The impact of company image on corporate reputation

6 minute read

The impact of company image on corporate reputation

Highlights

  • Corporate image and corporate reputation are subjective perceptions that affect how people see and interact with your business.
  • Corporate image is more about how a brand makes people feel, while reputation includes people’s perceptions of a company’s products, leadership, finances, social responsibility, and interactions with its customers, employees, and community. 
  • Both corporate image and reputation can impact a company’s revenue and success.
  • Even if you have a good corporate reputation, a poor company image can hurt your revenues.
  • Incorporating image consulting into your reputation management strategy can improve your brand’s reach and success.

At a first glance, a corporate image and a corporate reputation might seem like synonyms. There are definite similarities between the two:  both your corporate image and your corporate reputation are important subjective perceptions that affect not only how people see your business, but also how and if they do business with you. 

But there are important differences between the two. Your corporate image represents a specific subset of perceptions about your company’s products and how they make people feel. A corporate image is based on an impression or accepted idea – it doesn’t involve the research, consideration, and knowledge that are at the basis of your corporate reputation. 

Your corporate reputation is a broader concept that includes perceptions of a company’s products and services, how the company and its leadership operate overall, and how the company treats its customers, employees, community, and the environment

corporate image and corporate reputation

Corporate reputation can affect any stakeholder or potential customer, while corporate image could be perceived differently across different types of customers. 

In research that distinguishes the different roles corporate image and reputation play, Cretu and Brodie note that “[a] brand's image has a more specific influence on the customers' perceptions of product and service quality while the company's reputation has a broader influence on perceptions of customer value and customer loyalty.”

Corporate image case study: Keds

To get a better idea of how a positive corporate image and corporate reputation differ, let’s turn to a case study for Keds. 

Shoe manufacturer Keds started making shoes in 1916, creating the very first mass-marketed sneaker. Through the years, it became a staple in athletic culture, hip-hop culture, punk culture, and pop culture; Marylin Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Katharine Hepburn, and every cheerleader wore these sneakers. The brand’s heigh day was in the 1980s when all the Dirty Dancing happened on Keds.

Unfortunately, that’s where the brand stayed. Its popularity faded together with 80s mullets, neon colors, and big hair. Keds' corporate reputation was intact, but their image became dated and stale. They still made the same shoes, but instead of being a fashion staple with the cool kids, Keds quickly became irrelevant. 

In 2016, Keds launched a campaign celebrating the brand’s rich history of strong women embracing the brand. Taylor Swift, this era’s Marylin Monroe, launched her own line of shoes, further solidifying Keds’ re-entry into relevancy. These efforts paid off. Keds revamped image brought in higher profits and more revenue than their old image. 

This case study also highlights the difference between image and reputation. Keds’ reputation hardly changed, but their image did. In fact, the image change was accompanied by other decisions that could be viewed as making a positive impact on the company’s reputation:  they moved their manufacturing back to the U.S. and launched an organic shoe line. 

corporate personality to reputation

Reputation consulting vs. image consulting

What's the difference between reputation consulting and image consulting?

Image consulting looks at how your brand is viewed at a glance: what are the ideas that consumers have about your brand, even if they’ve never engaged with it? In the case of Keds, it was clear that the company's reputation was fine, but their image was rising and falling with the winds of pop culture. 

Corporate reputation consulting considers how people feel about the reliability and responsibility of your corporation. Your corporate reputation is “the sum total of what consumers communicate that they feel about the company.” This is why reputation consulting must take a holistic approach that views and protects your company’s reputation from every angle. 

Both are subjective, but a reputation is good or bad; an image simply is. That does not mean your image has to stay where it is, or that there are no judgments that need adjusting. Getting together with a corporate image consultant can show you where your brand’s image stands and be a starting point for shifting your image into a more favorable position. 

What to ask a corporate image consultant

A good image consultant does not view your image as something separate from your reputation, but rather they consider your corporate image in the context of your reputation as a whole. That is why it can be very valuable to conduct an image analysis as part of your corporate reputation management

Unless you have a clear image problem (i.e., our shoes are no longer cool), the following questions are a great start for your corporate image consultant:

  • Is there a clear way in which our corporate image affects our reputation?
  • Are there any gaps in how our image is received and the products or services we offer?
  • Are we engaging the right audience? Are we reaching the people we are trying to reach?
  • What do people who don’t intimately know our brand think about the quality of our products or services?
  • What negative aspects of our image can be fixed? And how? 

These questions will help you map out your corporate image strategy. They also help you uncover any problems that require your attention. If you are already using our reputation management services, weaving this knowledge in with your existing strategy might give you better overall results, too. We may not include Taylor Swift in the mix, but we can incorporate image considerations into our reputation management strategy to strengthen your brand.

 

Corporate image FAQs

What is the difference between corporate image and corporate reputation? 

A corporate image is based on an impression or accepted idea – it doesn’t involve the research, consideration, and knowledge that are at the basis of your corporate reputation. Your corporate reputation, on the other hand, is a broader concept that includes perceptions of a company’s products and services, how the company and its leadership operate overall, and how the company treats its customers, employees, community, and the environment

What is corporate reputation? 

Your corporate reputation is the sum total of what consumers communicate that they feel about the company. This is why reputation consulting must take a holistic approach that views and protects your company’s reputation from every angle. 

What questions should I ask a corporate image consultant?

The following questions are a great start for your corporate image consultant. Is there a clear way in which our corporate image affects our reputation? Are there any gaps in how our image is received and the products or services we offer? Are we engaging the right audience? Are we reaching the people we are trying to reach? What do people who don’t intimately know our brand think about the quality of our products or services? What negative aspects of our image can be fixed? And how?