Identity crisis

A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem

Albert Einstein

Technically ‘identity crisis’ is a psychological term and used to describe a condition where we are confused about our identity and really don’t know who we are. Are we what we think or we are what other think about ourselves? Many times we really don’t know who we are.

Not only for individuals but this is also true for communities, countries, cultures and business.  Any community or culture which lost their identity was destroyed in a short time and communities with strong cultural penetrations could hold their identity over a good period of time. India is the best example of strong cultural penetration.

This does not mean the reluctance to change, the change is the elementary in nature and history shows that the culture which has adopted ‘other’ cultures gets stronger. The English language is the best example of this; it has become the richest language by adopting the words from across the languages.

The change and adoption are not  problems, it is not about ‘accepting’, the problem is ‘loosing’.  We need improvements and it is required, however, it creates a major issue when while improving  on new areas, we lose our competence and strength and this can lead to a ‘identity crisis’.

This normally happens with any ‘fast’ growing organizations, the organizations grows because of some vision, strategies, talent and many other factors and when there is a high growth it becomes very difficult to manage identity.  Historically old employees, cultures and values creates an identity of an organization for employees and when you have new talents it starts creating a conflicts and the moment this conflict creates an identity crisis , they start developing new policy and strategies so a new identity can be established. There are many approaches in management for this like OD.

What happens to employees also happens to customers when you have brand identity crisis; it happens when any organization enters in a completely different business with same brand.

The customers get confuse about the basic attributes and see many traits, when you refer identity crisis to a culture it could be a long term issue but referring to a brand and business can be a major challenge, it is like losing known for an unknown.

The modern example of identity crisis is a social media, when brands start using a social media for brand awareness and marketing and if not, used strategically may create a major confusion to audience and customers, mistakes are made by assuming social media marketing and social marketing same.

The other common identity crisis in online business is websites. There are lots of businesses which want to create a rich website and they refer giants like Yahoo, Facebook, and Amazon etc. when they start thinking of a website and neglect their audience cultures and intellectual levels. You need to understand the technological exposer of your customer and user experience should be designed accordingly. Customers should perceive your identity exactly the way you do business, they should not assumed business as a technology company or online business. Many times strategy planner makes a big mistake by assuming him or her as a customer and he (wrongly) assumes that customers think same way and have same intellectual level that he or she possesses.

The difference between user imagery and brand imagery is well known and the best example of this and identity crisis is Tata Nano.  In India car is still a luxury and status symbol and when we buy a car there is user imagery associated with it and Nano created identity crisis with this. How can car be a common man car? If I buy a cheap car it does not match with my imagery and status. It does not fulfil associated ‘esteem’ need.

We know many customers who always refer to the leaders in the market and want everything like the leaders. Albeit, it is good to refer the best, it is also very important to refer your audience, customers, budget and core of your business. If you copy a campaign from online business for your consumer business, it may surely create an identity crisis.

You need to ask few questions about your branding

What do you want to be known as?

Does your statements and messages matches with the product you sell?

Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford and you are not that young anymore”

― James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room