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Corporate identity, corporate identity scholarship and Wally Olins (1930-2014)

John M.T. Balmer (Brunel Business School, Brunel University, London, United Kingdom)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The role of Wally Olins (1930-2014) vis-à-vis corporate identity scholarship is appraised. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


A review of Wally Olins published output on corporate identity. Specific focus is accorded to his two seminal publications (books): The Corporate Personality: An Inquiry into the Nature of Corporate Identity (1978) and Corporate Identity: Making Business Strategy Visible through Design (1989).


Olins’ contribution to corporate identity scholarship is fivefold, namely: inspired and greatly influenced the first generation of corporate communications and corporate marketing academics; provided binary definitions of corporate identity; noted the importance of the Corporate Personality vis-à-vis the corporate identity; introduced the heroic and technocratic identity notions; and identified three, core, corporate identity structures (monolithic identity, endorsed identity and branded identity). In terms of his entire opus three distinct eras can be discerned, namely: 1978-1979: the identity exposition era; 1985-1999: the identity reiteration era; and 2000-2014 brand adherent era.

Practical implications

Olins was also part of the English corporate marketing revolution where the importance of organisations (other than products and services) were recognised. His reflections and those of others inspired Balmer (1998) to formally introduced the corporate marketing perspective where the focus of marketing focuses on organisations, stakeholders, societal concerns and the temporal dimension.


This is the first assessment of Olins’ influence on corporate identity scholarship. It critically appraises the nature of his contribution in his three writing periods vis-a-vis corporate identity scholarship and identifies five, significant, contributions he has made to the corporate identity canon.



Balmer, J.M.T. (2015), "Corporate identity, corporate identity scholarship and Wally Olins (1930-2014)", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 4-10.



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