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ISSN 0309-0566

Volume 42 Number 5/6 2008

European Journal of Marketing Brand management Guest Editors: Leslie de Chernatony, George Christodoulides, Stuart Roper and Temi Abimbola

Published in association with the

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN 0309-0566 Volume 42 Number 5/6 2008

Brand management Guest Editors Leslie de Chernatony, George Christodoulides, Stuart Roper and Temi Abimbola

Access this journal online ______________________________


Editorial review board___________________________________


Guest editorial ___________________________________________


Principles of corporate rebranding Bill Merrilees and Dale Miller_____________________________________


Positive and negative brand beliefs and brand defection/uptake Maxwell Winchester, Jenni Romaniuk and Svetlana Bogomolova ________


Who’s who in brand communities – and why? Hans Ouwersloot and Gaby Odekerken-Schro¨der _____________________


The attractiveness and connectedness of ruthless brands: the role of trust John Power, Susan Whelan and Gary Davies ________________________


Provenance associations as core values of place umbrella brands: a framework of characteristics Nina M. Iversen and Leif E. Hem _________________________________

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Children’s use of brand symbolism: a consumer culture theory approach


Agnes Nairn, Christine Griffin and Patricia Gaya Wicks_______________


Alternative perspectives on marketing and the place brand Dominic Medway and Gary Warnaby ______________________________


Consumer perceptions of brand architecture in financial services James F. Devlin and Sally McKechnie ______________________________


Employer branding and its influence on managers Gary Davies___________________________________________________


Desired and perceived identities of fashion retailers Ranis Cheng, Tony Hines and Ian Grime ___________________________


Undesired self-image congruence in a low-involvement product context Michael Bosnjak and Nina Rudolph________________________________

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EJM 42,5/6


European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 p. 532 # Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566

EDITORIAL REVIEW BOARD Professor Nicholas Alexander University of Ulster, Northern Ireland Professor John Balmer University of Brunel, UK Professor Roger Bennett London Metropolitan University, UK Professor Grete Birtwistle Glasgow Caledonian University, UK Professor Bjo¨rn Bjerke Malmo¨ University, Sweden Professor Stephen Brown University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Northern Ireland Prof. Dr Manfred Bruhn University of Basel, Switzerland Professor Tamar Cavusgil Michigan State University, USA Professor Sylvia Chetty Massey University, New Zealand Professor Nicole Coviello University of Auckland, New Zealand Professor David Cravens Texas Christian University, USA Professor Tevfik Dalgic University of Texas at Dallas, USA Dr Ken Deans University of Otago, New Zealand Elena Delgado-Ballester University of Murcia, Spain Professor Adamantios Diamantopoulos Loughborough University, UK Professor Bill Donaldson The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK Mr John Egan Middlesex University Business School, UK Dr Kim Fam University of Otago, New Zealand Professor Pervez Ghauri Manchester School of Management, UMIST, UK Professor Christina Goulding University of Wolverhampton, UK Professor Kjell Grønhaug Norges Handelshoyskole, Norway Dr Chiquan Guo The University of Texas – Pan American, USA Dr Rob Hamlin University of Otago, New Zealand Professor Lloyd Harris Cardiff Business School, UK Professor Graham J. Hooley Aston Business School, UK Professor Ga´bor Hova´nyi Panno´nia UTCA, Hungary Professor Claes Hultman ¨ rebro University, Sweden O Dr La´szlo´ Ka´rpa´ti University of Debrecen, Hungary Professor Erdener Kaynak Pennstate Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA Professor David A. Kirby The British University in Egypt, Cairo, Egypt

Professor Philip Kitchen The University of Hull, UK Professor Simon Knox Cranfield University, UK Professor Raymond LaForge University of Louisville, USA Dr Meredith Lawley University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia Professor Veronica Liljander Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Finland Professor Andrew McAuley University of Stirling, UK Dr Rosalind McMullan Auburn University, USA Professor Bill Merrilees Griffith University, Australia Professor Morgan Miles Georgia Southern University, USA Professor Robert Morgan Cardiff University, UK Professor Luiz Moutinho University of Glasgow Business School, UK Professor Patrick Murphy University of Notre Dame, USA Professor Aron O’Cass The University of Newcastle, Australia Dr Tom O’Toole Waterford Institute of Technology, UK Professor Adrian Palmer University of Gloucestershire, UK Professor Paul Patterson University of New South Wales, Australia Professor Nigel Piercy University of Warwick, UK Professor Michael Polonsky Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia Professor Gerard Prendergast Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong Professor Jonathan E. Schroeder University of Exeter, UK Professor Wai Siu Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong Professor Goran Svensson Olso School of Management, Norway Professor Hans Mathias Thjomoe Norwegian School of Management, Norway Professor Peter Turnbull University of Birmingham, UK Professor Caroline Tynan Nottingham University Business School, UK Professor Eduard Urban University of Economics, Czechoslovakia Dr Cleopatra Veloutsou University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK Professor Martin Wetzels Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands Professor Len Tiu Wright De Montfort University, UK Dr Judy Zolkiewski The University of Manchester, UK

Guest editorial About the Guest Editors Leslie de Chernatony is Professor of Brand Marketing and Director of the Centre for Research in Brand Marketing at Birmingham University Business School. With a doctorate in brand marketing, he has a substantial number of publications in American and European journals and is a regular presenter at international conferences. He has several books on brand marketing, the two most recent being Creating Powerful Brands and From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation. A winner of several research grants, his two most recent grants have supported research into factors associated with high performance brands and research into services branding. He was Visiting Professor at Madrid Business School and is currently Visiting Professor at Thammasat University, Bangkok and University of Lugano, Switzerland. Leslie is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Fellow of the Market Research Society. He acts as an international consultant to organisations seeking more effective brand strategies and has run acclaimed branding seminars throughout Europe, Asia, America and the Far East. He is an experienced expert witness in legal cases involving branding issues in commercial and competition cases. George Christodoulides has recently completed his PhD in brand marketing, which was supervised by Professor Leslie de Chernatony. His thesis involved the development and validation of an equity scale for brands operating in electronic markets. Together with Professor de Chernatony, Dr Christodoulides won the 2002 Research Initiative on E-Marketing from the prestigious Chartered Institute of Marketing. His research has been published in European and American scholarly journals. George is also a regular presenter of his research in national and international conferences. His current research focuses in brand equity measurement, interactive branding and brand relationships. Stuart Roper is Lecturer in Marketing at Manchester Business School, UK. His main teaching interests focus on branding, marketing strategy and services marketing. His PhD involved research into corporate branding and reputation and he is a co-author of the book Corporate Reputation and Competitiveness. His main research area is in the field of branding and is currently working on two main themes – branding to low income groups and “branded litter”. Dr Roper is chair of the Academy of Marketing’s Brand, Identity and Corporate Reputation SIG. Prior to working in academia he gained considerable marketing management experience in business-to-business markets, notably in the telecommunications sector. Temi Abimbola is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Warwick Business School, UK. She was previously a Senior Lecturer at UCE Business School, UK and she worked with Shell UK (Downstream Oil) and Unilever plc before embarking on her doctoral research. Temi lectures in the areas of Strategic Brand Management, Consumer Behaviour and Management Research Methods. Her research activities are in the area of consumer brand value perception and entrepreneurial branding. She has a number of journal publications and has presented at international conferences. Dr Abimbola is the founding coordinator of the Academy of Marketing’s Brand, Identity and Corporate Reputation SIG. She is also the Regional Chair for the Academy of Marketing’s UK Midlands and East Anglia Region.

This special issue on brand management is the culmination of two branding events in 2006. The Thought Leaders International Conference on Brand Management, hosted by the Centre for Research in Brand Management at the Birmingham University Business School, took place on 28-29 March. The 2nd Academy of Marketing International Brand and Corporate Reputation Special Interest Group Colloquium took

Guest editorial


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place on 7-8 September at the Manchester Business School. Both sets of organisers thought it would be a good idea to have a selection of their papers published in the European Journal of Marketing. After presenting their papers at these double blind refereed conferences, authors were made aware of the opportunity to revise their papers after feedback from the audiences and to submit them for this Special Issue. Those papers that passed a further round of double blind refereeing are included. The first of the six papers from the Thought Leaders International Conference on Brand Management, by Merrilees and Miller, focuses on corporate rebranding. It is not difficult to find examples of corporate rebranding, yet there is little theory about this. Following a review of the limited literature, six principles are postulated about successful corporate rebranding. Three principles address the process of revising the corporate brand vision, one relates to the importance of staff “buy-in”, and two to the implementation of the new strategy. Using the case study of a Canadian specialist leather goods retailer, the authors found support for their principles. Given the importance of this topic and the pioneering work of these researchers, it would be good for others to consider extending these principles and testing them in other corporations. Following the tradition of academic rigour at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, Winchester, Romaniuk and Bogomelova investigated the infrequently researched domain of negative brand beliefs. Specifically, they investigated how negative and positive brand beliefs change over time as buyer behaviour changes. The literature is unclear as to whether brand beliefs are predictors of future brand buying behaviour, a reflection of previous behaviour, or a combination of both these options. Two studies were undertaken, one in the personal car insurance market and the other in a business-to-business banking market, in each market re-interviewing respondents over time. Some of the findings are consistent across studies, for example the differences between those who defect are detectable through changes in brand belief levels prior to behaviour change. However, differences were found between the studies. Helpful indicators for future research studies are suggested by these researchers. In the third paper, Ouwersloot and Odekerken-Schro¨der explore whether a brand community can be segmented on the basis of individuals’ motivations to join the community. Building on McAlexander et al.’s model they focus on four motivations for joining a community, i.e. reassurance of product quality, high involvement with the category, opportunity for joint consumption and the brand’s symbolic function. They investigated whether differences exist among community members with respect to the importance attached to these motivators. Using a community of players of a board game and also a Swatch community, while homogeneity exists, some heterogeneity was noted. This has implications for communications and raises the question of whether these findings are unique to these two communities. The fourth paper, from Power, Whelan and Davies, addresses the issue of why some brands which have negative associations can be successful. Specifically they focus on those brands perceived as ruthless, possibly due to their leaders’ images. Postulating that trust might mediate negative images, they consider how this impacts on two aspects of brand relationships, i.e. attractiveness and self-connectedness. Their empirical research, based on four ruthless brands, shows that provided the brand is trusted, the negative influence of a ruthless image does not dominate the relational

outcome. The importance of trust in building relationships is evident, but as these researchers question for the future, is trust in the leader or corporation the greater driver of relationship strength? In the fifth paper, Iversen and Hem investigate from a theoretical stance provenance associations as core values of place umbrella brands. Place branding is attracting much attention, not least because of the benefits from attracting and retaining key stakeholders. However, the challenge is that those diverse stakeholders may have incongruent interests and there is rarely a dominant party controlling branding programmes. The authors address some of the issues involved in place branding. They develop a model to assess how favourable provenance associations can be built and capitalised upon as core values across a country’s goods and services. A series of propositions are advanced which need to be tested if knowledge is to advance about this important topic. In the sixth paper, Nairn, Griffin and Gaya Wicks present a critique of the Piagetian developmental cognitive psychology model, which dominates research into children and brand symbolism. As they lucidly note, this paradigm overlooks the meaning and use of brands in the social and cultural context of childrens’ lives. They propose consumer culture theory as an alternative approach for researching children’s relationships with brands. This considers the cultural, economic and political context that shapes the way individuals think, feel and act in markets. Within this perspective they report their two-stage qualitative study with children. Amongst other findings, they show how children interpret “cool” in relation to brand symbols and the role of gender in children’s conversations about brands. From a rich database their study clarifies the potential value of consumer culture theory in understanding children’s use of brand symbolism and its implications for policy makers and marketers. The next five papers in this special issue are taken from the 2nd Academy of Marketing International Brand and Corporate Reputation Special Interest Group Colloquium. Dominic Medway and Gary Warnaby’s paper is concerned with the growing area of place branding. They take an interesting perspective by investigating the de-marketing of places. De-marketing of places considers such diverse examples as the inversion of the normal league table approach, the “Crap Towns” phenomenon that epitomises the active marketing of places through a humorous emphasis on negativity, to the phenomenon of dark tourism whereby travel associated with death, tragedy and disaster (e.g. battlefield or holocaust tourism, which has grown in popularity). A typology of place de-marketing is introduced and its implications for place brands considered. The eighth paper, by James Devlin and Sally McKechnie, deals with consumer perceptions of brand architecture in financial services. An organisation’s brand architecture is its approach to the design and measurement of its brand portfolio. Much of the literature in this field comes from an internal perspective with the views of practitioners predominating. Devlin and McKechnie challenge the existing orthodoxy by investigating the consumers’ perspective. They find that there is support for the corporate brand to play the principal role in the brand architecture of financial services firms. The importance of the corporate brand is highlighted in the next paper, by Gary Davies, who investigates employer branding and its influence on managers. The majority of the branding literature deals with the brand as seen and understood by

Guest editorial


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external groups. However, internal perspectives are considered in this paper, which uses the corporate character scale as a multi-dimensional measure of corporate brand personality, investigating the importance of employer branding on a large sample from 17 different organisations. Davies explores the influence of the employer brand upon employees’ affinity, satisfaction and loyalty to the brand, as well as the perceived differentiation of their employer. The tenth paper, by Ranis Cheng, Tony Hines and Ian Grime, investigates the desired and perceived identities of fashion retailers. The aim of this paper is to analyse the gap between desired and perceived identity within the “fast fashion” sector. Two dynamic high-street brands are chosen as the basis of the study. Their work reinforces the importance of both internal and external considerations when building and maintaining the brand. Their research also highlights the point that considerable gaps may exist between the company’s and the customer’s perceptions of brand identity. The final paper in this Special Issue is by Michael Bosnjak and Nina Rudolph, and looks at undesired self-image congruence in a low-involvement product context. Their work attempts to rectify the knowledge gap that is created by the fact that approach behaviours have been the study of most empirical research in this area (hence many studies have ignored avoidance tendencies). Their results show that undesired congruency has an incremental explanatory effect on behaviour, and this particularly means that undesired brand images influence decisions at the early stages of the decision making process. Bosnjak and Rudolph warn managers to consider distancing their brands from undesired symbolic associations at the same time as maximising the closeness to desired symbolic meanings. With this Special Issue we hope to provoke new ideas on brand, corporate identity and reputation. Expanding on this growing area of discourse requires knowledge and an understanding of the issues, some of which are outlined in articles in this Special Issue. We hope that these papers will further stimulate colleagues’ views on the epistemological foundations, the interpretations of the inter-relationships and other substantial issues in this area. This type of discourse challenges us all to consider and innovatively broaden our research ideas. It is for this reason that we urge readers to evaluate the strengths and challenges of this Special Issue. We hope that you will find this collection of studies useful and stimulating. We take this opportunity to thank all the reviewers who offered their time and efforts to take part in the peer-review process for this special edition. Leslie de Chernatony, George Christodoulides, Stuart Roper and Temi Abimbola Guest Editors

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

Principles of corporate rebranding

Principles of corporate rebranding

Bill Merrilees and Dale Miller Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia Abstract Purpose – The paper aims to highlight the importance of corporate rebranding in branding practice, which is neglected in theoretical treatment, so an extended theory is to be developed. Design/methodology/approach – From the literature, the existing state of the theory of corporate rebranding is articulated. That theory is extended by the development of six principles and by case research. The principles are illustrated in the case of a Canadian leather goods retailer which has implemented a major corporate rebranding strategy. The paper demonstrates the value of organisational single case studies as a precursor to further research. Findings – The single case enables a more in-depth analysis of how branding principles were applied to corporate rebranding. All six principles were supported, indicating the need for maintaining core values and cultivating the brand, linking the existing brand with the revised brand, targeting new segments, getting stakeholder “buy-in”, achieving alignment of brand elements and the importance of promotion in awareness building. Originality/value – Although corporate rebranding is often used narrowly in practice as renaming, this paper redresses the limited attempts to build theory in this area of marketing. It attempts to build a more sophisticated and substantial theory of corporate rebranding.

537 Received April 2006 Revised November 2006 Accepted March 2007

Keywords Brands, Corporate branding, Innovation, Case studies Paper type Research paper

Introduction Rebranding is ubiquitous in branding practice. Corporate rebranding, in its many facets of brand renewal, refreshment, makeover, reinvention, renaming and repositioning, dominates marketing trade magazines. However, few academic studies explicitly discuss corporate rebranding. Four prominent case studies have been combined to represent the current theory of corporate rebranding. The paper’s first contribution is an integrated articulation of corporate rebranding theory, which is then extended by the conceptualisation of a six-principle schema for rebranding. Case research with a Canadian retailer validates the principles, and general lessons are drawn. Literature review In corporate branding, major classic works include Olins (1978, 1994), Gregory (1991), Dowling (1994), Fombrun (1996) and Ind (1997). Although invaluable and creative, they tend to follow a relatively traditional marketing communication and planning framework. More recent books (Balmer and Greyser, 2003; Olins, 2003; Ind, 2004; Schultz et al., 2005; Schroeder and Salzer-Morling, 2006; de Chernatony, 2006) have focused on nuances such as living the brand, the role of experiences and internal branding. Recent special issues of journals on the topic have extended the debate

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 537-552 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862499

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(Schultz and de Chernatony, 2002; Balmer, 2003; Balmer et al., 2006; Melewar and Karaosmanoglu, 2006). Although we refer to corporate brands, very similar properties apply to organisational brands, service brands (Berry, 2000; de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2003; de Chernatony et al., 2005) and retailer brands (Birtwistle and Freathy, 1998; Burt and Sparks, 2002; Davies and Chun, 2002; Merrilees and Fry, 2002; Ailawadi and Keller, 2004), with a high degree of interchangeability across the terms. One way of summarising the corporate brand literature is to contrast the nature of corporate brands with product brands. Firstly, the organisation features more strongly and explicitly in corporate brands (Hatch and Schultz, 2003). Culture and structure are critical for corporate brands, not simply for implementation reasons, but as a major part of the brand essence. Another way of expressing the organisational aspect is to emphasise the role of internal processes or internal branding as part of corporate branding (Bergstrom et al., 2002; Gapp and Merrilees, 2006; Vallaster and de Chernatony, 2006). Secondly, corporate brands are likely to be more central and strategic, controlled by higher-level management such as the Chief Executive Officer (Hatch and Schultz, 2003). Thirdly, corporate brands are likely to be more abstract, representing higher-order values (like freedom or purity) compared to more functionally based product brands (de Chernatony, 2002; Urde, 2003). Fourthly, corporate brands are more complex, with potentially different brand meanings across different stakeholders (Balmer and Greyser, 2002). Most relevant literature deals with specific issues such as the potential gap between the espoused corporate brand and the actual brand image stakeholders may have of a company (Davies and Chun, 2002). However, Knox and Bickerton (2003) and Hatch and Shultz (2001, 2003) give useful frameworks for integrating components of corporate branding. Corporate rebranding can be contrasted to corporate branding, which refers to the initial coherent articulation of the corporate brand and can occur at any time. Corporate rebranding refers to the disjunction or change between an initially formulated corporate brand and a new formulation. The change in brand vision can be referred to as brand revision. The process of executing the revision throughout the organisation would most likely require a change management process. With corporate branding, organisational issues may well involve some changes, but the emphasis is on getting all units to adhere consistently to policy and procedure specifications (such as common letterheads or business cards, or the use of colours). However, with corporate rebranding, all units need to be moved from one mindset/culture to another. Although there are some common issues, the virtues of a corporate rebranding framework include: . explicit focus on how and to what extent the corporate brand should be changed; . emphasis on justifying the brand revision – both benefits and costs; . greater sensitivity to potential internal resistance to the brand change and thus a need for a well-structured change management program to get brand buy-in; and . highlighting the need to alert all stakeholders to the new brand. Shifting focus from corporate branding to corporate rebranding, we find less research or consensus. An early academic paper on rebranding was Berry’s (1988) summary of

Ogilvy and Mather’s brand revitalisation program. A common trigger for revitalising brands is under-performance (Kapferer, 1997). Using renaming, a narrow approach to rebranding, both Muzellec et al. (2003) and Muzellec and Lambkin (2006) found that structural factors such as mergers and acquisitions were the main drivers of rebranding, with brand image improvement ranked lower. Before focusing on rebranding success factors, we note Stuart and Muzellec’s (2004) argument that rebranding may not be the solution to some problems. They suggest that rebranding considerations include comprehensive assessment of potential benefits, clarity about what is being signalled, and checking that key stakeholders understand and support the proposed change. Four academic case studies make major contributions to understanding corporate rebranding. Ewing et al. (1995) studied the rebranding of Mazda (South Africa) with a change from a narrow focus on durability and reliability to a more complex and differentiating set of core values – quality, technology and excitement. The main lessons were the needs for sensitivity to the existing customer base, strong advertising, and for internal branding within the dealer network. These lessons were packaged as a simple marketing plan framework. Schultz and Hatch (2003) provide insights into the development processes undertaken by the LEGO Group in their corporate rebranding. The new brand values were articulated and followed by the interplay between the organisational culture and communicated image. The corporate brand travelled through a complex set of cycles in its new formulation, including the linkage across the three main elements (vision, culture, image), plus the involvement of all stakeholders and the integration of the three elements. Interestingly, Schultz and Hatch (2003) conclude by posing paradoxes that require resolution if corporate rebranding is to succeed. For example, they propose a need to maintain the cultural heritage yet still achieve contemporary relevance. Daly and Moloney (2004) analysed Vodafone’s takeover of Eircell (Ireland) and the subsequent rebranding of Eircell to Vodafone. The main lessons included the role of a transition period where both brands were advertised together as an interim strategy, prior to removing the Eircell brand from the market. During the dual advertising, some of Eircell’s Irish values were emphasised. Another success factor was internal marketing to win the Eircell employees’ support and commitment. Like Ewing et al. (1995), the lessons were packaged into a useful but simple corporate rebranding framework. Finally, Merrilees (2005) analysed the rebranding of Canadian Tire, a major auto and leisure goods retailer, in response to competitive pressures. The study highlighted the roles of qualitative and quantitative market research, and company intuition to guide the new brand vision. Stakeholder management with staff, dealers, suppliers and management was featured, as was the role of a creative integrated marketing communication advertising strategy. The lessons were built into a theoretical framework, based on the three-stage process of changing the brand vision to brand-orientated commitment from stakeholders, and to brand strategy implementation including advertising and other changes to the marketing mix, linked to the new brand values. In summary, the current status of corporate rebranding theory is construed as an amalgam of the three dominant themes from the four case studies. Theme 1 is the need to re-vision the brand based on a solid understanding of the consumer, to meet both existing and anticipated needs. Theme 2 is the use of internal marketing or internal

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branding to ensure commitment of the relevant stakeholders. Theme 3 features the role of advertising and other marketing mix elements in the implementation phase. These themes provide a helpful broad theoretical framework for corporate rebranding. Extending the theory of corporate rebranding Theories can be developed or extended using typologies (Doty and Glick, 1994), propositions or principles (Kohli and Jaworksi, 1990) or case research (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2004). We used the latter two theory-building approaches to extend corporate rebranding theory. The current theory is broad and not coded comprehensively. The more detailed a theory, the more amenable it is to evaluation and testing. Either propositions or principles could facilitate framing the theory more tightly, though principles were chosen because of the under-developed literature, and subsequently six principles were developed. Principles allow more scope for discretionary decisions on the part of corporate branders, compatible with the ambiguity that confronts some of these decisions. This characteristic is particularly evident in the first principle. Establishing principles guided by the literature is a useful method of coding. In this study, Principles 1, 2 and 3 refer to the process of revising the vision, Principle 4 to attaining internal support or “buy-in” to the new vision, and Principles 5 and 6 to implementing the new corporate brand strategy. Principle 1 Designing a suitable brand vision for the corporate rebrand should balance the need to continue to satisfy the core ideology of the corporate brand, yet progress the brand so it remains relevant to contemporary conditions. The first principle reflects the paradox that all corporate rebranding exercises should balance remaining the same with moving forwards. Several studies support this approach. Collins and Porras (1997) compared “visionary” companies with a matched sample of other organisations in the same industry. They found: The interplay between core and progress is one of the most important findings from our work [. . .] Indeed, core ideology and the drive for progress exist together in a visionary company, like yin and yang of Chinese dualistic philosophy; each element enables, complements and reinforces the other (Collins and Porras, 1997, p. 85).

We interpret this finding as affirming the benefits of combining strong branding (through the core values) and innovation (through investment and change), creating a synergistic relationship between strong brands and innovation. One fashion company reports that brand management is an evolving process “ensuring continuity and consistency” with “innovation, collaboration and vision at the heart of any good company” (Oroton, 2002, p. 5). Several studies identify the danger of strong brands doing so well that they have inertia, resist innovation and inadvertently invite rivals to outmanoeuvre the leader over time (Christensen, 1997). The solution is the willingness of brand leaders to innovate from time to time, which necessitates corporate rebranding for corporate sustainability. Principle 2 Successful corporate rebranding may require retaining at least some core or peripheral brand concepts to build a bridge from the existing corporate brand to the revised corporate brand.

There is always pressure to refresh the brand to maintain contemporary relevance. Nonetheless, maintaining a nexus between the existing and the revised corporate brand is vital. Kapferer (1997, p. 334) argues that traces of corporate brand memory should not be abandoned when the brand is revised. These traces provide legitimacy to all customers and help make the revised brand acceptable. Keller (2003, pp. 651-3) cites Adidas choosing to return to their roots to recapture lost brand equity. This principle suggests that rebranding is an incremental change process as opposed to a radical change, necessitating change management considerations initially at the design level of the new vision formulation. Indirect support for Principle 2 comes from brand extension theory. Successful brand extensions come from the successful transfer of brand meaning from one context to another, whereas rebranding is a transfer of meaning from one time to another. Principle 3 Successful corporate rebranding may require meeting the needs of new market segments relative to the segments supporting the existing brand. In re-visioning the corporation, the corporate rebranding may need to tap into new market segments or even new markets (Kapferer, 1997, p. 334). Added new attributes could satisfy a new segment, like a need for a more socially responsible company. Growing the brand might require tapping into additional target markets with different needs from the original brand customer base. The emergence of new market segments reflects the natural evolution of markets over time and the need to keep brands with a contemporary, fresh focus. Principle 1 suggested the need to balance previous and new consumer needs and sometimes the needs can be coded as a new market segment. For example, the Ewing et al. (1996) Mazda case above involved adding a more sophisticated market segment, though this could still co-exist with the initial segment with more basic needs. These first three principles of corporate rebranding build on the existing literature and focus on re-creating the brand vision to suit a more contemporary market. The existing theory of corporate rebranding covers not just brand re-visioning but also internal branding and brand strategy implementation. Formulating another three principles adds specificity to these latter two stages of corporate rebranding. Principle 4 A company applying a high level of brand orientation through communication, training and internal marketing is more likely to have effective corporate rebranding. Brand orientation occurs when the brand is core to the essence of the company and its strategies, that is, when all stakeholders (especially employees) have ownership of the brand and live the brand in their daily script (Urde, 1999). Other literature supports the brand orientation concept (see Macrae, 1996; Upshaw and Taylor, 2000; Wong and Merrilees, 2005). Stuart and Muzellec (2004) and Kaikati (2003) also emphasise the need for stakeholder “buy-in”. Principle 4 actualises the internal branding aspect of corporate rebranding. Vallaster and de Chernatony (2006) highlight the importance of leadership in facilitating internal branding. Other cases support the role of internal branding in corporate rebranding, including Bergstrom et al.’s (2002) study of Saab. Karmark (2005) provides detailed case examples of processes used by firms to help employees live the brand, as well as situations where the brand may be resisted. Overall, internal stakeholder buy-in is vital.

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Principle 5 A successful company having a high level of integration and coordination of all aspects of the marketing mix, with each brand element aligned to the corporate brand concept in its corporate rebranding strategy implementation, is more likely to have effective corporate rebranding. Companies should implement a corporate rebranding strategy methodically. All parts of the strategy, including product or service design, customer service, distribution, pricing and relationship management, must be integrated. That is, each brand element representing each component of the marketing or retail mix should be directly linked (aligned) to the brand concept. Lindstro¨m and Andersen (1999) strongly advocate the notion of precise alignment between brand element and brand concept. Kaikati (2003) and Daly and Moloney (2004) detail particular rebranding implementation campaigns. Davis and Dunn (2002) detail how “brand touchpoints” can be operationalised. Principle 6 Promotion is needed to make stakeholders aware of the revised brand, with possible additional benefits if non mass media are included in the promotion mix. Although advertising is a natural choice for large firms, budget considerations require consideration of more direct promotional methods, including public relations. Public relations may have a comparative advantage when the goal is to change attitudes, such as a social campaign or indeed changing brands (rebranding). Virgin is noted for its breakthrough stunts in creating awareness for new initiatives. A number of companies have used non mass-media promotion as a medium to a stronger brand position (Joachimsthaler and Aaker, 1999). Indeed, Joachimsthaler and Aaker (1999) show that customer involvement in brand-building exercises using non mass media can be particularly effective. They give the examples of Cadbury World as a theme park creating more powerful brand experiences and Nestle´ using the Casa Buitoni Club teaching the English how to cook Italian meals. Relatedly, these authors give another example of non mass-media promotion influencing branding, namely the role of the staff in contributing to in-store, cause-related experiences as evident in the Body Shop. These are examples of active customer involvement using interactivity. Principle 6 shows the need to communicate the new brand to the stakeholders. Moreover, non-mass methods are potentially effective in communicating the new brand. However, recognising the effectiveness of interactivity between staff and customers in rebranding may just be the start in achieving greater involvement of stakeholders. Further, in some cases the rebranding may be initiated or led from the consumer, such as the Dunlop Volley case, leading Beverland and Ewing (2005) to suggest that branding could be seen as a two-way dialogue, rather than a top down communication exercise. We can extend this idea to include staff-led initiatives, making it potentially a three-way dialogue. Case research support for the research principles With the literature as a starting point, the development of the six principles reformulates the diverse themes into a coherent set of parameters for a theoretical framework of rebranding, which can be evaluated. Kapferer (1997), Keller (2003) and Schultz and Hatch (2003), were very useful for developing Principles 1-3. Lindstro¨m and Andersen (1999),

Urde (1999) and Schultz and Hatch (2003), were useful for developing Principles 4-6. The six principles have not been articulated previously as an integrated framework by a single researcher team, or analysed holistically in a single case. Increasingly, branding research uses qualitative and conceptual approaches (Daly and Moloney, 2004; de Chernatony and Dall’Olmo Riley, 1998; de Chernatony et al., 2005; Ewing et al., 1995; Merrilees, 2005). Case method builds on the conceptual framework developed through the literature analysis. Consistent with Yin (2004), single case research using a Canadian retailer reinforces the six principles’ framework of corporate rebranding and clarifies how each aspect works in practice in relation to the other aspects. This method ensures a strategic approach to corporate rebranding rather than a partial analysis of particular issues in corporate rebranding. Consistent with Patton (2002), data integrity was achieved with triangulations: across investigators comparing insights, and across methods covering semi-structured interviews (interviews with the President, merchandising manager and sales staff), observations of stores (Acton and Toronto), their community environments, visual displays and customer service, other data sources including the company website, magazine articles about the company (Dawkins, 2002), and reviewing television, press and radio advertisements. Informants were invited to check transcripts for factual accuracy. Background to the case study Acton Leather Company (see has operated the Olde Hide House in Acton, Ontario, Canada since 1980. Positioning itself as the largest specialist leather goods retailer in Canada, it sells apparel, accessories and furniture. The flagship Acton store is spacious, with a distinct barn-like feel featuring leather memorabilia. The store entrance features Acton’s town history (“Leathertown”), and leather’s contribution to that community’s economy. In early 2002, the corporate brand of the existing Olde Hide House was leather-centric, focusing on quality, originality and couched in the history of Acton. It was a destination brand, with the slogan “It’s worth the drive to Acton” targeting a potential market within an hour’s drive of Acton (including Toronto residents). This company’s brand suggested a “brand as icon”, focusing on its historical roots in the town. The notion of brands as icons (McEnally and de Chernatony, 1999) has some resonance with products and their related cities like Hershey. Reflecting his commitment to branding, the Acton President’s workroom included Hershey memorabilia. Twenty-two years of Acton-based experience created a “platform and a cage for the company” (Dawkins, President, Acton Leather Company). It was a platform because it forged the existing brand image of the company, helping create distinctiveness and sustained reputation. Radio advertising had been used intensively over time. It was a cage in that it potentially trapped the company in the Acton region, echoed in the slogan “It’s worth the drive to Acton”. The challenge was to reformulate the corporate brand so that it could extend to multiple locations. Table I identifies some of the salient characteristics of the two stores that are the subject of this case. Re-visioning the corporate brand The revised corporate vision had to transcend the destination marketing, location-specific previous corporate vision. Authority in leather became the new

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Store 1: Acton (“Leathertown”)a

Store 2: Downtownb

Store design

Spacious Distinct barn-like feel Entrance features town’s history Coffee nook Highly departmentalised

Spacious Heritage Related but not a replication of the Acton store More stylised format Integrating “authority” through natural properties

Merchandise mix

Classical styles Seasonal fashion

Forward fashion (e.g. red leather jackets) Modern classics

Visual merchandising

Slight “Western” emphasis Memorabilia of leather including flying jackets from Second World War


Staff buy-in

Staff committed to delivering product quality and knowledge Staff helped to plan the proposed changes Staff salaried Collective staff incentive scheme

Staff committed to leather and fashion usage Staff visited the Acton store to increase understanding of brand commitment Selection criteria emphasised natural confidence Staff salaried Collective staff incentive scheme


Corporate brand Leather-centric, quality, originality, couched in Acton history Destination-specific: “It’s worth the drive to Acton” Corporate rebrand Table I. Case background

Authority in leather, anywhere

Notes: The Acton Leather Company operated one outlet, The Olde Hide House, out of Acton, Ontario, a rural town about one hour’s drive from the provincial capital Toronto from 1980. In 2002, the company opened a new store in a heritage building in the Toronto Downtown (central business district)

mantra, potentially applicable to any location. The new brand built on the previous brand associations, particularly quality. In a sense, authority in leather was always a latent brand concept, but it had not been fully articulated because of the dominance of the destination-marketing slogan. The revised corporate brand was broader and more abstract and applicable to other locations. The way was cleared to design and open a new store, in Toronto in Fall 2002. The added Toronto arm meant reaching beyond the existing corporate brand, namely the Acton destination-marketing anchor. Achieving stakeholder buy-in to the revised corporate brand To develop the stakeholders’ commitment, the company focussed on building the internal marketing processes. Existing staff were committed to delivering product quality and knowledge, and a satisfying in-store experience to customers, and this was

a sound basis for proceeding with the rebranding. The staff helped to plan the proposed changes, and train staff for the new store. The Toronto staff visited the Acton store so that they understood the brand commitment. Corporate rebranding strategy implementation The essence of implementation requires the alignment of the functional components to the revised corporate brand. The central planning aspects were the physical features of the store design, which had to resonate with its Acton sibling and yet achieve distinctiveness in the highly competitive leather goods market. Branding considerations were critical in the new store design. The new store had to capture the intangible element of authority, which was critical in the transfer of brand meaning, rather than creating a mere replication of the fixtures and fittings of the old store. The design brief clarified that the new store design should not be too closely tied to replication, because a Toronto-based store demanded different in-store design. The Toronto residents and downtown employees required a more stylised format. A partial solution to integrating “authority” was the use of the venue’s natural properties (brick walls, wooden floors and spaciousness). Similarly, branding considerations contributed to planning the visual merchandising for the new store. Adjustments to the visuals reflected the urbane Toronto consumer, with a modern approach to the lighting, fixtures and the models in the posters. Product ranging was customised. The Olde Hide House at Acton caters to a broad range of tastes, with a slight “Western” emphasis, reflected in the unique visual merchandising. In contrast, the Toronto store had a distinctly fashion-forward, big city emphasis in product requirements. For example, red leather jackets are both striking and relevant for the Toronto store (very visible in-store and on the website), but according to sales staff “would not suit the Acton store”. Staff service supported the brand. The Acton-based store personnel were salaried, whereas commission is more common for retail sales associates in large Canadian cities. The in-house planning team decided to use the same salaried employment basis in both stores, reinforcing brand values. The firm retained a staff incentive scheme that was collectively rather than individually based, ensuring co-operation of staff within a store, and across stores, because referring customers to the other store still benefits staff in the initiating store. Selection criteria for the Toronto staff emphasised the natural confidence of the candidate. Evaluating the principles of corporate rebranding using the case evidence Having analysed the case study, we evaluated the principles against the case evidence, which is summarised in Table II. All the principles were supported by the case evidence. In summary, all six principles were supported by the case evidence, with Table II providing the details. The Acton case evidence reinforces the four earlier cases of corporate rebranding, enhancing the generalisability of the principles. More explicitly, the six principles have managerial implications for corporate rebranding. Managerial implications Generalisability to other firms can be further expressed in terms of the managerial implications for corporate rebranding. They provide lessons that can guide future

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Principle 1



Principle 2


Principle 3 Evidence

Principle 4


Principle 5


Principle 6 Evidence Table II. Case evaluation of principles

Designing a suitable brand vision for the corporate rebrand should balance the need to continue to satisfy the core ideology of the corporate brand, yet progress the brand so it remains relevant to contemporary conditions, was supported In the Canadian case, the corporate brand had to be transformed from a destination slogan to a powerful new vision as “the authority on leather goods”, not constrained to a single location. The initial corporate brand was a hybrid of a destination-specific association, a heritage association and a quality association. The new vision is simpler and more corporate in nature because it transcends a particular location. The core ideology was latent, but it had impurities that obscured its true essence. The revised corporate brand can progress into new markets like Toronto and meet contemporary needs as well as the previous Acton-based needs Successful corporate rebranding may require retaining at least some core or peripheral brand concepts to build a bridge from the existing brand to the revised corporate brand, was supported Being an authority on leather can be seen as the constant over time. At the initial Acton location, the authority was achieved through quality products, appropriate merchandise, service and a heritage presentation. In the new multi-location company configuration, authority continues with quality, sourcing and service and a now stronger, wider (multi-location) presence. It is more the peripheral attributes that have changed, with a contrast between heritage at Acton and modern at Toronto Successful corporate rebranding may require meeting the needs of new market segments relative to the segments supporting the existing brand, was supported. The Toronto store caters for a different target market, a somewhat younger group, more urbane and hip, and with a more contemporary focus. This new segment is more time-constrained than the existing segment. Thus, the third principle was supported, with very strong targeting of a new market segment, built around broadly similar product needs, but having different servicing needs (convenience, staffing, visual merchandise, location) A company applying a high level of brand orientation through communication, training and internal marketing is more likely to have effective corporate rebranding, was supported At Acton Leather Company, some managers including the merchandise manager and the Chief Executive Officer, had cross-store responsibilities, ensuring buy-in at that level. The retailer had a very identifiable, strong corporate brand, with a high resonance for employees and suppliers alike. Employees of the new Toronto store travelled to the Acton store to gain awareness of the brand’s strong heritage basis. The company ensured that all employees and suppliers were aware of the company’s revised brand meaning A successful company having a high level of integration and coordination of all aspects of the marketing mix, with each brand element aligned to the corporate brand concept in its corporate rebranding strategy implementation is more likely to have effective corporate rebranding, was supported In the Canadian case, this alignment of the retail mix has been explained in detail. It included how promotion was used in a multi-market approach and how the Toronto store was located, designed, stocked and staffed Promotion is needed to make stakeholders aware of the revised brand, with possible additional benefits if non mass media are included in the promotion mix During implementation of the Acton Leather corporate rebranding strategy, an integrated communication strategy focused on radio, print and the website (www. The radio messages particularly brought together the two stores in a seamless way, using the same familiar voice of the past, emphasising the use of emotional brand associations

corporate rebranding exercises, with the first three principles focused on corporate revisioning and the last three principles on implementing the revised corporate brand. The general lesson from Principle 1 for corporate rebranding is that the paradox of keeping to the core values yet progressing into the future can be resolved more readily if the core values are simplified and conceptualised in abstract terms, such as authority. Brand promises linked excessively to functional attributes (like location) could lock a firm into a past vision and impede progress. An example of resolving this paradox was a Singapore hotel that renovated its building. The elevator had a message that reassured guests: “Refurbishing the building, but still maintaining traditional customer service”. All five case studies discussed in this paper (the four cited cases and the Acton Leather Company) have demonstrated positively how the “progress” can be achieved. In contrast, there are many examples of superficial company makeovers that involve only relatively trivial change (new font for the logo, a new shade of paint for outlets, a new slogan). Attempts to refresh the corporate image may be useful but such examples could be missing the opportunity to really progress the corporate brand, if there is the opportunity to revitalise the vision and substance of the brand, not just the manifest and superficial presentation of the corporate brand. The practical implication is that any organisation (or their brand consultant) contemplating a corporate brand makeover, however small, should extend the brief to include evaluating the corporate vision in all of its facets with a view to revitalising such a vision, and hence overall corporate brand. The general lesson from Principle 2 for corporate rebranding is that success is likely if the core values continue from the existing brand to the revised brand. Essentially a company has competitive advantages linked mainly to its core values, which can be considered an intellectual property core capability. It is critical that any company contemplating rebranding fully understands its core values, capabilities and competitive advantages. It is less critical that peripheral values be retained as part of a universal offering. The general lesson from Principle 3 for corporate rebranding is a reminder to organisations that the natural churning of customers may mean, for example, that half of a customer base could be lost over a decade. New customers may have different needs to the previous customers. At some point, a critical mass of new customers could be considered a different segment, in addition to the initial segment. Corporate rebranding is a proactive process that evaluates and anticipates such changes in the composition of customers. In some cases (like Acton Leather Company), developing a revised corporate brand that caters to multiple segments can be instrumental (driving) in the corporate rebranding design. A special case of Principle 3 is the extension of global brands into new countries. Strong brands may need adaptation when entering a new country, with Disney’s entry into Europe a classic example. The practical lesson from Principle 4 for corporate rebranding is that the brand story cannot be assumed among stakeholders. There is no alternative to active, overt and tacit (through behaviours) communication of the brand story to staff, suppliers and other stakeholders. The concept of brand orientation (having everyone in the organisation aligned to the corporate brand) is a relatively new concept (Urde, 1999). Perhaps the concept of getting all stakeholders to have “buy-in” to the corporate brand will be a more practical, everyday-phrase for use by managers. Many companies need much progress to achieve “buy-in” to the corporate brand. For example, one firm

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explained to the authors that their ice-creamery chain included service delivery with passion in their vision but they had trouble getting 16-year old temporary staff to buy into such a vision. Principle 4 is not optional, but necessary to all organisations desiring effective corporate branding and hence effective businesses. Expressed differently, another firm put the principle more forcibly: “If a staff member is not actively supporting the corporate brand then they are diluting the brand”. Principle 5 underscores the need for detail in implementing the corporate rebranding strategy. All aspects of the marketing mix must be aligned to the corporate brand. Any revision in the corporate brand may require adjustment in marketing mix components to ensure continuing alignment. Major misalignments could be construed as breaches of the brand promise. Principle 5 warns that great brand ideas mean little unless they are implemented well. To achieve this, the authors suggest that proper alignment should be designed into the brand strategy. In the Action Leather Company case, the revised corporate brand was instrumental in guiding the new store interior design and selection criteria for new staff. Sadly, this may be an exception. Many organisations advertise new slogans without regard to brand element alignment. The general lessons for corporate rebranding from Principle 6 include the expected importance of promotion or communication in most branding strategies. Branding in general is very much about conceptualising a core idea and selling that holistic idea to consumers. Corporate branding is similar, though the role of public relations may be just as appropriate when dealing with stakeholders such as the financial investment community. Principle 6 highlights the important communication challenge in corporate rebranding. However, Principle 5 reminds us that there is an aspect of “substance” and not just communication with corporate brands (see also Schultz et al., 2005). All the marketing mix elements must play their part and be aligned to the corporate brand. In the case of retailers, the marketing mix is extended conceptually and practically to the retailing mix (Miller and Merrilees, 2007). The managerial implications provide guidance so that practitioners can use the principles as a framework for designing and implementing corporate rebranding. This discussion demonstrates the scope of issues that managers can address and the tools they can use when embarking on corporate rebranding. Conclusions This paper makes several related contributions. The first is the authors’ articulation of the theory of corporate rebranding developed from four published case studies. The theory links revised corporate brand vision, internal branding and implementation. That theory is then extended by two means, namely the creation of six principles for corporate rebranding and then using new case research analysis to evaluate the principles. Support for these principles is found from the case. The six principles include three principles to guide revisions to the corporate vision, one to guide the need to get stakeholder “buy-in” and two to guide the implementation process. The principles are presented to assist entities in redesigning their corporate brands. This paper presents five cases. However, many other cases or firms seem to be unsuccessful, consistent with the suggestion that it is a very difficult objective, like rebranding a hyena (Stuart and Muzellec, 2004). By inference, firms are not fully leveraging their corporate brands. They are not achieving the full potential of the brand, and thus they are not maximising brand equity.

