Image vs Identity – What should a Marketer do?

Lot of marketing and branding literature try to resolve the distinction between ‘Image’ and ‘Identity’. Identity in simpler terms is what you are made of; what are your beliefs and which values you subscribe to; while image is how others look at you or perceive you. From strategic perspective both ‘Image’ and ‘Identity’ are important; be it product; service or an individual.

It is considered to be a marketing delight if there is some semblance of congruity – similarity – between an individual’s identity and the projected image. This similarity goes a long way in defending what a marketer has to say about his product or a service. The image building exercise by a brand through a series of communication in various contexts like selling; corporate communication; advertising; vendor and client communication; media relationships etc, mostly account for strategies that meet expectations of their consumers and public at large.

Identity of a brand is communicated through communication which culminates into an image of a brand; but it is also important to note that the influence of identity has ramifications on other parts of the business also – which parts of my products are sourced from where to what is the right price of my product ?

The best of advertising cannot save a company/product if its offerings do not meet consumer’s expectations. Kingfisher Airlines took off with ‘Elite’ and ‘Glamorous’ image conjured up by Mr Mallya’s lifestyle and Kingfisher calendar models; however, at its roots the airline was struggling with the same industry issues as other airlines – lower profit margins; higher fuel costs; lower occupancy rates; etc. The projection of Kingfisher’s brand image even though worked in the alcohol business, it created a lot of dissonance in the airlines industry that was struggling just to stay afloat by offering low priced tickets, and cutting down on other services as part of their austerity drive.

In hindsight one can say that Mr Mallaya should not have gone with the identity-image congruity but with an image that was in sync with the airline industry. This could have at least helped in managing public sentiment around the airlines’ failure. The Brand Equity of the whole kingfisher brand was diluted because of the failure of the airline company and the subsequent lawsuit against Mr Mallaya.

Pratik Pillai, Assistant Professor, Unitedworld School of Liberal Arts and Mass Communication (USLM)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.