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Hybrid Identity Organizations:The Role of Hybrid Identity Tensions in a Corporate Branding Strategy at a Voluntary Health Organization Open Access

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Albert and Whetten (1985) first recognized that hybrid identity organizations (HIOs) contain a hybridized identity that combines "two or more types that would not normally be expected together" (p. 270). This hybrid identity produces a set of claims that conceptualize who the organization is and what is central, enduring, and distinctive about it. At some level, these claims are inviolate, indispensable, and incompatible; forming latent identity tensions (Albert & Adams, 2002). The objective of this research was to gain a better understanding of the hybrid identity and its tensions. This qualitative case study explored the identity claims of a 60 plus year old national voluntary health organization which had recently implemented a corporate branding strategy (CBS). Data were gathered from multiple sources, including interviews, observations, and archival documents. Based on the results, it was concluded that the hybrid identity is true to the social actor conceptualization, being composed of a single identity represented by a set of institutionalized claims containing orientations towards the hybridized organizational types. Further, the claims are at varying levels incompatible, indispensable, and inviolate, resulting in the presence of ongoing tensions. The findings from this study suggest that these tensions surface through a gradual build-up over time and that using a CBS can help soften the exacerbated tensions by re-highlighting the existing identity to stakeholders. These findings have potential implications for organizational practitioners specializing in identity management, strategy, and CBS initiatives.

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