The managerial implications emphasise the importance of continuing to meet core brand values yet becoming relevant to contemporary needs. The findings underscore a company’s need to fully understand and preserve its core values. Some companies are underperforming by being content with superficial corporate makeovers that miss opportunities to actually progress the brand. Another finding is the need to anticipate that the customer base may evolve into a new segment over time, necessitating corporate rebranding. Relatedly, global brands moving into new markets may need to adapt. Getting “buy-in” from stakeholders was also stressed. The absence of such buy-in could dilute and even threaten the effectiveness of a corporate brand. Companies should explore how they will achieve buy-in, linked to the culture of the organisation. Further, all brand elements need to be aligned to the corporate brand. Both brand buy-in and alignment need to be factored in early in the corporate rebranding design process. Understanding brand buy-in and brand alignment are potentially particularly fruitful areas for further research. Generalisation of the extended corporate rebranding theory entails testing with further research. However, apart from stimulating debate and research among academics, the intention is to engage brand management practitioners more thoroughly with the challenge of effective design and implementation of corporate branding changes. References Ailawadi, K. and Keller, K. (2004), “Understanding retail branding: conceptual insights and priorities”, Journal of Retailing, Vol. 80, pp. 331-42. Balmer, J. (Ed.) (2003), “Special Issue: Corporate and service brands”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 37 Nos 7/8. Balmer, J. and Greyser, S. (2002), “Managing the multiple identities of the corporation”, California Management Review, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 72-87. Balmer, J. and Greyser, S. (Eds) (2003), Revealing the Corporation, London, Routledge. Balmer, J., Mukherjee, A., Greyser, S. and Jenster, P. (Eds) (2006), “Special Issue: Corporate marketing: integrating corporate identity, corporate branding, corporate communications, corporate image and corporate reputation”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40 Nos 7/8. Bergstrom, A., Blumenthal, D. and Crothers, S. (2002), “Why internal branding matters: the case of Saab”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 5 Nos 2/3, pp. 133-42. Berry, L. (2000), “Cultivating service brand equity”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 128-37. Berry, N. (1988), “Revitalizing brands”, Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 15-20. Beverland, M. and Ewing, M. (2005), “Slowing the adoption and diffusion process to enhance brand repositioning: the consumer driven repositioning of Dunlop Volley”, Business Horizons, Vol. 48, pp. 385-91. Birtwistle, G. and Freathy, P. (1998), “More than just a name above the shop: a comparison of the branding strategies of two UK fashion retailers”, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 26 No. 8, pp. 318-23. Burt, S. and Sparks, L. (2002), “Corporate branding, retailing, and retail internationalization”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 5 Nos 2/3, pp. 194-212.

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Keller, K. (2003), Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Knox, S. and Bickerton, D. (2003), “The six conventions of corporate branding”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 37 Nos 7/8, pp. 998-1016. Kohli, A. and Jaworksi, B. (1990), “Market orientation: the construct, research propositions, and managerial implications”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 2, pp. 1-18. Lindstro¨m, M. and Andersen, T. (1999), Brand Building on the Internet, Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne. Macrae, C. and co-workers of the World Class Branding Network (1996), The Brand Chartering Handbook: How Brand Organizations Learn “Living Scripts”, Economist Intelligence Unit/Addison-Wesley, Harlow. McEnally, M. and de Chernatony, L. (1999), “The evolving nature of branding: consumer and managerial considerations”, Academy of Marketing Science Review, No. 2, pp. 1-25. Melewar, T. and Karaosmanoglu, E. (Eds) (2006), “Special Issue on corporate branding, identity and communications”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 14 Nos 1/2. Merrilees, B. (2005), “Radical brand evolution: a case-based framework”, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 45 No. 2, pp. 201-10. Merrilees, B. and Fry, M. (2002), “Corporate branding: a framework for e-retailers”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 5 Nos 2/3, pp. 213-25. Miller, D. and Merrilees, B. (2007), Retail Marketing, Tilde University Press, Prahran. Muzellec, L. and Lambkin, M. (2006), “Corporate rebranding: destroying, transferring or creating brand equity?”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40 Nos 7/8, pp. 803-24. Muzellec, L., Doogan, M. and Lambkin, M. (2003), “Corporate rebranding – an exploratory review”, Irish Marketing Review, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 31-40. Olins, W. (1978), The Corporate Personality: An Inquiry into the Nature of Corporate Identity, Mayflower Books, New York, NY. Olins, W. (1994), Corporate Identity: Making Business Strategy Visible through Design, Thames & Hudson, London. Olins, W. (2003), On Brand, Thames & Hudson, London. Oroton (2002), Annual Report, Oroton International Limited, available at: au/reports/index.htm Patton, M. (2002), Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Schroeder, J. and Salzer-Morling, M. (Eds) (2006), Brand Culture, Routledge, Milton Park. Schultz, M. and de Chernatony, L. (2002), “Introduction to special issue on corporate branding”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 5 Nos 2/3, pp. 105-12.

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Schultz, M., Antorini, Y. and Csaba, F. (Eds) (2005), Towards the Second Wave of Corporate Branding: Corporate Branding Purpose/People/Process, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen. Schultz, M. and Hatch, M. (2003), “The cycles of corporate branding”, California Management Review, Vol. 46 No. 1, pp. 6-26. Stuart, H. and Muzellec, L. (2004), “Corporate makeovers: can a hyena be rebranded?”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 11 No. 6, pp. 472-82. Upshaw, L. and Taylor, E. (2000), The Masterbrand Mandate, Wiley, New York, NY. Urde, M. (1999), “Brand orientation: a mindset for building brands into strategic resources”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 15 Nos 1-3, pp. 117-33. Urde, M. (2003), “Core value-based corporate brand building”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 37 Nos 7/8, pp. 1017-40. Vallaster, C. and de Chernatony, L. (2006), “Internal branding building and structuration: the role of leadership”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40 Nos 7/8, pp. 761-84. Wong, H. and Merrilees, B. (2005), “A brand orientation typology for SMEs: a case research approach”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 155-62. Yin, R. (2004), Case Study Research: Design and Methods, 3rd ed., Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Further reading de Chernatony, L. and McDonald, M. (2003), Creating Powerful Brands, 3rd ed., Elsevier, Oxford. About the authors Bill Merrilees (PhD, Toronto) is Head of the Department of Marketing at Griffith University in Queensland Australia. His research interests embrace branding and innovation, marketing theory, marketing strategy and retailing and e-retailing. He has published widely in international scholarly journals including the European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Product & Brand Management and The Journal of Brand Management, as well as publishing four books, research monographs, numerous cases studies and book chapters. He has twice been Visiting Professor of Marketing in the De Groote School of Business at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. Dale Miller lectures in marketing theory, retail marketing and management, e-retailing and marketing channels and retail supply chains in the Department of Marketing, at Griffith University on the Gold Coast Campus in Queensland Australia. Her research focuses on retail and distribution branding and innovation, branding communities and retail business history. Her research has been published in various international journals, including the Journal of Business Research, Long Range Planning, The Service Industries Journal, International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, Canadian Marketing Research Journal and Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. She has also authored or co-authored several books, book chapters and case studies. Dale Miller is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected]

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Positive and negative brand beliefs and brand defection/uptake Maxwell Winchester Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia, and Harper Adams University College, Edgmond, UK, and

Jenni Romaniuk and Svetlana Bogomolova

Positive and negative brand beliefs 553 Received April 2006 Revised August 2006 Accepted September 2006

Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia Abstract Purpose – The paper seeks to conduct an exploratory study into how positive and negative brand belief levels differ before, and change after, consumers defect from a brand or take up a new brand. Design/methodology/approach – Two longitudinal studies in banking and insurance were used. These included repeat interviews with the same consumers. Brand buying behaviour and positive and negative brand beliefs were measured and then compared across those who defected from a brand and those who took up a new brand. Findings – Prior to defection, differences in both positive and negative perceptions were apparent in those who subsequently defected. There was also evidence of a readjustment after defection to match the new user status. There was evidence that this readjustment did not just occur in the behaviour change period, but continued to occur afterwards, with differences over time much greater for the longer time frame interview than evident for the shorter time frame. Negative beliefs were more discriminating when the defection was customer-initiated rather than during a renewal process. New brand users displayed a higher propensity to give positive beliefs prior to taking up the brand compared to non-users who did not take up the brand. These changes further continued post-switching as new users adjusted to their new status. Originality/value – This research contributes to the understanding of the brand belief-behaviour relationship using two very different longitudinal studies. It also investigates negative brand beliefs, which are rarely researched, and compares the effects of negative beliefs with that of positive beliefs. Keywords Brands, Brand management, Consumer behaviour, Beliefs Paper type Research paper

Introduction Consumer beliefs or perceptions about brands form part of what is known as brand knowledge (Keller, 2003). These beliefs are created through customer interactions with a given brand, such as when buying or using the brand, being exposed to advertising, publicity or word of mouth. This information may develop into beliefs about the brand, which may be positive, negative or neutral (Krishnan, 1996). Positive beliefs represent qualities generally considered to be desirable for a brand in that category (e.g. good value), while negative beliefs are those considered to be undesirable (e.g. poor service). This paper is an exploratory study into an area that has received little direct empirical attention in the literature, which is how both positive and negative beliefs change longitudinally as buyer behaviour changes.

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 553-570 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862507

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It is generally accepted in consumer behaviour theories that consumers use both positive and negative beliefs about brands in their brand choice processes, and this general belief permeates most marketing textbooks (e.g. East, 1997; Engel et al., 1993; Kotler et al., 2001; Solomon, 1994). Consumers can use beliefs to compare the benefits and deficits of different brands, act as a cue for retrieval in purchase situations, and/or as a component of an overall attitude to the brand (Bettman, 1979; Fishbein, 1967). A number of studies have shown a relationship between associating a brand with a belief and consumer brand choice (Alpert, 1971; Lynch et al., 1988; Romaniuk, 2003; Romaniuk and Sharp, 2003a; Woodside and Trappey, 1992). However, a major confounding factor in the relationship between beliefs and buyer behaviour is the effect of past consumer purchase and usage of a brand on the beliefs a consumer holds about this brand (Bird et al., 1970). Indeed, the predictive capability of consumer beliefs has come under indirect criticism through literature that has questioned the direction of the relationship between attitudes and behaviour (Foxall, 2002; McGuire, 1985; Wicker, 1969; Wright and Kly¨n, 1998). This research introduces the confounding suggestion that the post-behavioural readjustment of beliefs may follow the change in behaviour (i.e. defecting from one brand to another). Although not popular for the last 30 years in marketing, such a suggestion would be complementary to cognitive dissonance literature (e.g. Cohen and Houston, 1972; Cummings and Venkatesan, 1976; Festinger, 1957). The lack of a clear direction in the literature makes it difficult to determine whether brand beliefs are indicative of future brand buying behaviour, whether beliefs are reflective of past behaviour, or whether they are both predictive of future behaviour but also a reflection of past behaviour (for example along the lines of what was proposed by social learning theory; Bandura, 1977). Predictive relationships are difficult to detect in cross-sectional studies measuring consumers’ brand usage and beliefs at one point in time (Ajzen, 2002; Albarracin and Wyer, 2000). While some studies use purchase intentions to overcome this, purchase intentions measures have been notoriously poor at predicting future behaviour, unless a number of adjustments are made (Jamieson and Bass, 1989). It is only in a longitudinal study, where the same people are tracked over time, that some of the temporal effects can be identified and better understood. By tracking both brand usage and brand beliefs of the same people over time, it is possible to see what the relationship between beliefs and behaviour is prior to changing behaviour, and compare this with the realignment in beliefs after the change in behaviour. Another relatively neglected area of research into consumer beliefs is the incidence and impact of negative beliefs. Most studies focus on the positive beliefs consumers hold (a notable exception is Woodside and Trappey, 1992). Recognising the extent to which consumer choice is influenced by the positive and/or negative beliefs a person holds about a brand is an important research issue – as most of marketing and brand strategies draw on brand or marketing managers’ understanding of these relationships. For example, it determines the extent to which marketing activities are about extolling the brand’s virtues or trying to overcome consumer barriers to purchase. Therefore, in an effort to address some of the limitations and gaps in the literature, this paper investigates both positive and negative brand beliefs in two individual-level repeat interview studies where buying behaviour has changed for some consumers during the time between interviews. Specifically, the issues examined are the

differences in beliefs prior to changing behaviour and the difference in beliefs over time as behaviour changes. The purpose is to identify and compare the relative effects pre and post behaviour change. Background The formation and/or change of beliefs about brands is commonly assumed to influence, and therefore precede, brand buying behaviour (e.g. Ajzen and Fishbein, 1977; Axelrod, 1968; Baldinger and Rubinson, 1996; Bass and Talarzyk, 1972; Hollis et al., 1996; Rossiter, 1987). There are several ways for this influence to be exerted. For example, beliefs can underpin the attitude to the brand (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975), or can be used to trade off between brands by further processing the benefits and drawbacks offered by differing brands (Bettman, 1979; Palmer and Faivre, 1973). One of the ways to categorise consumer beliefs is by their valence, whether they are positive, negative or neutral. While valence can be categorised by the customer (as per Krishnan, 1996), often it is easily discernible from the wording used to frame the attribute. The valence of the belief influences the role that it would be expected to have on buying behaviour. Positive beliefs are expected to contribute to increasing purchase propensity, while negative beliefs are assumed to influence someone to potentially reject the brand. We now discuss each of these types of brand belief. Positive brand beliefs Most of the past literature has focused on the positive beliefs that consumers hold about brands. Central to this research are those that have empirically tested the relationship between current brand beliefs and current usership status (Bird et al., 1970; Romaniuk, 2001). Consumers who had used a brand recently/currently were the most likely to express a positive belief, followed by consumers who had a history of using the brand, but had not bought or consumed it recently. Consumers who had never used the brand were the least likely to elicit positive beliefs about the brand. These findings suggest that past experience, and how recent the experience was, has a major influence on the accessibility of the beliefs consumers hold. Such a suggestion compliments the idea that consumers may change their beliefs to reflect, or be consistent with, their behaviour (Festinger, 1957). It would be expected then, that consumers who used to buy the brand occasionally, and then start buying it more often, would experience an increase in the level of positive brand beliefs to reflect the change in their usage status. Studies that have explored the relationship between current beliefs and subsequent brand choice have also permeated the literature. These studies have generally confirmed that consumers holding a positive belief are more likely to buy/choose the brand, even when the information is trivial, and even though it may vary across brands and consumers (Broniarczyk and Gershoff, 2003; Romaniuk, 2003; Woodside and Trappey, 1992). This finding has also been extended to brand loyalty and defection behaviours, where current customers who held positive beliefs about a brand were less likely to defect and were more loyal than those who did not (Romaniuk and Sharp, 2003a, b). Therefore, while current users of a brand hold overall higher levels of positive beliefs compared to other user groups, within the current user group, a lower response level to a positive belief may be an indicator of the future likelihood to defect from the

Positive and negative brand beliefs 555

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brand. Then after defection, the change in brand user status should trigger a readjustment in beliefs, which would be reflected in lower than previous levels of positive beliefs. This can be explained by the lack of reinforcement of those associations, which would make them less accessible. The above discussion leads us to the following hypotheses: H1a. Prior to defection, future defectors will have a lower level of positive beliefs than current customers who stay with the brand. H1b. After defection, the positive belief levels of defectors will be lower than prior to defection. As a validation that this change in belief levels was due to the defection behaviour and not some other external influence, we expect that the positive belief levels from those who did not defect from the brand would remain stable over time. It is important to recognise that this stability refers to aggregate level and not individual level responses, which have been established to be systematically unstable over time (Dall’Olmo Riley et al., 1997; Sharp, 2002): H1c. Upon re-interview, the levels of positive beliefs from current customers who stayed with a brand will remain stable. As there is empirical evidence in the literature to support both H1a and H1b, it is likely that both hypotheses will be supported. However studies to date have not quantitatively compared pre-behaviour difference in belief levels with post-behaviour change realignment of beliefs. An outcome of this research will be a comparison of the effects in both directions. If the more influential direction is positive beliefs influencing behaviour, we would hypothesise that: H2a. The cross-sectional difference in belief levels between defectors and non-defectors in H1a will be greater than the longitudinal change for defectors over time in H1b. However, if the dominant relationship is behaviour change influencing positive beliefs, then the opposite will be the case, namely: H2b. The cross-sectional difference in belief levels prior to switching in H1a will be lower than the longitudinal difference for defectors over time in H1b.

New brand uptake In addition to having people who defect from a brand, these consumers also take up a new brand. This allows us to explore the relationship between brand belief levels and new brand uptake. If positive beliefs influence the decision to take up a brand, then prior to the behaviour change the new users should display higher levels of positive brand beliefs than other non-brand users who did not take up the brand. Therefore, H3a is as follows: H3a. Prior to uptake, future new users will have higher levels of positive beliefs than those of non-users who did not take up the brand.

If, as also expected, the act of using the brand further builds the propensity to give positive brand beliefs in correspondence with the new user status, then we would expect the propensity to increase over time. This gives the following hypothesis: H3b. After taking up a brand, the positive belief levels of new users will further increase. To further verify that the difference is due to taking up the brand, the level of positive brand beliefs of those non-brand users who did not take up the brand should remain stable:

Positive and negative brand beliefs 557

H3c. The positive belief levels of those who did not take up the brand will remain stable over time. Again comparisons between the cross-sectional relationship in H3a and the longitudinal relationship in H3b will reveal which direction, if any, is more substantial. If belief-to-behaviour is the dominant direction of the relationship, we would hypothesise that: H4a. The difference in belief levels between new users and other non-users in H3a will be greater than the change in belief levels of new users over time (H3b). If behaviour is more influential in driving positive beliefs then we hypothesise the opposite, namely that: H4b. The difference in belief levels found in H3b will be greater than the difference found in H3a. Figure 1 presents a diagrammatical representation of the experimental method utilised in the study and the hypotheses developed for positive brand beliefs. Negative brand beliefs In addition to the positive beliefs that consumers hold, they can also hold negative beliefs about a brand (Krishnan, 1996). These are qualities that are generally considered undesirable for a brand to hold (Winchester and Romaniuk, 2003). The few studies that have considered negative brand perceptions found that not only were responses to negative beliefs less common than positive beliefs (Krishnan, 1996; Thelen and Woodside, 1997), but also that brand users and non-brand users were similarly likely to mention the brand in regards to negative beliefs (Winchester and Romaniuk,

Figure 1. Research hypotheses

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2003). Within those who do not use a brand there is a distinct segment of past brand users that have a substantially higher propensity to give negative brand beliefs than those who had never used the brand (Winchester, 2005). While the higher propensity of past users is relatively unsurprising, what is intriguing is that current brand users are more likely to express negative beliefs than those who have never used the brand (Bird et al., 1970; Winchester, 2005). This means that negative beliefs may not be used for rejection prior to choice, but rather are developed after using a brand as a result of experiencing negative qualities of that brand. If negative beliefs are formed after using a brand, then the question is: can negative beliefs be used as indicators of future defection from the brand? This would mean that negative beliefs are formed after unsatisfying experience with the brand but prior to the defection. In one of the few studies with modelling of negative beliefs and buyer behaviour, Woodside and Trappey (1992) did not find negative attributes contributing to current favourite supermarket (even as a negative relationship). However, their dependent variable was current behaviour not behaviour change/defection. If negative beliefs were related to subsequent behaviour change (defection) we would expect that: H5a. Prior to defection, the negative brand beliefs levels of future defectors will be higher than the negative belief levels of current customers who did not defect. The literature suggests that after the behaviour has been changed, and a consumer has switched away from a brand, negative perceptions will further increase to ensure cognitive consistency with the new behaviour and to reinforce the decision to defect, as suggested by cognitive consonance/dissonance theory (e.g. Festinger, 1957; Soutar and Sweeney, 2003). Therefore we would hypothesise: H5b. After defecting, negative belief levels of defectors will further increase. As a further validation that the belief change is linked to the behavioural change, we would expect that: H5c. The negative belief levels of those who stay with the brand will remain stable. By comparing the difference in H5a with H5b, we can determine if the effects in any one direction are more substantial. This leads to the following hypothesis, if the negative beliefs influencing behaviour dominates: H6a. The difference in belief levels found in H5a will be greater than the difference found in H5b. However if the dominant relationship is that behaviour drives negative beliefs, then: H6b. The difference in belief levels found in H5b will be greater than the difference found in H5a. Given that most of the studies to date have identified that non-brand users have little propensity to express negative beliefs about brands they do not use, we will not establish any hypotheses about the negative brand beliefs of non-brand users and new users.

Positive versus negative brand beliefs The final area examined is the relative influence of positive versus negative beliefs. Here we compare the size of the effects from each (H1a and H5a prior to switching and H1b and H5b over time). This is to identify if either positive or negative beliefs have a greater relationship with behavioural change. This provides some insight into the contribution of activities to build positive beliefs (such loyalty programmes, advertising) compared to those that reduce negative beliefs (such as complaint resolution). If the influences of positive beliefs were greater, then we would expect that: H7a. If the level of positive beliefs is a greater indicator of future defection likelihood, then the difference in H1a will be greater than the difference in H5a. H7b. If the level of positive beliefs is more likely to be adjusted post switching, then the difference in H1b will be greater than the difference in H5b. If the influence of negative beliefs dominates, then the reverse will be evident.

Overall research method This exploratory study aims to extend prior research by measuring behaviour change longitudinally with the same sample over time and link that change with belief measurements prior and post behaviour change. Due to the time and monetary cost of conducting longitudinal studies, it is limited to two studies where brand beliefs and the respondents’ self reported brand usage were recorded at two points in time. This provides two control groups where behaviour is stable over time (“never used” and “stayers”) and two experimental groups where buying behaviour changes over time (“defectors” and “new users”). This allowed us to detect changes in buying behaviour and the propensity to give positive and negative beliefs prior to and after the behaviour change. The studies were conducted in the subscription markets of banking and insurance; in a business-to-business market and business-to-consumer market, respectively. In subscription markets, consumers tend to use one main brand, and switching is an act of defection from one brand to another rather than a temporary change within a repertoire of brands (Sharp et al., 2002). This makes the categorisation of respondents into appropriate user groups far more accurate than if repertoire markets had been used. Unlike previous cross-sectional studies that have considered past users of a brand (e.g. Bird et al., 1970), this study does not rely on consumers to nominate brands they have used in the past, but rather compares the nomination of beliefs and stated current behaviour at the time of the interview. This allows avoiding “made up” responses by those who may feel they have to do so because of their claimed usership status (i.e. “I’ve said I stopped using that brand, so now I have to say something bad about it”). In addition, this study includes two control groups (never used and stayers) where there is no behaviour change. This enables a direct comparison of response levels to both positive and negative beliefs by those who change behaviour and those whose behaviour remains constant. Given the instability of individual beliefs as reported by Dall’Olmo Riley et al. (1997), the focus of analysis is the overall propensity to give positive or negative beliefs at an aggregate level, rather than the specific beliefs given at an individual level.

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Table I. Brand beliefs used in the insurance study

Table II. Sample data for a positive attribute: “Has products that provide complete cover”

Research method and sample: study 1 Study 1 was conducted using telephone interviewing, and was set in the context of the personal car insurance market. The first interview was conducted one month prior to consumers having to renew their car insurance. The second interview was conducted one month after renewal notices had been received. A company database was used to obtain the sampling frame of customers who were to receive renewal notices for comprehensive car insurance in a specific two-week window. One month after receiving the notice was allowed to give sufficient time for someone to have received the renewal notice and made a decision about renewal. The re-interview sample size was 627 (of 1,220 initial contacts in wave 1). As the sample is from a company database and all consumers are customers of this company for this product, defection analysis is from that brand only. Defectors were identified using a cross tabulation of consumer responses to a question: “Which company provides your comprehensive car insurance?”, which was asked in both waves. This was also used to assess which brands the consumer had taken up after defecting. The brand uptake analysis is across two competitor brands in the market as these brands gained the largest number of defectors. Consumers who did not nominate a brand in the second wave were excluded from analysis. Brand names were not provided to respondents at all, but had to be elicited unprompted. The following attributes used in the study were derived from past studies and discussions with company representatives. Table I presents the attributes used in this study. Order of the attributes was randomised, with negative and positive beliefs intermingled. Table II presents an illustrative example of the results obtained for an attribute “Has products that provide complete cover”. Columns three and four present the proportion of respondents in each user group (i.e. defectors or new users) who associated each brand with this attribute, with the final column showing the percentage change. The greatest changes in perceptions were observed within groups that experienced behavioural changes. Defectors showed a reduction in their propensity to say the brand Positive attributes

Negative attributes

Has products that provide complete cover Has conveniently located branches Has simple, easy to understand policies Has a fair attitude to paying claims Is competitive on price

Bureaucratic Impersonal Does not care for customers

Group label

Behaviour change T1 ! T2

Defectors Stayers New users Non-users

Current ! non Current ! current Non ! current Non ! Non

Time 1 (per cent)

Time 2 (per cent)

Percentage change

67 66 25 13

52 76 31 15

2 22 þ 15 þ 24 þ 15

they previously used had “products that provide complete cover” (67 2 52=67 ¼ 222 per cent), while new users experienced an increase of 24 per cent. There was also a change in response level for the two control groups whose behaviour remained constant (current user or non-user in both waves).

Positive and negative brand beliefs

Results: Study 1 The analysis illustrated in Table II was conducted for all five positive attributes and three negative attributes. The results for each type of belief are discussed separately, with positive belief versus negative belief comparison results discussed subsequent to that. Positive beliefs. Examining the response levels for positive beliefs shown in Table III, defectors show a 21 per cent lower initial response level (ð67 2 53Þ=67) than stayers, which supports H1a, i.e. that differences in positive beliefs are detectable prior to defection. After defection there was a 9 per cent decrease in defectors’ response levels over time (ð48 2 53Þ=53), which supports H1b, i.e. that positive beliefs further change after defection and adjust to reflect the new non-user status. Therefore there is support for both beliefs differing prior to behaviour change and being affected by the change in behaviour. Comparing the magnitude of the two effects, the difference between future defectors and stayers (2 21 per cent) is greater than the difference in defectors’ propensity to give a positive belief over time (2 9 per cent). This provides support for H2a over H2b, i.e. that there is a greater difference in initial positive beliefs than are changed due to the behaviour change. The propensity to give a positive belief did rise for those who stayed with the brand (9 per cent), which does not support H1c. This is probably due to the act of renewal heightening the salience for the brand. The results for those who started a new brand show similar trends. New users are twice ((182 9)/18) as likely to state a positive belief than those who have never used the brand, which supports H3a, i.e. that differences in beliefs are detectable prior to starting to use a new brand. After the behaviour change of starting to use a brand there was a 33 per cent increase in positive beliefs, supporting H3b. This is a much more rapid increase in positive beliefs for those who start to use a brand than the drop off that was evident for those who defected away from a brand (2 9 per cent). The difference prior to taking up the brand (50 per cent) was greater than the changes in positive beliefs over time (33 per cent), suggesting support for H4a over H4b.


Group label

Behaviour change T1 ! T2

Defectors Stayers New users Non-users

Current ! non Current ! current Non ! current Non ! non

Positive beliefs T1 average T2 average (per cent) (per cent) 53 67 18 9

48 73 24 10

Note: Averages are across five positive or three negative beliefs

Negative beliefs T1 average T2 average (per cent) (per cent) 25 21 10 8

38 19 10 8

Table III. Positive and negative beliefs: personal insurance

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Those non-users who remained non-users remained relatively stable. This provides support for H3c, i.e. that the changes are due to the change in behaviour status. Negative beliefs. For negative beliefs (Table III), defectors had a higher level (19 per cent) of negative beliefs than stayers prior to switching, which supports H5a. There was also an increase in defectors’ negative beliefs over time by 52 per cent, which supports H5b. Therefore, there is empirical support for effects both prior to defection and after the behaviour change has occurred. Comparing the magnitude of the two effects, the readjustment over time was greater than the difference prior to defection. This suggests there was more support for H6b over H6a. Given that the new level of negative beliefs (38 per cent) is much higher than any of the other groups, this suggests that after the behaviour change, defectors elicit more negative beliefs as a validation of the behavioural rejection of the brand, rather than simply those negative beliefs that may be linked to the actual defection. Therefore, a large proportion of the responses given by defectors after the act were developed post behaviour change and so cannot be interpreted as the reasons for defection. Those who stayed with the brand experienced a decline in negative beliefs of 10 per cent, which is again probably linked to the recent positive behaviour of policy renewal. Comparing positive and negative belief effects. Comparing the effects of positive and negative beliefs between defectors and stayers, we find the changes to be very similar in magnitude (21 per cent compared to 19 per cent). This suggests that prior to switching, both positive and negative beliefs are similarly able to discriminate between stayers and defectors. This does not support H7a. After the behaviour change there was a decline of 9 per cent for positive beliefs, compared to an increase of 52 per cent for negative beliefs. This suggests that, over time, the increase in negative beliefs is much greater than the decrease in positive beliefs, not supporting H7b. Research method and sample: study 2 The second stage of this research was conducted in a business-to-business banking market, where defectors were defined here as those who stopped using a brand between interview periods. The first wave of the self-completion mail study involved 560 randomly recruited business contacts. After 18 months, these 560 were re-sent a new mail survey. A total of 232 successful re-contact interviews were achieved (re-contact rate of 41 per cent). The long time frame was necessary to ensure that there were a sufficient number of those who changed behaviour to enable meaningful analysis and allowed us to test the endurance of effects over time. The respondents were recruited randomly from an electronic White Pages in an Australian capital city, and surveys were addressed to the finance manager with instructions that it was to be completed by someone who had a role in decisions about banking providers used by the business. Participants were asked on each occasion to indicate the main brand their company used for banking, then a cross-tabulation was used to determine who had changed from/to the brands used. Non-respondents to this question were excluded from all analyses. A table of the brands and attributes was provided within the questionnaire with respondents given instruction to circle as many or few brands as they considered appropriate for each attribute, regardless of if they had used the brand or not. Therefore respondents were asked if they associated the brand with an attribute or not

(binary response) and could indicate as many or as few brands as they wanted (Barnard and Ehrenberg, 1990). Representatives from the sponsor company and the researchers determined the beliefs and attributes involved in the project. These are presented in Table IV. The results were analysed for the five largest brands in the market. This ensured there was sufficient sample size in all of the relevant segments. Results: Study 2 The same analysis as described in Study 1 was conducted for the 13 beliefs. First the results for positive beliefs are discussed, then that for negative beliefs. Positive belief results. Defectors show an average 27 per cent lower response level (ð30 2 38Þ=30) than stayers (Table V), supporting H1a. Over time, there was a decline of 50 per cent (ð30 2 15Þ=30) in defectors’ responses, supporting H1b. Therefore, as confirmed in Study 1, there is support for effects in both directions, from belief to behaviour change, and behaviour change to belief change. The change over time for stayers is much lower, at 8 per cent, suggesting that the change in positive beliefs for defectors is due to the change in behaviour and not some external influence, providing support for H1c. In contrast to Study 1, comparisons of the magnitude of effects revealed that the change over time of 50 percent was greater than the difference between defectors and stayers prior to switching, of 27 per cent. This provides support for H2b rather than H2a, suggesting that there is more change after defection than the difference prior. Examining the results for brand uptake, non-users who became new users of a brand were 40 per cent (ð20 2 12Þ=20) more likely to state a positive belief prior to taking up the brand than those who were non-users who did not take up the brand, Positive attributes

Negative attributes

Supports the business community Business minded Appropriate fees and charges Good interest rates Conveniently located branches Responds quickly to needs Guaranteed investment growth A responsible bank A safe bank A business partner

Bureaucratic Impersonal High risk

Group label

Behaviour change T1 ! T2

Defectors Stayers New users Non-users

Current ! non Current ! current Non ! current Non ! non

Positive and negative brand beliefs 563

Table IV. Brand beliefs used in the banking study

Positive beliefs T1 average T2 average (per cent) (per cent) 30 38 20 12

15 41 50 15

Negative beliefs T1 average T2 average (per cent) (per cent) 14 8 14 10

21 11 7 9

Table V. Positive and negative beliefs: personal banking

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supporting H3a, i.e. that there are differences in positive beliefs detectable prior to starting a new brand. Over time, the positive beliefs of these new users grew by 150 per cent, suggesting that positive beliefs grew as these people became brand users, which supports H3b. This again supports the literature that suggests that there will be effects in both directions. The control group of non-users who did not take up the brand recorded a relatively modest increase of 25 per cent, providing some support for H3c that the change in the positive beliefs of new users is the result of the behaviour change. The increase in positive beliefs after switching (150 per cent) is greater than the difference in positive beliefs between those who took up the new brand and those who did not (40 per cent). This again suggests that more change occurs post switching and provides support for H4b rather than H4a. Negative beliefs results. For negative beliefs, the opposite effects were expected and confirmed. Defectors had a 43 per cent (ð14 2 8Þ=14) higher response level than stayers prior to switching (Table V), supporting H5a, i.e. that prior to defection, those who are likely to defect have a higher propensity to associate the brand they currently use with a negative belief. After defecting, the negative beliefs of defectors rose by a further 50 per cent from the initial higher propensity, suggesting that there is a building of negative beliefs after the behaviour change, supporting H5b. This again confirms that there is support for effects in both directions, from beliefs to behaviour change and behaviour change to beliefs. Unlike for positive beliefs, there is very little difference in the size of the effects in each direction. The 43 per cent difference between defectors and stayers is only slightly lower than the 50 per cent increase over time. This suggests more support for H6b over H6a, i.e. that there is more change after defection than difference prior, but the difference is marginal. The negative beliefs of those who stayed with the brand increased by 38 per cent, but this is due to the low initial response level of eight percentage points. It is most likely that in the re-interview group of stayers are some people who now are likely to defect and so have a higher propensity to give a negative belief in the second survey than in the first survey. Therefore, overall there is limited support for H5c. Comparing positive and negative belief effects. Comparing the effects of positive and negative beliefs we find that prior to defection there was proportionally more difference in the negative beliefs of future defectors than the positive beliefs when compared to stayers (43 per cent compared to 27 per cent). This suggests that prior to defection, the influence of negative perceptions is more sensitive than the influence of positive beliefs, not supporting H7a. However, positive beliefs are more common than negative beliefs and so both are most likely useful in identifying defectors, either a lower propensity to give a positive belief or a higher propensity to give a negative belief. This may reflect the two important different reasons for defection. The first is dissatisfaction with the current supplier, which is likely to manifest in negative beliefs. The second is a more attractive competitor, which is likely to manifest in fewer positive beliefs (Keaveney, 1995). Post defection, the proportional changes in beliefs over time were equal for both positive and negative beliefs (both at 50 per cent). This suggests that both types of perceptions are affected after behaviour change to the same degree.

Comparison of results across studies The same analysis was conducted over two quite different studies. Therefore it is useful to compare and contrast the results for the different hypotheses (see Table VI). The difference in positive beliefs prior to switching was similar across studies, however the difference in negative beliefs was greater for study 2. One of the possible explanations for such difference in the results is the difference in the circumstances of the brand defection in both studies. In study 2, the customer initiated defection, whereas in study 1 it was triggered by a renewal occasion. Therefore the negative beliefs could reflect the greater customer inclination to defect. However, given only two studies were able to be included in this research, further replications across various conditions of defection are required to confirm this proposition. The changes over time in positive and negative beliefs after brand defection were much greater in study 2 compared to study 1. A similar pattern was also evident for the positive beliefs of new brand users. The initial difference between those who did and those who did not take up the brand was similar across studies. Over time, however, the change was much greater in study 2 (longer time frame) than study 1. Again, as there are only two studies in this research it is not possible to provide a conclusive answer as to the reasons for such difference. However, one of the possible explanations could be that the readjustment of beliefs post behaviour change is an ongoing process, and not just confined to the time of the change in behaviour.

Positive and negative brand beliefs 565

Overall discussion This paper is an exploratory investigation of the relationship between positive and negative brand beliefs and brand buying behaviour. Specifically we examined how beliefs differ before, and readjust after, change in brand buying behaviour. Two longitudinal studies were analysed; the first involved a short-term follow up interview after a renewal time for an insurance policy. The second was a longer-term follow up survey of businesses and their buying behaviour for financial services, where defection was customer-initiated. Overall, effects both before and after the behaviour change were evident, which illustrates the complications faced by researchers trying to

Key characteristics Difference in positive beliefs between defectors and stayers (per cent) Change in positive beliefs over time for defectors (per cent) Difference in negative beliefs between defectors and stayers (per cent) Change in negative beliefs over time for defectors (per cent) Difference in positive beliefs between new brand users and non-users who remain stable (per cent) Change in positive beliefs over time for new brand users (per cent)

Study 1: personal insurance Study 2: business banking Interview one month after Re-interview 18 months after active renewal situation initial interview 21












Table VI. Comparison of key results across studies

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decipher the belief changes that precede behaviour from those that are a result of buying behaviour. While there were some consistent results, there were also some considerable differences in the results across both studies, which provide considerable opportunities for future research. The results across both studies show that differences between those who subsequently defect or take up a brand are detectable through changes in the levels of brand beliefs prior to the behaviour change. The size of these differences in positive brand beliefs was consistent for both studies and for negative beliefs in study 1 (around 20 per cent). However, in study 2, the levels of negative beliefs were even higher (43 per cent), possibly reflecting the fact that customers in that study had to actively choose to defect, unlike customers in study 1 who had to renew or could change an insurance policy. This suggests that negative beliefs could be more sensitive indicators of future defection in industries where that defection is customer-initiated rather than renewal based. There are however, other potential explanations for the differences between studies such as the differing time frames or other categories characteristics. Further identifying the reason for the difference between the two studies and why this only impacts on negative beliefs is an important area for future research. More substantial differences between the results of the two studies were noted in the analysis of the belief levels over time. The decay in the levels of positive beliefs for defectors and the increase in levels of positive beliefs for new brand users were substantially higher in study 2, where there was a much longer time frame between interviews. This was attributed to the difference in the time frames in the two studies. There was again a difference in the results for negative beliefs, where the decay was about 50 per cent in both studies. Further research is needed to identify why there was a difference between the results for positive and negative beliefs over time and the degree to which the different study characteristics contribute to this. The results also indicated that the magnitude of change in the levels of beliefs over time was much greater than the differences prior to switching. This might suggest that the readjustment of beliefs after behaviour change may be an ongoing process, and not just isolated to the time around the behaviour change. Such results, although preliminary, have implications for the interviewing of past brand users. The longer the time frame elapsed since defection, the less likely it appears that the negative beliefs would reflect the real reasons for defection; and the more likely it is that those negative beliefs were formed after the defection, and could be biased towards post factum rationalisation of defection. This suggests that further research into the reasons for defection should involve interviewing as soon as possible after defection. This may offer the greatest likelihood of getting the beliefs that triggered the defection. Finally in both studies, we found the ratio of the changes in beliefs pre- and post-behaviour change to be three times greater for new users than for defectors. This suggests a difference in consumer belief structures between the active behaviour of taking up a new brand, and the more passive behaviour of stopping undertaking a past behaviour. This is also an avenue for further research. Limitations and future research Due to the time and financial constraints of conducting longitudinal studies, the scope of this paper is limited to being drawn from only two studies conducted in subscription

markets in Australia. This is an important consideration when interpreting the research results, but the complexity of the results and the limitations in scope provide numerous opportunities for future research. In the current paper the beliefs of defectors and stayers prior and after behaviour change were investigated; however we were unable to detect whether the defectors always had fewer positive beliefs and more negative beliefs or whether there was a change in beliefs prior to behaviour change. Therefore further research that investigates change in beliefs and change in behaviour through measurement of beliefs at three or more points in time would be beneficial. This could also investigate what caused the belief change, such as exposure to advertising, word-of-mouth or direct mail/sales activities. The use of claimed brand usage level in this research is also a limitation, as it is subject to memory bias; for example, some participants may have guessed their car insurance supplier in either wave. Therefore further research that supplements survey data with company database information may be useful to minimise any memory issues. A possible cause of the difference between negative and positive beliefs across studies could be due to the reasons for consumer defection, something that has been found to vary from poor brand performance/dissatisfaction to a more attractive competitor offer (e.g. Colgate et al., 1996; Keaveney, 1995; Schneider and Turkat, 1975). The mix of reasons for defection may differ across categories and this could influence the beliefs prior to switching. In this research the different reasons for defection were not taken into account, and future research should include this potential confounding factor and examine if the belief changes differ. Indeed the impact of the reason for defection on the future brand beliefs for the brand previously used is still an area of some speculation. While it is reasonable to hypothesise that dissatisfaction will be reflected in a higher level of negative beliefs, if the reason is a more attractive competitor offer, then the effects might be a lower level of positive beliefs due to a re-evaluation of the (to become) past brand, a higher level of negative beliefs due to the perceived inferiority of the (to become) past brand or the effects could be solely concentrated in the competitor brand and have no effect on the beliefs for the previously used brand. This is an important area for future research as it also provides insight into the future consideration propensity of past users, and identify if these are potentially future acquisition possibilities. Future research into the differences between renewal subscription markets, where defection is more passive and continuous subscription markets where defection is totally customer-initiated would also be useful to further expand and explain the findings of this research. Our research suggests that negative perceptions will be more important in customer-initiated defection, but further research is needed to verify this. Another area of future research is extension to other categories and countries. Extensions using this longitudinal method conducted in fast-moving consumer goods and durables markets would provide valuable insight into the generalisability of our research and the validity of the conclusions drawn. Further extension to markets outside Australia would provide additional cross-cultural insight. Finally the effect of time elapsed since the behaviour change on brand beliefs, proposed in this paper as one of the possible mediators of the difference in scores, should be replicated and extended using a design to concentrate on understanding the

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Fishbein, M. (1967), “Attitude and the prediction of behavior”, in Fishbein, M. (Ed.), Readings in Attitude Theory and Measurement, Wiley, New York, NY, pp. 477-92. Fishbein, M. and Ajzen, I. (1975), Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behaviour: An Introduction to Theory and Research, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA. Foxall, G. (2002), “Marketing’s attitude problem – and how to solve it”, Journal of Customer Behaviour, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 19-48. Hollis, N., Farr, A. and Dyson, P. (1996), “Understanding, measuring, and using brand equity”, Journal of Advertising Research, November/December, pp. 9-21. Jamieson, L.F. and Bass, F.M. (1989), “Adjusting stated intention measures to predict trial purchase of new products: a comparison of models and methods”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 26, pp. 336-45. Keaveney, S.M. (1995), “Customer switching behavior in service industries: an exploratory study”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 59, April, pp. 71-82. Keller, K.L. (2003), “Brand synthesis: the multidimensionality of brand knowledge”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 29, March, pp. 595-601. Kotler, P., Adam, S., Brown, L. and Armstrong, G. (2001), Principles of Marketing, Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest. Krishnan, H.S. (1996), “Characteristics of memory associations: a consumer-based brand equity perspective”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 13, pp. 389-405. Lynch, J.G. Jr, Marmorstein, H. and Weigold, M.F. (1988), “Choices from sets including remembered brands: use of recalled attributes and prior overall evaluations”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 15, September, pp. 169-84. McGuire, W.J. (1985), “The nature of attitudes and attitude change”, in Gardner, L. and Aronson, E. (Eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. 2, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, pp. 238-41. Palmer, J. and Faivre, J. (1973), “The information processing theory of consumer behaviour”, European Research, November, pp. 231-40. Romaniuk, J. (2001), “The brand perceptions of former users”, Marketing Bulletin, Vol. 12, pp. 1-6. Romaniuk, J. (2003), “Brand attributes – ‘distribution outlets’ in the mind”, Journal of Marketing Communications, Vol. 9, June, pp. 73-92. Romaniuk, J. and Sharp, B. (2003a), “Brand salience and customer defection in subscription markets”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 19, pp. 25-44. Romaniuk, J. and Sharp, B. (2003b), “Measuring brand perceptions: testing quantity and quality”, Journal of Targeting, Measurement and Analysis for Marketing, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 218-29. Rossiter, J.R. (1987), “Comments on ‘Consumer beliefs and brand usage’ and on Ehrenberg’s ATR model”, Journal of the Market Research Society, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 83-93. Schneider, D.J. and Turkat, D. (1975), “Self-presentation following success or failure: defensive self-esteem models”, Journal of Personality, Vol. 43, March, pp. 94-108. Sharp, A. (2002), “Searching for boundary conditions for an empirical generalisation concerning the temporal stability of individual’s perceptual responses”, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of South Australia, Adelaide. Sharp, B., Wright, M. and Goodhardt, G. (2002), “Purchase loyalty is polarised into either repertoire or subscription patterns”, Australasian Marketing Journal, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 7-20. Solomon, M.R. (1994), Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being, 2nd ed., Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA. Soutar, G.N. and Sweeney, J.C. (2003), “Are there cognitive dissonance segments?”, Australian Journal of Management, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 227-49.

