Developing a corporate identity: a management checklist
John Lloyd and Jim Northover, 1979

This management checklist was one of a series developed for the British Institute of Management (BIM). The aim of the checklists was to highlight some of the more significant questions to be taken into account in considering a management technique, a problem area or, indeed, any subject of concern to management. They provided a framework for marshalling thoughts or ideas on the subject. Although Jim Northover and I compiled this checklist for the BIM in 1979, long before the existence of digital media, the principles it covers are as relevant today as they were all those years ago.


The term ‘corporate identity’ is used here to describe the means by which an organisation is identified and recognised. The name of an organisation, its trademark, symbol or namestyle, its corporate colours and its brand names are the basic elements of corporate identification. When projected through the media of signs, vehicles, stationery, forms, publications, advertisements, products, packaging and buildings, an impression of an organisation is built up.

However, an organisation’s true corporate identity or corporate image – what people really feel about it – is formed by much more than its appearance. The quality of its products and services, reliability, fairness, employee relations, personnel, concern about its social and environmental role, even the way in which the telephone is answered, combine with the appearance of its products, equipment, publications and premises to influence the opinion of all those who come into contact with it.

A corporate identification policy, no matter how carefully conceived and implemented, is no substitute for good products, good service and good management. But it is an invaluable management and marketing aid. It can help to improve relations with employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, the City and local authorities. By projecting the true nature of a business it can avoid conveying misleading impressions and can encourage new business.

A company with a well established and carefully considered corporate identity will need to review it from time to time to ensure its continuing effectiveness, in case it is beginning to look out-of-date and old fashioned in comparison with competitors. Its corporate identity might have so many variations that it is losing impact and recognition; or the nature of its business might have changed or expanded, making the corporate identity inappropriate. This is particularly true of a group that has grown by acquisition and has inherited many different corporate identities and needs to re-define its group identity. Rationalisation can also help to reduce costs.

The purpose of this checklist is to draw attention to key factors that need to be taken into account when reviewing existing corporate identities or creating new ones.

Do you need a corporate identity?

  • Do you wish to help make your organisation recognisable and memorable? Why?
  • Will it strengthen the confidence of your employees, make them proud of the organisation in which they work and therefore improve employee relations?
  • Would it encourage people to join your organisation?
  • Could it help to build confidence among sources of finance, investors and shareholders?
  • Will it
    • strengthen the confidence and goodwill of suppliers?
    • reassure old customers and encourage new ones?
    • encourage the respect and goodwill of the general public, local government and community groups?
  • Do you wish to make your organisation appear up-to-date, expert in its field, efficient and well organised?
  • Will it make your organisation appear to be socially aware, concerned about its appearance and the effect it has on the environment?
  • Can it make your organisation look friendly, approachable, and pleasant to deal with?
  • Would it make your organisation look better than its competitors?
  • Does it make economic sense to have standardised designs for stationery, vehicle livery, signs, packaging and product identification, all of which can be controlled and purchased centrally?
  • Will it communicate the true nature of your organisation and its current business to its various audiences and avoid creating misleading impressions?
  • Do you hope that, by accumulation, it will create a stronger presence in the market place?

Does your company have a corporate identity?

  • Does your organisation already have a corporate trademark, symbol or namestyle?
  • Is there:
    • a corporate colour?
    • a corporate type style?
    • What other elements of corporate identity exist?
  • Are these elements used? Are they used consistently?
  • Could the name of the organisation be improved in any way? Could it be abbreviated or changed?
  • Is it appropriate:
    • to current and projected business?
    • for use overseas?
    • Or is it misleading?

Is it effective?

  • Have you prepared a communications objective? In other words, have you decided how you would like the organisation to be regarded by its present and future audiences?
  • Have you identified your audiences? Do they include, for example:
    • personnel?
    • prospective employees?
    • unions and employee organisations?
    • past and present customers
    • sources of finance (shareholders, banks, investors)?
    • suppliers?
    • government (local and national)?
    • competitors?
    • the media?
    • overseas audiences?
  • Are the needs of your overseas audiences the same as those of your UK audiences?
  • Does the existing corporate identity project how you would like the organisation to be regarded?
  • Is it appropriate to the organisation's:
    • current and projected future business?
    • use overseas?
  • Has the nature of your business changed since the present corporate identity was adopted?
  • Does it look old fashioned and out of date?
  • Could it be modernised and revised without losing continuity? Or is it so inappropriate that a new approach is called for?
  • Do your competitors have well defined corporate identities? Have they at any time updated, changed or improved them? Why?
  • Is the organisation arranged in divisions? Does the corporate identity adequately express each of the divisions?

If you are a group of companies have you considered?

  • Is the organisation a group that has grown by acquisition or merger so that there are now many different names and corporate identities?
  • Do these identities convey the impression of a strong, integrated, well-organised group, or do they dissipate the group identity?
  • Are the names and identities related one to another in any way?
  • If not, is there any reason why they should not be more closely related visually?
  • Or is it important for marketing and trading reasons that the individual identities are preserved?
  • If the individual identities must be retained, is there any reason why they should not display a group endorsement on, for example, stationery, vehicles and signs?
  • Are there any areas of activity within the group that are incompatible with the group's corporate communications objectives and which need to be given separate identities?
  • Would an overall group corporate identity system be useful? Would it help to incorporate new organisations?
  • If it already exists, would a stronger group identity help to make the broad base of the group better known?
  • Would this be an advantage or a disadvantage?
  • Are your employees aware of the nature and structure of the group?
  • Are they kept informed of changes and developments? How?
  • Could a more integrated group identity encourage better internal communications and co-operation between members?
  • Could this help to improve morale as well as efficiency?

Planning a new policy on corporate identity

  • Have you made a detailed study of your present corporate identity?
  • Have you studied those of your competitors
  • Who in the organisation is responsible for corporate identity now?
  • Does that person have the support of top management?
  • If there is no one directly responsible, or if responsibilities are divided, have you considered appointing someone to act as corporate identity controller?
  • Have you itemised all the possible corporate identity manifestations?
  • Will all your products carry a corporate endorsement?
  • In the case of a merger or an already established organisation, are there any visual elements that should be retained from previous corporate identities?
  • Have you considered seeking the advice of corporate identity design experts?
  • Have you allowed an adequate budget and time for design and implementation?
  • Is there to be a merger date or a launch date by which time all corporate identity material must be ready, or will it appear gradually on a replacement basis?
  • Have you planned a document or publication for your employees, customers, and investors which will explain what the corporate identity means and why investment in corporate identity is important?
  • Have you planned to produce a design manual containing the corporate identity elements together with rules and guidelines for their use?
  • How are you going to introduce this to employees responsible for implementing the corporate identity policy?
  • How will you arrange for the corporate identity to be reviewed from time to time (say every two years) to ensure its continuing effectiveness?

Corporate identity manifestations

The checklist was accompanied by a detailed list of corporate identity manifestations under the following headings:

  • ‐ Stationery and forms
  • ‐ Transport and equipment
  • ‐ Signs (identification, advertising, wayfinding)
  • ‐ Products
  • ‐ Packaging
  • ‐ Corporate print (financial, recruitment, internal)
  • ‐ Publicity (print, TV, film, radio, posters)
  • ‐ Interiors (and architecture)
  • ‐ Exhibitions
  • ‐ Occupational garments
  • ‐ Miscellaneous items
  • Today we would, of course, add the spectrum of digital media

Management checklist number 65
Compiled by John Lloyd and Jim Northover
Published by the British Institute of Management, 1979

John David Lloyd: