Coherence or diversity in corporate identity? Varying perceptions of the company as sources for corporate branding

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Brands play an increasingly prevalent role in modern society, as most people come to contact with a wide array of brands daily. Corporate brands characterize companies, and in particular convey meaning for a multitude of stakeholders. This thesis takes specific interest in what companies can learn from the diverse associations, meanings, and perceptions that are socially constructed in the company’s stakeholder environment. Indeed, a given corporate brand may take on a life of its own in stakeholder discourse, well beyond a company’s initial strategies for the brand. The complexity of stakeholder perception brings about both challenges and opportunities to the corporate branding practices and strategies of companies.

A traditional notion in corporate branding research and practice is that a corporate identity should follow principles of coherence and consistency. A coherent and consistent corporate identity is assumed to increase unity and alignment across various stakeholders’ perceptions of the company and its corporate brand. However, recent research suggests that companies commonly fail to achieve such unity across stakeholders’ perceptions, and scholars increasingly question whether coherence and consistency are realistic or even necessary principles for corporate branding.

The main purpose of this thesis is to investigate the implications of diversity in stakeholders’ perceptions of companies for corporate identity in corporate branding research and practice. Additionally, this thesis investigates the implications of stakeholders’ perceptual diversity in the research contexts of internal branding, brand extensions, and co-creation in branding.

Three essays make up this thesis, addressing the purpose of the thesis from different angles:

Essay 1, authored by Sonja Sarasvuo, relies on a qualitative methodology to explore the diversity of a B2B service company’s identity from an internal stakeholder perspective. The thesis extends understandings of how individuals’ perceptions of identity diverge due to, for instance, multiple professional and locational identities, and discusses diversity-based approaches to corporate identity management, internal branding and co-creation in branding.

Essay 2, authored by Sonja Sarasvuo, Veronica Liljander, and Kari Haahtela, presents a qualitative study conducted in two case companies, exploring business customers’ perceptions of corporate brand extensions in relation to the parent corporate brands. The study shows that perceived brand extension fit may grow over time, and identifies various sources of brand extension attractiveness and purchase barriers. Based on the findings, the essay discusses potential benefits and risks of extending corporate brands under a ‘branded house’ strategy.

Essay 3, authored by Sonja Sarasvuo, Anne Rindell, and Marina Kovalchuk, presents a critical literature review of the concept of co-creation in branding research, and proposes a new definition of the concept, suggesting that co-creation is a process of intentional interaction between or among two or more parties that influences a brand.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Rindell, Anne-Maj, Thesis supervisor
Award date18.03.2022
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-952-232-455-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-232-461-0
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • 512 Business and Management
  • corporate branding
  • corporate identity
  • organizational identity
  • identity diversity
  • multiple organizational identities
  • professional identity
  • internal branding
  • brand identification
  • brand co-creation
  • brand extensions
  • brand architecture
  • B2B branding
  • B2B service


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