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Thelen, E.M. and Woodside, A.G. (1997), “What evokes the brand or store? Consumer research on accessibility theory applied to modeling primary choice”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 14, pp. 125-45. Wicker, A.W. (1969), “Attitudes versus actions: the relationship of verbal and overt behavioral responses to attitude objects”, Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 41-78. Winchester, M.K. (2005), “The exploration of negative brand image attributes”, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of South Australia, Adelaide. Winchester, M. and Romaniuk, J. (2003), “Evaluative and descriptive response patterns to negative image attributes”, International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 21-34. Woodside, A.G. and Trappey, R.J. (1992), “Finding out why customers shop your store and buy your brand: automatic cognitive processing models of primary choice”, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 32, pp. 59-78. Wright, M. and Kly¨n, B. (1998), “Environmental attitude-behaviour correlations in 21 countries”, Journal of Empirical Generalisations in Marketing Science, Vol. 3, pp. 42-60. About the authors Maxwell Winchester is a Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management and Marketing at Harper Adams University College, Newport, Shropshire and a Research Associate at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia. His main research interests have been in the area of understanding negative brand attributes and consumer behaviour. Maxwell’s academic research interests have led to the publication of papers in the areas of wine marketing, brand management and research methodology. Maxwell Winchester is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: Maxwell.Winchester@ Jenni Romaniuk heads the Brand Equity Research group at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, based at the University of South Australia. The Institute is funded by over 50 corporations around the world and is devoted to marketing science. She leads a research team devoted to investigating issues such as brand equity metrics, brand salience, the brand equity perceptions and future brand consideration of past users, private label brands, good branding, distinctive symbols for brands, and brand placements. She has published internationally in a wide range of marketing journals, including Journal of Advertising Research, International Journal of Market Research and the Australasian Marketing Journal. Jenni regularly speaks at international conferences and consults to a wide range of companies around the world. Her current research interests are brand equity, brand salience, advertising effectiveness and the influence of word of mouth on consumer behaviour. Svetlana Bogomolova is a Senior Research Associate at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, based at the University of South Australia. Her main research interest is in the area of brand defection. Svetlana has extensively researched the reasons for brand defection, how it impacts on consumer based brand equity, as well as the implications for new customer acquisition and winning back lapsed customers. She has also published about the effect of recency and frequency of service interactions on the service quality scores and the role of trust perceptions in consumer behaviour. In addition to her academic research, Svetlana consults to a wide range of corporate clients.

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Who’s who in brand communities – and why?

Who’s who in brand communities?

Hans Ouwersloot and Gaby Odekerken-Schro¨der University Maastricht, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Department of Marketing, Maastricht, The Netherlands Abstract

571 Received May 2006 Revised November 2006 Accepted January 2007

Purpose – Brand communities may manifest the ultimate degree of connectedness between a consumer and a brand. Research typically approaches such communities as collections of highly homogenous members but generally fails to recognize them as individual persons with their own idiosyncratic backgrounds and reasons to join the community. This article aims to explore whether a community population can be meaningfully segmented on the basis of different motivations to join. Design/methodology/approach – Information from two communities is collected, following the customer-centric model of brand community of McAlexander et al.. The relationship variables in this model are used as a segmentation basis in cluster analysis to identify various segments. Different kind of motivations can be identified with the relationship variables of the McAlexander et al. model. Findings – Multiple segments based on different consumption motivations exist. Two investigated communities show significant overlap in the identified segments. Furthermore, the findings suggest that segments evolve in relation to the lifecycle stage of the community. Practical implications – Segmentation is important for fine-tuning marketing efforts, particularly for brand communities. Members of communities share dedication to the brand but are heterogeneous in many respects. Originality/value – Treating a brand community as a marketing tool requires an understanding of the composition of its population. This study explores how to achieve this understanding and links community characteristics to theoretical concepts surrounding consumer behaviour. Keywords Brands, Brand management, Community behaviour, Market segmentation, Cluster analysis, Motivation (psychology) Paper type Research paper

Introduction In recent branding literature, Keller (2001, 2003) has argued that the highest level of connectedness a brand can achieve with its customers is characterized by a state of resonance. In this state, consumers interact with the brand, are highly loyal, and feel connected. Furthermore, they experience strong relationships with the brand, which causes them to recommend it to others, feel emotionally inclined toward it, and perceive themselves as part of it. Concurrent with this more management-oriented literature, brand communities have entered the academic consumer research agenda. Initially the topic emerged in the realm of sociologically oriented research, inspired by the notion of postmodernity (Firat and Venkatesh, 1995; Cova, 1997; Kozinets, 1997, 2001; Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001; Holt, 2002; Schau and Muniz, 2002; Brown et al., 2003; Giesler and Pohlmann, 2003; Muniz and Schau, 2005). For example, Muniz and O’Guinn (2001, p. 428) contest that brand communities exist, in line with the spirit of modernism (Berman, 1988), which involves “open[ing] oneself to the immense variety and richness of things, materials and ideas

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that the modern world inexhaustibly brought forth”. More recently the brand community concept has made its appearance in more traditional marketing research (McAlexander et al., 2002, 2003; Algesheimer et al., 2005; Andersen, 2005; Piller et al., 2005; Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2006). A milestone in this development was McAlexander et al.’s (2002) study on Harley Davidson and Jeep brand communities and brandfests, in which literally the dominant ethnographic approach of the original researchers was combined with typical market research endeavours like scale development and hypothesis testing. This article elaborates on McAlexander et al.’s (2002) work by taking brand community research to new areas (product categories) as well as by validating their newly developed measurement scales. The concepts of brand community and virtual communities (e.g. Wiertz, 2005; Fu¨ller et al., 2005; Piller et al., 2005) overlap, but are not synonyms. Brand communities are often supported by internet-based technology, but the concept is broader and essentially encompasses everyone who feels connected to the brand, online or offline. Virtual communities in contrast by definition are only defined in the virtual world. A definition given by Wiertz (2005) further emphasizes the different scope of online communities. She defines virtual communities as “company-endorsed online aggregations of customers who collectively co-produce and consume content about a commercial activity that is central to their interest by exchanging informational and social resources” (p. 6). And although virtual communities may be centered round a brand, this is not necessarily the case. This paper therefore explicitly adopts the concept of brand communities as defined and introduced below. Brand communities Muniz and O’Guinn (2001) describe a brand community as a “specialized, non-geographically bound community that is based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand” (p. 412), a definition that is generally accepted by other researchers (e.g. McAlexander et al., 2002, 2003; Andersen, 2005; Algesheimer et al., 2005; Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2006). Their study employs mainly a sociological perspective and uses ethnographic research and a deductive approach. McAlexander et al. (2002) build on their study and introduce a customer-centric model of brand community. These preliminary research efforts indicated that the study of brand communities offers promising research avenues, including that which we investigate – namely, why people join communities. Moreover, we extend the scope of brand community research beyond the prototypical examples of car (Jeep, Saab as in Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001; McAlexander et al. 2002; Algesheimer et al. 2005; Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2006), motorcycle (Harley-Davidson as in McAlexander et al. 2002) and computer (Apple as in Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001; Muniz and Schau, 2005) brands with our choice of brand communities. The definition of brand communities tend to suggest some degree of homogeneity among members; for example, Muniz and O’Guinn (2001) write that “Like other communities, it is marked by a shared consciousness, rituals and traditions” (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001, p. 412). McAlexander et al. (2002) say that “Communities tend to be identified on the basis of commonality or identification among their members” (McAlexander et al., 2002, p. 38). Even brand community “became a common understanding of a shared identity”, according to Muniz and O’Guinn (2001, p. 413) and their discussion of core community commonalities. Algesheimer et al. (2005) use the

strength of the consumer’s integrations with the community as their core independent variable, recognizing that members can differ, but only in this one dimension: “In contrast to other identities, which may render a person unique and separate, this is a shared or collective identity” (p. 20). Despite this appearance of homogeneity, it seems worthwhile to study the population of a community from a heterogeneous perspective that recognizes that persons within a community are unique. In this respect, it becomes particularly important to understand why consumers join brand communities, a question that directly refers to the issue of satisfying needs and wants and thus is central to marketing. Recognizing that brand communities can become important marketing instruments and understanding who joins a community for what reasons may have potentially powerful managerial implications. It is important to realize that from an organization’s perspective brand community is a loose concept. Any admirer that has a relationship with another admirer is part of a community. It seems useful to make a distinction between two types of communities, however. On the one hand there are communities that have clear and established links with the brand involved. In other words, one of the relationships community members have explicitly is with the brand. This is most clear when the brand or company is in fact the administrator of the community (e.g. the car clubs in Algesheimer et al., 2005), or the organizer of community events like brandfests (e.g. the Jeep Camps in McAlexander et al., 2002). On the other hand there are brand communities in which the brand is not explicitly involved. An extreme example is the Newton club studied by Muniz and Schau (2005), which is characterized as an “abandoned” community. Like most brand community research so far, with the notable exception of Muniz and Schau (2006), this research will use company-moderated communities. The implications of our research for non-company moderated communities will be touched upon in the Discussion section. Consumer motives to participate in a brand community The question of what needs and wants community members seek to fulfill by joining a community has been grossly neglected. The ethnographic paradigm employed by Muniz and O’Guinn (2001) and many other researchers simply observes that communities exist and investigates its characteristics and markers but does not ask why people acknowledge themselves (implicitly or explicitly) to a community. The questions marketing researchers have asked are varied. Some examples are: . the impact of brandfests on the integration into the brand community (McAlexander et al. 2002); . co-design in (online) communities (Piller et al. 2005); . how far brand communities exhibit religious characteristics (Muniz and Schau, 2005); . the predictive ability of community membership on intentions and behaviors (Algesheimer et al., 2005); . the role of brand community integration on loyalty (McAlexander et al. 2003); and . the role of brand communities in establishing and maintaining relationships in a B2B context (Andersen, 2005).

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In all these studies the existence of the community was the starting point. However, communities are made up of persons, consumers. The question for what reason consumers will acknowledge themselves to be a member of a community has, to our knowledge, not been addressed. This question is particularly important for company-moderated communities, which we investigate here. Participation in these communities often requires some kind of an offer by consumers, for example a membership fee, or provision of some key personal data. So what leads consumers to bring this offer to participate in the community? Without pretending to be exhaustive, we will identify and discuss a few possible reasons for this decision. We propose four motivations consumers might have to join a community, which we base on various notions in consumer behavior literature: (1) reassurance of quality for products with significant credence attributes (Nelson, 1970); (2) high involvement with the branded product category (Quester and Lim, 2003; Taylor, 1981); (3) opportunity for joint consumption; and (4) the brand’s symbolic function (Aaker, 1996). Communities thus might be classified according to whether and to what extent they help customers reach these objectives. We explicitly recognize that a community can serve multiple objectives simultaneously for different consumers. Similarly, one consumer may seek multiple objectives from one community. First, consumers may participate in a brand community because of their need for quality reassurance. On the basis of how information about the quality of products can be obtained, Nelson (1970) proposes a classification of products into goods with search, experience, and credence qualities. Quality assessments of search goods can be made on the basis of visible cues that can be inferred a priori, whereas experience goods allow for assessment immediately after consumption. For credence goods, however, quality may be assessed only after continued consumption. In line with this distinction, brand communities may function as groups of consumers that provide reassurance about a credence product’s quality. Furthermore, the link a community provides to the company may reduce consumer uncertainty. On a more practical level, the community may serve as a platform for exchanging experiences regarding the maintenance, repair, adaptation, or even basic usage of the product. Within a community, members feel a responsibility (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001) to share this knowledge (Schau and Muniz, 2002). Although prior research has investigated search goods (e.g. Jeep vehicles, Apple computers; McAlexander et al., 2002), investigations of communities surrounding experience and credence goods remain scarce or nonexistent. Second, consumers may participate in a community to express their involvement with the branded product. High-involvement product categories typically are those with which the consumer wants to feel connected (Zaichkowsky, 1985) even beyond the moment of consumption. Consumers generally search extensively for high-involvement products (Arnould et al., 2002) and then feel a need to share the consumption experience in retrospect. Online communities are extremely well suited to this aspect (Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2002), but brand communities in general can help

consumers share their experiences with high-involvement products. In this sense, the community serves to intensify or elongate the consumption experience. Third, consumers may require joint consumption and therefore join a brand community. In line with Muniz and O’Guinn’s (2001) contention that communities are more likely for publicly consumed goods, we note that some products must be consumed jointly rather than individually (Hogg and Michell, 1997). More precisely, when the utility derived from consumption involves synergistic effects, the product is preferably consumed jointly (Marmolo, 1999). Typical examples include board games, plays, and sports contests. Products that are consumed jointly are typically suitable to build a community (Schau and Muniz, 2002), which serves as a meeting place where members can consume the product together. Fourth, consumers may decide to participate in a brand community because they want to live up to the brand’s symbolic function. The concept of brand identity, as proposed by Aaker (1996), suggests that one dimension pertains to symbolic meaning. This identity goes beyond a basic set of associations, in that some brands, such as Nike, reach iconic status. For brands with important symbolic meanings, such as Harley-Davidson, a community may strengthen that meaning and offer a meeting place where members can express their devotion to the symbol. These different motives to join a brand community may lead to different levels of appreciation of the aspects of community life. The customer-centric community model, which proposes four relationships consumers may have with a brand community – product, brand, organization, and other consumers – provides an effective means to understand and measure key aspects of communities (McAlexander et al., 2002). We measure the strength of these relationships to investigate whether all bonds are equally strong for every community member. That is, we investigate whether differences exist among community members with respect to the importance they attach to the four links. For example, consumers who join a community for the possibility of joint consumption are more likely to emphasize inter-customer relationships. However, those who see the brand primarily as a symbol likely will be most interested in the relationships with the brand or the organization. Finally, consumers whose main motives center on their high involvement with the product should be mostly concerned with their relationship with the product. When a community serves multiple objectives, we expect segments within the community for which the relative importance of these relationships varies. In turn, we propose segmenting the community population on the basis of the importance the members attach to the four relationships of the customer-centric brand community model (McAlexander et al., 2002). We contend that such differences originate in the different motives consumers have to join communities. In Table I, we demonstrate the relatively strong correspondence between motives and the type of relationship.


Dominant relationship

Assurance for credence good High involvement in product category Joint consumption Brand symbol

Customer-company relationship Customer-product relationship Customer-customer relationship Customer-brand relationship

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Table I. Correspondence of motives to dominant relationships in community

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Research design We investigate two communities to determine whether different segments might be identified within them and whether these segments can be understood in terms of the consumers’ motives for joining. We purposefully choose two communities that differ in many respects, including their product categories, geographic scopes, and states of development, among other things. This choice helps us increase and broaden our knowledge of the phenomenon under investigation, and we focus specifically on the differences in development stages. In our first study, we investigate the community of players of the board game Settlers of Catan, which is in its incubation stage. The publisher of the game organizes brandfests, or tournaments, and tries to establish a community based on participation in these tournaments. In contrast, for our second study, we study Swatch, a well-established watch brand with a long history, a professional, company-moderated website, and international scope. Sample For study 1, we distributed self-administered questionnaires to 128 participants of Settlers of Catan tournaments at the end of the gathering. These tournaments were organized in 12 Dutch cities, of which we selected four to attain maximal geographical spread. We visited these four tournaments and asked participants to complete the self-administered questionnaires; we received 104 useable questionnaires, for a response rate of 81 percent. In study 2, we sent 568 Belgian and Dutch members of “Swatch the Club” self-administered mail questionnaires. The French-speaking part of Belgium received a carefully translated French version of the questionnaire. Swatch raffled a Christmas special as an incentive for members to complete the questionnaire. Respondents could choose to complete the questionnaire and return it via regular mail or go to a web link noted in the cover letter of the questionnaire and complete it online. This sample consisted of 125 observations, for a response rate of 22 percent. Measurement instrument The questionnaires consisted of 16 items that relate to the four relationship constructs described by McAlexander et al. (2002). However, for those of their items that are kept proprietary, we substitute items we believe relate closely to the investigated construct. (For the constructs and their items, see the Appendix.) We use seven-point Likert scales, ranging from “completely disagree” to “completely agree”, to measure all items, and include several socio-demographic variables. We report the Cronbach’s alphas for the four relationship constructs in both samples in Table II. In general, the scales measure the four relationship constructs reliably; the alphas vary from 0.652 to 0.880. The customer-product relationship construct seems under-developed; in both samples, items had to be removed. Nevertheless, in the Swatch sample, the reliabilities are good, and in the Settlers of Catan sample, we find a sufficient degree of reliability. Therefore, we calculate the four relationship constructs as the averages of the scale items. Results Our Swatch sample is slightly dominated by men (58 percent). The average age is 39 and most respondents report memberships – measured by interval data – of more

than four years (58 percent). The dominance of men in the Settlers of Catan sample is more pronounced (78 percent). Almost half of the respondents are in the 21-30 age category (49 percent) and since the adjacent intervals make up 18 percent (, 20 years) and 26 percent (31-40 years), it is clear that this sample is significantly younger than the Swatch sample. Next, we used the four relationship variables to cluster analyze both data sets. We applied Ward’s method (Aaker et al., 2001) with the constructed relationship scores as the basis for segmentation and find that the agglomeration schedules suggest a four-cluster solution for the Settlers of Catan community and a six-cluster solution in the Swatch study. We refine both solutions by applying a K-means clustering procedure, with the centers of the four or six identified clusters from Ward’s method as starting points (Punji and Stewart, 1983). This procedure led to a reallocation of 13 percent of the observations in the Settlers of Catan sample. In the Swatch sample, we reassigned 9 percent of the observations. In both samples, the reallocations mainly occurred in relation to the cluster that we subsequently identify as representative of average community members. That is, the relocation appears to move average members out of otherwise specific clusters or specifically profiled members out of the average cluster; in both cases, the result was that the profiles of the clusters became more distinct. In Tables III and IV, we report these cluster profiles. With regard simply to the sheer size of clusters, we note that the Settlers of Catan community encompasses significant clusters, the smallest of which constitutes 16 percent of the total community. The Swatch community consists of two relatively small clusters, but they represent meaningful segments. Interpreting the results of a cluster analysis is based on three inferences. First the absolute scores on each of the relationships is taken into account. A score around the


Settlers of Catan

0.871a 0.766c 0.866d 0.815e

0.663 0.700b 0.652d 0.880e

Notes: aBased on both items. bBased on two of the original four items: “I am proud of my product” and “Among my favorite possessions”. cBased on three of the four original items: “I love my Swatch”, “I am proud of my Swatch” and “Among my favorite possessions”. dBased on all three items. eBased on all seven items

Consumer relationship with Company Product Customer Brand Relative size (percent)




Customer-company relationship Customer-product relationship Customer-customer relationship Customer-brand relationship

Who’s who in brand communities?


Behind the scenes


Not me


5.05 5.75 5.42 5.87 29

3.81 2.07 3.05 4.31 20

3.95 5.37 4.27 4.78 36

2.38 4.41 3.13 3.90 15

4.00 4.66 4.18 4.87 100

Table II. Reliability of relationship measurement for both samples

Table III. Segments in the Settlers of Catan community (n ¼ 104)

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mid-point of the seven-point scale (i.e. 4) is indicative of the relationship being neither important/relevant nor unimportant/irrelevant. High scores mean the relationship is valuable, low scores imply that the relationship is not regarded valuable. Second, the scores on a relationship for an identified cluster is compared to the average for the whole sample. Third within a cluster the scores on the four relationships are compared. This may lead to inferences such as for cluster “X” one type of relationship is more important than another relationship. Finally, the score on a relationship is compared across clusters. Inferences drawn from this comparison read like: for cluster “Y” relationship A is more important than for cluster “Z”. The interpretation of the cluster analysis is typically summarized by given names to the clusters that capture their most distinctive features. We refer to the first cluster in the Settlers of Catan group as the “enthusiasts”. Invariably, these members have the highest scores on the four relationships constructs, which means they assess all four relationships elements as important, valuable, or appreciated. Enthusiasts thus are the ideal community members, in that they like everything related to the brand – the product, the brand, the company behind the brand, and other community members. The principle motive for enthusiasts to join the community is unclear, but because they are positive about every aspect of their community relationships, we deduce that all motives apply to them. The second identified cluster has average ratings on three of the four relationship constructs but scores quite high on the product dimensions; we refer to them as players or, more generally, “users”. Because the Settlers of Catan board game requires high involvement, any consumer of it needs other players (joint consumption), which explains the positive rating this group gives to its relationships with other customers. We call the third group the “behind-the-scenes” segment. These customers indicate very low ratings of relationships with the product and other customers but average values for the brand and company. In other words, they are not interested in the social dimensions of the community or product information but rather are attracted by the more abstract realities that lie behind the product and its users. The final group is called the “not-me” segment. This group is characterized by low scores on all constructs and therefore is not really interested in the community. Because we gathered data about this community during a tournament, which might be regarded as an inaugural event for a community in its incubation stage, we posit that some tournament attendees came out of curiosity but found themselves uninterested in the community upon further consideration. Concerning the socio-demographic characteristics of the cluster, we observe that, compared to the sample, man are over represented in the “users” segment (87 percent versus 78 percent for the sample), while we find more women in the “enthusiasts” Consumer relationship Behind the Not with Enthusiasts scenes Users me Socializers Average Community

Table IV. Segments in the Swatch community (n ¼ 123)

Company Product Customer Brand Relative size (percent)

6.29 6.82 4.76 6.79 23

4.97 6.00 1.42 6.33 12

1.89 6.59 4.44 5.92 7

3.19 4.25 2.58 4.57 7

4.08 6.23 5.85 6.19 20

4.53 6.24 3.61 6.08 31

4.61 6.24 4.06 6.18 100

segment (37 percent compared to 22 percent for the sample). The age variable reveals no interpretable patterns, which means that all segments follow more or less the distribution of the sample. Shifting our attention to the Swatch community, a first and most relevant finding is that all four labels that were assigned for the Settlers of Catan community also can be applied to the Swatch community. That is, the first Swatch cluster consists of enthusiasts, who like every aspect of the community, and the second comprises users who are highly interested in the product as such. Note that for these users, the score for the company relationship construct is remarkably low. The third group, the behind-the-scenes consumers, is not interested in other customers but neither are they negative toward the product. Note that the interest in the product of behind-the-scenes is much less closer to average than was the case in the Settlers community. Finally, we again find a not-me category whose members score low on all dimensions. In addition to these four, the Swatch case offers two further groups that, in this case, are among the largest we find. The first and largest is a cluster we label “average”, which has low to average scores on all constructs. However, we use this “average” label in comparison with the means of the complete sample on the constructs. For the sample in total the score on the relationships with the product and the brand are quite high, so we also might infer that the four constructs reveal the greater importance of the consumers’ relationship with the product and brand. That is, on average, the most important motives for joining a community are the brand and the product. The final group we identify is the “socializers”, who appreciate the community in all four aspects but appear to prioritize the customer-to-customer aspect most. Further analysis of the socio-demographic profiles of the clusters reveals that 68 percent of the “socializers” are male (cf. 58 percent for the sample). “Users” (78 percent) and “not-mes” (75 percent) are even more male dominated, but these findings have to be interpreted with caution given the small absolute numbers in these segments – 9 and 8, respectively. The segments called “average” and “enthusiasts” in contrast count relatively many women (50 percent in both). Concerning the ages within the segments, again the two smaller ones (“users” and “not-me”) are relatively old (43 and 48, respectively) whereas “behind the scenes” is the young segment. Finally, it is found that “socializers” have longest memberships, while the “behind the scene” segment and especially the “enthusiasts” are the newcomers. Discussion Both the commonality and the differences between Studies 1 and 2 shed some interesting light on the brand community phenomenon, especially in relation to the differences in their development stages (i.e. incubation versus mature). In both communities, relationships with the product and the brand obtain the highest respondent scores. Despite the notion that a community is a set of social relationships, the brand communities we investigate emphasize truly brand-related aspects, not more socially oriented concepts like the company or other consumers. In addition, all identified segments in the Settlers of Catan community appear in the Swatch community. The presence in both communities of a group of “enthusiasts” comes as no surprise, in that brand enthusiasts may be the very raison d’eˆtre of brand communities. We note that the size of this group does not differ significantly in either community. In contrast, the existence of a “user” group seems obvious for the Settlers

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of Catan but rather more surprising for the Swatch community, even considering its smaller size. Despite their community involvement, this group does not develop broader interest in the brand over time but instead limits its interest to the product. Thus, it would be a waste of resources to try to gain the interest of “users” in other aspects of the brand; it simply is not why they join the community. Furthermore, we did not expect to uncover a “not-me” group in the Swatch community, though their presence in the Settlers of Catan case makes sense, as we explained previously. “Not-me” members of the Swatch community should have had sufficient opportunity to leave the community; that they have not done so means that either the exit barriers are too high or a sufficient incentive to take the action to leave the community does not exist. However, companies, especially those with mature brand communities, must acknowledge the existence of this group that otherwise might be perceived as similar to the rest of the community in their dedication to the brand; in the Swatch case, 7 percent of the community is not so dedicated. The good news for companies, however, is the small size of this group. The final common group, the “behind-the-scenes” consumers, admittedly differs across our two communities in qualitative terms. In the Settlers of Catan case, the group is hard to understand, characterized as it is by comparably high interest in the brand and company but not the product or other customers. This result is particularly puzzling because we collected data during a Settlers of Catan tournament whose central focus is the product and playing the game with other customers. However, in the Swatch case, the picture is clearer, in that the “behind-the-scenes” group displays relatively significant interest in all aspects of the community except for other customers. In this sense, they might be perceived as the opposites of “socializers”. Our finding of “socializers” among the Swatch community is not unexpected, because the entire community concept is grounded in the idea that people like to form social bonds (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001). However, we highlight that this group’s interest is not limited to other members; even though they regard the community primarily as a social network, socializers’ interest in other aspects of the community is significant enough to call them dedicated to the brand as well. Furthermore, we note the lack of socializers in the Settlers of Catan community. This may be due to the way in which the customer-customer relationship was constructed, which referred explicitly to the respondents’ past within the community (e.g. “I have met wonderful people in the community”). We created this study with the idea that heterogeneity within communities might exist, and the results generally support this claim. However, our analysis of the Swatch community reveals that the largest segment (the “average” group, at 31 percent) follows an average pattern of interest. Socializers also follow this pattern, except that they have a much greater interest in fellow consumers. Hence, we acknowledge that a large part of the community displays some homogeneity. Managerial implications Brand community members constitute a specific group of customers, but treating them as a single, homogenous group may be a serious mistake. Community members share a reasonably strong commitment to the brand, but the brand concept is so complex (Mu¨hlbacher et al., 2006) that members can and do differ in many respects. The managerial implications of this fundamental observation are manifold.

Specifically, communication with members should be differentiated. For example, incentives to encourage members to share information with the company might be tailored to the principal motives for joining that members display. A member who most appreciates contact with the organization might be offered a company visit, whereas one who puts the most emphasis on relationships with other customers should be offered a free ticket to a tournament or brand gathering. When the community exists via the internet, the company website should reflect the dominant trend regarding what community members appreciate. Alternatively, the company could design various parts of its site to reflect specific customer preferences. The communication strategy used to promote the community also should be adapted to the prime purpose for which the community is built. Swatch offers a nice example, in that the community name itself – Swatch the Club – reflects inter-customer relationships. Alternatively, a name like “Swatch-watchers” would appeal to consumers’ relationship with the product link, “Swatch Inside” could play on their connection to the organization, and “What’s Swatch” might attract those customers who prioritize their relationship with the brand. Ultimately, the recommended steps depend on what managers hope to achieve with their community, which means that any managerial implications are contingent on the way the company’s management deals with the community. Assuming that the community functions as a management tool, understanding its membership composition can help fine-tune management actions, in support of the importance of knowing who’s who in brand communities. Conclusion and suggestions for further research First, our study supports the applicability of the customer-centric model of brand communities (McAlexander et al., 2002). In particular, the four relationships that define the model appear in the communities we investigate, which offers a validation of the model in new domains. However, further confirmation of its validity in even more domains still is required. Second, we find evidence of heterogeneity among community members. We have sought to find the basis of this heterogeneity in consumers’ different consumption-related motives to join a community. This approach has been partly successful, in that we confirm the presence of heterogeneity, but our findings cannot be interpreted easily in terms of the motives that likely lead to heterogeneity. That is, consumption characteristics cannot clearly and unequivocally define the characteristics of the segments in either community. Further research might elaborate on this idea, but it may be equally, if not more, valid to scrutinize other sources of heterogeneity. Third, we find that segments may differ with respect to the community’s development stage. However, because the communities we investigate differ in many other respects as well, we cannot attribute our finding of heterogeneity only to the development stage, though the results indicate this proposition is not without merit. Given the potential managerial impacts of this point, we strongly urge further, preferably longitudinal research. We acknowledge that our study offers little scope for generalization. Two idiosyncratic brand communities have been researched, and although the concepts presumably apply in general to brand communities, the findings require further research on more communities, before general conclusions can be drawn.

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The current study also neglects the role of involvement. It seems obvious that community members are involved, but involvement is a multi faceted concept. Also our finding of segments that seem not interested in the community (the “not-mes”) shows that involvement is perhaps less obvious than expected. The role of involvement in its various dimensions is likely to contribute to a deeper understanding of the characterizations of segments within a community. Another issue this study does not address also is of paramount importance. The Swatch community we investigate is moderated by the company, and Settlers of Catan tournaments are organized by the company. Although it is tempting to execute community research using clearly identifiable, well-administered, and clearly delineated communities, the brand community concept as defined by Muniz and O’Guinn (2001) and which seemed to have gained wide acceptance in the literature (see our introductory sections) encompasses a much broader scope. Communities may consist of consumers who mentally admire a brand but are not administratively connected to an organization of any kind. That is, researchers cannot assume that communities consist of “members only”. This limitation offers several extremely challenging research avenues. How relevant are communities in this looser sense? What is the role of brand communities, in this broad perspective, for brand marketing? What is their influence on building brand equity? Mu¨hlbacher et al. (2006) argue that brands are complex, social phenomena that cannot be managed, but brand managers can try to influence the concept of the brand. Understanding brand communities and thus structuring the socially complex phenomenon of a brand may help managers effectively influence the development of their brands and thus put them in reasonable control of one of their most valuable assets. References Aaker, D.A. (1996), Managing Brand Equity, The Free Press, New York, NY. Aaker, D.A., Kumar, V. and Day, G.S. (2001), Marketing Research, 7th ed., Wiley, New York, NY. Algesheimer, R., Dholakia, U.M. and Hermann, A. (2005), “The social influence of brand community: evidence from European car clubs”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 69, pp. 19-34. Andersen, P.H. (2005), “Relationship marketing and brand involvement of professionals through web-enhanced brand communities: the case of Coloplast”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 34, pp. 39-51. Arnould, E.J., Price, L.L. and Zinkhan, G.M. (2002), Consumers, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill Irwin, Boston, MA. Bagozzi, R.P. and Dholakia, U.M. (2002), “Intentional social action in virtual communities”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 2-22. Bagozzi, R.P. and Dholakia, U.M. (2006), “Antecedents and purchase consequences of customer participation in small group brand communities”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 23, pp. 45-61. Berman, M. (1988), All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity, The Penguin Press, New York, NY. Brown, S., Kozinets, R.V. and Sherry, J.F. (2003), “Teaching old brands new tricks: retro branding and the revival of brand meaning”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 67, pp. 19-33.

Cova, B. (1997), “Community and consumption”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31, pp. 297-316. Firat, F. and Venkatesh, A. (1995), “Liberatory postmodernism and the reenchantment of consumption”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 22, pp. 239-67. Fu¨ller, J., Bartl, M., Ernst, H. and Mu¨hlbacher, H. (2005), “Community based innovation: how to integrate members of virtual communities into new product development”, Electronic Commerce Research Journal, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 57-73. Giesler, M. and Pohlmann, M. (2003), “The social form of Napster: cultivating the paradox of consumer emancipation”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 30, pp. 94-100. Hogg, M.K. and Michell, P.C.N. (1997), “Constellations, configurations and consumption: exploring patterns of consumer behaviour amongst UK shoppers”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 24, pp. 551-8. Holt, D.B. (2002), “Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 29, pp. 70-90. Keller, K.L. (2001), “Building customer-based brand equity”, Marketing Management, July/August, pp. 15-19. Keller, K.L. (2003), Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Managing Brand Equity, 2nd ed., Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Kozinets, R.V. (1997), “‘I want to believe’: a netnography of the X-Philes’ subculture of consumption”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 24, pp. 470-5. Kozinets, R.V. (2001), “Utopian enterprise: articulating the meanings of Star Trek’s culture of consumption”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 28, pp. 67-88. McAlexander, J.H., Kim, S.H. and Roberts, S.D. (2003), “Loyalty: the influences of satisfaction and brand community integration”, Journal of Marketing – Theory and Practice, Fall, pp. 1-11. McAlexander, J.H., Schouten, J.W. and Koenig, H.F. (2002), “Building brand community”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 66 No. 1, pp. 38-54. Marmolo, E. (1999), “A constitutional theory of public goods”, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Vol. 38, pp. 27-42. Mu¨hlbacher, H., Hemetsberger, A., Thelen, E., Vallaster, C., Massimo, R., Fu¨ller, J., Pirker, C., Schorn, R. and Kittinger, C. (2006), “Brands as social complex phenomena”, paper presented at the International Thought Leadership Conference on Brand Management, Birmingham. Muniz, A.M. Jr and O’Guinn, T.C. (2001), “Brand community”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 27, March, pp. 412-32. Muniz, A.M. Jr and Schau, H.J. (2005), “Religiosity in the abandoned Apple Newton brand community”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 31, pp. 737-47. Nelson, P. (1970), “Information and consumer behavior”, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 78, March/April, pp. 311-29. Piller, F., Schubert, P., Koch, M. and Mo¨slein, K. (2005), “Overcoming mass confusion: collaborative customer co-design in online communities”, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, Vol. 10, article 8, available at: html Punji, G. and Stewart, D.W. (1983), “Cluster analysis in marketing research: review and suggestions for application”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 20, May, pp. 134-48. Quester, P. and Lim, A.L. (2003), “Product involvement/brand loyalty: is there a link?”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 22-39.

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Schau, H.J. and Muniz, A.M. Jr (2002), “Brand communities and personal identities: negotiations in cyberspace”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 29, pp. 344-9. Taylor, M.B. (1981), “Product involvement and brand commitment”, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 51-7. Wiertz, C. (2005), “The kindness of strangers – studies on customer behavior in commercial virtual communities”, PhD thesis, Maastricht University, Maastricht. Zaichkowsky, J.L. (1985), “Measuring the involvement construct”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 341-52. Zeithaml, V.A., Berry, L.L. and Parasuraman, A. (1996), “The behavioral consequences of service quality”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 60, pp. 31-46.

Appendix We measure the four relationship constructs of the customer-centric brand community model, using seven-point Likert scales anchored at completely disagree and completely agree, with the following items.

Customer-company relationship (1) The [brand] company understands my needs. (2) The [brand] company cares about my opinions. Customer-product relationship (1) I love my [brand] [product]. (2) I am proud of my [brand] [product]. (3) My [brand] [product] is one of my favorite possessions. (4) My [brand] [product] is fun to wear/play. Customer-customer relationship (1) I have met wonderful people because of my [brand] [product]. (2) I feel a sense of kinship with other [brand] owners. (3) I have an interest in more interpersonal contact with other members of the [brand] community. Customer-brand relationship (1) I value the [brand] heritage. (2) I consider my [brand] as my number 1 choice of [product]. (3) I say positive things about [brand] to other people. (4) I would recommend [brand] to my friends. (5) If I were to replace a [brand] I would by another [brand]. (6) [brand] is of the highest quality. (7) [brand] is the ultimate [product].

For each item, [brand] refers to either Swatch or Settlers of Catan and [product] to a watch or board game, respectively. The wording may have been adjusted slightly to make the statements logical and meaningful. In the customer-brand relationship scale, items 2 and 3 were kept proprietary by McAlexander et al. (2002); we therefore complemented them with the two items above that we took from the behavioral intention battery of Zeithaml et al. (1996).

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About the authors Hans Ouwersloot is Associate Professor of Marketing at Maastricht University. His research centers around brand management and includes the areas of consumer behavior, integrated marketing communications and advertising and marketing research. He has published in European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Services Research, Industrial Marketing Management, and International Journal of Service Industry Management. Hans Ouwersloot is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected] Gaby Odekerken-Schro¨der is an Associate Professor in Marketing at Maastricht University. Her main research interests are related to the domains of relationship marketing, services marketing, customer (e-)loyalty, and consumer behavior. She is a member of the editorial board of Journal of Relationship Marketing and ad hoc reviewer for International Journal of Service Industry Management. Her research has been published in Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business Research, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Journal of Consumer Marketing, and many other international journals.

