birkigt and Stadler is taught to students at various schools. This model is used in surveys and reports on identity and image. During an interview with Thomas Lapperre, the theory and practice of this identity model is 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, identity consists of four elements: personality, behavior, communication and symbols. The interaction between the identity of a company and the image is shown in the model. If a company wants to change its image, a company must first work on the four elements from the identity model described below.
The personality is the center of the image. The other three elements form 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 daily actions of the company. How does the company deal with various matters such as with its employees or with its customers?
The communication ensures that the personality of the company is propagated. Through communication, different messages from a company are transferred to the target group. It is important that the message is equal to the behavior of the company.
The symbolism consists of the corporate identity, logo and website of a company. A 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 is it nowadays that the identity is correct, because companies have been on average for 10 years or are being taken over. The image is leading, because the target group knows this. Old President Obama can be seen as an example. He generally 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 had the most drunken strikes fired, this was on civilians, children and a hospital. (ed. see, among others 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) shows that ultimately, absolute truth, so absolute identity, is secondary to how you are viewed in society. Why is that? Because you may be right, but you won't get it. You can be the best company that is really environmentally friendly, but if people don't see you like that, they still won't buy your products.
It is about how you are viewed as a company in the world by your customers. This starts with perception. The theory of identity does not really matter, it is purely about the image.