To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: [email protected] Or visit our web site for further details:

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The attractiveness and connectedness of ruthless brands: the role of trust


John Power and Susan Whelan Waterford Crystal Centre for Marketing Studies, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland, and

Received April 2006 Revised October 2006; March 2007 Accepted May 2007

Gary Davies Manchester Business School, Manchester, UK Abstract Purpose – The paper aims to investigate the impact of ruthless image on the attractiveness and connectedness of corporate brands. It proposes a model that trust mediates the influence of a ruthless image on these outcomes. The study aims to build upon previous theory which suggests that not all brands with negative aspects to their images are destined to receive negative consumer responses. Design/methodology/approach – A mixed method approach was adopted to examine consumer responses to ruthless brand image, including five focus groups to uncover successful brands with strong ruthless associations and 680 personal face-to-face surveys in which respondents were interviewed about one of four brands. Findings – The paper provides empirical support that the mediating role of trust is critical to the development of favourable outcomes where negative brand associations exist. No significant direct links between ruthlessness, attractiveness and connectedness were identified – only an indirect effect via trust. Research limitations/implications – The chosen research approach may reduce the generalisablity of the results. Further empirical testing using alternative brands and outcome measures is encouraged. Practical implications – Strategic brand implications are outlined which argue that brands with negative images can be successful, profitable and often the market leader. The importance of leader image to disguise the ruthlessness of the corporate brands is discussed. Originality/value – This paper fulfils an identified need to study favourable consumer attitudes in the context of brands with negative associations. Keywords Corporate image, Brands, Mathematical modelling Paper type Research paper

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 586-602 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862525

Introduction There is a widely held principle in the marketing literature that in order for a brand to be successful that the brand must have a positive image (Aaker, 1999; Graeff, 1997; Belch and Belch, 1987). Having strong, favourable and unique brand associations is seen as essential for building strong consumer-based brand equity (Keller, 1993, 2003). However, this concept of positive brand imagery ignores the growing number of brands that have negative associations but yet are successful. Consumers still enter into relationships with such brands if these brands offer self-relevancy. Our context is that of corporate branding where the associations customers make with the brand are influenced not only by media advertising but also by other experiences and

perceptions. In particular, we focus on corporate brands where the persona of the leader can have an impact on the imagery of the corporate brand. The study has two major aims. First, we test hypothesised relationships between a ruthless corporate brand image, trust and the outcomes of attractiveness and self-connectedness. Second, we investigate the role of trust in mediating the influence of a ruthless image. Our paper is structured as follows. The next section examines corporate brand associations and explores the role of trust. Following this we report how four ruthless brands were identified. Consumer-brand outcomes are then discussed and a justification for choosing attractiveness and self-connectedness is provided. Next, the methodology and empirical results are presented. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for theory and for practice, along with an agenda for future research. Corporate brand associations Much of corporate association theory is developed from that for corporate image. Numerous authors and studies make references to the fact that corporate image affects consumer product judgements and responses (Belch and Belch, 1987; Keller and Aaker, 1994; Wansink, 1989; Ind, 1998). However, all elements that surround and constitute a brand are potential influencers on the associations that consumers have with brands. The consumer behaviour and reputation literature identifies that consumers’ perceptions about a brand and intentions to purchase are the results of interpreting the sum of associations they can relate to, but fails to identify which associations cause which responses. Brown and Dacin (1997) agree that corporate brand association research stems from the area of belief and attitude formation, because research into corporate associations formation is primarily concerned with the beliefs and evaluations that an individual possesses about a brand. Berens and van Riel (2004) identify three main schools of thought in assessing corporate brands or corporate reputation: (1) social expectations; (2) trust; and (3) personality. Research into human personality is long-standing (e.g. Allport, 1937; Cattell, 1945; Eysenck, 1953). More recently this literature has recognised that most measures of personality have a limited number of dimensions in common (Digman, 1990; Goldberg, 1990). Corporations develop “personalities” for their brands in order for consumers to relate with their brands in a bid to increase loyalty and purchase intention (Fombrun and Shanley, 1990; Erdem and Swait, 2004). Brand personality, the human associations we make with a brand, evokes the brand as person metaphor (Morgan, 1988; Aaker, 1997; Davies et al., 2002). The purpose of the metaphor is to aid the easier comprehension of a complex idea, thus allowing brands to be characterised as people with human characteristics and to allow measurement using a limited number of dimensions (Aaker, 1997). The dimensions identified for brand personality tend to be positively valenced. One exception is the ruthlessness dimension identified by Davies et al. (2001). Ruthlessness as a dimension of brand personality emerged from the organisational literature that emphasised the dark side of the corporate persona, the sociopathic

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organisation whose behaviours, while not necessarily immoral, are negative and manipulative (Schwartz, 1987; Daneke, 1985; Kets de Vries and Miller, 1984). The ruthless dimension comprises two major facets: (1) egotism (measured by arrogant, aggressive, selfish); and (2) dominance (measured by inward-looking, authoritarian, controlling). For the purpose of the current research study we focus on successful brands that have a strong element of ruthlessness to try to explain how, given such negative associations, they can succeed. In doing so we aim to resolve a point of difference in the literature as to whether avoiding negative associations is critical to market success. Fombrun (1996), for example, argues that the development of a positive corporate reputation creates strategic advantage or reputational capital and therefore negative associations would serve to harm corporate reputation. The opposing view from Brown and Dacin (1997) is that companies with negative images and association are not necessarily destined to receive negative responses from consumers. In our preliminary work it became clear that some, essentially corporate, brands derive their negative imagery because of an association with a prominent leader, for example Microsoft and Bill Gates. The imagery of many brands is inextricably linked to the leader’s image (Lazarus, 2003), which has a direct influence on the reputation of the entire organisation in the eyes of all stakeholders (Hall et al., 2004). Many corporate brands are directly associated with the individuals who manage or who founded them, for example Richard Branson and Virgin (Argenti and Druckenmiller, 2004). Likewise, the image of a political leader appears central to that of the party they lead (Mian, 2003). Whitmeyer (2000) argues that reputations of corporate leaders typically are specifically related to trust. Therefore, the image of the organisational leader must be aligned with the image of the corporate brand for maximum effect (Tyler and DeGoey, 1996). Hence, the image of the leader is strongly associated with the overall corporate brand and reputation of the company. Brand trust Consumer trust in a brand is seen as one aspect of brand associations essential for brand success (Crosby et al., 1990; Michell et al., 1998; Berry, 1995). A brand’s credibility is assessed on the perceptions of associations surrounding a company’s trustworthiness, reliability, honesty, and benevolence (Ganesan, 1994; Kumar et al., 1995). Credibility has two components: (1) trustworthiness; and (2) expertise (Erdem and Swait, 2004). The role of brand trust is to reduce the uncertainty and risk associated with a brand (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001). Customers are more likely to choose brands they believe to be trustworthy and reliable (Delgado-Ballester and Munuera-Aleman, 2001, 2005). Trust exists when one has confidence in a brand’s reliability and integrity (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Deutsch, 1958). Doney and Cannon (1997) argue that trust is particularly relevant in situations of uncertainty for instance, where there exists image incongruity, information

asymmetry, or in brands with traditional negative images. This implies that trust can play a mediating role with brands that have negative imagery, mitigating the influence of ruthlessness. Consumers trust brands that are good and honourable, empathetic and hold positive brand images and personalities (Andreassen and Lindestad, 1998; Fornell, 1992; Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001). So we can expect negative associations to reduce trust, and hence our first hypothesis: H1. The more ruthless the image of the corporate brand the less it will be trusted. Consumer-brand outcomes How much a brand is trusted will influence a customer’s satisfaction (Aaker, 1999; Davies et al., 2001) and the relationship strength between the brand and the person (Aaker et al., 2004; Fournier, 1994). Sincerity, for example, promotes inferences of partner trustworthiness and dependability (Aaker, 1999), which reduce the feelings of vulnerability and support relationship growth (Moorman et al., 1993). However, satisfaction is not a compelling measure of a brand relationship, as one can be satisfied with the product rather than with the brand, and researchers have endeavoured to identify more salient measures of the outcomes from brand imagery. Boyd and Mason (1999) and Aaker et al. (2004) identify two aspects of successful brand relationships: (1) attractiveness; and (2) self-connectedness. Attractiveness embraces a number of positive outcomes – whether the individual considers the brand to be filling a real need, giving real value and whether it is seen as a great brand (Boyd and Mason, 1999). Self-connectedness concerns the fit between the person and the brand, whether an association with the brand projects the desired self-concept, whether it can be seen to make a statement about what is important in life (Aaker et al., 2004). Brands which are notably attractive to consumers provide benefits similar to those received where brand satisfaction is evident, whereas brands high in connectedness are generally seen to be complimentary to consumers self-concept as they assist in the maintenance of self-consistency, self-esteem and self-relevance (Sirgy, 1982). We selected these two outcomes as useful measures and would expect both to be positively influenced by trust in the brand, hence: H2a. The more a brand is trusted the greater its attractiveness. H2b. The more a brand is trusted the greater its connectedness. Intuitively it may be assumed that any negative associations with a brand would not promote attractiveness and connectedness. Hence: H3a. The more ruthless the image of the corporate brand the less attractive it will appear. H3b. The more ruthless the image of the corporate brand the less connected it will appear.

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Preliminary research Prior to the empirical testing of the hypotheses five focus groups each with ten participants were undertaken. The aim was to identify successful brands with strong ruthlessness associations. Respondents were shown the items measuring the ruthlessness dimension from Davies et al. (2001) and asked to identify two brands they considered to be “ruthless”. Four corporate brands were mentioned frequently and were selected for the next stage of the research: (1) Ryanair, a low-cost airline; (2) Microsoft, a blue-chip technology firm; (3) Virgin, a conglomerate of consumer businesses; and (4) The Sun, a leading daily tabloid newspaper (see Table I). When asked to name a brand that reflected each trait of the ruthlessness dimension, the leader’s name was often mentioned in the response. Respondents appeared to associate the leaders of each company with the ruthless imagery of the corporate brand. When questioned as to why, they explained that such leaders are part of the brands they head and therefore hard to distinguish from them. The leader appeared to personify the organisation. For instance, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair (“He [Michael O’Leary] shows no remorse for his bullying tactics and is very arrogant”), Bill Gates of Microsoft (“Well he [Bill Gates] doesn’t leave us much choice but to buy his products”), Rupert Murdoch of the group owning The Sun (“Oh yes The Sun and Murdoch, he is brainwashing us and controlling what we read and see [. . .] it’s modern day propaganda”) and Richard Branson of Virgin (“He [Richard Branson] plays the martyr but it’s not like he’s doing it for charity, he’s an extremely wealthy and a powerful man”). It was therefore decided to include the corporate brand association of leader image in the second empirical stage of the research study. Main research methodology Sample and data collection method A pilot study among randomly chosen members of the public (n ¼ 20) was used to test and develop the survey instrument. Data was then collected from 680 individual respondents for the four corporate brands identified previously in the preliminary research. The survey was administered using a personal face-to-face survey and respondents were interviewed about one of four brands. This approach had the advantage of a high response rate (Hair et al., 1998), but the sample cannot be used to represent the entire sample population. The primary reason for using such convenience sampling is data variance (Cramer, 2003), i.e. obtaining different responses to see if Response rank

Table I. Most frequently mentioned ruthless company brands and leaders

1 2 3 4 5þ

Frequency (n ¼ 100) 27 19 15 13 26

Company brand


Ryanair Microsoft The Sun Virgin Miscellaneous

Michael O’Leary Bill Gates Rupert Murdoch Richard Branson Miscellaneous

relationships exist between the constructs. The only screening criterion was that the respondents had knowledge of the company brand and leader and were familiar with the product offering. Measures All measures for the constructs were taken from previous studies in a branding or marketing context. Ruthlessness The source for a validated measure of ruthlessness was Davies et al. (2004). The ruthless dimension has six items divided into two facets: (1) egotism (arrogant, aggressive, selfish); and (2) dominance (inward-looking, authoritarian, controlling). Respondents were asked to imagine that brand X “has come to life as a human being” and to rate it using the ruthlessness dimension traits. Each scale item was measured on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 ¼ strongly disagree to 5 ¼ strongly agree (see the Appendix). Trust The consumer trust literature contains an abundance of consumer trust measurement scales, which are often context-specific. We adopted the conceptualisation that trust is indicated by three facets: (1) competence; (2) honesty; and (3) empathy. Competence and honesty were measured using items from Erdem and Swait (2004) and Morgan and Hunt (1994). Empathy was measured using items from the SERVQUAL scale (Zeithaml et al., 1988). In total 16 items were selected to measure the trust construct. The same Likert type scale was used for each item as above (see the Appendix). Attractiveness and self-connectedness Our objective was to test empirically whether consumers can have favourable attitudes toward brands with ruthless images rather than to test for purchase intentions. Attractiveness is seen as a reflection and connection with a brand, and hence it is argued the more attractive a brand, the greater is the likelihood of purchase intent. Self-connectedness is seen as complimentary to the theory of self-concept as it is fundamentally based upon consumer relevancy. The measure of attractiveness was taken from Boyd and Mason (1999) and self-connectedness from Aaker et al. (2004). Empirical results and analysis Scale reliability was assessed first using coefficient a, as it is the most widely accepted measure of reliability (Hair et al., 1998). A scale that obtains an a of 0.7 or greater is considered to be reliable (Nunnally, 1978). All constructs had reliability scores above acceptable levels (see Table II). Individual measures were also checked using

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Construct reliability scores

Company brand

Valid cases (n)


Table II. Construct reliability scores


Ruthlessness Egotism Dominance

0.79 0.76 0.67

Trust Competence Honesty Empathy

0.92 0.76 0.90 0.86





Leader 600 0.82 0.79 0.68

confirmatory factor analysis and finally a measurement model was used to identify any indicators that were not unique to the construct they were supposed to assess. Table III shows the average score for ruthlessness for all four corporate brands and their respective leaders. As expected from the preliminary study, all score above the average for the scale, confirming that the brands chosen are perceived to have ruthless images. Our main objective was to identify if there exists a significant link from ruthless brand image to attractiveness and self-connectedness or whether this link is mediated by trust in the brand. Drawing from the results of the focus groups, the overall ruthlessness of the corporate brand was taken to be indicated by a direct measure of the ruthlessness of the brand and the ruthlessness of its CEO. The various hypotheses were used to construct two models: one where trust is in a mediating role between ruthlessness and the two outcomes, i.e. attractiveness and self-connectedness; and the other where the model excludes trust and the links from ruthlessness to the outcomes are direct. Both models were tested using structural equation modelling (SEM). Model A (mediated model) provided a good fit to the data (x 2 =df ¼ 3:894; GFI ¼ 0:98;


Table III. Average scores of ruthlessness



Ruthless company brands Ryanair Microsoft Virgin The Sun

150 150 150 150

3.55 3.43 3.15 3.57

0.88 0.88 0.70 0.67

Ruthless leaders Michael O’Leary Bill Gates Richard Branson Rupert Murdoch

150 150 150 150

3.74 3.21 3.24 3.77

0.84 0.83 0.84 0.73

NFI ¼ 0:96; CFI ¼ 0:98; RMSEA ¼ 0:070; Hoelter 0:01 ¼ 308), but only when empathy was removed from the trust construct (see Figure 1). A covariance between the ruthlessness of the leader and of the company was also suggested and added. The coefficients for the paths in Model A are all significant and all hypotheses (H1, H2a and H2b) are supported (see Table IV). As hypothesised in H1, ruthless brand image is negatively related to brand trust. H2a is supported as trust is positively and significantly related to attractiveness. Likewise, H2b is supported as trust is positively and significantly related to self-connectedness. The standardised direct effects showed that the effect of ruthlessness on trust was 2 0.24, while the effect of trust on attractiveness and self-connectedness was 0.67 and 0.58, respectively. No modifications were suggested for direct links from ruthlessness to attractiveness and self-connectedness. In order to further examine H3a and H3b and the direct effects of ruthlessness we tested Model B, which removes the mediating factor of trust (see Figure 2). Model B (direct effect model) provided an adequate fit to the data (x 2 =df ¼ 5:976; GFI ¼ 0:98; NFI ¼ 0:97; CFI ¼ 0:97; RMSEA ¼ 0:091; Hoelter 0:01 ¼ 281). The links from ruthlessness to both outcomes were low (the standardised direct effects of ruthlessness on attractiveness was 2 0.12 and on self-connectedness 2 0.07) but significant at p , 0:05 (Table IV). H3a is supported as ruthlessness is negatively related to attractiveness. Likewise, H3b is supported as ruthlessness is negatively related to self-connectedness (Figure 2). The findings from the two models show that the direct effect of ruthlessness is fully mediated by trust, as the direct effect of

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Figure 1. Model A (mediated model)

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Table IV. Results of direct and indirect effects

Model A (mediated model) Estimate

Ruthless brand image ! Ruthless company image Ruthless brand image ! Ruthless leader image Ruthless brand image ! Trust Trust ! Competence Trust ! Honesty Trust ! Attractiveness Trust ! Self – connectedness Ruthless brand image ! Attractiveness Ruthless brand image ! Self – connectedness

0.77 0.80 20.24 0.80 0.94 0.67 0.58

x2 df GFI NFI CFI RMSEA Hoelter (0.01)

3.894 62 0.98 0.96 0.98 0.070 308

(10.81) (10.84) (2 6.99) (22.24) (27.60) (17.89) (17.89)

Model B (direct effect model) Estimate 0.76 (9.66) 0.84 (10.78)

2 0.12 (24.75) 2 0.07 (22.82) 5.976 36 0.98 0.97 0.97 0.091 281

Notes: Model A has indirect, full mediation of the outcome variables by trust; Model B has direct effect of the outcome variables

Figure 2. Model B (direct effect model)

ruthlessness on attractiveness and self-connectedness is less significant than when trust is included. Discussion and implications Brands, and in particular corporate brands, can have their negative connotations. All four brands identified as being relatively ruthless in the focus groups were corporate

brands. Few product brands were mentioned at all. The ruthless imagery of the four corporate brands was associated with the imagery of the leader. The stronger the image for ruthlessness, the less likely the brands are to be trusted. There is no significant direct link between ruthlessness and favourable outcomes such as attractiveness and self-connectedness. There is only an indirect effect via trust. So as long as the brand is trusted due probably to the positive experience, the negative influence of a ruthless imagery does not dominate the relational outcome. However, the indirect influence of ruthlessness is far from insignificant. Of the two components influencing the ruthless image of the corporate brand, the effects of the leader’s image and that of the company were similar, standardised direct effects of 0.80 for the leader and 0.77 for the company. There is some spillover between the leader and company brand imagery as a covariance was needed to maximise the fit of the model to the data, but the two images do appear to be distinct. They also vary by company. In the case of Ryanair the image for ruthlessness of the leader, Michael O’Leary, is higher than that for the company he leads. This imagery reflects the media reports of his business practices and general attitude to competing airlines, along with his apparent willingness to benefit from others’ misfortunes, for example bulk-buying aircraft after 9/11. Rupert Murdoch’s image as a ruthless leader was also high. Murdoch was viewed in the focus groups as dominating and controlling in his influence with the media and for the manipulative tactics he introduces. Richard Branson and Bill Gates, on the other hand, had lower scores for ruthlessness than their companies. Both present more positive images in the media, Gates through his philanthropy in supporting work in AIDS-related causes and Branson with his apparent championing of consumer causes. However, both scored above the mean point for ruthlessness, indicating that neither enjoys a totally “unruthless” reputation. To the best of our knowledge, no previous study has tested empirically for favourable consumer attitudes in the context of brands with negative associations. Therefore, the major focus of this article was to identify how consumers can perceive a brand to have a ruthless corporate image and hold a favourable impression of the brand. We have shown that for four brands with negative associations that consumers can have favourable consumer-brand outcomes due to the development of trust between the parties. We have also highlighted the spillover of imagery between company image and leader image and argued that corporate brand image is the aggregate of company and leader image in instances where the leader is a visible character. Where consumers are familiar with the leader, they find it difficult to distinguish their character from the overall brand; hence, the leader is a significant association to the corporate brand. Our study confirms the central role that trust plays in building relationships with customers. However our work also adds to the confusion around the trust construct as one element of trust, i.e. empathy, had to be dropped from the model to ensure a good fit with the empirical data. Competence and honesty were both retained. One possibility is that these two aspects of trust are central to countering ruthlessness; we as customers will still be willing to enter into a relationship with a brand if we regard the brand (and by inference its leader) as competent and telling the truth, even though the truth may at times be unpalatable. Ryanair is best known as a low-cost operator, but its performance as an airline in terms of departure and arrival times is also a feature of the

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business. Similarly, Microsoft is often criticised for anti-competitiveness, but its products are rarely criticised and relatively few computers are sold that do not rely upon their software. Our work has implications for practitioners. For far too long marketers and brand manager alike have argued in favour of “sincere”, “agreeable” brands that offer consumers a relationship reflective of relationships between humans under the assumption that good brands have good images. Similarly, the literature has argued traditionally that having a good image is responsible for profitable and successful brands (Keller, 1993; Aaker, 1999). Our research shows how brands with negative images can be successful, profitable and often market leaders in their respective industries. But why then do such leaders appear to court publicity that emphasises their ruthlessness as business people? Surely it is more cost effective to promote trust by appearing honest and competent, i.e. Ryanair – affordable flights. Ruthless brands grab much wanted attention in the media and this is a free form of promotion and brand exposure. It is possible that the maxim that “all publicity is good publicity” is being believed and that the negative influence of the reporting of business practice on customer behaviour is being ignored. What might be attractive to a shareholder may be off-putting to the same person as a customer. We would not want to suggest that the publicity surrounding Bill Gates generous’s funding of AIDS-related causes is as a consequence of the negative media on both sides of the Atlantic about Microsoft’s business practices. But the persona of the leader is clearly important in the customer’s perception of corporate ruthlessness, and portraying a different aspect to a leader’s character, particularly one associated with trust, appears to us to be a logical counter. Directions for future research The spillover effect between company and leader image is clearly important in corporate branding, and we believe that the effect of trust in the leader in particular should be further explored. Identifying if trust in the leader or the company is the greater driver of relationship strength would provide insight into the importance of the leader’s role within the organisation and whether marketing spend should be directed towards promoting corporate executives in the media. The issue identified clearly here and supported qualitatively in the preliminary focus groups is that many prominent leaders are seen as ruthless and that this has a negative impact on their company’s brand image. Practitioners need to be aware of this and research is needed to explore how to counter the effect and to benefit from it. Using the leader as the company representative in the media may appear cost-effective in putting the company in front of the customer (and in our opinion this is a deliberate ploy by companies), but their power appears to be something that customers find less attractive. One possibility is that as companies get bigger we assume them to be more ruthless. If so, then the economic argument in favour of establishing large corporate brands may have a downside that big is not beautiful. Another explanation may come from the so called “fat cat syndrome”, where leaders of large companies are thought to be overly rewarded and to be too focused on their own remuneration at the expense of customers and other employees. The heads of large corporations have a role in modern society that may have been underestimated in the management of the reputation of the organisations they lead.

One limitation of the present study is that we tested only four brands; another is the sampling technique employed, and a third is the limited number of outcome measures. All four corporate brands are prominent brands that operate in different industry sectors and markets, thus limiting the comparability of the results obtained. The brands chosen for the study were based on the most frequently named ruthless brands from earlier qualitative work. However, it may be interesting to test more comparable brands to identify if the same findings are replicable, thus allowing for greater clarity and comparison of results obtained. In addition, it would be worthwhile to examine both product and less prominent service brands with ruthless images to further the generalisability of this study. The sampling technique adopted was convenience, and was deemed appropriate as the study aimed to test both mediated and direct effect consumer-brand relationships and using such a technique would result in a greater response rate. However, future research should empirically examine actual customers of the brands in terms of frequency of use and purchase intent. This may offer greater explanation and further strengthen the results obtained. In addition, the measures chosen – attractiveness and self-connectedness – are suitable in relation to ruthless brands as they explain consumers’ attitudes towards such brands. It would be interesting to examine traditional outcome measures such as brand loyalty and purchase behaviour within this context to further expand the overall generalisablity of this study. Concluding comments This empirical study investigated favourable consumer attitudes and the influence of negative corporate brand associations in an attempt to explain whether avoiding negative associations is critical to market success. Specifically, this study tested the role of brand trust as a mediator to relationship success where brands were high in ruthlessness. The significance of this research lies in the fact that it offers a possible explanation as to how corporate brands with negative associations are not necessarily destined to receive negative responses from consumers. The findings indicate that consumers can have favourable consumer-brand outcomes with brands that possess negative associations but only when brand trust is evident. As leader image was closely associated with the corporate brand image, the findings presented here have practical implications for marketing and brand managers alike. There is considerable scope for further research that examines negative associations in light of product brands and less prominent service brands but more generally on the influence of brand trust as a mediator to relationship success where negative brand associations exist. References Aaker, J. (1997), “Dimensions of brand personality”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 347-56. Aaker, J. (1999), “The malleable self: the role of self expression in persuasion”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 36, pp. 45-57. Aaker, J., Fournier, S. and Brasel, S.A. (2004), “When good brands do bad”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 1-16. Allport, G. (1937), Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, Holt, New York, NY.

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Andreassen, T.W. and Lindestad, B. (1998), “Customer loyalty and complex services: the impact of corporate image on quality, customer satisfaction and loyalty for customers with varying degrees of service expertise”, The International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 7-23. Argenti, P.A. and Druckenmiller, B. (2004), “Reputation and the corporate brand”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 368-74. Belch, G.E. and Belch, M.A. (1987), “The application of an expectancy value operationalization of function theory to examine attitudes of boycotters and nonboycotters of a consumer product”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 14. Berens, G. and van Riel, C.B.M. (2004), “Corporate associations in the academic literature: three main streams of thought in the reputation management literature”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 161-78. Berry, L.L. (1995), “Relationship marketing of services growing interest, emerging perspectives”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 23, pp. 236-45. Boyd, T.C. and Mason, C.H. (1999), “The link between attractiveness of ‘extrabrand’ attributes and the adoption of innovations”, Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 306-19. Brown, T.J. and Dacin, P.A. (1997), “The company and the products: corporate associations and consumer product responses”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 61, pp. 68-84. Cattell, R.B. (1945), “The description of personality: principles and findings in a factor analysis”, American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 58, pp. 69-90. Chaudhuri, A. and Holbrook, M.B. (2001), “The chain of effects from brand trust and brand affect to brand performance: the role of brand loyalty”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 65 No. 2, pp. 81-93. Cramer, D. (2003), Advanced Quantitative Data Analysis: Understanding Social Research, Open University Press, Buckingham. Crosby, L.A., Evans, K.R. and Cowles, D. (1990), “Relationship quality in services selling: an interpersonal influence perspective”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54, pp. 68-81. Daneke, G.A. (1985), “Regulation and the sociopathic firm”, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 10, pp. 15-20. Davies, G., Chun, R., da Silva, R.V. and Roper, S. (2001), “The personification metaphor as a measurement approach for corporate reputation”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 113-30. Davies, G., Chun, R., da Silva, R.V. and Roper, S. (2002), Corporate Reputation and Competitiveness, Routledge, London. Davies, G., Chun, R., da Silva, R.V. and Roper, S. (2004), “A corporate character scale to assess employee and customer views of organisation reputation”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 125-46. Delgado-Ballester, E. and Munuera-Aleman, J.L. (2001), “Brand trust in the context of consumer loyalty”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 35 Nos 11/12, pp. 1238-58. Delgado-Ballester, E. and Munuera-Aleman, J.L. (2005), “Does brand trust matter to brand equity?”, The Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 14 Nos 2/3, p. 187. Deutsch, M. (1958), “Trust and suspicion”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 2, pp. 265-79.

Digman, J.M. (1990), “Personality structure: emergence of the five factor model”, Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 57, pp. 195-214. Doney, P.M. and Cannon, J.P. (1997), “An examination of the nature of trust in buyer-seller relationships”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 61, pp. 35-51. Erdem, T. and Swait, J. (2004), “Brand credibility, brand consideration, and choice”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 191-8. Eysenck, H.J. (1953), “The application of factor analysis to personality: a reply”, American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 169-72. Fombrun, C. (1996), Reputation: Realising Value from the Corporate Image, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. Fombrun, C.J. and Shanley, M. (1990), “What’s in a name? Reputation building and corporate strategy”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 33, pp. 233-58. Fornell, C. (1992), “A national customer satisfaction barometer: the Swedish experience”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 No. 1, p. 6. Fournier, S. (1994), “A consumer-brand relationship framework for strategy brand management”, unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Ganesan, S. (1994), “Determinants of long-term orientation in buyer-seller relationships”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 58, pp. 1-19. Goldberg, L.R. (1990), “An alternative description of personality: the big five factor structure”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 59, pp. 1216-29. Graeff, T.R. (1997), “Consumption situations and the effects of brand image on consumers’ brand evaluations”, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 14, p. 49. Hair, J.F., Anderson, R.E., Tatham, R.L. and Black, W.C. (1995), Multivariate Data Analysis, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Hall, A.T., Blass, F.R., Ferris, G.R. and Massengale, R. (2004), “Leader reputation and accountability in organisations: Implications for dysfunctional leader behaviour”, The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 15, pp. 515-36. Ind, N. (1998), “The company and the product: the relevance of corporate associations”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 88-92. Keller, K.L. (1993), “Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 1, pp. 1-22. Keller, K.L. (2003), Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Managing Brand Equity, 2nd ed., Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Keller, K.L. and Aaker, D.A. (1994), “Managing the corporate brand: the effects of corporate images and corporate brand extensions”, Research Paper No. 1216, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Stanford, CA. Ketz de Vries, M.F.R. and Miller, D. (1984), “Neurotic style and organisational pathology”, Journal of Strategic Management, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 35-55. Kumar, N., Scheer, L.K. and Steenkamp, J.E.M. (1995), “The effects of perceived interdependence on dealer attitudes”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 32 No. 3, p. 348. Lazarus, S. (2003), “CEO: the soul of today’s brands”, Chief Executive, Issue 194, December, pp. 42-3. Mian, T. (2003), “The importance of leadership in political reputations”, paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Corporate Reputation, Image and Identity, Manchester.

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Michell, P., Reast, J. and Lynch, J. (1998), “Exploring the foundations of trust”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 14, pp. 159-72. Moorman, C., Deshpande, R. and Zaltman, G. (1993), “Factors affecting trust in market research relationships”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 1, p. 81. Morgan, G. (1988), Images of Organization: The Executive Edition, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Morgan, R. and Hunt, S. (1994), “The commitment-trust theory of relationship marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 58 No. 3, p. 20. Nunnally, J.C. (1978), Psychometric Theory, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. Schwartz, H.S. (1987), “On the psychodynamics of organisational totalitarianism”, Journal of Management, Vol. 13, pp. 41-54. Sirgy, J.M. (1982), “Self concept in consumer behaviour: a critical review”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 9, pp. 287-300. Tyler, T.R. and DeGoey, P. (1996), “Trust in organisational authorities: the influence of motive attributions on willingness to accept decisions”, in Kramer, R.M. and Tyler, T.R. (Eds), Trust in Organisations: Frontiers of Theory and Research, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 331-56. Wansink, B. (1989), “The impact of source reputation on inferences about unadvertised attributes”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 16. Whitmeyer, J.M. (2000), “Effects of positive reputation systems”, Social Science Research, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 188-207. Zeithaml, V.A., Berry, L.L. and Parasuraman, A. (1988), “SERVQUAL: a multiple item scale for measuring consumer perception of service quality”, Journal of Retailing, Vol. 64 No. 1, pp. 12-40. Further reading Batra, R., Lehmann, D.R. and Singh, D. (1993), “The brand personality component of brand goodwill: some antecedents and consequences”, in Aaker, D. and Biel, A. (Eds), Brand Equity and Advertising, Lawerence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 83-96. Bellenger, D.N., Steinberg, E. and Stanton, W.W. (1976), “The congruence of store image and self image”, Journal of Retailing, Vol. 52, pp. 17-32. Davies, G. and Chun, R. (2002), “The use of metaphor in the exploration of the brand concept”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 19, pp. 45-71. Graeff, T.R. (1996), “Using promotional messages to manage the effects of brand and self-image on brand evaluations”, The Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 4-18. Sirgy, J.M. (1982), “Self image/product image congruence models: testing selected models”, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 9, pp. 556-61.

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Appendix Ruthlessness (image) Egotism Dominance

Trust Competence Honesty




Arroganta Aggressivea Selfisha Inward-lookinga Authoritariana Controllinga


X reminds me of someone who’s competent and knows what he/she is doingb X has the ability to deliver what it promisesb X is someone that I have great confidence inc X delivers what it promisesb X’s product claims are believableb Over time, my experiences with X have led me to expect it to keep its promises, no more and no lessb X has a name you can trustb X doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’tb X cannot be trusted at timesc X is perfectly honest and truthfulc X can be trusted completelyc X has high integrityc X gives me individual attentiond X gives personal attentiond X has your best interests at heartd X understands your specific needsd

X is a great brande X would be fun to owne X is here to staye X fills a real need for mee X is a big improvement over existing productse X can give me real valuee X fills a need for many peoplee Many people believe X is worth the coste

The X brand connects with the part of me that really makes me tickf The X brand fits well with my current stage of liff The X brand says a lot about the kind of person I would like to bef Using X lets me be a part of a shared community of like-minded consumersf The X brand makes a statement about what is important to me in lifef

Notes: Scale items measured on a five-point Likert scale from 1 ¼ strongly disagree to 5 ¼ strongly agree; aDavies et al. (2004); bErdem and Swait (2004); cMorgan and Hunt (1994); dZeithaml et al. (1988); e Boyd and Mason (1999); fAaker et al. (2004)

Table AI. Measurement scales

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About the authors John Power is currently pursuing his PhD in the area of strategic brand management at the Waterford Crystal Centre for Marketing Studies at Waterford Institute of Technology. His research interests include consumer product responses, ruthless brands, tourism marketing, strategic market planning and reputation management. John Power is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected] Susan Whelan is a Co-Director and a Lecturer in Marketing at the Waterford Crystal Centre for Marketing Studies at Waterford Institute of Technology. Her research interests focus on brand management and particularly the management of brand character associations and the links between human and brand personality. Gary Davies is Professor of Corporate Reputation at Manchester Business School and Visiting Professor of the Waterford Crystal Centre for Marketing Studies at Waterford Institute of Technology. His research interests include the management of corporate reputation as strategic paradigm, time allocation theory and retailer marketing.

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Provenance associations as core values of place umbrella brands

Place umbrella brands

A framework of characteristics Nina M. Iversen and Leif E. Hem Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Bergen, Norway

603 Received May 2006 Revised October 2006 Accepted January 2007

Abstract Purpose – The paper seeks to discuss and analyse the nature of place umbrella brands and the role such brands play in promotion of a country, a region, or a city. The purpose is also to identify some salient success criteria of provenance associations as core values of place umbrella brands. Design/methodology/approach – The study delineates a conceptual framework, which illustrates important components in place umbrella branding. It also highlights a set of criteria to aid prioritisations among prospective provenance associations that have a potential to be used as brand values of place umbrella brands. Practical implications – The paper identifies some characteristics of provenance associations, which make them more transferable across a bundle of umbrella brand partners. The generation of better marketing theory in the field of place branding will make it easier for practitioners to reach the right decisions in choice of provenance associations. Findings – It is claimed that transcendence is related to the transferability of provenance associations across a bundle of brands. Because transferability strongly depends on perceptions of similarity, the starting point is to identify matches between the partner brands based on their shared provenance. Originality/value – The article ends with a recommendation that researchers in place branding should carefully analyze provenance associations according to the suggested criteria. Keywords Brands, Brand management, Brand image Paper type Conceptual paper

Introduction Imagine France without fashion, Germany without automotive excellence, and Japan without consumer electronics. There’s no argument that the image we have of another country says a lot about how we view it as a tourist destination, as a place to invest or as a source of consumer goods and services (Bilkey and Nes, 1982; Ericsson et al., 1984; Frost, 2004). As with any brand, nations as well as destinations have individual fingerprints that are unique. From language to skin colour, to music and art style, to customs and religion, no two places are exactly alike, and this uniqueness gives power to a place brand. Places have long felt a need to differentiate themselves from one another, to assert their individuality in pursuit of various economic, political or socio-psychological objectives (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005). The conscious attempt of governments to shape a specifically designed place identity and promote it to identified markets (whether external or internal) is almost as old as civic government itself (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005). The acts of communication that a place performs include:

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the products that it exports; the way it promotes itself for trade, tourism, inward investment and inward recruitment; the way it behaves in acts of domestic and foreign policy; and the ways in which these acts are communicated (Anholt, 1998).

In essence, a place brand consists of developing an image and communicating it based on the positive values and perceptions of the place. The core values of a place brand can affect everything from positioning to differentiation of the place’s many products and services (Keller, 2003, p. 355). Today a range of consumer brands deliberately promote their place of origin to benefit from associations and equity grounded in their provenance (Lim and O’Cass, 2001). Country or place brands are by no means simple. Unlike product branding, place branding is seldom under the control of a central authority and it involves multiple stakeholders, often with competing interests (Frost, 2004). Trying to market a country to tourists as a mountain hideaway may not serve the interests of those wishing to promote the place’s budding industrial infrastructure to foreign investors. People may learn about any place (country, region or city) in school, from media sources, from purchases, from trips or from contact with citizens or former residents. News coverage and popular cultural entertainment such as films, television programs and literature can provide substantial information about a place. These can alter an area’s image dramatically, even in a short period of time (Kim and Richardson, 2003). For these reasons brand strategists have less control over places as brands compared to product brands. As for any brand, image and associations are at the core of a place brand (Keller, 1993, 2003; Kim and Richardson, 2003). Due to challenges in management of the image formation process of places, a basic question to be asked in place branding is therefore: “How can provenance associations be perpetuated through time?”. More specifically, how can favourable provenance associations be built up and capitalized upon as core values across a bundle of local goods and services? In attempting to answer these questions, many locations have initiated co-operative umbrella branding programs to promote places. For some locations this strategy has worked (i.e. India), while for others it has failed (i.e. Ontario; see Lodge, 2002). India is a story of success, because it has emerged in the last years in terms of perceptions in a different way from how it was perceived a decade ago. It was spirituality and poverty; now it is software and highly educated people (Frost, 2004). Despite the importance of provenance association in place umbrella branding, guidelines for choice of such associations as core brand values are rare in the literature. More precisely, the occurrence of spillover effects of provenance associations across a bundle of local products and services has been ignored (e.g. Simonin and Ruth, 1995). Although transfer of beliefs and emotions is illustrated repeatedly in studies of brand extensions and of brand alliances (Aaker and Keller, 1990; Herr et al., 1996; Simonin and Ruth, 1998), variables explaining transfer of associations in general and provenance associations in particular have seen limited application in the emerging research on place branding (Cai, 2002). The application of branding techniques to develop place images is still in its infancy (Gnoth, 1998; Pritchard and Morgan, 1998; Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005). To

address this issue, the present research applies branding theories to marketing of places and examines the relationships between place image development and umbrella branding. The objective is to outline a set of criteria that helps marketers assess the potential of provenance associations to be transferred across partners of a place umbrella brand. Based on research of brand extensions and brand alliances, some dimensions that may influence the transferability of provenance associations are discussed. First, some fundamental dimensions of place umbrella branding are clarified. Second, the nature of provenance associations is delineated and its connections to brand image and place image are clarified. Finally, some dimensions that may facilitate transfer of provenance associations are discussed and presented in a conceptual framework. Place umbrella branding in context A place brand can behave just like a manufacturer”s brand, providing an umbrella of trust and a guarantee of quality, which kick-start the entry of its new “sub-brands” on the marketplace (Anholt, 1998, 2004). Through place umbrella branding, marketers can achieve economics of scale and message consistency in promotion of exported products and services, as well as in promotion of the country or destination itself. A shift from many local brands to a single place umbrella brand also provides substantial savings in packaging and communication costs (Bartlett and Ghosal, 1986; Schuiling and Kapferer, 2004). To gain these advantages such collaborative brands should be designed to support the coherent brand building of a portfolio of local goods. According to Papadopolus (cited in Frost, 2004, p. 2), once a unitary and clear umbrella brand concept is established, individual constituents can go their separate ways within it, without the risk of inconsistent messaging. The idea is to create synergies for all umbrella brand partners derived from branding of shared qualities embedded in the place of origin. According to Keller (1993) the branding strategy of a country is the most important factor affecting the strength of its association with domestic products and brands. First, a country may have developed products with individual brand names for different products without any explicit mention of the country of origin, but with an apparent brand nationality. An example is Sweden having brands like IKEA, Volvo, and Ericsson, with well-established brand nationalities in the minds of international consumers. Second, a country may choose a hybrid or sub-brand strategy for its brands whereby it combines its individual brand names with place-of-origin. An example is the “ZESPRI – New Zealand kiwi brand”, with its slogan – “Our kiwifruit has a unique difference. It’s called New Zealand”. Third, a country may choose to develop a shared brand name for all its products and services within a category or an industry. One example is the “Cafe´ de Colombia” brand behind all exported Colombian coffee (see Columbia today is the major exporter of coffee to the USA, largely because the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia built a successful cooperative branding program for Cafe´ de Colombia. Of the three strategies outlined above, only strategies two and three can be considered place umbrella branding. There are many other examples of national tourism and trade boards committed to cooperative branding, both within and across industries. In tourism, a successful example is Spain with its current “Smile – you are in Spain” campaign (see www.

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606 The idea behind the brand is to associate the “Espan˜a” logo with different locations (destinations) and local products. Prior to other countries, Spain captured “Miro’s sun” as their national trademark. Today it is used consistently as a national brand logo and it is displayed in all market communication where it is linked to the name of a city (e.g. Madrid, Barcelona), an island (e.g. Majorca, Ibiza), or a region (e.g. Andalusia, Galicia). The logo is coupled with an “artistic smile” as a supplementary brand symbol. Regularly, local products like ham and olive oil are portrayed in these ads, as well as firms like Iberia Airlines. New Zealand has worked for decades to develop their “Brand New Zealand” as a strong umbrella brand. By co-coordinating their marketing efforts, New Zealand’s Tourism and Trade Boards have established a national brand (Morgan et al., 2000). This differentiates New Zealand internationally and supports their key sectors such as tourism, agriculture, creative industry, as well as the textile and marine manufacturing industries (see The key objective of this program is to build a brand concept that adds value to the marketing of all New Zealand’s products and services (Keller, 2003). The brand provides the platform for the brand’s values, the translation of these into a suitable, emotionally appealing brand personality and the targeted and efficient delivery of that message. This example shows how a nation can achieve celebrity status and conversational value through coordinated umbrella branding. Critical to the creation of a durable umbrella brand is the identification of some selected brand values grounded in the place’s natural, cultural and human resources (Keller, 2003, p. 357). For New Zealand the brand values are quality excellence, environmental responsibility, innovation, contemporary values, honesty, integrity and openness of the people, and achievements of New Zealanders. These values gradually develop unique provenance associations. In addition, some regions like Su¨dtirol have applied an umbrella brand strategy. Regional products and services share the Su¨dtirol logo and their tagline is “Su¨dtirol – the magic of diversity”. Today this region exports a range of tourism experiences, and a range of quality products such as apples, fruit juices, berries, bread, meat, wine, liquor and dairy products (see These local products constitute main elements of the tourist experience and even some of the local production plants have become popular attractions. Regional farm holidays and the local wine route are examples of this. The various industry sectors have gone so far as to modify their well-known brand logos, which represent decades of marketing investment, to encompass shared elements from the Su¨dtirol brand. Literature review Places as brands Place marketing is the deliberate creation of place identities or sense of place. In general, people make sense of place in their minds through perceptions and images. As Holloway and Hubbard (2001, p. 48) describe, interactions with places may be through direct experiences of the environment or indirectly through media representations. However, what is critical is how this information is processed via mental processes of cognition to form stable and learned images of place (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005). Branding deals specifically with such mental images. Place branding centres on people’s perceptions and images and puts them at the heart of orchestrated activities, designed to shape the place and its future. Managing a place brand becomes an attempt

to influence and treat those mental maps in the way that is deemed favourable to the present circumstances and future needs of the place. Place branding brings together a range of existing streams of research, in particular those of brand management and development policy, to create a new discipline (Anholt, 1998, 2004). Successful place branding combines the disciplines and techniques from commercial branding, as well as new leadership and partnership development practices. The transition from place marketing to place branding is facilitated not only by the extensive use and success if product branding, but also by the recently and rapidly developed concept of corporate branding (e.g. Balmer, 2001; Balmer and Greyser, 2003). The new line of reasoning is that there are compelling similarities between a company brand and a place brand. Just like a famous company brand, a famous city, region or country finds it much easier to sell its products and services at a profit, recruit the best people, and attract investment. In the same way as a company brand, a place’s reputation needs to be built on qualities that are positive, attractive, unique, sustainable and relevant to many consumers (Domeisen, 2003). Similar to a company brand, a place branding strategy must be based on a clearly defined vision, which is firmly rooted in the existing policies, resources, capabilities, motivations and perceptions of the place. It is essential for the stakeholders of the place to create and share this vision, and work jointly towards determining how it will be achieved (Frost, 2004). An immediate, persistent and convincing objection to this line of argument is that places are just too complex to be treated as products that can be branded. A place as a destination experience is made up of an amalgam of products, which offer an integrated experience (Buhalis, 2000). The purchase of a destination mix has an inherent uncertainty and is usually expensive (Gartner, 1993, p. 16). Therefore, the decision to buy a total destination product involves great risk and requires an extensive information search. In essence, risk reduction and efficiency in information search is what a brand is all about (e.g. Keller, 2003; Aaker, 1991; Cai, 2002). Thus, according to Kavaratzis and Ashworth (2005), place branding is not only possible, but it is and has been practised consciously or unconsciously for as long as countries, regions or cities have competed with each other for trade, populations, visitors, wealth, prestige and power. A number of elements that lie in the brand construct need to be understood to apply branding principles to place marketing. First and foremost, a brand strategist attempts to market the added values of a company or a product as reflected in consumer needs. It is these added values that construct the brand’s benefits. All branding tries to endow a product with a specific and distinctive identity (Cova, 1996), and that is in essence what most place marketers seek to do for their locations. Although there are similarities between a company brand and a place brand there are also differences. To advance research on place branding the link between a socialized (organic) place image and a marketed (induced) place image (Gunn, 1972, 2001) needs to be established. According to Cai (2002), place image formation is not branding, albeit a place image constitutes the core of a place brand. Destination image building is one step closer (Cai, 2002), but there still remains a critical missing link: the brand identity. According to Aaker (1996), a branded product requires a brand identity, which he defined as “a unique set of brand associations that the brand strategists

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aspire to create or maintain” (Aaker, 1996, p. 68). It is a product or service made distinctive by its positioning relative to the competition and by its personality, which comprises a unique combination of functional attributes and symbolic values (Simoes and Dibb, 2001; Hankinson and Cowking, 1993, p. 10). Branding is a deliberate process of selecting and associating these attributes because they are assumed to add value to the basic product (Knox and Bickerton, 2003). In summary, a brand identity, a brand differentiation, and a brand personality are essential components of a product brand and should be so for a place brand (Aaker, 1996). The objective is to build consumer knowledge of the brand, which is the sum of brand awareness and brand image (Keller, 1993). Kavaratzis and Ashworth (2005) argue that places can easily be assumed to possess the characteristics of identity, differentiation and personality, and can thus be managed to build associations and awareness. Because brands are conceptualized as perceptual entities and the brand image perspective dominates the literature (Hankinson, 2004), this will be the focal point of the present research. Place brands as perceptual entities Brand management is dedicated largely toward enhancing brand awareness and image components (Keller, 1993). Brand image consists of consumer knowledge and beliefs about a brand’s various product and non-product attributes. Brand image represents the personal meaning about a brand that consumers have stored in memory, and includes all descriptive and evaluative brand related information. In addition to brand awareness, this information includes brand attributes. Brand origin is one attribute (e.g. this watch brand is of Swiss origin) that plays a potentially important role in determining a brand’s image (Thakor and Lavack, 2003). Such knowledge can be conveyed by marketers in their efforts to link brands with positive country or place images. For any given place, the challenge is to manage the image formation process to develop strong, favourable and unique provenance associations (Keller, 1993, 2003), which contribute in building powerful brand origins benefiting local products and services. Similar to brand image, the country-of-origin literature defines country image as “the total of all descriptive, inferential and informational perceptions of a given country, which is organised as a knowledge structure in consumers’ memory” (e.g. Martin and Eroglu, 1993). A country image is multidimensional and comprises many associations with varying characteristics (Thakor and Katsanis, 1997). Provenance associations can include stereotypes of a country or place in general, its citizens, and their culture (Lim and O’Cass, 2001; Thakor and Katsanis, 1997). Some country associations are product-focused (Roth and Romeo, 1992) and could be consumer perceptions of quality, authenticity, attractiveness, innovativeness, expertise, trustworthiness, workmanship, prestige, design and technological advancement (e.g. Han and Terpstra, 1988). There may also be components of a country image that are disassociated with specific products. Such associations can create a halo effect that moderates consumer evaluations of product attributes (Han, 1989: Bilkey and Nes, 1982). The reasoning is that when consumers have little knowledge about a foreign product’s attributes, they are likely to use indirect evidence, such as country-of-origin, to evaluate products and make inferences regarding the quality of their attributes (e.g. Johnsson et al., 1985; Laroche et al., 2003).

Keller (1993) introduced the term “customer-based brand equity” to describe the value of brand awareness and brand image. Very soon the country-of-origin literature adopted his thinking and the concept of country equity was introduced by Shimp et al. (1993). It describes “that portion of consumer affect toward a product that is derived purely from the product’s associations with a particular country” (Papadopoulos and Heslop, 1993). It is a commercial value that a country possesses due to its positive or negative product-related associations. In the same period Papadopoulos and Heslop (1993) introduced the term product country image, and referred to it as all the cognitive, affective or evaluative perceptions one has about goods or services from a particular country. The image of countries as origins of products is one of many extrinsic cues such as price or brand name that may become part of a brand’s total image (Eroglu and Machleit, 1989). Image has also emerged as a crucial marketing concept in the destination marketing literature (Kim and Richardson, 2003). Destination image is defined as an attitudinal concept consisting of the sum of beliefs, ideas, and impressions that a tourist holds about a destination (Crompton, 1979). More recently, Echtner and Ritchie (1991) proposed that “destination image is not only the individual traits or qualities, but also the total impression an entity makes on the minds of others”. In research on image formation, Gunn (1972) was one of the first researchers to conceptualize the image formation process. He separated this process into two types: organic and induced images. Organic images are formed from sources not directly associated with tourism interests, such as newspaper reports and movies, while induced images are derived from the conscious effort of marketers to develop, promote and advertise their destinations. More recently, Echtner and Ritchie (1991) set out a conceptual model of the components of a destination image based upon three categories of associations: (1) individual attributes versus holistic impressions; (2) functional versus psychological characteristics; and (3) common versus unique characteristics. Other tourism researchers distinguish between those attributes that describe a destination’s specific associations and those attributes that capture the essence or experience of a destination (Morgan et al., 2000). For brands, associations have typically been classified into two categories (Keller, 1993; de Chernatony and McWilliams, 1998): (1) cognitive (functional attributes); and (2) affective (symbolic attributes). Similarly, it is acknowledged that the image of a location also comprises two primary dimensions – cognitive and affective (e.g. Lawson and Band-Bovy, 1977). According to Gartner (1993) the interrelationship of cognitive and affective image components eventually determines the predispositions of consumers to visit a place or to buy products connected to a distinctive place of origin. The cognitive component can be interpreted as beliefs about the physical attributes of a place, while the affective components refer to the appraisal of the affective quality of feelings towards the attributes and the surrounding environments (Baloglu and McClearly, 1999; Baloglu and Brinberg, 1997; Gartner, 1993; Dann, 1996). Gartner (1993) regards cognitive

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components of a destination image as the evaluation of the known physical attributes of the destination while affective components refer to emotional responses to the destination experience (Baloglu and Brinberg, 1997; Gartner, 1993; Dann, 1996). In particular, affective provenance associations play a very crucial role in decision-making, especially when a place itself becomes the object of choice (Russel and Snodgrass, 1987). Gross and Brown (2006) discuss the term place attachment as an emotional component of a place. They define place attachment as an affective bond or link between people and specific places (Hidalgo and Hernandez, 2001). To understand place attachment, leisure researchers use the dimensions place identity, which refers to a symbolic or affective attachment to a place, and place dependence, which refers to a fundamental attachment to a place (Backlund and Williams, 2003). The country image literature also studies the effects of emotions connected to places in product choice. This stream of research has documented effects of negative sentiments and attitudes on product choice caused by consumer ethnocentrism or animosity towards other countries or regions (e.g. Klein et al., 1998; Nijssen and Douglas, 2004; Russel and Russel, 2006). According to Keller (1993), there are many ways to distinguish between brand values and associations. One way is to classify them as primary or secondary associations. Keller defines primary associations as perceptions originating from direct product experience or from inference about functional product features. Another type of inferred association occurs when the brand association itself is linked to other information in memory (i.e. place of origin) which is not directly related to tangible product features. Because the brand becomes identified with this other entity, consumers may infer that the brand shares associations with that entity, thus producing secondary links for the brand (Keller, 1993). Establishing a connection with a place image may cause existing provenance associations to become secondary brand associations. When a brand becomes connected to a location, perceptions about the place (cognitions and emotions) become indirectly associated with the brand, creating inferences about the brand. The following parts of the paper will address how provenance associations can be applied as secondary brand associations of place umbrella brands. A framework of place umbrella branding Research on umbrella branding shows that it is possible to market a “bundle of products” using a firm’s reputation as a “bond for quality” (Wernerfeldt, 1988). An umbrella brand serves as a guarantee of consistent quality among the brand partners (Laforet and Saunders, 1994; Rao et al., 1999). Similarly, it should be possible to market “a bundle of local goods and services” using the place’s reputation as a unifying bond. Traditional umbrella brands serve as overall endorsers and provide additional brand equity to all brand partners (Aaker, 2004). The two general goals of umbrella brands are: (1) to reduce perceived risk when introducing new products under the umbrella; and (2) to improve quality perceptions of new brand partners (Laforet and Saunders, 1994; Rao et al., 1999).

In addition to this, umbrella brands signal some unique brand values that identify inherent qualities of the partners and differentiate them from competitors (Keller, 2003; Aaker, 1991; 2004). The unique aspect of place umbrella brands is their ability to identify the actual place where partner brands are manufactured and differentiate partner brands by adding some unique local qualities rooted in the brand partners’ provenance. Increased brand recall and recognition (identification), paired with consistent branding of some beneficial provenance associations (differentiation), are the means marketers have to build a strong place umbrella brand. According to Aaker (1991, 2004), successful completion of these tasks provides all partner brands with increased customer demand, stronger loyalty, higher prizes and larger margins. A coordinated branding effort also causes a stronger impact of promotion activities on important target markets, which represent more efficient use of financial resources devoted to marketing. The positioning derived should be rich enough to translate into sub-positioning to target diverse groups, and it should be substantiated in terms of what the place can actually offer (Morgan et al., 2000). Keller (1998, p. 166) emphasizes the importance of selecting brand elements to represent the brand identity and he argues that its cohesiveness “depends on the extent to which the brand elements are consistent”. He further argues that consistent brand elements reinforce each other and serve to unify the entire process of image building. Therefore, strategic place branding can be defined as selecting a consistent mix of brand values and brand elements with clear connections to a place of origin. Strategic positioning of a place can be done successfully only when the umbrella brand captures the essence of the place and the spirit of its people. The essence of the place should be outlined as a cohesive theme, which benefits all umbrella brand partners equally well. The more unified the messages derived from the underlying brand theme are, the clearer are the provenance associations that will develop. Coordinated place umbrella branding therefore requires identification of a few core brand values, which capture the complexity of the place’s portfolio of offers. A model is now outlined depicting various factors involved in place umbrella branding. The tools marketers have to communicate a place umbrella brand are advertising campaigns where origin symbols are visualized in the design of the marketing mix components. A place umbrella brand should stimulate spillover effects of these advertising strategies and marketing mix elements from one product category to another (Erdem, 1998). The basic question is to make consumers integrate existing brand perceptions across a portfolio of brand partners. This integration process should be triggered and fuelled by some transcending provenance associations, which make consumers infer new connections between the partner brands. The challenge of place umbrella brands is therefore to define some unifying values that can be potentially extended across diverse local offers. Figure 1 depicts two levels where links could be identified. Link 1 – vertical coordination This level shows that links should be identified that benefit brand partners within one industry. The example in Figure 1 is from the region of Fjord Norway, where the second most important export industry is seafood farming and fisheries. It is hard to identify links of physical attributes that benefit all seafood products equally well.

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Figure 1. Levels of place umbrella branding across product and services from diverse sectors

Therefore it is easier to unite Fjord Norway Seafood along some symbolic imagery based on clean nature, an environmentally concerned society, and long cultural traditions in fisheries. Link 2 – horizontal coordination This level shows that links should be identified that benefit brand partners across industries. Figure 1 shows that exports from Fjord Norway range from tourist destinations to local seafood, as well as locally manufactured furniture. It is even harder to identify logical links of functional attributes that benefit all brand partners from different industries. Yet, when symbolic imagery embedded in nature or culture is considered, it is easier to see how Fjord Norway Smoked Salmon can be consumed in a Fjord Norway designed armchair on the seashore of the Hardanger Fjord. In the next section, a frame for analyzing provenance associations is outlined. Then, characteristics determining the extendibility of provenance associations are discussed. A basis for analyzing provenance associations In the next part of the paper reasons are given why provenance associations may be more transferable across local products and services. The main idea of place umbrella branding is that all partner brands should benefit from spillover effects of place associations and attitudes. A long tradition of research on brand extensions suggests that successful extensions depend on the degree of transfer of parent brand awareness

and associations to a new product category (Aaker and Keller, 1990; Dacin and Smith, 1994; Klink and Smith, 2001; Grime et al., 2002; Czellar, 2003). Studies show that brand perceptions are more likely to be transferred when two brands are connected on certain dimensions (e.g. Aaker and Keller, 1990; Klink and Smith, 2001). Similarly, the manner in which countries and products are associated influences the transfer of country beliefs and attitudes (Story, 2005). We propose that matching dimensions between a place image and local products may determine the extendibility of provenance associations. Moreover, such associations would be transferred across a bundle of umbrella brand partners in a similar way as parent brand associations are to brand extensions. When trying to connect provenance with local goods there are some pairings that clearly make sense and others that do not. For a place umbrella brand to add some free equity, the local products should “chime” with their place of origin in consumers’ minds, and some kind of logic link should be present (Anholt, 2004). Figure 2 depicts a set of characteristics that may influence transference of provenance associations and equity. The model shows how characteristics of provenance associations (PA) determine their ability to reveal new connections between diverse product categories. Herr et al. (1996) introduced the inter-category relatedness construct in the brand extension literature. This construct is defined as the strength of association between a parent brand and a brand extension. The relatedness of two or more product categories can depend on perceived similarity (e.g. Boush et al., 1987; Aaker and Keller, 1990; Park et al., 1991). Inter-category relatedness is, however, more inclusive than perceived similarity (see Medin et al., 1993). Herr et al. (1996, p. 149) measured inter-category relatedness between brands by including similar features, substitution in use, or common-usage situations. According to Keller (1993, p. 5) brand associations must be strong, positive, unique, and relevant to represent brand equity being transferred. When evaluating provenance associations, we have added “abstract” (mentioned by Keller, 1993, p. 6) and high in “perceived congruence” (based on the research on, for example, brand extensions) as characteristics influencing their extendibility. We propose that PA high in these characteristics will have a higher propensity to reveal more points of relatedness across distinct product categories. The increase in relatedness stimulates inference making and thereby contributes to the unification of diverse umbrella partner brands into a new overall category. A more in-depth discussion of these six characteristics is outlined below.

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Figure 2. Characteristics determining extendibility of provenance associations (PA)

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Strength (accessibility) of PA Brand management scholars (e.g. Aaker, 1991; Kapferer, 2004; de Chernatony, 2006) argue that brand image is an essential part of powerful brands. A strong brand image can differentiate a product from its competitors (Lim and O’Cass, 2001), reduce search costs (e.g. Assael, 1995), minimize perceived risks (Berthon et al., 1999) and represent high quality from a consumer’s point of view (Erdem, 1998). According to Boush and Loken (1991), a brand image becomes strong when it involves many products in a portfolio of brands. The reason is that many separate brands, under a shared umbrella, increase the probability of exposure to umbrella brand information. Such exposure will inevitably increase brand knowledge and awareness. As brand strength refers to the strength of associations in a brand image, it depends on the degree of complexity and the accessibility of brand knowledge (Keller, 1993). The degree of complexity refers to the factual amount of brand knowledge and the sum of connections between associations in a brand image. According to Feldman and Lynch’s (1988) accessibility-diagnosticity theory, accessibility is the degree to which a piece of information can be retrieved from memory for input into a judgement task. Hence, accessibility refers to how immediately an association comes to mind (Meyvis and Janiszewski, 2004). Thakor and Katsanis (1997) propose that complexity and strength of a country image positively affect the transferability of country associations. We therefore argue that the strength of provenance associations is positively related to their complexity and ease of access. This view makes sense as a complex country or place image may contain a variety of provenance associations, which may be relevant across many products, while a simpler image is less flexible. The equity of a complex country/place image should therefore be more easily transferred. H1. PA should be strong to be transferred as core values in place umbrella branding. Favourability (valence) of PA Associations differ according to how favourably they are evaluated (Keller, 1993). Strong brands with favourable associations are found to contribute to a positive transfer effect in, for example: . brand extensions (e.g. Aaker and Keller, 1990; Pina et al., 2006); . brand alliances (e.g. Simonin and Ruth, 1998); . sponsoring marketing (e.g. Simmons and Backer-Olsen, 2006); and . product placement (e.g. Russel, 2002). It is generally assumed that firms will not attempt to extend or co-brand weak brands or brands with strongly negative associations (Story, 2005). However, unlike the branding choice, firms may have no alternative regarding country associations. A firm’s home country is fixed and locus of manufacturer, design, or assembly is often determined by economic conditions. Accordingly, a country’s image is built on a heterogeneous structure of associations, which might be both favourable and unfavourable (Hosany et al., 2006). Firms must often sell products associated with countries for which target customers have strong negative attitudes.

Ideally, brand strategists would facilitate the transfer of positive country/place associations while minimizing the transfer of negative perceptions. The relative amount of positive versus negative affect in a country image will determine its ability to influence product evaluations in a beneficial way. It is evident that some negative attitudes can obstruct national export, which is a problem for many developing countries. Negative effects of consumer ethnocentrism (Bilkey and Nes, 1982: Shimp and Sharma, 1987), and animosity (Klein et al., 1998; Nijssen and Douglas, 2004), are found to be stronger for developing countries. Such negative attitudes can harm product evaluations. Countries connected to negative beliefs and attitudes should therefore avoid using country image in positioning of umbrella brands. H2. PA should be favourable to be transferred as core values in place umbrella branding. Uniqueness (authenticity) of PA The essence of brand positioning is that the brand has a sustainable “unique selling proposition” that gives consumers a compelling reason for buying that particular brand (Kotler and Keller, 2005). These USPs may be communicated explicitly by making direct comparisons with competitors or may be highlighted implicitly without stating a competitive point of reference. Furthermore, they may be based on product-related or non-product-related attributes or functional, experiential, or image benefits (Keller, 1993). As such, provenance associations are used as USPs to differentiate a promoted brand (Keller, 2003, p. 355). A place-specific USP may be a unique resource rooted in nature (“terroire”) or in the cultural heritage (Lim and O’Cass, 2001; Echtner and Ritchie, 1991). The idea of “terroire” is defined as “the holistic combination in an environment of soil, climate, topography, and the ‘soul’ of the producer”. This term is responsible for providing locally produced products with uniqueness and allure that would be difficult for competitors to replicate. Such uniqueness is an important part of the perception of authenticity (Lewis and Bridger, 2001). The term “authenticity” may shed some light on how provenance associations can add uniqueness to place umbrella brands (Cohen, 1988). Perception of authenticity is a core component of successful umbrella brands because it forms part of a unique brand identity (Aaker, 1996; Kapferer, 2004). Perceptions of authenticity may contain elements intrinsic to the product caused by natural ingredients or by time-honoured traditions in production methods. Moreover, these may include subjective elements linked to place-of-origin such as historic style. Finally, these may include subjective elements created by local culture, local firm members, consumers or other stakeholders (Leigh et al., 2006). Marketers continually craft together diverse sources of authenticity to create rich brand meanings. They develop sincere stories, which consist of a creative blend of public avowal of hand-crafted techniques, relationship to place and uniqueness. Firms may actively cultivate myths about local products in order to create images of authenticity (Briggs, 1994, Ross, 2004). A well known example of this is the myth that Dom Perignon “invented champagne” by following ancient traditions. This myth is used to this day and celebrated in the high-priced champagne of the same name (Beverland, 2005). Such richness in brand meaning is particularly crucial for place umbrella brands as they are made to transcend a range of local products and services.

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Authenticity can be characterized as a global belief (Ng and Huston, 2006, p. 520). Global beliefs are relatively abstract and context-independent because they are extracted from prior product experiences or learned from marketing and word-of-mouth (e.g. Nike is stylish). Since abstract associations are found to be more extendible (Broniarczyk and Alba, 1994), it is likely that perceptions of uniqueness (authenticity) can link a portfolio of umbrella-branded products relatively easily together. Thus, place-specific resources should be perceived as authentic features and should be held exclusively by the country/place of origin, making them difficult to overtake or imitate. Still, to be extendable across local product, some uniquely held provenance associations should reveal shared meaning of authenticity across the umbrella brand partners. H3. PA should be perceptions of a unique country feature that reveal shared product qualities, to be transferred as core values in place umbrella branding. Relevance (diagnosticity) of PA Since a country/place image may embody a range of provenance associations, not all associations are relevant in the sense that they are meaningful and important in product evaluations. Although a country association can lead to inferences about product qualities, it may not always be considered a meaningful factor for purchase and consumption (Keller, 1993). According to Feldman and Lynch’s (1988) accessibility-diagnosticity theory, diagnosticity is the degree to which a piece of information is relevant for a judgement task. To be relevant, a PA must be diagnostic in the sense that it is sufficient for arriving at a solution to the judgement task facing the consumer. A brand’s country of origin may be highly diagnostic information for choosing a car or other technological or crafted products, because the origin conveys additional information about product quality and other purchase-relevant ascriptions (Samie et al., 2005). One perspective in the brand extension literature suggests that successful transfer of brand perceptions depends on their diagnosticity for making inferences (Broniarczyk and Alba, 1994). Their findings suggest that the transfer of associations is primarily determined by the diagnosticity of the association. A provenance association driving meaningful inferences is more likely to be assimilated into the cognitive schema of a place umbrella brand. A provenance association that lacks relevant meaning to the partners is most likely contrasted away without impacting brand beliefs (Higgins, 1996; Levin and Levin, 2000). Accordingly, the transferability of provenance associations depends on how relevant (diagnostic) they are in relation to the umbrella brand partners (Roth and Romeo, 1992). H4. Provenance associations should be relevant to each partner brand, to be transferred as core values in place umbrella branding. Level of abstraction of PA The level of abstraction of provenance associations is expected to affect their capability as umbrella brand core values. This is partly due to their embedded meaning and partly because abstract attributes tend to be more durable and accessible in memory (Meyvis and Janiszewski, 2004; Echtner and Ritchie, 1991). An example of the former is that symbolic image-related attributes such as user types or usage situation more easily transcend across product classes (Keller, 1993). Johnson (1984) raises a similar argument that abstract

attributes are more appropriate for comparison between non-comparable products that share no concrete attributes. The level of abstraction is central as abstract attributes are regarded as more inclusive and multi-dimensional than concrete ones (Keller, 1993). This may be partly explained by the logic of “means-end chains”, where abstract product utility is inferred from concrete product attributes and then connected to idiosyncratic values. The notion that level of abstraction determines transferability of associations could also be explained by research on cognitive categorization. Rosch (1978) introduced the term “generic attributes”, which is described as aggregated, abstract and highly cohesive cognitive schemas. These attributes are able to grasp some shared meaning across, for instance, very dissimilar product categories. Translated to a country image context, the structure of knowledge of an aggregated and highly cohesive country image may contain more abstract provenance associations based on accumulated beliefs (“the summary effect”; Han, 1988, 1989). Due to their inclusive nature, abstract PA should enable identification of more similarities between a set of dissimilar product categories. Because a place umbrella brand should unite a portfolio of brand partners of different product categories, the core brand values used to unite them should be of a rather abstract nature. If provenance associations were to be used, abstract associations are more unifying and transferable and therefore more suitable to grasp similarities between dissimilar product categories. Hence, when provenance associations are used as core values of umbrella brands, the ease of transference should increase with increasing levels of abstraction. H5. Provenance associations should be at a high level of abstraction to be transferred as core values in place umbrella branding. Congruence (similarity) of PA In the management literature, the congruence construct embodies the idea of transferability of expertise or synergies in activities, such as when there are similarities in products, technologies or markets (Rumelt, 1974) or complementarities of skills and activities (Porter, 1987). Work on categorization has studied the role of feature similarity, relative to other types of similarity, in the creation of categories and in the transfer process (Medin and Wattenmaker, 1987). In the brand extension and the brand alliance literature, the focus is often on consumer perception of fit (Aaker and Keller, 1990; Simonin and Ruth, 1998). The common assumption within brand extension research is that the likelihood of transfer of beliefs and affect from a well-known core brand to a new extension product increases with an increase in congruence between the two objects (Vo¨lckner and Sattler, 2006). Although it is assumed that ideas of transferability and synergy often underlie perceived fit, it is recognized that what is transferred or enhanced may be intangible associations (Broniarczyk and Alba, 1994). Thus, the more similar two objects are, the more likely beliefs, affect and attitudes are to be transferred (Martin and Stewart, 2001; Roehm and Tybout, 2006). Four main sources of perceived similarity are discussed in the brand extension and brand alliances literature (Martin and Stewart, 2001; Klink and Smith, 2001; Martin et al., 2005): (1) feature-based similarity (shared tangible product characteristics); (2) usage-based similarity (similarity of the occasions on which the products can be used);

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(3) brand-concept similarity (similarity based on functional, symbolic, or experiential concepts); and (4) goal-based similarity (products are similar if they are organized around common goals). These four approaches to the understanding of similarity have much in common. Nevertheless, each approach could have some higher importance depending on the context (Martin and Stewart, 2001). If the context is a place umbrella brand the provenance could highlight the four similarity sources in one way or the other. For example, technically advanced high-quality products could be perceived as a kind of similarity between some products from Japan. Many products and brands may not have a high natural “fit” with other products, and in such instances marketers try to create a perception of fit between them. In two recent studies, Bridges et al. (2000) and Lane (2000) describe a relational communication strategy for brand extensions that is intended to increase perceived fit. When salient parent-brand associations are not available to the extension category, but non-salient associations are, the rational strategy involves emphasising the relevant non-salient associations. One way to do this is to provide messages that explain how a local product fits with the core values of a place umbrella brand. A country/place image may be rich in non-salient associations, which could be intentionally activated to demonstrate minor links between a place umbrella brand and its brand partners. Overall, we propose that the more provenance associations activate perceptions of similarity across products, the more likely they are to be transferred to the partners of an umbrella brand. H6. Provenance associations should highlight perceived similarities across partner brands, to be transferred as core values in place umbrella branding. Future research The presented theoretical framework needs to be tested empirically. This empirical testing could be done in several steps. First, exploratory studies could give valuable insight. For example different case studies could be investigated using secondary data. Do the case studies in some way support the framework (e.g. India, Cafe´ de Colombia, Spain, New Zealand, and Su¨dtirol)? New Zealand has chosen the following seven provenance associations for their umbrella brand: (1) quality excellence; (2) environmental responsibility; (3) innovation; (4) contemporary values; (5) honesty; (6) integrity and openness of the people; and (7) achievements of New Zealanders. To what extent do these provenance associations transfer and create equity between the different umbrella brand partners? Furthermore, different elicitation techniques (see Supphellen, 2000) could be used to reveal information about diverse associations

connected to a place umbrella brand. One approach is to use two groups of respondents: Group 1 gets a questionnaire with an open-ended free association technique to reveal all possible associations connected to several product categories (i.e. the wine, cheese, meat, apple, and tourism categories; see Aaker and Keller, 1990). Group 2 is introduced to the history and the products under the Su¨dtirol umbrella brand. They get, among other things, information about the culture, tradition of food production, place of origin, and how food is presented as menus. Then, this group gets a questionnaire with an open-ended free association technique to reveal all possible associations connected to the same categories as Group 1. Two coders group the associations for Group 1 and Group 2 related to the six characteristics in the proposed framework of this paper (Figure 2; see also James, 2005). Analysis of association characteristics reveals how the theoretical framework fits empirical data. Second, descriptive multivariate surveys could uncover how characteristics of provenance associations drive their transferability. Analyses of correlations and factor loadings between variables in the framework could indicate its validity. Finally, each variable could be tested experimentally with designs uncovering causal relations between characteristics of provenance associations and their transferability. For example, strength (H1) can be measured using the reaction time needed to evaluative queries about the PA (Fazio et al., 1986). Individuals who can evaluate a PA object quickly are assumed to have highly accessible PA (Fazio and Zanna, 1981). Favourability (H2) could be measured by using the attitude approach (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975), asking: “How favourable are you towards this PA?”, anchored by bad and good. It is possible to measure uniqueness (H3) based on point of difference (POD) and point of parity (POP), as suggested by Keller (2003). Relevance (H4) could be measured by having a free association task wherein subjects are given 30 seconds to provide associations that come to mind upon presentation of some particular categories. Associations are more relevant in a category if they are mentioned more frequently (Broniarczyk and Alba, 1994). Level of abstraction (H5) is possible to measure looking at the output of a free association task where participants’ thoughts are coded for whether they reflect concrete or abstract associations (see Ng and Huston, 2006). Level of congruence or perceived similarity (H6) can be measured using established scales from the brand extension research (e.g. Aaker and Keller, 1990; Klink and Smith, 2001). The six hypotheses argue that the relationships between the variables are direct effects while some of the variables most likely interact. If for example, high perceived similarity is paired with abstract associations the transference effect might be multiplied. Both descriptive and experimental approaches could illuminate such effects. Furthermore, a favourable association is most likely connected to the strength of this association. Hence it is difficult to create a favourable association for a weak or unimportant association (Keller, 1993, p. 5). Therefore, both direct and interaction effects must be investigated. Concluding remarks The determining issue in place branding is how effectively the brand strategy has been designed and how caring is its messenger. A typical business has more experience with marketing issues than most countries and places. Many government officials who become involved in place branding are drawn to product marketing approaches because their countries are in desperate need of exports, tourism or foreign direct

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investment. But few in government have either the skill sets or the theoretical or practical frameworks required to design major umbrella marketing campaigns (Frost, 2004). In this paper we have contributed to new knowledge by developing a theoretical framework addressing the use of provenance associations in place umbrella branding. We claim that the unifying capacity of provenance associations can be more powerful than other brand associations. A country’s unique qualities may be particularly useful as unique selling propositions of a place umbrella brand, as they are unattainable for competitors, and might represent a unique competitive advantage. However, the challenge for a marketer is to identify consistent brand values that unify the brand essence and serve all brand partners equally well. The starting point is to identify some connections between the brand partners. Our propositions are that a place image built on either strong, positive, unique, relevant, abstract or similar associations can increase the inter-category relatedness between the partners and enhance the transference of PA and equity. One of the chief difficulties for many countries has been deciding who should run their place umbrella branding campaigns. It is a serious question whether or not the classical top-down brand building strategies work for most governments. That type of brand building typically has to be done in a corporate environment by the CEO or senior leadership. Place branding campaigns are inspired at least partially by governments who often look for quick results. But governments often do not stay in power for very long, and to secure some consistency in the brand building process, governments should work closely with the private sector when developing branding strategies (Frost, 2004). In principle, it is a country’s citizens who stand to gain the most from a successful place branding campaign. Just as corporate branding campaigns can raise the morale, team spirit, and sense of purpose of a company’s employees, national or regional branding campaigns can provide a place with a common sense of purpose and pride – not to mention a higher standard of living (Frost, 2004). Since widespread “buy-in” by the population is a critical precondition of the success of any branding program, this variable should be carefully considered. To deliver a place brand, everyone in the “organization” must believe in the brand. Just as companies must solicit the trust of consumers by behaving transparently and accountably, so will place brands have to work at maintaining credible reputations. References Aaker, D.A. (1991), Managing Brand Equity: Capitalizing on the Value of a Brand Name, The Free Press, New York, NY. Aaker, D.A. (1996), Building Strong Brands, The Free Press, New York, NY. Aaker, D.A. (2004), Brand Portfolio Management, The Free Press, New York, NY. Aaker, D.A. and Keller, K.L. (1990), “Consumer evaluations of brand extensions”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54, January, pp. 27-41. Ajzen, J. and Fishbein, M. (1980), Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Social Behavior, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Anholt, S. (1998), “Nation-brands of the twenty-first century”, The Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 5 No. 6, pp. 395-406. Anholt, S. (2004), “Editor’s foreword to the first issue”, Place Branding, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 4-11.

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Children’s use of brand symbolism

Children’s use of brand symbolism

A consumer culture theory approach Agnes Nairn EM-Lyon Business School, Lyon, France

Christine Griffin University of Bath, Bath, UK, and

627 Received May 2006 Revised October 2006; March 2007 Accepted May 2007

Patricia Gaya Wicks School of Business and Economics, Exeter University, Exeter, UK Abstract Purpose – The paper seeks to offer a critique of the Piagetian developmental cognitive psychology model which dominates research into children and brand symbolism, and to propose consumer culture theory as an alternative approach. The paper also aims to present the design and interpretation of an empirical study into the roles brands play in the everyday lives of junior school children, which demonstrates the richness of this alternative framework. Design/methodology/approach – The key literature on children and brand symbolism is reviewed and the main concepts from consumer culture theory are introduced. A two-stage qualitative study involving 148 children aged 7-11 is designed using group discussions and a novel cork-board sorting exercise. Findings from group discussions with 56 children in stage 2 of the study are analysed from a consumer culture theory perspective. Findings – The analysis focuses on two aspects of the ways in which children use brand symbols in their everyday lives: their fluid interpretations of “cool” in relation to brand symbols, and the constitution of gender in children’s talk about iconic brands, notably on “torturing Barbie”. Research limitations/implications – A key aim of this paper is to critique an existing framework and introduce an alternative perspective, so the analysis offered is necessarily partial at this stage. Future research could also use a consumer culture approach to investigate the role of brands in the everyday lives of children with differential access to financial resources, children from different ethnic groups, and children from different parts of the world. Originality/value – The introduction of a new framework for researching children and brands offers a host of possibilities for academics and practitioners to understand the effects of brand symbols on the lives of today’s children, including a more informed approach to socially responsible marketing. This is also the first study to apply consumer culture theory to children’s consumption behaviour. Studying consumption practice from the child’s viewpoint offers exciting new angles for the development of this theoretical perspective. Keywords Children (age groups), Brands, Developmental psychology, Consumers Paper type Research paper

Objective This paper has two key objectives. Firstly, it offers a critique of the Piagetian psychological model of cognitive development that dominates research on children and brand symbols in the mainstream marketing literature. Secondly, it proposes an alternative approach to studying children’s relationship with brands – namely

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 627-640 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862543

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consumer culture theory (henceforth CCT). Analysis of a qualitative study involving 148 children aged 7 to 11 is presented which indicates that CCT provides access to the dynamic and complex social roles that brands play in children’s everyday lives, which is not possible using the cognitive development model. The paper is organised as follows: first the key literature on children and brand symbolism is briefly reviewed, followed by an account of the main concepts of CCT. The methodology of the empirical research is then discussed and some of the main findings are interpreted from a CCT perspective. The paper ends by suggesting avenues for future research on children’s relationships with key brands in terms of their role in everyday life, and a brief discussion of the implications of this work for practitioners. .

Research on children’s use of brand symbolism The mainstream marketing literature on children’s understanding of brands is underpinned almost exclusively by psychological theories of cognitive development, in particular the work of Jean Piaget (Piaget, 1960). According to Piagetian theory, the child’s mental and interactive capacities evolve in a linear fashion through a set of pre-determined stages that John (1999) summarises as: the “perceptual” stage (age 3-7); the “analytical” stage (age 7-11); and the “reflective” stage (age 11-16). The pre-eminence of this paradigm has led to a preponderance in the best marketing journals of studies that aim to ascertain the effect of a child’s age on the emergence and use of brand meanings (John, 1999). One of the earliest works on children’s use of consumption symbolism was Belk et al.’s (1982) study comparing the abilities of US children in four age categories (preschool, 7-8, 11-12, 13-14) as well as college students and adults to assign a variety of houses and cars (varied by size, style, age and cost) to different types of people. The researchers concluded that consumption symbolism recognition develops during grade school. The assumption underpinning this study is that adults somehow have the “right” interpretation of brand symbols and that, as they develop cognitively, children learn to see the world “correctly”, following the lines of adults’ perceptions. The commodities under scrutiny (i.e. cars and houses) are purchase categories with which children – at least in 1982 – had limited involvement. However, despite its limitations, this study has been highly influential in shaping subsequent marketing research on the development of consumption symbolism. In a second study with children aged 9/10 and 11/12, Belk et al. (1984) altered the “target” products to those that were more likely to be familiar to children (i.e. jeans, bicycles, shoes and video games) in response to comments on the 1982 paper. Whilst this psychological approach has undeniable benefits, it cannot shed much light on the meanings and uses of specific brands for children in relation to the social and cultural contexts of their everyday lives. It also tends to reinforce a picture of children’s relatively traditional uses of brand symbolism, and has difficulty in keeping pace with the rapidly changing marketing and branding worlds inhabited by children. For example, there are some recent indications that children’s experience and understanding of brands is shaped by “new” media such as the internet, as well as more “traditional” forms such as TV and radio (Kenway and Bullen, 2001) and, on a more fundamental level, that new media may shape the way in which children think and learn (Greenfield, 2006). More recently, Achereiner and John (2003) examined children’s use of brand symbolism in another experimental study. Children in three age categories (eight, 12

and 16) were shown pictures of one pair of trainers and one pair of jeans, identified as from preferred and non-preferred brands (Levis or Nike and Kmart, respectively) and asked to complete three tasks: (1) evaluate the product; (2) give impressions of the type of person who would own the product; and (3) evaluate five brand extensions for each preferred brand (e.g. Nike shampoo or Levi’s shoes). The researchers concluded that eight-year-olds did not use conceptual brand meanings as a basis for their product perceptions, but used simpler perceptual recognition cues as compared to older children. We concur with Achereiner and John’s (2003) recommendation that more research with children across this age range is needed. However, we would argue that our understanding of how contemporary children relate to brands is unlikely to be substantially enhanced by a sole reliance on the cognitive development model or an experimental methodology. Whilst accepting the important contribution of developmentalism, there are three main reasons to broaden the research framework used in the academic marketing community’s understanding of children’s relationships with brands. First, the Piagetian model concentrates almost exclusively on chronological age, and other non-age related factors such as gender, ethnicity and social class are also likely to influence how children interact with the symbolic realm of consumption. Second, the developmentalist approach adopts a predominantly cognitive perspective, paying relatively little attention to the social dynamics of interpretation, emotion or peer group influence. Third, this approach tends to conceptualise children as frozen in time and isolated from broader social and cultural influences. Minimal attention is paid to recent changes in marketing and branding practice towards children, and this is a major oversight given the dramatic intensification of pre-teen children’s exposure to commercially sponsored media both in Europe (Verrept and Gardiner, 2000) and North America (Schor, 2004). We would like to propose CCT as an alternative way of framing research into children’s relationships with brands and provide a brief overview of this perspective below. Consumer culture theory Arnould and Thompson (2005) have used the term “consumer culture theory” to refer to “a family of theoretical perspectives that address the dynamic relationships between consumer actions, the marketplace, and cultural meanings” (p. 868). CCT views consumption as continually shaped by ongoing interactions within a dynamic socio-cultural context, and is concerned with the factors that shape the experiences and identities of consumers “in the myriad messy contexts of everyday life” (p. 875). The CCT approach has an interest in the operation and influence of “consumer culture”, as denoted by “a social arrangement in which the relations between lived culture and social resources, and between meaningful ways of life and the symbolic and material resources on which they depend, are mediated through markets” (p. 869). CCT has emerged from a different epistemological perspective to the Piagetian model, generating a different set of research foci and methodological practices. CCT does not view individual consumers as making rational choices in the context of “free” markets. Instead, it has drawn on the work of Bourdieu (1984), Foucault (1974) and

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others to examine the ideological context in which consumption takes place. That is, individual consuming subjects are viewed as operating within a cultural, economic and political frame that shapes and limits how we can think, feel and act in the contemporary marketplace (e.g. Holt, 1997; Askegaard and Kjeldgaard, 2005; Fournier, 1988). As such, CCT tends to be associated with in-depth qualitative analyses of consumers’ perspectives, as they “actively rework and transform symbolic meanings encoded in advertisements, brands, retail settings, or material goods to manifest their particular personal and social circumstances and further their identity and lifestyle goals” (Arnould and Thompson, 2005, p. 871). Arnould and Thompson (2005) argue that CCT has advanced knowledge in four research domains: (1) consumer identity projects; (2) marketplace cultures; (3) the sociohistorical patterning of consumption; and (4) mass-mediated marketplace ideologies and consumers’ interpretive strategies (p. 871). In this paper we present an exploration of children’s uses of brand symbolism that contributes to the first and third of those research areas. That is, we examine the ways that the marketplace provides an important arena in which children construct narratives of identity around gender, and explore the important role that brand symbolism, in relation to the concept of “cool”, plays in children’s everyday social interactions. Taking CCT as our frame of reference, our study was designed in the spirit of discovering how children themselves, in the messy context of their everyday lives, adopt, adapt and assign meanings to brands. Moreover, although there have been studies involving teenage participants using the framework of CCT (e.g. Ritson and Elliott, 1999; Thompson and Haytko, 1997; Thornton, 1996), there have been no studies involving children under 11 or 12. Thus we hope that our research may also provide a contribution to consumer culture theory itself. The study Research design – stage 1 Acknowledging a gap in the literature identified by Achereiner and John (2003), we chose to work with children of junior school age (i.e. 7-11). In line with a CCT approach of understanding experience from the perspective of a specific group, the first stage of our research was designed to ensure that the consumption objects studied were those which children saw as meaningful to them and not those that adults thought would be meaningful to children. With permission from schools, parents and the children themselves, we held 30-minute brainstorming sessions with a total of 72 children (12 groups of six children), drawn in equal numbers from two different schools from a small city in the UK. We chose one private and one state school and in each school half of the groups were from Year 3 (age 7/8) and half from Year 6 (age 10/11); a third of the groups were girls only, a third boys only, and a third mixed gender. This gave us a range of social settings in which significant children’s brands could be identified. Each brainstorming session was activated by the question “What things are kids in your class into at the moment?”. Ideas were captured on a flip chart with lists of brand names generated for generic product suggestions. Discussion proceeded by creating

lists of liked and hated (“cool” and “not cool”) brands. Our dataset consisted of the flip charts of “things kids are into”, the classified lists of brands and 170 single-spaced A4 pages of verbatim transcriptions of the children’s discussions. Two researchers independently analysed the scripts, lists and flip charts and together selected the 14 brands mentioned most consistently across groups and which generated most excitement, interest and debate. These were used as the stimuli for second part of the study (see Table I). We anticipated that clothes, shoes (especially trainers) and food outlets might figure prominently as significant brands in these discussions. However, some of the most heated and resonant exchanges involved sports celebrities, pop stars and TV shows. As a consequence, “branded celebrities” such as David Beckham and Britney Spears figure in our list of branded items for use in stage 2 of the research, but other well-known brands such as Nike, Levis and McDonalds do not. This relatively unexpected finding may reflect the greater importance of clothes and trainers amongst older age groups (Croghan et al., 2006), and also children’s pervasive and taken-for-granted view of iconic celebrities from the fields of sport, pop music and popular culture as brands in themselves (Parker and Steinberg, 2004). The selection of brands also reflects some gender differences in children’s responses during stage 1 of the study, in that boys in both age groups were more likely to mention games consoles such as Playstation compared to girls (Nairn et al., 2006).

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Research design – stage 2 Stage 2 took place six months after stage 1 in the same school year, in the same two schools, involving the same two age groups. The children participating in stage 2 were not necessarily those who had taken part in stage 1, owing to the logistical impossibility of contacting the same children without compromising the anonymity of the participants. Of course, the children participating in stage 2 might have generated a somewhat different set of branded objects from the stage 1 participants, but their generally enthusiastic involvement in the stage 2 discussions implied that this was not the case. Our data collection methodology for stage 2 was a form of phenomenological interview which Thompson et al. (1989) describe as “perhaps the most powerful means Busted McFly Britney Spears David Beckham The Simpsons Barbie Bratz Action Man Beyblades Pokemon Playstation, X-Box, Game Cube Yu-Gi-Oh

A boy band marketed at children (split up in 2005) Another boy band marketed at children, launched after Busted and still going Twenty-something singer, popular with children Celebrity captain of the England football team at the time of the study Popular American cartoon TV show Fashion doll which has been marketed to girls for over 40 years New series of fashion dolls marketed specifically at female “tweens” Action figure which has been marketed to boys for several decades Small spinning tops used to fight against other children’s tops Japanese trading card game Three competing brands of games console Japanese trading card game, produced after Pokemon

Table I. The 14 brands selected for discussion in stage 2

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for attaining an in-depth understanding of another person’s experience” (p. 138). A total of 56 children (16 groups of three or four children) took part in the discussions. The phenomenological interview or discussion aims to capture a first-person experience. Thus, apart from the opening question, the course of the discussion is set by the respondents (Thompson et al., 1989, p. 139). The researcher simply presented each group with a picture of each of the 14 brands in turn and asked “What do you think of . . .?”. The ensuing exchanges between the children formed the first half of the discussion agenda. The second half involved a group sorting task. It had become clear from the stage 1 discussions that the favourability of a brand (whether or not it was “cool”) was a highly contested terrain. In stage 2 the children were given small pictures of the 14 brands and asked, as a group, to place the pictures on a cork board labeled “cool” on one side and “not cool” on the other. This task allowed us to observe the process by which a group of peers negotiated the meaning of the consumption objects that form a part of their everyday lives. The task elicited heated debate, high levels of involvement and rich discussion. With parental, school and the children’s permission we videoed stage 2 discussions in order to provide a fuller picture of the social interactions involved in the cork board sorting task. In line with our CCT approach we felt that it was crucial to understand the group processes by which children interact with the commercial world. As noted by Arnould and Thompson (2005, p. 869): “the term ‘consumer culture’ [also] conceptualizes an interconnected system of commercially produced images, texts, and objects that groups use to make collective sense of their environments and to orient their members’ experiences and lives (Kozinets, 2001). These meanings are embodied and negotiated by consumers in particular social situations roles and relationships.” (Arnould and Thompson, 2005, p. 869, italics added). Although, as noted by Munday (2006), group interviews or focus groups are particularly useful for studying phenomena involving process as well as content, this methodology does have drawbacks. Individuals may feel peer pressure and the group may be dominated by forceful children whose views colour collective opinion. We used a number of methods to obviate these problems. First, the group size was very small (three or four children), which made it less intimidating even for the very shy to voice their opinion; second, group members were drawn from the same class (of around 20 children), which meant they were already comfortable with each other; third, during the discussion the researcher ensured that all children were given the opportunity to contribute; and fourth, in the sorting task the researcher ensured that the pictures were handed out to the children in turn, which meant that each child had equal access to the power afforded by physically holding an object. Analysis of the body language in the videos and a word count of the contribution made by each child indicate that the transcripts represent a balance of views from all members. Moreover, as we conducted 16 groups (a large number for most qualitative research purposes) the effects of one or two dominant individuals in the whole text was minimized. Our dataset consisted of 390 double-spaced A4 pages of verbatim discussion transcript, over eight hours of video footage, and 16 still photos of the final positions of the brand pictures on the cork boards. Analysis Three researchers separately conducted a qualitative thematic discourse analysis of the 390 pages of transcript, using video footage for clarification of tone of voice or

placement of pictures on the board. The analysis was based on the hermeneutic circle (Bleicher, 1980), which involves an iterative, part-to-whole reading strategy by which the researchers developed a holistic understanding of each individual group discussion transcript, while noting similarities and differences across age groups, gender and schools. The researchers met on several occasions to discuss the global themes emerging from the totality of the body of the children’s discourse. The themes identified are: . the major benefit a brand can provide is entertainment and fun; . pop stars, sports idols, electronics, toys, TV shows and TV adverts exist as equally valid sources of entertainment; . “cool” is a highly negotiated concept which does not adhere to an object or person in a straightforward manner; . the nature of brands is deeply gendered; . acceptance or rejection of specific brands serves to symbolise rites of passage or group membership; . some brands (notably Barbie) are capable of evoking intense hatred and violence; . brands (particularly branded celebrities) can be used to experiment with moral argument; . advertising is a form of entertainment.; . blatant hard-sell commercialism is viewed with suspicion and negativity; . inauthenticity by a marketing organisation or by a branded celebrity is derided; . in addition to entertainment value, brands must also offer product quality and value for money; . brands are an integral part of a commercially produced fashion cycle; . the marketing activities of popular brands are re-enacted within children’s own social environments; amd . a conflict exists between the discourse of brand marketing and the discourse of teachers and parents. These are not, of course, exhaustive descriptions of how all children relate to these brands; the themes are not even an exhaustive catalogue of every theme in the 390 pages of text. However, for the purposes of exploring an application to CCT to children’s negotiation of brand symbols, the emergent themes are extremely fecund starting point. Brands for these 7-11 year olds were primarily viewed as potential sources of entertainment and fun, with little discrimination made between their perceived forms. Thus a famous football player, a TV advert for beer, a doll or a games console all promise equal possibilities for stimulating enjoyment. However, the process by which the children designated brands as “cool” or “uncool” was highly complex and contested, deeply gendered, and imbued with symbolic group membership display rituals. As such, some brands could be emotionally charged to the extent of becoming the objects of hatred and violence as witnessed by recurrent discourses relating to the torturing of Barbies. Brands could also provide the focus of moral debate with children actively exchanging views on the rights and wrongs of the behaviour of branded

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celebrities such as David Beckham. In addition to the symbolic status of brands, the children were also concerned with a brand’s material quality and value for money. Linked to this commercial awareness, much of children’s discourse around brands related not to the objects themselves but to the way in which they are marketed and advertised. Children displayed overt cynicism towards heavy-handed commercialism or perceived inauthenticity in organisations or individuals, yet, exhibiting a sophisticated understanding of how marketers exploit the fashion cycle for profitable gain, they emulate this in playground activity. Throughout the groups, children’s discourses revealed that their re-enactment of commercial practice continually came into conflict with the citizenship values promoted by their school teachers. In this paper we concentrate on three of the themes listed above: . children’s moves to reframe the concept of cool in the cork-board sorting task; . the constitution of gender in children’s talk about brands; and . their accounts of torturing Barbie. “Is there a middle side?” Subverting the search for “cool” Bourdieu’s influential study of consumption practices amongst the French working class and bourgeoisie, and the disciplines involved in learning what constitutes (good) “taste” is relevant to our interpretation of children’s relationship to the slippery concept of “cool” (Bourdieu, 1984). Rather like (good) “taste”, cool can only be understood in the context of the dynamic complexity of social interactions. Marketers (and academic researchers) frequently misunderstand this as they struggle to identify the newest object or cultural practice that is presumed to epitomise “cool” (Moore, 2005; Nancarrow et al., 2002). Our study indicates that what constitutes “cool” is produced socially in specific cultural contexts: the more you search for it, the more it dissolves into air. Like “taste”, the whole point about “cool” is that knowledge about what is (and is not) “cool” serves to separate a discerning elite from the uninformed masses. By asking children to identify iconic branded commodities as “cool” or “not cool”, we were treading on this very sensitive terrain (Kenway and Bullen, 2001). The cork board sorting task asked children to make a relatively straightforward distinction between objects that were viewed as “cool” and those that were not. In many instances, children subverted our sorting task by generating a mid-point between “cool” and “not cool” on the cork board. A typical first reaction to the cork board sorting task in 14 out of the 16 discussion groups was: “Is there a middle side?” (11-year-old girl, private school). For our participants the notion of “cool” was a dynamic, complex and contradictory concept that did not necessarily adhere to specific objects or people in a straightforward way. In discussion groups children sometimes mobilised this notion of the “middle side” to solve potential difficulties that might arise if there was no consensus about where to place an item; in order to be “fair” and reflect all shades of opinion; and the middle category was sometimes used when the line between “cool” and “non-cool” was treated as a continuum. The use of a middle column to resolve potential conflict and in order to be “fair” is reflected in this discussion about X-Box: Girl 1: Jenny thinks that they should go in the middle but we think they should go at the end so we think it’s fair to put them in the middle. Girl 2: So we’re kind of doing a vote (Year 3, private school, girls group).

Sometimes children’s discussions included the presumed opinions of people beyond the small group doing the exercise. Thus in one Year 6 group the children decide to put Barbie and Action Man “in the middle” because “for our age they’re not cool”: Boy 1: For our age Barbie’s not cool, but for young people, and I think, I think we should move Action Man as well coz I think for younger ones [Barbie and Action Man are moved from the “not cool” side into the middle] Boy 2: They’re considered cool for young people, but not considered cool for older people. Interviewer: OK, fine. Boy 3: So for our age it’s, they’re not cool, but for younger people they certainly are (Year 6, private school, boys group).

Of course, it could be argued that children’s reactions to the notion of “cool” exemplified in the interview extracts quoted above represents little more than their responses to our cork board sorting task. However, their talk also reflected the ephemeral nature of “cool” as part of the constantly changing world of fashion and style. We focus here on the uneasy relationship between “coolness” and popularity. According to this discourse, if too many people liked something then it lost its cool cachet, as illustrated by this discussion of Pokemon below: Boy 1: Pokemon’s not bad. Interviewer: Uh-huh. Boy 2: It’s sort of, well, coz Boy 3: Peekachuu Boy 2: Um, loads of people have got them so it’s not really cool anymore (Year 3, state school, boys group).

This discursive construction of cool as linked to fashion cycles is, of course, highly profitable, and is traded on and encouraged by marketers (Klein, 2000; Thompson and Haytko, 1997). Some of the older children recognised the commercial potential of the relationship between “cool” and the fashion cycle: Interviewer: Yeah. So do you think there’s actually quite a lot of this sort of thing, like things coming in and out of fashion now? Boy: Yeah. Like a couple of years later you can take them to a shop or something and get lots of money for it. Interviewer: Uh-huh. Boy: I keep like, coz with the Yu-Gi-Oh cards, I’ve kept them all so like I was thinking about selling them on, but they wouldn’t sell for that much, so I’m just going to keep them so that when they go back in fashion and stuff (Year 6, state school, boys group).

In other words, coolness has a shelf life, which it then lays onto branded commodities. However, branded commodities that move out of fashion are likely to lose economic value, yet they might one day come back “in” and once again be worth money. The children here repeat a pervasive discourse in which the “coolness” and popularity of specific branded commodities are located in a cycle that is locked in time. Tomboys and torturing Barbie: an everyday story of gendered consumer practice It was apparent throughout all the focus groups that gender played a significant role in shaping discussion about branded commodities. In the extracts below, seven- to eight-year-olds make a distinction between “girls”, “boys” and “tomboys”, such that it

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is possible to identify which category an individual belongs to in relation to their preferences for specific commodities. “Tomboys” are constituted as being girls who are “just like boys” in appearance and demeanour, such that “girl-ness” is treated as an inherent quality that can be masculinised into the category of the “tomboy”, or (further) feminised into the “girly girl”: Interviewer: And you girls, you don’t like them? [Action Man] Girl 1: No cos they’re for boys Interviewer: They’re for boys Girl 1: Unless girls can really, are really really tough tomboys just like a boy and have hair exactly like a boy, um, they probably will like them. But apart from that no girl likes them (Year 3, mixed group, private school). Interviewer: OK and do you think other people in your class like the Simpsons? Girl 1: Yes Girl 2: Definitely the boys, some of the girls, I don’t think they would like it, cause they’re kind of more girly than we are, we’re a bit more tomboy-ey Interviewer: Ah, OK, so is it something that more tomboy-ey people like? Girl 1: Yeah (Year 3, state school, girls group).

Our study also supports Renold’s findings that the position of the tomboy ceased to be available to girls as they moved towards puberty (Renold, 2005). The conversations of the Year 6 children were still highly gendered, but the position of “tomboy” began to be disparaged as an indication of lesbianism (Griffin et al., 2006). In this way the children’s talk about everyday consumer objects served to reinforce the traditional distinction between masculinity and femininity, and policed the path to heterosexual “normality”. This was one area in which there were clear differences between the accounts of children in the two age groups. The influence of feminism and Foucault’s work on CCT draws our attention to the establishment of power relations through discursive practices in people’s talk (Bristor and Fischer, 1993; Foucault, 1974, 1978). This was clearest in children’s accounts of torturing Barbie. Barbie was unequivocally identified as “not cool” in the strongest terms, inspiring discourses of rejection, hatred and physical violence, as the following comments show: Interviewer: OK, so we’ll go onto the next one, Barbie Girl 1: Urgh, no, please turn the page, no, please Girl 2: That is so not cool. Ugggh Girl 3: Turn the next page, so not cool at all (Year 3, private school, girls group). Interviewer: OK, we’ll go onto the next one. Barbie Boy 1: Yuck [Two boys get up and hide behind their chairs making gagging noises] Boy 2: I’m going to puke Interviewer: OK, come back, sit down. OK, come back, sit, sit, sit, sit. Great OK, so you don’t like it. Boy 2: It makes me feel sick. [Boy continues to hide his eyes and Boy 2 keeps his back to the interviewer whilst talking] (Year 3, state school, boys group). Girl 1: I still have loads of them so I can torture them. Girl 2: Me too. Girl 3: I dye their hair

Girl 1: So I think I’ll torture them and pull their heads off. Coz they’re not particularly cool unless you Interviewer: They’re not particularly cool unless you what? Girl 1: Torture them (Year 6 girls, private school, girls group).

In other discussions, boys in both age groups accounted for their vehement rejection of Barbie in terms of the doll’s association with girls and femininity: “I think it’s all about little girls, princesses” (Year 6, private school, boys group); “I’ll tell you why it’s sick. It’s for girls” (Year 3, private school, boys group). The children’s talk about the mass destruction of Barbies can also be read (especially for girls) as a rejection of hyper-femininity, as epitomised by “girly girls”. In the extract below, a group of Year 3 girls try to disentangle the concepts of femininity (“sissies”) and the infantile (“babies”), and Girl 3 draws on the notion of the hyper-feminine “girly girl” to denote a typical Barbie fan: Interviewer: What kind of people like Barbie? Girl 1: Babies Girl 2: Sissies Girl 3: Girls, um, not babies, but really girly girls (Year 3, private school, girls group).

Limitations The primary purpose of this paper has been to introduce CCT as an alternative framework through which to study children and brands. Since we have only been able to explore two aspects of the data in this paper, it is only possible to give a flavour of the potential contribution that CCT might bring to our understanding of children’s uses of brand symbolism. We have addressed some variations in relation to age and gender, especially regarding the complex constructions of masculinity and femininity, but have not been able to consider issues of ethnicity, social class or differential access to financial resources, the potential influence of parents or siblings, or children’s uses of “old” and “new” media, and these are important areas for further research. Conclusion and suggestions for future research This paper has offered a critique of the developmentalist paradigm within which most research on children and brands has been conducted to date. Beyond this, our research indicates the potential value of CCT in demonstrating that children’s uses of brand symbols play an important role in their social relations and cultural lives. The notion of “cool” in particular is a dynamic and highly contested terrain, and brand symbolism is deeply gendered, operating as a key domain through which girls and boys negotiate gendered identities. We have developed an innovative qualitative methodology designed to understand the roles played by brands in the everyday contexts of children’s lives, including a novel “cork board exercise” created to understand children’s interactive talk around brand symbolism. There clearly remains an urgent need for further research on children’s uses of brand symbolism, and in our view CCT has the potential to make a substantial contribution to consumer research, and also to our understanding of child development and socialisation processes more generally (Martens et al., 2004). In addition, children and young people have begun to use newer technologies to “‘distribute’ their voices and views in ways that they enjoy” via their own websites, online ’zines and networking sites such as (Kenway and Bullen, 2001, p. 181), and this is a challenging area for further research.

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Implications for practitioners Children are a major market for commercial organizations. The children’s market in the UK alone is now estimated at £3bn for purchases made with children’s own money and £30bn when child-influenced purchases are included (ChildWise, 2005). We suggest that practitioner insight into this market may be enhanced by recognising not only the cognitive-developmental domain of childhood but also the social and cultural context in which children’s uses of consumer goods is embedded, for our study indicates that branded products play an important role in children’s everyday social networks and cultural practices. In terms of practical research techniques we hope to have shown the value of in-depth qualitative analysis and observational methods to understand the ways in which brands are “naturally” enmeshed in children’s everyday discourses and social interactions. This may be of particular use in the practice of “cool-hunting” which currently does not tend to take into account the highly negotiated and contested nature of “cool”. Beyond this, the CCT approach may also help practitioners engage more fully with the current and increasingly important debates on socially responsible marketing to children. To date, arguments have revolved around the possibility and viability of restricting (or banning) adverts for particular products aimed at children and have tended to rest on the Piagetian cognitive-developmental paradigm outlined at the start of this paper. Whilst we would not deny the value of the Piagetian model, our research indicates that this is far from the whole story. Socially responsible marketing to children must be informed by a full range of research on children’s consumption involving commercial organisations, policy makers and researchers. Outright bans on marketing to children are unlikely to be sufficient in themselves: a more productive and responsible strategy would be to embed culturally informed and socially responsible practices within all marketing to children. References Achereiner, G.B. and John, D.R. (2003), “The meaning of brand names to children: a developmental investigation”, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 205-19. Arnould, E.J. and Thompson, C.J. (2005), “Consumer culture theory (CCT): twenty years of research”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 31, March, pp. 868-82. Askegaard, S. and Kjeldgaard, D. (2005), “Postassimilation ethnic consumer research: qualifications and extensions”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 32, June. Belk, R.W., Bahn, R.N. and Mayer, R.N. (1982), “Developmental recognition of consumption symbolism”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 7, June, pp. 4-17. Belk, R.W., Mayer, R.N. and Driscoll, A. (1984), “Children’s recognition of consumption symbolism in children’s products”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 10, March. Bleicher, J. (1980), Contemporary Hermeneutics, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London. Bourdieu, P. (1984), Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London. Bristor, J.M. and Fischer, E. (1993), “Feminist thought: implications for consumer research”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 19, March, pp. 518-36. ChildWise (2005), Monitor Trends Report 2005, available at: (accessed May 24 2005). Croghan, R., Griffin, C., Hunter, J. and Phoenix, A. (2006), “Style failure: consumption, identity and social exclusion”, Journal of Youth Studies, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 463-78.

Fournier, S. (1988), “Consumers and their brands: developing relationship theory in consumer research”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 24, March, pp. 343-73. Foucault, M. (1974), The Archaeology of Knowledge, Tavistock, London. Foucault, M. (1978), The History of Sexuality: Volume 1: An Introduction, Penguin, Harmondsworth. Greenfield, S. (2006), “Education: science and technology”, Proceedings of the House of Lords, 20 April, Column 1219-1223. Griffin, C., Nairn, A. and Gaya Wicks, P. (2006), “Girly girls, tomboys and micro-waving Barbie: child and youth consumption and the disavowal of femininity”, paper presented at the Association of Consumer Research Conference on Gender, Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Edinburgh, June. Holt, D. (1997), “Poststructuralist lifestyle analysis: conceptualising the social patterning of consumption”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 23, March, pp. 326-50. John, D.R. (1999), “Consumer socialization of children: a retrospective look at twenty-five years of research”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 26, December, pp. 183-213. Kenway, J. and Bullen, E. (2001), Consuming Children: Education, Entertainment, Advertising, Open University Press, Buckingham. Klein, N. (2000), No Logo, Flamingo, London. Kozinets, R.V. (2001), “Utopian enterprise: articulating the meaning of Star Trek’s culture of consumption”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 28, June, pp. 67-89. Martens, L., Southerton, D. and Scott, S. (2004), “Bringing children (and parents) into the sociology of consumption: towards a theoretical and empirical agenda”, Journal of Consumer Culture, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 155-82. Moore, B. (2005), “Alternative to what? Subcultural capital and the commercialization of a music scene”, Deviant Behavior, Vol. 26, pp. 229-52. Munday, J. (2006), “Identity in focus: the use of focus groups to study the construction of collective identity”, Sociology, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 89-105. Nairn, A., Griffin, C. and Gaya Wicks, P. (2006), “The Simpsons are cool but Barbie’s a minger: the role of brands in the everyday lives of junior school children”, report, University of Bath, Bath. Nancarrow, C., Nancarrow, P. and Page, J. (2002), “An analysis of the concept of cool and its marketing implications”, Journal of Consumer Behavior, Vol. 1 No. 4, pp. 311-25. Parker, A. and Steinberg, D.L. (2004), “The transfigural and the totemic: David Beckham, sexuality and popular culture”, Warwick University Magazine. Piaget, J. (1960), “General problems of the psychological development of the child”, in Tanner, J.M. and Elders, B. (Eds), Discussions on Child Development: Proceedings of the World Health Organisation Study Group on Psychological Development of the Child IV, International Universities Press, New York, NY. Renold, E. (2005), “Queering ‘girlie’ culture, negotiating heterogendered childhoods: tomboys, topgirls and moshers”, paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference, University of Glamorgan, September. Ritson, M. and Elliott, R. (1999), “The social uses of advertising: an ethnographic study of adolescent advertising audiences”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 12, December, pp. 251-64. Schor, J. (2004), Born to Buy, Scribner, New York, NY.

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Thompson, C.J. and Haytko, D.L. (1997), “Speaking of fashion: consumers’ uses of fashion discourses and the appropriation of counterveiling cultural meanings”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 24, June, pp. 15-42. Thompson, C.J., Locander, W. and Pollio, H. (1989), “Putting consumer experience back into consumer research: the philosophy and method of existential-phenomenology”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 16, pp. 133-46. Thornton, S. (1996), Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital, Wesleyan University Press, Hanover, NH. Verrept, A. and Gardiner, D. (2000), “Children and the internet”, Admap, January, pp. 24-6. About the authors Agnes Nairn is Affiliate Professor of Marketing at EM-Lyon in France and Visiting Professor of Marketing at RSM Erasmus University in The Netherlands. She is particularly interested in the role of brands and marketing in the lives of children and her recent research has focused on the ethical implications of advertising to children in traditional and new media. She works with a range of organisations including the National Consumer Council and the National Social Marketing Centre in the UK. Agnes Nairn is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected] Christine Griffin is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Bath, UK. She has a long-standing interest in representations of youth, femininity and young women’s lives, and a more recent interest on the relationship between identities and consumption for children and young people.. Her publications include Typical Girls? (1985, Routledge and Kegan Paul); Representations of Youth (1993, Polity Press); and Standpoints and Differences: Essays in the Practice of Feminist Psychology (1998, with Karen Henwood and Ann Phoenix, Sage). Recent research projects include a three-year study on the relationship between consumption and social identity for young people, a major study on the role of branding and marketing of drinks in relation to young adults’ everyday drinking practices and a two-year project on clubbing and dance cultures as forms of social and political participation. Patricia Gaya Wicks is a Lecturer in Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter. Her research draws primarily on action research practices and on participatory worldviews to explore how individuals and communities can take effective action in the face of overwhelming circumstances, most particularly as in the case of our current ecological crisis. Patricia’s interest is in working with individuals, groups and organisations who are grappling with complex challenges, and who are trying to make sense of and move forward from these in creative, generative and life-affirming ways. As a member of faculty at the Centre for Leadership Studies, Patricia teaches on the undergraduate Management with Leadership programme, the MA/MRes in Leadership Studies programmes, and on continuing professional development courses.

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Alternative perspectives on marketing and the place brand

Marketing and the place brand

Dominic Medway Manchester Business School, Marketing Group, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK, and


Gary Warnaby University of Liverpool Management School, Liverpool, UK Abstract Purpose – This paper aims to consider the role of demarketing in the specific context of the marketing of places, and to introduce a typology of place demarketing and related place marketing activity. Design/methodology/approach – Following a review of the extant literature on place marketing and branding, place image and demarketing, the paper outlines a number of different types of place demarketing and more unusual place marketing strategies, with examples of each. Findings – The marketing of places has grown in scale and importance, both as a practice and as an area of academic research, as places have had to become more entrepreneurial in an ever-increasing competitive environment. Places are increasingly conceptualised as brands to be marketed, and a key emphasis of such activity is the creation of an attractive place image and/or the dilution of negative place images. This is reinforced in the academic literature. Counter to this “conventional wisdom”, this article conceptualises various types of place demarketing activity and related place marketing activities; namely “passive place demarketing”, “informational place demarketing”, “crisis place demarketing”, and also “perverse place marketing” and “dark place marketing”. Originality/value – This paper provides a unique counter to the “conventional wisdom” of place marketing by introducing the concept of place demarketing and perverse and dark place marketing which more explicitly accentuate the negative, rather than accentuating the positive which is the norm in this marketing context. A typology of such activities is introduced and the implications for place brands are considered. Keywords Brands, Brand image, Marketing Paper type Conceptual paper

Introduction: the rise of place marketing Places are increasingly perceived as being in competition, occurring at various spatial scales and manifested in numerous ways (see Ashworth and Voogd, 1990a; Kotler et al., 1993, 1999; Ward, 1998). Moreover, this competition is intensifying (Van den Berg and Braun, 1999; Ward and Gold, 1994), and consequently places need to develop some form of sustainable competitive advantage, although the difficulties of this are well attested to in the literature on place marketing (for a review, see Barke, 1999). This literature has grown significantly in recent years, and “by far the most significant component” relates to the marketing of cities (Barke, 1999, p. 486). Warnaby et al. (2002, pp. 878-9) identify three key dimensions of urban place marketing, which are arguably relevant to all spatial levels, one of which is that it involves the commodification of selected attributes of the place in order to promote a positive image of the place as a holistic entity. The aim of this paper is to consider this in more detail, through an examination of existing documentary evidence. In particular, reference is made to the applicability of the need to always promote a positive place image, and to identify any situations where

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 641-653 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862552

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accentuating the negative may be an appropriate strategy. A typology of such alternative types of place marketing activity is developed which, it is hoped, will serve as a springboard for further, more substantive, research in this neglected area. The importance of image and branding The diffuse and amorphous nature of the place product has arguably led to a particular emphasis on the promotion of place images (Ashworth and Voogd, 1990a, b, 1994; Ward and Gold, 1994). Indeed, the creation of an appropriate place identity and subsequent image-building is regarded as an important element of place marketing (see Barke and Harrop, 1994; Millington et al., 1997; Short and Kim, 1998). Image is defined as “the sum of beliefs, attitudes and impressions that a person or group has of an object” (Barich and Kotler, 1991, p. 95). Images serve to represent “a simplification of a large number of associations and pieces of information connected with the place. They are a product of the mind trying to process and ‘essentialize’ huge amounts of data about a place” (Kotler et al., 1993, p. 141). Various typologies of place images exist (see Avraham, 2000, 2004; Kotler et al., 1993, 1999; Short, 1999). Whatever the nature of the place image, there is a consensus in the literature that it has to be managed (Kotler et al., 1993, 1999). The importance of image management is manifested by the fact that much contemporary place marketing activity was initially developed by former industrial cities seeking a new role in the contemporary global economy, particularly in terms of transforming themselves from centres of production to centres of consumption (Hubbard and Hall, 1998). Attempts to “re-image” such places often need to address negative preconceptions among target audiences and contradictory information about the place in various media (Avraham, 2000, 2004; Fitzsimons, 1995). Consequently the image that is communicated by marketing discourses may be highly selective, where the positive is explicitly accentuated (Short, 1999), and other more negative aspects are allowed to “fade away into the background” (Griffiths, 1998, p. 53). Indeed, it could be argued that the conventional wisdom among place marketing practitioners is that they regard their – perhaps primary – role as the creation of a positive holistic image for a locality through the selective appropriation of place product elements and their commodification in relevant media. As part of this, places are increasingly being conceptualized as brands (Hankinson, 2004; Kavaratzis, 2005; Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005), given the fact that a key task of branding is to differentiate a particular offering from competitors. Branding is a multidimensional construct, and de Chernatony and McDonald (2003) propose a typology, viewing a brand as: . a functional device; . a symbolic device; . a shorthand device; . a legal device; . a strategic device; . a differentiating device; . a risk reducer; and . a sign of ownership (by an organisation).

Many of these have direct relevance to places. For example, the various constituent elements of a holistic place product (see Ashworth and Voogd, 1990a, b, 1994) could be considered as functional attributes, which may then be promoted to various target audiences. Promotional activities may emphasise “ownership” of these elements by a specific place by virtue of their location therein. In so doing, various advantages inherent in de Chernatony and McDonald’s brand typology may be realised. For example, individual place product elements (in isolation, or more likely in combination) may provide a degree of distinctiveness for the place – a difficult task in this context (see Burgess, 1982; Barke and Harrop, 1994). This may be particularly relevant when elements have iconic status, which may act as a symbolic device for the place as a whole, thus facilitating image creation. Iconic place product elements may also act as a shorthand device facilitating recognition (through association of icon and place) in a competitive environment that is ever more intense, and where differentiation is hard to achieve. Where the literature considers the issue of negative place images, the focus is on the identification of effective strategies for image improvement (see, for example, Avraham, 2000, 2004; Kotler et al., 1993, 1999). The implication is that a negative place image is undesirable per se. This paper challenges this conventional wisdom by arguing that an exclusive focus on image improvement may not be the only marketing approach available to places, and that there may be some situations where accentuating the negative may be an appropriate place marketing strategy. This can take two broad forms: the first has many parallels with the concept of demarketing, where the negative dimensions of places are highlighted in an attempt to reduce demand; and the second, termed here “perverse place marketing”, is where negative place dimensions are accentuated in order to create or increase demand. Place demarketing Kotler and Levy (1971) first defined demarketing as “discouraging customers in general or a certain class of customers in particular on either a temporary or a permanent basis” (p. 75), and this basic premise, of decreasing the consumption of a product, is highlighted in subsequent definitions (see Baker, 1998; Bennett, 1995; Koschnick, 1995; Mercer, 1999). The primary scenario motivating such activity is where “demand exceeds the level at which the marketer feels able or motivated to supply it” (Koschnick, 1995, p. 148). Attempts to “modify demand” (Baker, 1998, p. 85) can include differential pricing and/or the reduction of promotion, product quality, service convenience etc. (Baker, 1998; Koschnick, 1995), and persuading customers to be “less dissatisfied with the scarcity” (Mercer, 1999, p. 106). Demarketing has been described as “the reverse of marketing” (Koschnick, 1995, p. 148). However, this view is not uncontested; Beeton and Benfield (2002), for example, describe it as “an intrinsic aspect within marketing management” (p. 499). In their original exposition on the subject, Kotler and Levy (1971) state that: . . . in practice excess demand is as much a marketing problem as excess supply [. . .] The tasks of coping with shrinking demand or deliberately discouraging segments of the market call for the use of all the major marketing tools. As such, marketing thinking is just as relevant to the problem of reducing demand as it is to the problem of increasing demand (p. 75; emphasis in original).

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The application of demarketing principles is particularly apposite in situations where the “product” offered to the customer is an especially finite resource. Beeton and Pinge (2003) identify healthcare and tourism as the main areas where the principles of demarketing have been mostly practised. In the specific place context, demarketing can be used to describe activities aimed at deflecting interest, visitors and/or investment from a particular place. This can arguably take both passive and active forms. Passive place demarketing is manifest in many different contexts and is implicit in the segmentation, targeting and positioning process (see Beeton, 2003; Clements, 1989). In particular, by emphasising certain place attributes to market a location to given individuals or organisations, it may automatically follow that other elements which may attract alternative types of individuals or organisations remain de-emphasised. For example, cities, towns or holiday resorts – such as Newcastle, Blackpool and Ibiza – which market themselves as party destinations for the young and singles, may de facto discourage older visitors and families. Similarly, attempts by local authorities and inward investment agencies to market their place to particular types of industry may implicitly discourage other industries which are not explicitly targeted. The above processes could be termed “selective passive place demarketing”, as opposed to “general passive place demarketing”, whereby a place need not actively encourage visitors due to its already “overly attractive image”. Kotler et al. (1999) argue that such places might include Venice or the French Riviera, which are so busy they need not really engage in any place marketing activity, effectively demarketing the place in a general passive way to reduce visitor numbers to more manageable levels. Whether this always happens is another matter. Perhaps, therefore, the answer is to pursue a strategy of “sustainable tourism based on a more targeted approach” (Kotler et al., 1999, p. 52), which in effect would represent a move from general passive to selective passive demarketing. Sometimes a place is actively demarketed by its own official agencies. This typically takes place over a discrete time window, often to manage and attempt to avert/reduce the impact of a crisis – what can be termed “crisis place demarketing”. An example of this would be the active demarketing of Edinburgh by the city’s authorities to counter the expected influx of protestors coinciding with the G8 summit in nearby Gleneagles in July 2005. As the Lord Provost of the city explained: I think most people see that it wouldn’t actually be feasible to have that number of people in our city [. . .] So what we’re saying to people is, “If you don’t have accommodation and you don’t have plans, maybe you should think twice about whether it is the best thing to do to come to Edinburgh” (see

Such strategies have been employed by other places facing perceived threats of major public disorder. From an activist’s perspective, Naomi Klein describes what are essentially place demarketing activities being implemented by authorities in the run-up to the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001: It turns out that the most effective form of crowd control isn’t pepper spray, water cannons, tear gas or any of the other weapons being readied by Quebec police in anticipation of the arrival of thirty-four heads of state. The most cutting-edge form of crowd control is controlling the crowds before they converge: this is state-of-the-art protest deterrence – the silencing you do yourself.

It happens every time we read another story about how Quebec will be surrounded by a three-metre-high fence. Or about how there’s nowhere to sleep in the city except the prisons, which have been helpfully cleared out. A month before the summit, postcard-perfect Quebec City has been successfully transformed into a menacing place, inhospitable to regular people with serious concerns about corporate-driven trade and economic deregulation (Klein, 2002, p. 134).

Similarly, crises may be heath-related, and in such circumstances precautionary measures do exist which incorporate “demarketing” activities (although not explicitly articulated as such). For example, recent outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (more commonly referred to as “bird flu”) in South East Asia have stimulated agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), who have produced a draft protocol for responding to an influenza pandemic. This emphasises not only appropriate medical interventions, but also measures for “social distancing”, which may include closure of public buildings, cancellations of mass gatherings and public transportation and border controls. Inevitably such measures would need to be communicated to both residents and visitors to affected areas, along the lines described above (World Health Organization, 2006, pp. 14-15). In the UK, for example, many central and local government agencies actively demarketed the countryside during the foot and mouth crisis of 2001, only to be left with an enormous uphill struggle in remarketing the countryside post-crisis, when it became increasingly clear how effective the demarketing campaign had been in damaging rural economies. Active demarketing is not always carried out by internal agencies – sometimes bodies external to the place engage in its demarketing. For example, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides ongoing advice to UK citizens about which countries they should and should not travel to (see Similar travel advice is provided to the citizens of other countries by their respective government agencies. These examples of externally driven, active demarketing involve official agencies, but there is an unofficial side to this practice, with similar advice provided by travel guides such as Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide (see, for example, Whether official or unofficial in origin, these activities described above could be termed “informational place demarketing”. Moreover, there is also a natural tendency for the citizens of one country or region to advise against visiting a neighbouring one – in effect a more ad hoc process of informational place demarketing based on little more than hearsay. In their recent book about motorbiking around the world Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman describe this perfectly, drawing on rumour and prejudice to demarket places adjacent to one’s own: Wherever we went, there was a sharp intake of breath from the locals whenever we mentioned the next destination on our itinerary. In the Ukraine, they said Russia was dangerous. In Russia they said it was Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs warned us of the perils of Mongolia. And in Mongolia, as everywhere else, we heard the same refrain when we asked about Siberia: “You don’t want to go there” (McGregor and Boorman, 2005, p. 139).

Perverse place marketing If demarketing activities serve to emphasise the negative in order to reduce demand, there may, somewhat paradoxically, be situations where accentuating the negative

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about the place may be a means to actually increase demand. This has been termed “perverse place marketing”, where a place is actively marketed, but by drawing on its negative aspects as a form of attraction. Sometimes this may be done humorously, where a given place satirically highlights its bad points, and in doing so makes visits more likely, if only to see how much the satire holds true. An alternative web site to Bracknell, a new town in Southeast England (see, has caused controversy and debate in the local press with its satirical portrayal of Bracknell as a place to visit: Bracknell is not short of night life [. . .] Near the Ball Fountain is “The Point” leisure complex. Here, under one roof, one can find a Bowling Alley, a ten screen cinema, two nightclubs (“Stabbings” and “Toxins”), and a casualty unit. Thus, it is possible to go bowling, see the latest film, get stabbed, and have a blood transfusion all in the same evening. This is a popular pastime with the youth of Bracknell.

This self-deprecating approach has actually helped raise the profile of Bracknell, in that this alternative site itself now gets mentions elsewhere, such as in a web site for the whole Berkshire area, within which Bracknell is located (see www.berkshire-pages. In an inversion of the normal league table approach, the Crap Towns phenomenon also epitomises this active marketing of places through a humorous emphasis on negativity (Jordison and Kieran, 2003, 2004). Obviously, as emphasised in the place marketing literature, a more normal approach is for places to engage in image improvement strategies via good media relations, thus countering such negative coverage. Indeed, after the city of Hull was awarded first place in the 2003 edition of Crap Towns, was ranked as “the fattest UK town” by Experian, and was subsequently highlighted in the Channel 4 programme Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK, a spokesman from the city council was quoted as saying: How dare they put the future of our population at risk for the sake of a television programme? [The result is that in the national perception it becomes] okay to have a go at Hull (Carpenter, 2005).

Contrary to this view, Nick Johnson, a director at developer Urban Splash, suggests that Hull could actually celebrate its negative media image and “turn its vices into its virtues” (quoted in Carpenter, 2005); in other words, engage in perverse place marketing. It could be argued, however, that this approach works best when carried out in an ironic way. Ward (1998) recounts how in the early 1980s the London Borough of Hackney publicised itself as “Britain’s Poorest Borough”. This marketing activity was primarily aimed to the media and policy makers, as the borough’s attempt to assert its case for special assistance from central government to tackle social deprivation. Ward (1998) argues that such an approach might possibly have worked in the 1960s, but by the 1980s such negativity ran increasingly counter to the Zeitgeist, which he describes as the “optimism syndrome” (p. 221), where communication perforce focused on accentuating the positive, however unrealistic such assertions were. Indeed, the “optimism syndrome” seems so entrenched among place marketers that where negative issues are mentioned it is almost always in terms of how the negative has been removed, or where the negative has somehow been transmogrified into a positive (see Kotler et al., 1999, pp. 172-6).

One manifestation of this active marketing of comparatively negative imagery which has no humorous element – indeed very much the opposite – could be termed “dark place marketing”. Here places draw on their bloody or painful histories and tragic events to market themselves, perhaps because these place “product” elements are the only ones available to them. This phenomenon has been termed “thanatourism” or “dark tourism”. The dark tourism research network website states that: Dark tourism is a generic term for travel associated with death, tragedy and disaster. Over the past few years, there has been increasing interest and a rapid acceptance of dark tourism as a distinct area for research (see

This is manifest from the growing interest in phenomena such as battlefield tourism (see, for example, see and the marketing of places such Krako´w on the basis of its proximity to Auschwitz-Birkenau (see Auschwitz/auschwitz). Even sites such as Ground Zero (see www. and the Pont de L’Alma tunnel, where Princess Diana’s fatal road accident occurred, attract individuals to parts of New York and Paris, respectively. Academic interest in such issues is growing with the overall dark tourism phenomenon being explored in the literature (see, for example, Lennon and Foley, 2000; Seaton and Lennon, 2004; Sharpley, 2005), along with more specific consideration of the various dark tourism sub-themes. These include: . Battlefield tourism, particularly in Western Europe where scenes of battles from the First and Second World Wars are popular tourism sites. . Holocaust tourism, incorporating sites of former concentration camps and museums devoted to the Holocaust. . Cemetery tourism, where, for example, the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (ASCE) comprises “those public and private organisations which care for cemeteries considered to be of historical or artistic importance” with members in many European countries, one of whose key purposes is “promoting European cemeteries as a very important cultural heritage” (see www. . Slavery-heritage tourism, where locations at each stage of the triangular trade route capitalise on these “dark” historical links. Thus, for example, in Western Africa a number of coastal forts where slave trading took place, such as Cape Coa Castle and Elmina Castle in Ghana, Goree Island in Senegal and the village of Juffree in the Gambia, are incorporated into slavery-heritage tourism “products”, with particular targeting of African-Americans engaging in “roots tourism”. In the Southern United States this has generally been manifested in visitation to former slave plantations, and in Western Europe the slave trade has been presented as part of the maritime heritage of ports such as Liverpool and Bristol, with large permanent exhibitions in local museums (Beech, 2007). Conclusion and research agenda The above discussion has identified various manifestations of the practices of place demarketing and also place marketing which accentuates the negative rather than the positive (i.e. perverse and dark place marketing). It is appreciated that such practices may only work or apply in certain situations. Moreover, Hull’s recent experiences (see

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Figure 1. A typology of place marketing and demarketing activities

above), clearly illustrate that these kinds of activities receive a mixed response from those stakeholders comprising the “strategic network” (Van den Berg and Braun, 1999) of agencies and organisations responsible for the management and marketing of a particular place. Short and Kim (1999) identify a “political economy perspective” as one of the dominant themes in place marketing research. This approach likens places to “battlegrounds where interest groups battle for power and push their competing agendas and strategies” (Kotler et al., 1999, p. 106). The Hull experience indicates that such a perspective may have even more resonance with place demarketing and perverse/dark place marketing activities, especially given their often contentious nature. As a starting point to conceptualising these phenomena, Figure 1 presents a typology in which these activities are set within the context of place marketing more generally. In Figure 1, conventional place marketing activity, various types of place demarketing activity, and perverse/dark place marketing have been situated on a two-dimensional matrix comprising the nature of “marketing effort” (high versus low) and the nature of “marketing emphasis” (negative versus positive). These various place marketing and demarketing activities – which are not mutually exclusive in the sense that a place may possibly implement different strategies dependent upon time and circumstances – are represented as broad vectors, emphasising flexibility of approach and the fact that such activities are often more about a general direction or intent. Thus conventional place marketing typically involves a high marketing effort which emphasises positive place dimensions, often aimed at selected market segments. Using the analogy of a photographic negative, where perspectives are reversed, what is

attractive to one person may be a disincentive to another. Thus the place dimensions emphasised in conventional marketing activity may in some cases be interpreted by other market segments as “not being for them”. This has been described as “selective passive place demarketing”, where demarketing occurs by default, rather than specific intention in effort or emphasis. “General passive place demarketing” invariably incorporates a low marketing effort, typically as a measure for managing demand and ensuring place sustainability in the face of over-popularity, where places do not have to overtly market their positive attributes. “Crisis place demarketing” inevitably entails high marketing effort by virtue of the motivation to keep people away from venues and places for very specific reasons and for finite time periods. The emphasis is always negative, whether requiring people, for example, to stay away from the countryside because of the fear they will precipitate the spread of foot and mouth disease, or discouraging people away from locations hosting contentious events out of concern they may cause or be caught up in some form of public disorder. “Informational place demarketing”, of the kind typified by “impartial” external agencies such as the FCO warning against travelling to a particular country, is generally neutral in marketing effort. The point is largely to inform travellers in their decisions about the risk places engender rather than to unduly influence. Information about such risks, however, inevitably involves a focus on negativity. However, if the reasons for not travelling to particular locations become acute, such as sudden natural disasters and/or disease epidemics, then the level of marketing effort may become greater, shifting more towards the concept of “crisis place demarketing”. “Perverse place marketing” involves significant marketing effort. The emphasis is still on negativity, but in a more comic/ironic way, the psychology of which is typically to promote (as opposed to demarket) a particular place through a celebration of all its faults. Finally, “dark place marketing” resembles conventional place marketing in that it involves a high marketing effort, but this is typically applied to elements of the place product which, to many, will not have overly positive connotations and emphasis, and to some will be plain depressing. Nevertheless, some places clearly feel that their key point of differentiation lies with these elements, and hence feel the need to market them heavily. Of course, Figure 1 represents a considerable simplification of a very complex reality. Indeed there are a number of key questions not addressed by the above matrix which warrant further investigation if a full picture is to emerge: . Who? – i.e. the identification of the stakeholders responsible for the planning and implementation of the place demarketing and perverse/dark place marketing activity. A particular issue here is whether such stakeholders are internal or external agencies to the place in question. . Whom? – i.e. identifying the targets of place demarketing and perverse/dark place marketing activity. Namely, is the activity targeted to specific groups (as part of a process of segmentation, targeting and positioning) or is it more generalised in its scope? A related issue involves the reaction of place consumers to this kind of marketing activity, in particular, the behaviour of “dark tourists” in terms of their motivations to visit such sites is an interesting area for research.

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Indeed, The Dark Tourism Forum invites dark tourists to post such information on their website (see When? – i.e. the temporal aspect of place demarketing and perverse/dark place marketing activity. More specifically, are such activities implemented as an ongoing programme or on a time-limited/specific basis in response to given situational/seasonal factors? Why? – i.e. the rationale behind place demarketing and perverse/dark place marketing activity. In the case of demarketing, these activities are perhaps motivated by attempts to reduce the demand for overly attractive places which already enjoy a surfeit of competitive advantage factors. In such instances, demarketing activity has much resonance with the arguments made by those in favour of sustainable tourism (e.g. Beeton, 2003), in terms of preserving a place for future generations of residents and visitors. Alternatively, place demarketing, especially in a crisis situation, can also be seen as a damage limitation exercise and as a means of defending the place brand against negative perceptions. The motivation behind perverse and dark place marketing may well be focused on place brand building for those locations where the only source of differentiation/competitive advantage are factors that would normally be perceived as having less positive and downbeat connotations.

It would appear, therefore, that there is potential for undertaking more substantive empirical research in this area with a view to developing a stronger conceptual underpinning for place demarketing and perverse/dark place marketing activities. In doing this, it becomes necessary to treat place demarketing and perverse/dark place marketing as separate entities. Perverse/dark place marketing may in fact be able to be woven into the existing body of theory and literature on standard place marketing practice, especially bearing in mind that its key role is usually to attract rather than discourage visitors and investment. Conversely, place demarketing in its various forms is largely about deflecting visitors and investment. Given the fact that places are increasingly conceptualised as brands, to be promoted by various agencies, then the implications for the image of individual place “brands” are apparent. The issues described in this paper illustrate the complexity of many of the issues relating to this area, and the potential for research, not only to develop new concepts and models, but also to refresh existing ones in the conventional place marketing canon. Investigating practitioners’ rationales for using the place marketing and demarketing activities discussed above, and the actual activities implemented (with an analysis of their relative utility) would be an obvious next step for research in this comparatively neglected area. References Ashworth, G. and Voogd, H. (1990a), Selling the City, Belhaven, London. Ashworth, G.J. and Voogd, H. (1990b), “Can places be sold for tourism?”, in Ashworth, G.J. and Goodall, B. (Eds), Marketing Tourism Places, Routledge, London, pp. 1-16. Ashworth, G.J. and Voogd, H. (1994), “Marketing and place promotion”, in Gold, J.R. and Ward, S.V. (Eds), Place Promotion: The Use of Publicity and Marketing to Sell Towns and Regions, Wiley, Chichester, pp. 39-52. Avraham, E. (2000), “Cities and their news media images”, Cities, Vol. 17 No. 5, pp. 363-70.

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Kavaratzis, M. and Ashworth, G.J. (2005), “City branding: an effective assertion of identity or a transitory marketing trick?”, Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Vol. 96 No. 5, pp. 506-14. Koschnick, W.J. (1995), Dictionary of Marketing, Gower, Aldershot. Klein, N. (2002), Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate, Flamingo, London. Kotler, P. and Levy, S.J. (1971), “Demarketing, yes, demarketing”, Harvard Business Review, November/December, pp. 74-80. Kotler, P., Asplund, C., Rein, I. and Haider, D. (1999), Marketing Places Europe: Attracting Investments, Industries, and Visitors to European Cities, Communities, Regions and Nations, Financial Times Prentice-Hall, Harlow. Kotler, P., Haider, D.H. and Rein, I. (1993), Marketing Places: Attracting Investment, Industry, and Tourism to Cities, States and Nations, The Free Press, New York, NY. Lennon, J. and Foley, M. (2000), Dark Tourism – The Attraction of Death and Disaster, Continuum, London. McGregor, E. and Boorman, C. (2005), Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows across the World, Time Warner Books, London. Mercer, D. (1999), Marketing: The Encyclopaedic Dictionary, Blackwell Business, Oxford. Millington, S., Young, C. and Lever, J. (1997), “A bibliography of city marketing”, Journal of Regional and Local Studies, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 16-42. Seaton, A.V. and Lennon, J.J. (2004), “Thanatourism in the early 21st century: moral panics, ulterior motives and alterior desires”, in Singh, T.V. (Ed.), New Horizons in Tourism: Strange Experiences and Stranger Practices, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 63-82. Sharpley, R. (2005), “Travels to the edge of darkness: towards a typology of dark tourism”, in Ryan, C., Page, S. and Aicken, M. (Eds), Taking Tourism to the Limits, Elsevier, London, chapter 4. Short, J.R. (1999), “Urban imagineers: boosterism and the representation of cities”, in Jonas, A.E.G. and Wilson, D. (Eds), The Urban Growth Machine: Critical Perspectives Two Decades Later, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, pp. 37-54. Short, J.R. and Kim, Y.-H. (1998), “Urban crises/urban representations: selling the city in difficult times”, in Hall, T. and Hubbard, P. (Eds), The Entrepreneurial City: Geographies of Politics, Regimes and Representations, Wiley, Chichester, pp. 55-75. Short, J.R. and Kim, Y.-M. (1999), Globalization and the City, Longman, London. Van den Berg, L. and Braun, E. (1999), “Urban competitiveness, marketing and the need for organising capacity”, Urban Studies, Vol. 36 Nos 5/6, pp. 987-99. Ward, S.V. (1998), Selling Places: The Marketing and Promotion of Towns and Cities 1850-2000, E. & F.N. Spon, London. Ward, S.V. and Gold, J.R. (1994), “Introduction”, in Gold, J.R. and Ward, S.V. (Eds), Place Promotion: The Use of Publicity and Marketing to Sell Towns and Regions, Wiley, Chichester, pp. 1-17. Warnaby, G., Bennison, D., Davies, B.J. and Hughes, H. (2002), “Marketing UK towns and cities as shopping destinations”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 18 Nos 9/10, pp. 877-904. World Health Organization (2006), WHO Pandemic Influenza Draft Protocol for Rapid Response and Containment, World Health Organization, Geneva.

About the authors Dominic Medway is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Marketing Group at Manchester Business School. His research interests cover areas which reflect his academic roots in marketing and geography, and his involvement in a large commercial farm business outside university hours. Hence, work includes the topics of place marketing and management, retail and services marketing, and on-farm marketing and food marketing. The findings of this research have been published in a variety of journals, including Environment and Planning A, Cities, The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research and The Service Industries Journal. Dominic Medway is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected] Gary Warnaby is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Liverpool Management School. Prior to this, he was at the Salford Business School and the Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. His research interests include the marketing of places (in particular the marketing of towns and cities as retail destinations), town centre management and retailing more generally. Results of this research have been published in academic journals including Environment and Planning A, Journal of Marketing Management, European Journal of Marketing, Cities, Local Economy and The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, as well as a variety of professional and trade publications.

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Marketing and the place brand


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Consumer perceptions of brand architecture in financial services James F. Devlin and Sally McKechnie Nottingham University Business School, Nottingham, UK

654 Received October 2006 Revised January 2007; March 2007 Accepted May 2007

Abstract Purpose – “Brand architecture” is an organisation’s approach to the design and management of its brand portfolio. Previous research, focused on the views of practitioners, identified a “multi-corporate” approach in financial services, where a “family of main brands” was incorporated into an organisation’s brand portfolio, often in the form of brands traditionally associated with separate companies. The current study seeks to provide contrasting insights from consumer data and to highlight the conceptual and practical implications of the findings. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative methodology was adopted for the study incorporating six focus groups containing an average of nine participants. Findings – The findings from the current study offer empirical support for the conceptualisation of the corporate brand playing a predominant role in services markets. In doing so, the findings also suggest that the alternative conceptualization of a “multi-corporate” approach advocated by practitioners and identified previously is not validated by consumer-based research. Research limitations/implications – The context of the study reported may be limited by its restriction to a single category, financial services. Practical implications – Practitioners’ rationales for maintaining multiple brands are, in the main, undermined by the views of consumers. Organisations should consider rationalising their brand architecture in order to benefit from significant cost savings. Originality/value – The consumer perspective on brand architecture is significantly under-researched and as a result this paper provides valuable insights, and a significant contribution to existing literature. Keywords Brands, Brand management, Financial services Paper type Research paper

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 654-666 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862561

Introduction The objective of this study is to investigate the attitudes of consumers towards the various strategies that financial services organisations may adopt in managing their brand architecture. For example, companies may use one overarching “corporate” brand in their marketing efforts; they may have a large number of brands attached to individual product or service offerings; or they may choose an approach somewhere between these two extremes, such as sub- or endorsed brands (Olins, 1995; Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000; de Chernatony, 2001). The study will seek to determine whether consumers are indifferent to these various strategies or whether particular preferences emerge. This knowledge will enable managers to meet the branding strategy challenge highlighted by Douglas et al. (2001), namely designing, implementing and managing a harmonious and efficient brand architecture that spans all areas of a firm’s operation. According to Petromelli et al. (2002), many companies struggle to keep their brand This research was funded by the Financial Services Research Forum.

portfolios in order. The insights provided by the study will add to the current academic understanding of brand architecture from the customer’s perspective, and will also be useful to senior marketing practitioners in financial services. The paper proceeds as follows. In the next section, a review of the relevant literature is presented, whereas in the following section the methodology for the study is explained. The results are then analysed, whilst in the subsequent section, discussion, conceptual insights, implications and limitations are presented. In the final section, conclusions are drawn.

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Literature review The importance of brands in the marketing of services has been highlighted by a number of writers (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2003, 2001; Berry, 2000; Dall’Olmo Riley and de Chernatony, 2000; de Chernatony and Dall’Olmo Riley, 1999; Dibb and Simkin, 1993; Zeithaml, 1981). Unlike classical product branding, the area of services branding remains under-developed (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2003; Grace and O’Cass, 2005). Brand architecture is one area which warrants further attention in a services context, for to date very few studies have focused upon the nature of the “brand architecture” adopted by services organisations from a managerial or consumer perspective. Brand architecture has been defined as: “an organising structure of the brand portfolio that specifies brand roles and the nature of relationships between brands” (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000). More recently, Aaker (2004) has used the term “brand portfolio strategy” when discussing how to optimise and leverage an organisation’s brand portfolio. All organisations with multiple product or service lines must decide whether to use one single brand covering all offerings, a separate distinct stand-alone brand for each offering, or some combination of these two extremes (Olins, 1995; Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000; see Figure 1). De Chernatony (2001) proposes a “brand spectrum”, ranging from corporate branding at one extreme to individual product brands at the other. Usefully, de Chernatony (2001) related the concept of the brand spectrum to branding in a financial services context, arguing that a corporate brand approach to the management of brand architecture is predominant in financial services markets. Berry (2000) also argued that corporate branding is important to services markets more generally, since in services the company is the primary focus of the brand rather than the product. Thus, although corporate branding is seen as becoming more important generally (Balmer, 1995), it is seen as having a particularly crucial role to play in the marketing of services (Dobree and Page, 1990; Olins, 1995) Indeed, Berry et al. (1988) argued that consumers are likely to view all services offered by a company as components of a single brand, which concurs with the finding of de Chernatony and Segal-Horn (2003) that customers interpret successful services brands from their

Figure 1. Corporate versus line branding

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contact with the organisation as a whole rather than solely from advertising. Dall’Olmo Riley and de Chernatony (2000) also highlighted that the corporate brand forms the focus of the relationship building efforts both inside and outside of a services organisation; hence the need to consider both external and internal perspectives when managing services brands (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2001). Such relationship building efforts will require the presence of commitment and trust according to Morgan and Hunt (1994). In addition, brands that are successful in forming the basis or focus of relationship building efforts between organisations and their consumers are likely to be those that are successful in engendering shared associations and emotions. Such brands were characterised by Doyle (2000) as experience brands. Further detailed analysis of the prevalence of, and challenges associated with, corporate branding in a services context is provided by McDonald et al. (2001), who concluded that corporate branding may well form an appropriate focus for services markets, due to the importance of interactions between staff and customers in shaping brand perceptions. For financial services specifically, a number of authors have suggested that corporate brands are particularly pertinent in the marketing of financial services (Ford, 1990; Balmer and Wilkinson, 1991; Saunders and Watters, 1993; Denby-Jones, 1995; Milligan, 1995), and Dall’Olmo Riley and de Chernatony (2000) have argued that financial services do not lend themselves to individual product brands, suggesting that the corporate brand may be particularly important in situations where it is difficult to make a priori judgements. It is apparent, therefore, that many authors postulate that an emphasis on the corporate brand is the predominant approach to the management of brand architecture for services and financial services organisations. However, more detailed empirical investigation is required to establish whether it is the case in practice. The main body of recent empirical work in the area of branding strategies (Dall’Olmo Riley and de Chernatony, 2000; de Chernatony and Dall’Olmo Riley, 1998, 1999) has been extended to the domain of services (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2001, 2003). Nevertheless this work has centred on examining branding from the perspective of brand experts and not focused specifically upon brand architecture concerns. In order to gain insights into the appropriate brand architecture strategy for financial services organisations, Devlin (2003) investigated the views of financial services practitioners. Findings indicated that there was limited support for having only one corporate brand in the brand portfolio, and very little support for the use of individual brands or the large-scale use of sub-brands. However, the approach that received the most support from the practitioners was a “multi-corporate” approach where a “family of main brands” was incorporated into an organisation’s brand portfolio, often in the form of brands traditionally associated with separate companies. One of many examples would be Lloyds-TSB having Cheltenham and Gloucester and Scottish Widows as core components of its brand architecture. The underlying rationale provided by practitioners for adopting such an approach was two-fold: (1) to maintain a strong relationship franchise with different customer groups; and (2) to signal distinct competencies to the marketplace. Brands that are associated strongly with particular competencies are effectively attribute brands, which Doyle (2000) defines as a brand which conveys confidence in an organisation’s or product’s functional performance.

The multi-corporate approach found by Devlin (2003) is an alterative conceptualisation of the appropriate approach to brand architecture management and one which differs from that predicted by the literature. The views of practitioners are important as they are responsible for formulating brand strategies. However, Dall’Olmo Riley and de Chernatony (2000) have suggested that the previous focus on brand experts has been a significant limitation of the extant research and that the views of consumers have been largely overlooked. Such views are crucial; if customers do not perceive that the brand in question signals such competencies to the marketplace, then the company may be investing significant resources in maintaining a brand that could have been eliminated without significant negative consequences. The same argument applies if customers do not perceive themselves to have strong relationships with particular brands. If one or both of these rationales are not supported by consumer research, then practitioners’ justifications for deviating from conceptual propositions concerning the assumed importance of corporate branding are highly questionable. Thus, the views of consumers on brand architecture are crucial in determining the appropriateness of brand architecture strategies adopted by organisations. Therefore the current study seeks to fill this significant gap in the literature and to make a contribution by investigating the following research question: what are consumer perceptions of the brand architecture strategies adopted by organisations in financial services; what are the conceptual implications of those perceptions and what are the strategic implications for marketing managers in financial services? Methodology The research was conducted from an interpretive perspective. A qualitative approach using focus groups was considered to be appropriate to gain a meaningful understanding of phenomena “which emerge out of sharing and discussing issues, exchanging opinions, revising perceptions and highlighting commonalities and differences” (Carson et al., 2001, p.115). The study is based on a judgement sample of 54 consumers who were recruited by an independent market research agency to take part in a total of six focus group discussions held in the Midlands and South Eastern regions of the UK. The sample was purposively selected to increase the likelihood of gaining insights into consumer perceptions of brand architecture strategies by ensuring that participants had been exposed to a range of branding contexts for financial services. Potential participants were screened according to demographics such as gender and financial lifecycle stage. Each focus group had an even split of male and female participants. The groups also exhibited a mix of lifecycle stages, with the categories “married with children at home”, “married with children moved away”, and “single/married with no children yet represented” approximately evenly. This approach also helped ensure a spread of age groups. The subjects were also screened according to pre-specified categories of financial services consumer. The participants were categorised to ensure a significant degree of homogeneity within each group for the characteristics relevant to the study, as suggested by Burns and Bush (2006). The first category was classified as “traditional” and comprised consumers who banked with any well-known high street bank (including former building societies) and had purchased at least one non-banking service under the same brand name from that organisation. (In other words they had, at

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some stage, shown themselves to be amenable to cross-selling). An example would be a bank customer who had purchased home insurance branded with the bank’s brand. The second category was classified as “non-traditional” and comprised consumers who had purchased financial services from a so-called non-traditional supplier such as Virgin, Marks & Spencer or a supermarket, such as Tesco or Sainsbury’s. The third category was classified as “complex” and comprised consumers who had purchased at least two differently branded services from the same organisation (e.g. an individual who had selected a Cheltenham and Gloucester mortgage from Lloyds TSB, with whom they banked[1]). This latter group is different from the traditional group in that its members had purchased multiple brands from a single organisation, rather than various services with the same brand. Data analysis Each discussion with the focus groups was audio-recorded and then transcribed verbatim. The text was analysed following the generalised sequence of steps as described in Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 10). Initially, each transcript was read twice by each of the researchers to ensure a high level of familiarity with the data (King, 1994). Once a holistic understanding of each transcript was developed, patterns and themes were noted by establishing “similarities, dissimilarities and recurrent words and themes” and by noting patterns by “volume or significance” (Beech, 2000, p. 213). The process was carried out firstly on a within-case basis and then on a between-case basis. Subsequently, data concerned with similar themes were drawn together from different cases and placed in data categories to further support analysis. Then, results were presented to a convenience sample of financial services practitioners. Such an approach is in line with that recommended by Carson et al. (2001) and, importantly, helps confirm the reliability and validity of the findings. The results are presented and analysed in the following section according to the emergent themes. Due to space constraints, only a limited number of exemplar quotations are provided. Results Brand architecture With respect to brand architecture, a key theme which emerged from the focus group discussions was that many of the participants were relatively indifferent to the brand architecture adopted by financial services firms, both generally and particularly as a consequence of mergers and related activity. There appears to be a general acceptance that changes are inevitable, and provided that they do not result in confusion or have a significant impact on customer experiences, they are accepted. It’s out of your control; it’s just something that happens (Traditional Group 1).

However, some concerns were voiced with regard to multi-brand organisations: As long as it’s clear, sometimes it can be very confusing (Complex Group 5).

On the other hand, major re-branding exercises, where one of a number of familiar brands were replaced by a single new brand with no immediately recognisable meaning, often quasi-Latin, were met with scepticism. This situation was compared to that of the ill fated rebranding of the Post Office, which was briefly known as

Consignia before returning to the more familiar Royal Mail. For instance, with respect to one very well known financial services organisation: It’s now called Aviva. People say “Who?” And you say it used to be Norwich Union. “Oh Norwich Union”. So there are big pluses in branding . . . The Post Office change their name to Consignia and everybody says “What? Who?” (Complex Group 5).

Overall, perhaps not surprisingly, there was a marked preference for clarity, simplicity and consistency. Change is accepted provided it does not happen too often and provided the motives for the change are transparent and the change represents a logical, understandable development in the eyes of the consumer. Brand-consumer relationships and loyalty A primary rationale for the maintenance of a multiple-brand architecture according to practitioners was to sustain strong relationships with customers. However, such a rationale did not in the main receive support from the attitudes of consumers. Many participants refused to acknowledge that they had any kind of meaningful relationship with their financial services brands, perhaps indicative of the wider theme of cynicism and disbelief running through the findings: My relationship with my credit card company is non existent really, I don’t ever speak to them . . . [The statement] just drops through the door and you pay it (Non-traditional Group 3). I haven’t got a relationship with any financial services brands (Complex Group 5).

Such views were reinforced by the sense that financial services are becoming increasingly impersonal, leading to customers feeling alienated, and that financial service organisations are only really interested in the flow of benefits from consumers to themselves: There is no personal banking any more . . . they just plug you into a computer (Traditional Group 1). We’re no longer loyal. They’re not loyal to us, why should we remain loyal to them, that’s why we change our mortgage all the time (Non-traditional Group 4).

Nevertheless, there was a minority view that the relationship could be a source of some benefit for consumers, particularly in the case of banking: [The relationship] might not be good but it’s comfortable (Traditional Group 1).

However, it is worthy of note that the vast majority of such sentiments were voiced by those from the “traditional” focus groups, who were distinguished by the fact that they had purchased multiple services from their bank. Such sentiments appear to engender some genuine loyalty: There is a certain loyalty, I like the fact that I have been with my bank twenty-seven years, I feel that gives me a bit of oomph behind me when I go in there (Traditional Group 2).

Thus it appears that traditional bank brands benefit from the most meaningful relationships with consumers and some genuine loyalty results. More generally, it is apparent that to an extent a number of consumers derive some value from a sense of familiarity, which could help account for the marked degree of behavioural loyalty.

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That said, most behavioural loyalty appears to be mainly inertia-based, rather than a result of positive attitudes and a willingness to forgive mistakes. I only change if I’ve had problems with things, either with the bank account or insurance (Traditional Group 1).


Overall, it is apparent that most participants have at best a weak relationship with their financial services brands and, in the main, such relationships are limited to traditional banking brands. Thus the argument that separate brands are necessary to maintain strong relationships with distinct customer franchises received little support from the data. Perhaps the overriding preference from customers was to aim for relatively simple and consistent branding strategies, which would help ensure the familiarity that many consumers value. Brands and competencies According to practitioners, the other main rationale for maintaining a multi-brand architecture was to signal the attribute of a distinctive competence to the market place. In the main, participants did not think that it was necessary for different types of financial services institutions to have separate distinctive competencies in order to deliver financial services successfully. This was the predominant view of participants in traditional groups: For example: Banks should have pretty much the same competencies as insurance companies, being fair and honest and offering good policies (Traditional Group 1). I don’t really think that mortgage people are different [from other financial institutions] in what their basic attributes are (Traditional Group 2).

And when asked whether a mortgage company could become a bank: I don’t see why not, they sub contract everything, don’t they? . . . like the banks, if you go to them for a loan or insurance they sub-contract it out to somebody else and put their name on it (Traditional Group 1).

As well as those who had purchased financial services from non-traditional suppliers and those from complex groups: The skills involved [in being a building society] are not really any different from a bank or a credit card company or an insurance company. It’s just shoving money around and they’re either good at it or they’re not. It doesn’t matter what the product is (Non-traditional Group 4). I’m amazed by how little difference there is between the different companies and the products you can buy from them (Complex Group 5).

In general, participants had considerable difficulty in identifying particular skills or specialties, and there was a considerable element of “taking for granted” basic skills such as being able to add or keep accurate data. More general matters such as providing good customer service and keeping up-to-date were also mentioned. Efficient accurate processing, whether in banking transactions or insurance claims was seen as important “generic competencies”, along with other elements of customer service and expedient communication. Brands did not appear to be particularly important in signalling particular competencies in the vast majority of cases.

The one possible exception is specialist investment products, where there is a small amount of evidence to suggest that participants tended to think of brands of established companies, which for them signalled a particular expertise in investments. For instance: I wouldn’t take out a pension with BP, they don’t have a good track record of investment. But I would take out a credit card with BP if they had a cheap rate (Complex Group 6). But if you are going to invest money, pensions, ISAs, savings, it is different to the other financial products. I would just think that for me people like Standard Life . . . the old established companies (Complex Group 6).

Views expressed on the role of brands for specialist investment products provide a stark contrast to simpler, accessible, and highly commoditised financial services such as loans and general insurance. For instance, when asked about whether perceptions of competence in particular areas were important for such products, a typical response was: I don’t care, I spend two hours on the phone once a year trying to get the best deal [for my car insurance], same with house insurance as well (Non-traditional Group 3).

Overall, the views of consumers concerning the degree to which brands were useful in signalling a particular competence could be characterised as a continuum. At one end of the spectrum there are highly commoditised, easily searchable services that are considered low risk by consumers. Perhaps the ultimate example is credit card offerings where customers perceive that they have nothing to lose by taking up the lowest price offer regardless of who is offering it. Other simple credit products such as loans, and simple “general” insurance services, such as home and car insurance, are also located toward this end of the continuum. With such offerings, the brand does not appear to play any role in signalling a particular competence and little or no value is attached to the brand. If an unknown or lesser known company offers a better deal, they are likely to be chosen. In general, customers in such markets also exhibit a high degree of willingness to switch providers in search of a better deal. At the other extreme are more complex financial services, which include pensions and stock market based investments. For these services true search attributes may be few and far between and there is the potential for the brand to fulfil a useful function in signalling a competence in investment expertise to the market. Services of medium complexity such as some mortgage products and life assurance products will be located somewhere in the middle of the continuum. Discussion, implications and limitations Previous literature (Devlin, 2003) suggested that relatively few institutions in financial services tended towards the one main corporate brand approach in their brand architecture strategies, although there are exceptions, with some very large organisations, such as HSBC or Citibank adopting this approach. Rather, the predominant strategy was a “multi-corporate” one, with institutions having a family of main brands in their brand portfolio, often in the form of brands traditionally associated with separate companies, which had subsequently consolidated to become parts of a single larger organisation. The main reasons cited for deviating from the corporate branded approach in previous studies were to maintain relationship

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franchises with distinct customer groups and to signal distinctive competencies to the marketplace. It was noted above that in order to be successful, companies attempting to maintain relationship franchises require brands which are trusted and subject to commitment from consumers (Morgan and Hunt, 1994) and are experience brands that are successful in engendering images of shared associations and emotions between organisations and their customers (Doyle, 2000). Alternatively, companies that aim to use brands to signal distinctive competencies to the marketplace require successful attribute-based brands (Doyle, 2000)[2]. It was also noted that the relationship and competence motivations for maintaining a family of main brands deviate from the main conceptualisation of how brands function in a services environment, which is that corporate brands dominate in the service sector (Berry et al., 1988; Berry, 2000; de Chernatony, 2001). An important outcome of this study is that a theoretically anchored conceptual framing of consumer perceptions of the brand architecture strategies adopted by financial services organisations can now be proposed. Whilst Devlin (2003) found limited support for having only one corporate brand in the brand portfolio and even less support for the use of individual brands or sub-brands, the current study offers significant empirical support for the conceptualisation of the corporate brand playing a predominant role in services markets. The findings also suggest that the alternative conceptualization of a “multi-corporate” approach advocated by practitioners and identified by Devlin (2003) is not validated by consumer-based research. In financial services, consumers do appear to be inclined to view a service organisation as a single entity and treat all services offered by a particular organisation as components of a single brand, as suggested by Berry et al. (1988). However, this is not in the main due to the brand acting as a relationship fulcrum in a strong sense, since consumers do not generally appear to form strong relationships with financial services brands. In this respect, the data indicated that there is significant scepticism on the part of consumers that financial institutions are interested in engendering meaningful mutually beneficial relationships, but rather that organisations are interested in customers only in as much as there are profitable opportunities for organisations, at the expense of customers. The managerial implications of such a finding are significant. It is important that managers ensure that their motivations for using more than one main brand are both well conceived and justified by consumer perceptions. This is essential, as supporting more brands is almost always more costly and therefore benefits must accrue to justify such additional expenditure. The views of customers are essential in determining whether the maintenance of separate brands is likely to bring benefits to offset the increased costs of maintaining separate brands. When having separate brands in the brand portfolio in order to maintain relationships with different customer franchises, managers must ensure that the case for maintaining these separate brands is proven, i.e. that rationalisation of the brand portfolio would weaken relationships. For that to occur, strong relationships between brands and consumers would need to be apparent ex ante. Findings from the current study suggest that this is unlikely to be the case and that customers do not generally perceive themselves to have meaningful relationships with their financial services brands. Thus, managers need to consider whether it is necessary to utilise separate brands in their architecture to support what appear to be at best weak relationships, rather than automatically assuming that the maintenance of separate brands is essential, or that more brands are inherently better than fewer.

Diligent and impartial research on the part of organisations may well show that the consumer franchise would not be adversely affected by brand rationalisation strategies. The other main rationale for maintaining a family of corporate brands in the brand architecture, rather than one overarching brand, was to signal to consumers distinctive competencies in providing different types of financial services. This approach is similar to the attribute branding described by Doyle (2000). In adopting such a strategy in the management of brand architecture, managers have implicitly assumed that consumers do believe that different competencies are required to deliver different financial services effectively and that separate brands within the brand architecture signal such differing competencies effectively in the marketplace. The data from the current study provides significant evidence that consumers do not generally perceive that different financial services organisations require significantly different skills, competencies and resources in order to deliver certain financial services effectively. A common perception was that an organisation providing banking services could reasonably be expected to provide, say, insurance products or mortgages to an acceptable standard. The point was made that, should an organisation lack the particular competencies to do so, they could either acquire such competencies or sub-contract elements of the service provision. In addition, the competencies which customers viewed as essential in providing different financial services were viewed as generic, rather than specialised. The one area which appeared to be viewed a little differently was the area of relatively complex investment products, where consumers judged that some specialist expertise was required, which could be signalled by a particular brand. However, once again, in general, it is apparent that the second main rationale provided by practitioners for maintaining separate brands within an organisation’s brand architecture was also conclusively undermined by the findings of the current study. The main limitation of the study reported here is that the context of the study is limited to financial services. As a result, the degree of generalisability of the findings is open to question. Also, the research design meant that it could not be guaranteed that all participants had broad exposure to financial services brands, although it did ensure that the majority were in such a position. Notwithstanding these acknowledgements, the financial services context has been successfully used for examining branding and other marketing-related matters in services (Devlin, 2003). In addition, many organisations in many markets have undergone similar processes of consolidation and development, leading to complex and multi-faceted brand architectures, similar to those apparent in financial services. Thus, the insights from the current study are likely to prove pertinent in a broad range of contexts, and should make a significant contribution to theory development and the advancement of management practice in the area of branding. Further studies of brand architecture strategies within these contexts, focused on both practitioner and consumer perspectives, are recommended to establish definitively the degree of generalisability of the findings from the study reported here. Conclusions Previous research suggested that separate brands are most often justified by managers due to the need to maintain strong relationships with particular groups of customers

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and the requirement to signal distinct specialist competencies to particular markets. Our study suggests that both of these rationales are fundamentally flawed, as they are not supported by insights provided by consumers. Consumers do not generally consider themselves to have meaningful relationships with financial services brands and appear quite relaxed at the prospect of losing certain brands, provided that change does not occur too often and there is generally clarity and consistency in an organisation’s branding strategy. Equally, the argument that separate distinct brands are needed to signal distinctive competencies to the marketplace is also largely spurious. Financial services consumers are generally of the opinion that the competencies required to deliver different financial services, such as banking, insurance and home loans, are largely generic. The one exception may be complex investment based offerings, which are viewed as requiring specialist skills and knowledge. Overall it is apparent that the main rationales for maintaining multiple brands are clearly not supported by findings from consumer research, which suggests that many financial services organisations could rationalise their brand architecture and reduce costs significantly without detrimentally affecting the attitudes and behaviour of their consumers. Notes 1. The Cheltenham and Gloucester brand is owned by Lloyds TSB and Cheltenham and Gloucester mortgages are marketed through the Lloyds TSB branch network and through other channels. 2. For completeness, it should be noted that Doyle (2000) also discussed a third type of brand, the aspirational brand. Such brands convey a perceived favourable image about the types of people who buy the brand and their desired lifestyle. Aspirational brands are particularly relevant in luxury goods markets and are not discussed in this paper as they are not relevant to the vast majority of financial services organisations, possible exceptions being a small number of high-end private banking brands. References Aaker, D. (2004), Brand Portfolio Strategy, The Free Press/Simon and Schuster, New York, NY. Aaker, D. and Joachimsthaler, E. (2000), “The brand relationship spectrum: the key to the brand challenge”, California Management Review, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 8-23. Balmer, J.M.T. (1995), “Corporate branding and connoisseurship”, Journal of General Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 24-46. Balmer, J.M.T. and Wilkinson, A. (1991), “Building societies: change, strategy and corporate identity”, Journal of General Management, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 20-33. Beech, N. (2000), “Narrative styles of management and workers: a tale of star crossed lovers”, Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 210-28. Berry, L.L. (2000), “Cultivating service brand equity”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 128-37. Berry, L.L., Lefkowith, E.F. and Clark, T. (1988), “In services, what’s in a name?”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 66, September/October, pp. 28-30. Burns, A.C. and Bush, R.F. (2006), Marketing Research, 5th ed., Pearson Education, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Carson, D., Gilmore, A., Perry, C. and Gronhaug, K. (2001), Qualitative Marketing Research, Sage Publications, London.

Dall’Olmo Riley, F. and de Chernatony, L. (2000), “The service brand as relationships builder”, British Journal of Management, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 137-50. de Chernatony, L. (2001), From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. de Chernatony, L. and Dall’Olmo Riley, F. (1998), “Defining a ‘brand’: beyond the literature with experts’ interpretations”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 417-43. de Chernatony, L. and Dall’Olmo Riley, F. (1999), “Experts’ views about defining service brands and the principles of services branding”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 46 No. 2, pp. 181-92. de Chernatony, L. and Segal-Horn, S. (2001), “Building on services’ characteristics to develop successful services branding”, Journal of Marketing Management;, Vol. 17, pp. 645-69. de Chernatony, L. and Segal-Horn, S. (2003), “The criteria for successful services brands”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 37 Nos 7/8, pp. 1095-118. Denby-Jones, S. (1995), “Mind the gap”, The Banker, Vol. 145 No. 828, pp. 66-7. Devlin, J.F. (2003), “Brand architecture in services: the example of retail financial services”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 19, pp. 1043-65. Dibb, S. and Simkin, L. (1993), “The strength of branding and positioning in services”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 25-35. Dobree, J. and Page, A.S. (1990), “Unleashing the power of service brands in the 1990s”, Management Decision, Vol. 28, pp. 14-28. Douglas, S.P., Craig, C.S. and Nijssen, E.J. (2001), “Executive insights: integrating branding strategy across markets: building international brand architecture”, Journal of International Marketing, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 97-114. Doyle, P. (2000), Value Based Marketing, Wiley, Chichester. Ford, R. (1990), “Insurance advertising in the 1990s”, Admap, June, pp. 22-5. Grace, D. and O’Cass, A. (2005), “Service branding: consumer verdicts on service brands”, Journal of Retail and Consumer Services, Vol. 12, pp. 125-39. King, N. (1994), “The qualitative research interview”, in Cassell, C. and Symon, G. (Eds), Qualitative Methods in Organisational Research, Sage Publications, London, pp. 16-36. McDonald, M.H.B., de Chernatony, L. and Harris, F. (2001), “Corporate marketing and services brands: moving beyond fast moving consumer goods”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 35 Nos 3/4, pp. 335-52. Miles, M. and Huberman, A.M. (1994), Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CA. Milligan, J.W. (1995), “Are banks ready for product banking?”, United States Banker, Vol. 105, pp. 39-41. Morgan, R.M. and Hunt, S. (1994), “The commitment-trust theory of relationship marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 58, July, pp. 20-38. Olins, W. (1995), The New Guide to Identity, Gower, Aldershot. Petromelli, M., Morrison, D. and Milling, M. (2002), “Brand architecture: building brand portfolio value”, Strategy and Leadership, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 22-8. Saunders, J. and Watters, R. (1993), “Branding financial services”, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 11, pp. 32-8.

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Zeithaml, V.A. (1981), “How consumer evaluation processes differ between goods and services”, in Donnelly, J.H. and George, W.R. (Eds), Marketing of Services, American Marketing Association, Chicago, IL, pp. 186-9. Further reading Black, N.J., Lockett, A., Ennew, C., Winklhofer, H. and McKechnie, S. (2002), “Modelling consumer choice of distribution channels: an illustration from financial services”, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 161-73. Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (2000), “Introduction: the discipline and practice of qualitative research”, in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2nd ed., Sage Publications, London, pp. 1-28. Krueger, R. (1994), Focus Groups, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Rubin, H.J. and Rubin, I.S. (1995), Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. About the authors James F. Devlin is Professor of Marketing at Nottingham University Business School. Upon graduating, Jim worked in private banking for a number of years before joining the University of Nottingham. During his academic career, Jim has also worked at Cass Business School and spent three years on secondment to the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Jim continues to research and publish in the areas of marketing in financial services and policy issues in marketing. Current and recent projects include studies of reference price advertising, financial exclusion and basic bank accounts, consumer perceptions of stakeholder products and “CAT” standards in financial services and branding issues in financial services. Jim has completed projects for the Office of Fair Trading, Lloyds-TSB, the Financial Services Research Forum and the Financial Services Authority amongst others. Jim has served on a number of FSA expert panels and is currently Research Director for the Financial Services Research Forum. Jim has published over 40 articles in leading marketing and policy journals and has attended numerous national and international conferences. James F. Devlin is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected] Sally McKechnie is an Associate Professor in Marketing at Nottingham University Business School. Prior to returning to academia she held marketing positions in the exhibitions and direct marketing industries. She also held a teaching company associateship at the University of Strathclyde. Her research interests continue to be in the areas of consumer behaviour and marketing communications, with a particular interest in consumption and policy issues. She has completed projects for the Office of Fair Trading, the Financial Services Research Forum and the Financial Services Authority.

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Employer branding and its influence on managers

Employer branding and its influence

Gary Davies Manchester Business School, Manchester, UK Abstract Purpose – The paper seeks to explore the role of the employer brand in influencing employees’ perceived differentiation, affinity, satisfaction and loyalty – four outcomes chosen as relevant to the employer brand. Design/methodology/approach – A multidimensional measure of corporate brand personality is used to measure employer brand associations in a survey of 854 commercial managers working in 17 organisations. Structural equation modelling is used to identify which dimensions influence the four outcomes. Models are built and tested using a calibration sample and tested on two validation samples, one equivalent to the calibration sample and another drawn from a single company. Findings – Satisfaction was predicted by agreeableness (supportive, trustworthy); affinity by a combination of agreeableness and (surprisingly) ruthlessness (aggressive, controlling); and perceived differentiation and loyalty by a combination of both enterprise (exciting, daring) and chic (stylish, prestigious). Competence (reliable, leading) was not retained in any model. Research limitations/implications – Further work is required to identify how appropriate improvements in employee associations can be managed. Practical implications – The findings emphasise the importance of an employer brand but the results also highlight the complexity in its management, as no one aspect has a dominant influence on outcomes relevant to the employer. At issue is which function within an organisation should be tasked with managing the employer brand. Originality/value – Employer branding is relatively new as a topic but is attracting the attention of both marketing and HR academics and practitioners. Prior work is predominantly conceptual and this paper is novel in demonstrating empirically its role in promoting satisfaction, affinity, differentiation and loyalty.

667 Received October 2006 Revised January 2007; April 2007 Accepted May 2007

Keywords Brands, Product differentiation, Customer satisfaction, Customer loyalty Paper type Research paper

Increasingly companies are allocating funds to what has been termed the employee or employer brand, i.e. the set of distinctive associations made by employees (actual or potential) with the corporate name. A strong employer brand attracts better applicants (Collins and Stevens, 2002; Slaughter et al., 2004) and shapes their expectations about their employment (Lievens and Highhouse, 2003). What is less clear is the role of branding with existing employees, the focus for this paper. A brand is a symbol that encapsulates the many associations that are made with a name (Gardner and Levy, 1955) and many things can be branded (Levitt, 1980), including the company itself, but is the role and effect of the employer brand similar to that of the brand in its usual context, that of influencing customers? This paper identifies the roles that the employer brand might be expected to play, the roles that are relevant to a corporate brand and to employees: creating (employee) satisfaction, affinity and loyalty and perceived differentiation. The main contribution of the

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 667-681 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862570

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paper is to provide empirical evidence of the influence of employer branding. The context is that of one important and potentially mobile employee group, i.e. commercial managers. Branding and the employer brand When considering customers, a brand provides its owner with two benefits: differentiation, so that the customer is less able to decide on price alone and a franchise (Davies, 1992), the latter stemming from customer satisfaction with the brand and loyalty to it. Customers choose to purchase for rational reasons but their emotional attachment is also important. These four attributes of a brand – the ability to differentiate, to create loyalty, to satisfy and to develop an emotional attachment – are, it is argued, also relevant to the employer brand. The effects of a brand are often referred to as its “equity”, rooted in the customer’s knowledge about the brand. Two factors contribute to brand knowledge: (1) awareness; and (2) image (Keller, 1993). Awareness is not at issue for existing employees and so the focus in this paper is therefore on image. Brand image concerns the associations held of a brand in memory; and brand personality, the projective technique used here, is one measure of these (Keller, 1998). Brand personality, the human associations we make with a brand, is a way of obtaining a holistic view of a brand’s associations by using the metaphor of brand as person and applying the equivalent of a personality test to the brand. Two such measures have been developed to measure employee views (Davies et al., 2002, 2004; Slaughter et al., 2004) using human personality traits, similar to those used in assessing the personality of an individual. For example one corporate brand may be described as being more “honest” or more “daring” than another. The approach forms part of the psycholexical tradition, that languages develop groups of adjectives to describe the most important differences between significant objects. We personify brands, and a similar but not identical list of adjectives that we use to describe people exists for brand personality (Caprara et al., 2001). The Corporate Character Scale (Davies et al., 2004) that was adopted here has five main and orthogonal dimensions: (1) agreeableness; (2) enterprise; (3) chic; (4) competence; and (5) ruthlessness (Table I). Agreeableness has three facets, each with a number of measurement items: (1) warmth (e.g. friendly, pleasant); (2) empathy (concerned, supportive); and (3) integrity (honest, trustworthy).






Cheerful Pleasant Open Straightforward Concerned Reassuring Supportive Agreeable Honest Sincere Trustworthy Socially responsible

Cool Trendy Young Imaginative Up to date Exciting Innovative Extravert Daring

Reliable Secure Hardworking Ambitious Achievement-oriented Leading Technical Corporate

Charming Stylish Elegant Prestigious Exclusive Refined Snobby Elitist

Arrogant Aggressive Selfish Inward-looking Authoritarian Controlling

Source: Davies et al. (2004)

Enterprise includes: . modernity (cool, trendy); . adventure (imaginative, innovative); and . boldness (extravert, daring). Competence includes: . conscientiousness (reliable, hardworking); . drive (ambitious, leading); and . technocracy (technical, corporate). This dimension represents the more tangible aspects of a corporate brand, those associated with quality. The chic dimension includes: . elegance (charming, stylish); . prestige (prestigious, exclusive); and . snobbery (snobby, elitist). This dimension represents an aspect of branding that is well developed by luxury brands. Ruthless has two facets – egotism (arrogant, aggressive) and dominance (authoritarian, controlling) – and is the one negatively valenced dimension. There is limited literature to guide expectations on what aspects of brand personality might be most influential with employees and, in the absence of any clear direction, a more exploratory approach was adopted in the following empirical study. No initial assumptions were therefore made about which dimensions of brand personality would be salient for each outcome. Brand and differentiation The original objective for branding (a burn on cattle or a mark on bricks) was to distinguish the ownership or origin of one item from other similar items; hence the traditional association of branding with differentiation. A brand name is more than

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Table I. The five main dimensions of corporate personality

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just a label to differentiate (Gardner and Levy, 1955), but differentiation is still the essence of branding (Aaker, 2003). Marketing campaigns seek to differentiate the brand by positioning it as superior on one or more attributes relevant to the customer (Pechmann and Ratneshwar, 1991). Differentiation reduces price competition and is consequently seen as a source of competitive advantage at the corporate level, where it is one of three generic strategies (Porter, 1980). Employees as well as customers like to be associated with distinctive organisations (Dutton et al., 1994). One role of the employer brand should be then to distinguish the employer in the minds of employees. Hence the first hypothesis: H1. The stronger one or more aspects of the employer brand’s personality, the greater will be the perceived differentiation of the employer. Brand and loyalty Brand loyalty refers to a customer’s propensity to purchase the same product over time (Jacoby and Chestnut, 1978) and differs somewhat from employer brand loyalty. While there are examples in business-to-business markets of long-standing relationships and examples in employment of short term contracts, switching brands in a consumer market can be done relatively frequently and at little cost to the individual. Switching employers involves far higher costs and is done only every few years (respondents to the study reported here had spent an average of 12.9 years with their employer). Various factors can influence the employee to leave an organisation, or to remain despite being dissatisfied. Employees who have greater opportunity to voice dissatisfaction are less likely to quit (Spencer, 1986). An intention to quit is related to job stress, lack of commitment to the employer, and job dissatisfaction (Mellor et al., 2004). Most labour turnover models include a significant impact of affective factors, including organisation commitment, well-being and job satisfaction (Steel et al., 2002; Steel, 2002). Job satisfaction and organisational commitment are frequently assumed to influence the decision to leave (Winterton, 2004) but the influence of the corporate brand on this process, probably the most significant affective factor in an organisation, is never considered. To assess the potential relevance of its role in creating loyalty, a second hypothesis is proposed: H2. The stronger one or more aspects of the employer brand’s personality, the greater will be employee loyalty. Brand and satisfaction One role of a brand is to create and enhance satisfaction. Satisfaction predicts future behaviour towards the brand (Mittal and Kamakura, 2001) and, as explained above, satisfaction with the job and with the employer are useful predictors of an intention to leave an organisation. Employees who are more satisfied also create better relationships with customers (Heskett et al., 1997). Customer satisfaction is often measured in commercial surveys by using multi-attribute scales, each attribute representing one aspect of the desired product or service (Wirtz, 2003). Work on employment issues tends to focus on job satisfaction and on its links to employee behaviour, rather than on satisfaction with the employer, but job satisfaction is less likely to be influenced by the employer brand than will be overall satisfaction with the

company. One important role of the employer brand should then be to promote employee satisfaction, hence: H3. The stronger one or more aspects of the employer brand’s personality, the greater will be employee satisfaction. Branding and affinity A strong brand elicits an emotional response from a consumer (Yeung and Wyer, 2004). The level of arousal, the quality of consumption experience and the emotional attachment to a brand all influence the consumer’s affective evaluation (Tsai, 2005). The emotional attachment of the employee to their employer is normally assessed by measuring commitment (Steel, 2002), the desire to maintain one’s membership of an organisation (Meyer and Allen, 1991), or the allied construct of identification (Riketta, 2005), the linking of the organisational member to his/her self-concept by feeling a part of the organisation and having pride in membership. Recognising the importance of commitment and identification goes some way to recognising that an organisation can be viewed usefully through an emotional lens and not just through the lens of rationality (see, for example, Fineman, 1993). As the success of branding is concerned with promoting an emotional response from the target, the employer brand should promote an affective response from the employee. Hence: H4. The stronger one or more aspects of the employer brand’s personality, the greater will be the employee’s affinity to the brand. Methods Sample The market for employees is heterogeneous but one relatively coherent and important sector is “commercial managers”, defined here as those with managerial responsibility, working in a business context but not working in a technical role, such as research and development. In total, 854 commercial managers working for 17 organisations were surveyed. A main database of 527 responses from managers in 16 organisations (Table II) was randomly divided into two, a calibration sample of 269 and a validation sample of 258. A second validation sample of 327 managers from one company, a food retailer, was used to test whether any findings were relevant at the level of a single organisation. Response rates to the questionnaire varied but were always higher than 80 per cent of those approached. The managers were surveyed while attending management development courses at a business school. Measures The Corporate Character Scale (Table I), was used to measure the managers’ brand associations. Respondents were asked to imagine that their organisation had “come to life” as a human being and to rate its personality on a five-point Likert-type scale anchored by 1 ¼ strongly disagree and 5 ¼ strongly agree that the item described the organisation perfectly. Perceived differentiation was measured with two items: that the firm had a “distinct identity” and a “unique personality”. Satisfaction with the organisation was measured using two items, overall satisfaction and willingness to recommend the company to others. Affinity was measured with two items: “pleased to be associated with” and “I

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Table II. Survey sample

Company Chain store retailer Ladies’ fashion store Variety store Food retailer Accountancy practice Bank Academic department Construction (A) Construction (B) Financial services retailer Systems manufacturer Advertising agency Infrastructure services Electronics manufacturer Public relations Capital goods manufacturer Media conglomerate Total



27 29 21 68 39 30 42 71 42 15 30 26 7 33 12 9 26 527

5.12 5.50 3.98 12.90 7.40 5.69 7.97 13.47 7.97 2.85 5.69 4.93 1.33 6.26 2.28 1.71 4.93 100

feel an affinity with” the employer. All items had a five-point Likert-type scale anchored by 1 ¼ strongly disagree and 5 ¼ strongly agree. All scales proved suitably reliable (Table III). Loyalty was measured with a single item, the number of years the employee had been employed by the same company. Average scores for each variable are reported by company in Table IV. Modelling Models linking employer brand personality to outcomes were constructed and tested using structural equation modelling. Separate models were built for each target variable (satisfaction, affinity, differentiation and loyalty). The measures for the five dimensions of corporate character were aggregated at the facet level (see example in Figure 1). Each dimension was assumed to predict the target variable and allowed to co-vary with all other dimensions to eliminate any halo effect. Using the calibration

Table III. Construct to construct correlations and reliabilities

Agreeableness (1) Enterprise (2) Competence (3) Ruthless (4) Chic (5) Differentiation (6) Satisfaction (7) Affinity (8) Loyalty (9)









0.90 0.33 * 0.52 * 2 0.47 * 0.08 * 0.34 * 0.66 * 0.59 * 0.18 *

0.86 0.58 * 2 0.02 0.37 * 0.43 * 0.45 * 0.41 * 0.11 *

0.79 2 0.01 0.33 * 0.40 * 0.57 * 0.49 * 0.21 *

0.70 0.23 * 2 0.02 2 0.28 * 2 0.24 * 2 0.02

0.79 0.34 * 0.12 * 0.10 * 2 0.01

0.78 0.43 0.46 0.20

0.84 0.77 * 0.23 *

0.78 0.28 *

Notes: *Significant at p , 0:05; Cronbach’s a scores are shown on the diagonal

Chic 2.77 2.91 2.37 3.13 3.42 2.87 2.00 2.90 2.91 2.43 2.61 2.60 2.34 3.66 3.06 3.77 2.61


Chain store retailer Ladies fashion store Variety store Food retailer Accountancy practice Bank Academic department Construction (A) Construction (B) Financial services retailer Systems manufacturer Advertising agency Infrastructure services Electronics manufacturer Public relations Capital goods manufacturer Media conglomerate

3.40 4.07 3.43 3.71 3.16 2.85 3.12 3.62 3.94 3.86 2.84 3.36 3.17 3.31 3.53 2.64 3.22

Agreeableness 2.20 4.17 2.26 3.57 3.75 2.67 2.38 2.98 2.87 2.32 2.51 3.40 3.48 3.49 3.18 3.69 3.63

Enterprise 3.69 4.06 3.22 4.12 4.21 3.29 3.15 3.94 3.92 3.56 3.07 3.37 4.09 3.79 3.88 3.79 3.44

Competence 3.41 2.40 2.59 2.96 3.69 3.31 3.09 2.85 2.91 2.88 3.21 2.88 3.64 2.97 3.10 4.22 3.38

Ruthlessness 3.63 4.53 3.43 4.18 3.88 3.60 3.45 4.08 4.24 4.17 2.65 3.65 4.14 3.83 3.75 3.39 4.02

Satisfaction 3.98 4.47 2.93 4.01 4.13 3.77 2.51 3.37 4.00 4.30 3.10 3.42 3.57 4.09 2.71 4.67 3.75


Service 12.23 6.88 13.43 10.14 6.70 10.47 7.48 8.70 14.73 17.93 8.33 5.04 4.58 13.97 2.10 8.61 7.06

Affinity 3.76 4.38 3.60 4.01 4.01 3.97 3.45 4.02 4.30 4.23 3.13 3.87 4.21 4.09 3.79 3.78 4.17

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Table IV. Average scores

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Figure 1. Example of initial SEM model (shown without covariance links between corporate character dimensions)

data, models were modified by eliminating any non-significant links one at a time and then re-running the model (Jo¨reskog, 1993; Bullock et al., 1994; Long, 1983). The process continued until there were no further insignificant links and the resulting model fitted the data well. (For example, agreeableness was the only dimension to be retained in the model predicting employee satisfaction.) These models were then retested on the two validation samples and finally for the combined database. Results The results of the analyses are shown in Table V. The validation models confirmed the calibration models in each case, both for the random sample and for the sample from one company. For example, in the satisfaction calibration model, only agreeableness (friendly, supportive) was retained after removing all non-significant links in the model, showing that this dimension is best at explaining the variance in employee satisfaction. The overall fit (x 2 ½df ¼ 2 ¼ 4:46, p ¼ 0:11) is good and so the model cannot be rejected. Other fit indices are also good (CFI ¼ 0:99, GFI ¼ 0:99, Hoelter 0:01 ¼ 674 and RMSEA ¼ 0:00) indicating a well fitting model. The overall fit for the first validation

Calibration Validation 1 Validation 2 Combined Calibration Validation 1 Validation 2 Combined Calibration Validation 1 Validation 2 Combined Calibration Validation 1 Validation 2 Combined






Target Agreeableness Agreeableness Agreeableness Agreeableness Agreeableness, ruthlessness Agreeableness, ruthlessness Agreeableness, ruthlessness Agreeableness, ruthlessness Enterprise, chic Enterprise, chic Enterprise, chic Enterprise, chic Enterprise, chic Enterprise, chic Enterprise, chic Enterprise, chic

Retained dimensions 4.46 0.50 3.18 2.45 12.88 10.4 14.1 14.92 22.42 16.32 16.08 33.35 0.97 10.01 12.99 7.46

x2 2 2 2 2 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 3 3 3 3

df 0.11 0.78 0.2 0.29 0.075 0.167 0.049 0.037 0.002 0.022 0.024 0.000 0.81 0.18 0.005 0.059

p 0.99 1 0.99 1.0 0.99 0.99 0.99 0.98 0.98 0.99 0.98 0.98 1.0 0.98 0.96 0.99

CFI 0.99 1 0.99 1.0 0.98 0.99 0.99 0.98 0.97 0.98 0.98 0.98 1.0 0.98 0.98 0.99

GFI 674 9,654 744 1,009 385 457 690 404 221 291 375 292 2,667 240 282 671

Hoelter 0.01 0.061 0.00 0.048 0.029 0.056 0.04 0.04 0.059 0.091 0.072 0.063 0.085 0.00 0.10 0.10 0.058


0.32 0.51 0.50 0.51 0.38 0.40 0.39 0.38 0.32 0.37 0.16 0.32 0.06 0.09 0.03 0.07

SMC of target

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Table V. Model fits and retained dimensions

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sample is even better (x 2 ½df ¼ 2 ¼ 0:50, p ¼ 0:78) and other fit indices are again good (CFI ¼ 1:0, GFI ¼ 1:0, Hoelter 0:01 ¼ 9; 654 and RMSEA ¼ 0:00). The fit for the single company sample was also good (x 2 ½df ¼ 2 ¼ 3:18, p ¼ 0:20) and again the model cannot be rejected and other fit indices are similarly sound (CFI ¼ 0:99, GFI ¼ 0:99, Hoelter 0:01 ¼ 744 and RMSEA ¼ 0:048). For the combined sample the overall fit is again good (x 2 ½df ¼ 2 ¼ 2:45, p ¼ 0:29), (CFI ¼ 1:0, GFI ¼ 1:0, Hoelter 0:01 ¼ 1,009 and RMSEA ¼ 0:029). The models also predict a high level of variance in the target variable (SMC ¼ 0:32-0:51). The implication is that commercial managers are more satisfied the higher their perception of the employer’s agreeableness. Perceived differentiation was predicted by a combination of enterprise (trendy, exciting) and chic (stylish, prestigious), but the influence of enterprise was not as strong overall as that of chic. For example, in the combined sample the standardised path coefficient for enterprise was 0.16 (CR ¼ 2:15, p ¼ 0:032) and for chic 0.44 (CR ¼ 5:59, p , 0:001). Chic’s standardised contribution to differentiation was 0.44 compared to that from enterprise at 0.16. Managers see their employer as more different/distinctive if they appear more chic and enterprising but chicness is the more important, managers apparently preferring prestige over excitement. Interestingly the same two dimensions were retained to predict loyalty, measured by length of service. However this time the influence of enterprise was negative. For example, in the combined sample analysis, enterprise has a path coefficient of 2 0.39 (CR ¼ 23:88, p , 0:001) and chic 0.40 (CR ¼ 3:91, p , 0:001). The total standardised effects of the two dimensions on loyalty are 0.40 for chic and 2 0.39 for enterprise. In other words managers stay longer with firms that they see as chic and not enterprising. The variance explained in loyalty was not high (0.07 for the combined sample model) and it would appear therefore that loyalty at least measured by the time the manager had been with the company is not heavily influenced by brand imagery. Employee affinity correlated strongly with employee satisfaction and agreeableness was important in predicting affinity. However, ruthlessness (arrogant, aggressive) was also retained and had a positive relationship with affinity. The model proved valid for all samples. The stronger path coefficient was from agreeableness to employee affinity (0.73) but the path from ruthlessness to affinity was not weak at 0.23 (CR ¼ 3:15, p ¼ 0:002) for the calibration sample, and was similar for the combined sample at 0.18 (CR ¼ 3:66, p , 0:000). The standardised effects of agreeableness and ruthlessness on affinity were 0.72 and 0.18, respectively, so while the influence of ruthlessness is small it is still important. Managers have a greater affinity to an employer whose image is arrogant, aggressive, authoritarian and controlling. For all employees the correlation between ruthlessness and satisfaction is, as one might expect, negative (Davies et al., 2002) but managers appear to be more attracted to companies with a hint of totalitarianism. Four hypotheses were used to assess the role of the employer brand and three were fully supported by the data. H1 was supported. Perceived differentiation is enhanced by a combination of enterprise (trendy, exciting, daring) and chic (stylish, prestigious, elitist). The fit indices are good for the four final models with the exception of RMSEA, which is slightly above the recommended limit of 0.08 for two of the models (Browne and Cudeck, 1993). H2 was not fully supported as one aspect of imagery had a negative influence on loyalty. The number of years a manager has been employed is apparently promoted by chic (stylish, prestigious) but reduced by enterprise (trendy, exciting). The

fit indices are good for the four models, with the exception of the two validation models where RMSEA is high. The final model fits required the dropping of one facet, boldness (extravert and daring) from enterprise, and one from chic, i.e. snobbery (snobby, elitist). H3 was supported. The fit indices are good and the level of prediction of employee satisfaction is high for all models. Employee satisfaction is promoted by an image for agreeableness (friendly, concerned, honest). If employees trust their employer, find them supportive and open then they will be more satisfied. The finding is compatible with previous work that suggests trust is an important issue in the employee-employer relationship. H4 was supported. These models had the most consistently good fit indices. Agreeableness was positively associated with affinity, but the results contained a surprise in that ruthlessness had a significant but positive impact on managers’ affinity. Causal ordering was tested in all four relationships using alternative models where, for example, affinity is used to predict agreeableness and ruthlessness rather than vice versa. The fit levels for three models – loyalty, perceived differentiation and affinity – were not acceptable. For satisfaction there was an acceptable fit but the fit was lower than that for the relationship in the direction as originally proposed. For example for the combined database (x 2 ½df ¼ 2 ¼ 6:5, p ¼ 0:039) (CFI ¼ 0:99, GFI ¼ 0:99, Hoelter 0:01 ¼ 1; 083 and RMSEA ¼ 0:054). Testing the data in Table IV using one-way ANOVA showed that the ratings of each company varied significantly for each of the five dimensions of corporate character (p , 0:001), demonstrating that the brand images of the companies differ. Such differences can be used to “position” individual employer brands. Differently positioned product brands elicit different responses from customers; and the same is true of employees and the employer brand. Discussion and conclusions Four outcomes were selected from the consumer branding literature that should be relevant to employees – perceived differentiation, loyalty, satisfaction and affinity – to test the relevance of the employer brand concept. All four outcomes were predicted by aspects of brand personality. Agreeableness was the most prominent dimension of corporate brand personality in influencing outcomes. It dominated employee satisfaction and made the larger of two contributions to predicting affinity. Employers need to focus on this dimension in their promotion of their employer brand. But the contribution of other dimensions should not be ignored as four of the five main dimensions of corporate character were found to influence one or more of the four outcomes. Competence (reliable, leading, corporate) alone was not retained in any model. This in itself is surprising, as the competence dimension is often used by companies when trying to position themselves (Chun and Davies, 2001). Is the lack of efficacy of this dimension an indication that competence represents a hygiene factor, a dimension that in reality has little impact because few would work for an employer for long that they saw as incompetent? However, the variance of competence was no less across organisations than any other dimension (Table IV). Further work is needed to explain why, if competence is often emphasised in corporate communication (which will be seen by employees as well as other stakeholders), it has little apparent comparative benefit in positioning corporate brands to employees.

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The influence of ruthlessness was unexpected in its positive contribution to affinity. Is ruthlessness, in moderation at least, an inevitable or even a positive aspect of modern organisations? Are managers attracted to such ideas because this reflects the behaviour traits of those who would manage others? Theory suggests that people associate with brands that allow them to sustain or develop their own self-image. But neither of the two organisations with particularly high scores for ruthlessness was pleased by the finding. Further work is needed to explore how a ruthless brand can evolve and what its consequences are both for employees and customers alike. The role of chic in promoting differentiation and loyalty has face validity in emphasising the influence of prestige in employment. What is interesting and worthy of further study is why companies do not make more of this in their corporate communication or employment advertising. Chic was important in conjunction with enterprise on both occasions, implying that a combination of these two dimensions may be a key to presenting the employer brand. However, enterprise was negatively associated with loyalty, making its promotion somewhat problematic (although loyalty was not well predicted by employer brand personality). Brand differentiation in the eyes of customers makes price comparison more difficult and reduces price sensitivity. Is the same true for the employer brand? Are employees willing to trade a lower salary to work for a business they see as being more chic and agreeable? Some employers at least will be interested in investigating such a possibility. Thus far internal marketing or marketing to employees has had two main foci, especially in service industries: (1) aligning employee views of the corporate brand and their behaviour to what is being promoted externally to customers (e.g. Vallaster and de Chernatony, 2005); and (2) treating employees as “customers” who need to be communicated to, so that they have a favourable view of their employer. Internal marketing may benefit from an even wider conceptualisation (Varey and Lewis, 1999). One potential contribution from the work reported here is to emphasise how different aspects of brand image can be useful in different roles for the employer brand, an issue not identified in previous work. Satisfaction and affinity are closely correlated and agreeableness is important for promoting both. But quite different dimensions influence perceived differentiation and loyalty and, to complicate matters further, Enterprise is negatively associated with loyalty but positively associated with perceived differentiation. Enterprise may also be negatively associated with the satisfaction of more junior employees (Chun and Davies, 2006). Further, it is also believed that the internal view of the organisation may become its external image (Davies et al., 2002). While ruthlessness may promote affinity among managers it may do little to influence more junior employees in a positive way and have a more negative effect still if it influences customers and other external stakeholders alike. Clearly managing the employer brand is a complex task, an observation that leads to a final question of relevance to both employers and researchers: who should be responsible for managing the employer brand? There is some empirical evidence as to how to promote the employer brand internally (e.g. Hickerman et al., 2005) and how external promotion such as sports sponsorship may also influence employees, but no

consensus on the coordination of customer and employer branding. There are various and often competing perspectives, including expanding the role of marketing or a greater understanding of branding issues among HR professionals (e.g. Martin and Beaumont, 2003). Others argue for a new role, that of reputation manager (e.g. Davies et al., 2002), responsible for co-ordinating internal and external branding and to all stakeholders. Certainly there is value in managing the employer brand and a potential danger if no function accepts or is given responsibility for it. References Aaker, D. (2003), “The power of the branded differentiator”, MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 83-7. Browne, M.W. and Cudeck, R. (1993), “Alternative ways of assessing model fit”, in Bollen, K.A. and Long, J.S. (Eds), Testing Structural Equation Models, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 136-62. Bullock, H.E., Harlow, L.L. and Mulaik, S.A. (1994), “Causation issues in structural equation modelling research”, Structural Equation Modeling, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 253-67. Caprara, G.V., Barbaraelli, C. and Guido, G. (2001), “Brand personality: how to make the metaphor fit?”, Journal of Economic Psychology, Vol. 22, pp. 377-95. Chun, R. and Davies, G. (2001), “E-reputation: the role of mission and vision statements in positioning strategy”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 8 Nos 4/5, pp. 315-33. Chun, R. and Davies, G. (2006), “The influence of corporate character on customers and employees: exploring similarities and differences”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 138-46. Collins, C.J. and Stevens, C.K. (2002), “The relationship between early recruitment-related activities and the application decisions of new labour market entrants: a brand equity approach to recruitment”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 87, pp. 1121-33. Davies, G. (1992), “The two ways in which retailers can be brands”, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 24-34. Davies, G.J., Chun, R., Da Silva, R. and Roper, R. (2002), Corporate Reputation and Competitiveness, Routledge, London. Davies, G.J., Chun, R., Da Silva, R. and Roper, R. (2004), “A corporate character scale to assess employee and customer views of organisation reputation”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 125-46. Dutton, J.E., Dukerich, J.M. and Harquail, C.V. (1994), “Organizational images and member identification”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 239-63. Fineman, S. (Ed.) (1993), Emotion in Organisations, Sage Publications, London. Gardner, B.B. and Levy, S.J. (1955), “The product and the brand”, Harvard Business Review, March/April, pp. 33-9. Heskett, J.L., Sasser, W.E.J. and Schlesinger, L.A. (1997), The Service Profit Chain: How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction and Value, The Free Press, New York, NY. Hickerman, T.M., Lawrence, K.E. and Ward, J.C. (2005), “A social identities perspective on the effects of corporate sport sponsorship on employees”, Sports Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 148-57.

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Jacoby, J. and Chestnut, R. (1978), Brand Loyalty, Measurement and Management, Wiley, New York, NY. Jo¨reskog, K.G. (1993), “Testing structural equation models”, in Bollen, K.A. and Long, J.S. (Eds), Testing Structural Equation Models, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 294-316. Keller, K.L. (1993), “Conceptualizing, measuring and managing customer based brand equity”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57, January, pp. 1-22. Keller, K.L. (1998), Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Levitt, T. (1980), “Marketing success through differentiation – of anything”, Harvard Business Review, January/February, pp. 83-90. Lievens, F. and Highhouse, S. (2003), “The relation of instrumental and symbolic attributes to a company’s attractiveness as an employer”, Personnel Psychology, Vol. 56, pp. 75-101. Long, J.S. (1983), Confirmatory Factor Analysis: A Preface to LISREL, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA. Martin, G. and Beaumont, P.B. (2003), Branding and People Management: What’s in a Name?, CIPD, London. Meyer, J.P. and Allen, N.J. (1991), “A three-component conceptualisation of organisational commitment”, Human Resource Management Review, Vol. 1, pp. 61-89. Mellor, D.J., Moore, K.A. and Loquet, C. (2004), “How can managers reduce employee intention to quit?”, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 170-87. Mittal, V. and Kamakura, W.A. (2001), “Satisfaction, repurchase intent, and repurchase behavior: investigating the moderating effect of customer characteristics”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 131-42. Pechmann, C. and Ratneshwar, S. (1991), “The use of comparative advertising for brand positioning: association versus differentiation”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 145-61. Porter, M. (1980), Competitive Strategy, The Free Press, New York, NY. Riketta, M. (2005), “Organizational identification: a meta-analysis”, Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Vol. 66 No. 2, pp. 358-84. Slaughter, J.E., Zickar, M.J., Highhouse, S. and Mohr, D.C. (2004), “Personality trait inferences about organizations: development of a measure and assessment of construct validity”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 89, pp. 85-102. Spencer, D.G. (1986), “Employee voice and employee retention”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 488-502. Steel, R.P. (2002), “Turnover theory at the empirical interface: problems of fit and function”, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 346-60. Steel, R.P., Griffith, R.W. and Hom, P.W. (2002), “Practical retention policy for the practical manager”, Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 149-62. Tsai, S. (2005), “Utility, cultural symbolism and emotion: a comprehensive model of brand purchase value”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 22, pp. 277-91. Vallaster, C. and de Chernatony, L. (2005), “Internationalisation of services brands: the role of leadership during the internal brand building process”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 21, pp. 181-203.

Varey, R.J. and Lewis, B. (1999), “A broadened conception of internal marketing”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 33 Nos 9/10, pp. 926-44. Winterton, J. (2004), “A conceptual model of labour turnover and retention”, Human Resource Development International, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 371-90. Wirtz, J. (2003), “Halo in customer satisfaction measures: the role and purpose of rating, number of attributes and customer involvement”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 96-119. Yeung, C.W.M. and Wyer, R.S. Jr (2004), “Affect, appraisal and consumer judgement”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 412-25. About the author Gary Davies is Professor of Corporate Reputation at Manchester Business School, England. He has published, inter alia, in Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Advertising Research and Industrial Marketing Management. His books include What Price Reputation?, a study of how companies manage corporate reputation, and Corporate Reputation and Competitiveness, which covers much of the early work of the Corporate Reputation Group at MBS. Gary Davies can be contacted at: [email protected]

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Desired and perceived identities of fashion retailers Ranis Cheng, Tony Hines and Ian Grime

682 Received October 2006 Revised January 2007; March 2007; May 2007 Accepted June 2007

Graduate School of Business, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Manchester, UK Abstract Purpose – The paper seeks to examine the role of corporate identity in UK clothing retail organisations, focusing on the “fast fashion” sector. The aim is to analyse the “gap” between desired identity and perceived identity within the sector. Design/methodology/approach – An instrumental case study approach was adopted for this research. Companies’ web sites and press releases were reviewed to find out the desired identity of organisations, while semi-structured interviews were carried out with customers to elicit the perceived corporate identity. Themes developed from the cases will form the basis of further research. Findings – This study has shown that although there are similarities, considerable “gaps” are present between the desired and perceived corporate identity of organisations, the latter being more important in understanding the research questions addressed which relate to corporate identity and the gap between desired and perceived identities. A number of propositions have emerged from the findings, which when investigated empirically will be useful for forming corporate identity constructs in the fashion retail sector. Research limitations/implications – This research provides some useful insights into the role of corporate identity within the fast fashion retail sector; however, it is not sufficient to make generalisable claims outside the cases examined. Further research is required to test some of the conceptual issues and propositions raised by this work. Practical implications – The paper gives practitioners better insights into the gap between desired and perceived identity with a view to improving strategic interventions to close the gap. Originality/value – The research makes a contribution to retail identity literature by emphasising the importance of perceived identity. The work is unique in being the first research to explore further the relationship between desired and perceived identity from a fashion retailing perspective. As a consequence the strategic implications from this work for desired identity are highlighted. Keywords Corporate identity, Fashion industry, Clothing, Retailing, Case studies Paper type Research paper

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 682-701 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862589

Importance of managing corporate identity The strategic importance of corporate identity has become more apparent in the literature in recent years (Balmer, 1995, p. 411; Hatch and Schultz, 2003; Melewar, 2003; Melewar and Akel, 2005). Corporate identity is defined as “the set of meanings by which an object allows itself to be known and through which it allows people to describe, remember and relate to it” (van Rekom, 1997, p. 411). From a managerial perspective, establishing a consistent corporate identity is vital to retail organisations wanting to differentiate themselves from competitors, and it is important to communicate an organisation’s identity to customers effectively (Burghausen and Fan, 2002; Kennedy, 1977). Indeed, a well-established corporate identity can result in consumers having stronger emotional ties to the organisation with greater trust and loyalty (Balmer and Gray, 2003). Corporate identity allows an organisation to achieve a

differential competitive advantage in the marketplace (Melewar, 2003). Marketers have become increasingly aware of the importance of building and maintaining a clear and distinctive corporate identity (Balmer, 1995; Harris and de Chernatony, 2001). Nevertheless, there is limited empirical research on corporate identity (Balmer, 1998, 2001b, Cornelissen and Elving, 2003), and more particularly within a retailing context (Burt and Sparks, 2002) to guide practitioners in managing corporate identity development. This is particularly the case within the “fast fashion” retail sector, which is the context for the study. The selection of this sector is appropriate because it is a sector (retailing) and context (fast fashion) where image and identity concepts are arguably more important and more visible than in any other sector (Hines and Bruce, 2001). Furthermore, questions of corporate identity are clearly central to an organisation strategic raison d’eˆtre in a fiercely competitive market (de Wit and Meyer, 1998; Johnson and Scholes, 2002). Although the literature that considers how different stakeholders recognise corporate identity has developed in recent years (e.g. Balmer and Soenen, 1999; Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000; van Rekom, 1997) their research tends to focus on the gap between desired identity and actual identity. There is a lack of extant research related to how customers perceive corporate identity. There is, however, some evidence to indicate that consumer perceptions of corporate identity may indeed be different than that which is desired by organisations (Hines et al., 2007). Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine the role of corporate identity within the context of the fast fashion retail sector. The aim is to analyse the gap between desired corporate identity and perceived corporate identity by uncovering organisational desires and customer perceptions towards the concept of corporate identity. There are two key research questions in this study: (1) How do organisations project their desired corporate identity? (2) How do customers perceive an organisation’s corporate identity? In the following section we provide a critical review of the corporate identity literature, focusing attention upon the identity gap between the desired and perceived corporate identity. Next, we describe the methods employed to conduct the research. Then, the research evidence is presented. Finally, the paper concludes by considering implications for theory and for practitioners before offering suggestions for future research. Perspectives on the development of corporate identity research Corporate identity first came to prominence with Lippincott and Margulies’s (1957) and Margulies’s (1977) studies, which have coined the concept with an organisation’s visual identity and corporate image respectively. Since then, the popularity of corporate identity has risen and there have been a plethora of studies that have been developed by both practitioners and academics (Gregory and Wiechmann, 1999). Furthermore, there are inconsistencies within the literature in defining and theorising corporate identity (Alessandri, 2001; Balmer and Wilson, 1998; Cornelissen and Elving, 2003; Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000). Despite this, there is some agreement that corporate identity can be seen from a visual or strategic perspective. More specifically, the visual viewpoint includes an arrangement of elements which include the corporate name, logo, tagline (Alessandri, 2001), company housestyle (van Riel and Balmer, 1997),

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building, publicity, advertising, graphic design and symbolism (Gregory and Wiechmann, 1999; Margulies, 1977). This visual notion is supported by Olins (1978) and Bernstein (1989), through their affirmation of the importance of corporate identity to organisational values and organisational culture, especially in communicating with internal stakeholders. However, corporate identity should not merely be described in visual terms. It does not simply refer to what an organisation is; it is related to how an organisation delivers its identity to the public, how its stakeholders perceive its identity, and how an organisation distinguishes itself from other organisations (Marwick and Fill, 1997). The concept has transformed from visual management to strategic change management (Hatch and Schultz, 2003). Balmer (1995, p. 25) refers to corporate identity as “the distinct attributes of an organisation”; Topalian (1984) explains that corporate identity can articulate what an organisation is and Harris and de Chernatony (2001, p. 268) denote corporate identity as an “organisation’s ethos, aims and values which create a sense of individuality which differentiates a brand”. Hence, corporate identity has an organisational focus that is multidisciplinary in nature (Knox and Bickerton, 2003; van Riel and Balmer, 1997). With this in mind, corporate identity can be described as ways that an organisation delivers its identity – that is, what an organisation is to its stakeholders (Balmer, 1995). Corporate identity manifests itself in a number of ways (e.g. Balmer, 2001a; Balmer and Soenen, 1999; Hatch and Schultz, 2000, 2001; Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000; van Rekom, 1997). van Rekom’s (1997) study, for instance, identifies different types of corporate identity. There is a notable divide between how the management wants the organisation to be (i.e. desired identity), and what the organisation actually is (Balmer and Soenen, 1999, p. 82; van Rekom, 1997, p. 412). There is also variation in the literature regarding the terminology used to describe what the organisation actually is, for example what the operational reality of the organisation is (Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000), its factual identity (van Rekom, 1997, p. 412), or as Balmer and Soenen (1999, p. 82) call it, its actual identity. Although there are differences in terminology used to describe corporate identity there is some agreement that corporate identity can be viewed from an internal or external perspective (Hatch and Schultz, 2003, p. 1047; Melewar and Karaosmanoglu, 2006). Many studies have focused on the gap between desired identity (management’s internal vision) and actual identity (employees’ external perceptions of corporate identity) but failed to explore the desired vis-a`-vis perceived identity gap. The extant literature has considered a number of dimensions of corporate identity. For example, Schmidt (1995) proposes five main constructs of corporate identity, including: (1) corporate culture; (2) corporate behaviour; (3) products and services; (4) communications and designs; and (5) market conditions and strategies. van Riel and Balmer (1997) suggest that the way for organisations to obtain favourable corporate reputation and better organisational and financial performance is to use

corporate identity mix (CI mix), which consists of behaviour, communication and symbolism (Stuart, 1999). Balmer and Soenen (1999) introduce a novel corporate identity mix as being composed of the soul, mind and voice. Melewar and Saunders (2000) propound that Balmer and Soenen’s corporate identity mix should also include the body of the organisation, such as the location, building and the nationality of the corporation. Melewar (2003) provides a rather holistic view on corporate identity. The constructs he identifies are similar to Schmidt’s (1995), but with the inclusion of corporate structure, industry identity and corporate strategy. The above studies suggest that although various authors identify and categorise the identity constructs and components in different ways, their views harmonise with each other even if the language to describe them is different. Corporate identity components should not be regarded as stand-alone constructs and should be viewed from a holistic perspective, as integrated mixes of corporate identity. This paper adopts Schmidt’s (1995) corporate identity constructs as they largely coincide with and overlap with other authors’ constructs as discussed below. Corporate culture Corporate culture consists of an organisation’s values, beliefs and assumptions, such as corporate philosophy, corporate values, corporate mission and ethos, corporate principles, corporate guidelines, corporate historical background, nationality of the organisation and any subcultures within the organisation (Melewar, 2003; Schmidt, 1995). Corporate identity and corporate culture are interrelated (Balmer and Wilson, 1998; Cornelissen and Elving, 2003; Harris and de Chernatony, 2001; King, 1991) as the former is an expression of the latter. In addition, personnel play a crucial role in corporate culture. It is essential that management of the organisation minimises conflicts so to build a favourable corporate culture and avoid any dilution of corporate identity (Suvatjis and de Chernatony, 2005). Corporate behaviour Corporate behaviour is “the sum total of those actions resulting from the corporate attitudes which influence the identity, whether planned in line with the company culture, occurring by chance or arbitrary” (Schmidt, 1995, p. 36). These actions are important in determining an organisation’s corporate identity (Melewar and Jenkins, 2002). Top management’s behaviour and organisational statements should reflect the identity of the company and the visions and strategies of the organisation need to be effectively communicated to employees (King, 1991). Furthermore, corporate behaviour can act as a visual representation of the organisation to the public (Suvatjis and de Chernatony, 2005). Products and services Products and services must also reflect corporate mission and organisational philosophies (Balmer, 1995). In the retailing industry, product strategy, product benefits, service, unique selling proposition, interior design of the stores and store image are all crucial for success in the fashion retail industry as these factors help organisations to differentiate themselves from the competitors (Burt and Carralero-Encinas, 2000; Newman and Patel, 2004; Schmidt, 1995).

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Communications and designs Communication plays an important role in corporate identity, both at internal and external levels (Bickerton, 2000). Organisations need to transmit their policies to employees through internal communication channels (Rode and Vallaster, 2005); employees, then, can collect feedback from external stakeholders and report back to the organisation (Kennedy, 1977). Suvatjis and de Chernatony (2005) suggest this is a two-way communication channel which transmits and receives information from both within and outside the organisation. There are also relationship management communications which mainly target non-customer stakeholders and market communication which use corporate designs, corporate advertising, corporate events and corporate sponsoring to communicate to stakeholders (Einwiller and Will, 2002). Some organisations use their logos to communicate their identities to the public (Foo and Lowe, 1999). Corporate design consists of all the visual elements of an organisation – its corporate logo, trademark, symbol, colour, shapes and typeface, sometimes may be called visual identity (Baker and Balmer, 1997). Market conditions and strategies The nature of the industry (i.e. industry identity or market conditions) and the strategic intent of the organisation have an impact on corporate identity (Melewar and Wooldridge, 2001). Industry identity refers to the “underlying economic and technical characteristics of an industry” (p. 207). Furthermore, the identity of an industry can transfer to the company’s corporate identity. Corporate strategy is defined as the “blueprint of the firm’s fundamental objectives and strategies for competing in their given market” (Melewar and Karaosmanoglu, 2006, p. 861). All of the organisation’s marketing strategies should be able to show how an organisation differentiates itself form its competitors in the industry (Melewar, 2003). The next section explains the research method employed to address the critical questions in relation to an organisation’s desired and perceived corporate identity. Research method Corporate identity has been identified as an important construct in an industry sector where image is everything. “Fast fashion” has become an important concept and many clothing retail organisations have shifted their attention to fast and disposable fashion (Mintel, 2004). Fast fashion is characterised by time compression in the supply chain and increase in consumer choice through frequent merchandise replenishment (Hines, 2004). This sector attracts fashion conscious consumers of both genders in the age range between 20 and 45 years who connect with these retail organisations through their corporate identity. A case study approach allows selection of multiple data sources, such as detailed observations, interviews, documents, archives, and participant observations (de Weerd-Nederhof, 2001; Rowley, 2002; Stake, 1995; Yin, 2003). Description is an important part of developing knowledge from case studies (Stake, 1995), particularly if the writing creates conditions that allow the reader, through the writers, to converse with (and observe) those who have been studied (Geertz, 1973, p. 20); thus through interpretations and “thick descriptions” the social realm of the cases emerges (Geertz, 1983, p. 57). Furthermore, the writing itself becomes a method of inquiry (Richardson, 1998, p. 345). The principal sources of evidence in the study included observations in

store, documentary evidence and customer interviews. The documentary sources available to the authors were the case companies’ official web sites, press releases and other publicly available materials (press releases, newspapers, fashion magazines and market reports). These documents collectively establish a bricolage of data critical in establishing patterns revealing a case company’s desired identity because they reflect the strategic intent of the organisation. As Melewar (2003) notes, perhaps the most important instrument for an organisation demonstrating strategic intent is the organisation’s “mission statement”. In establishing a method for investigation it is essential to consider a number of important choices and to select those most appropriate to address the research questions posed by the study (Patton, 2001). A case study approach is useful to bound the data and focus on “how” questions (Yin, 2003) and it enables theory building (Eisenhardt, 1989; Stake, 2000). A case study strategy is appropriate for this research because it enables evaluation of an organisation’s desired identity through its marketing activities, interactions with customers and inquires into how customers perceive an organisation’s corporate identity. As Stake (1995) emphasises, an instrumental case study design allows researchers to gain better understanding of theoretical constructs, and the phenomenon, which in this research is corporate identity. Firstly, it was important to select instrumental cases. These are cases where the phenomenon of corporate identity is apparent (Stake, 1995). Thus a purposeful sample of retail organisations that met the following criteria was deemed appropriate. The retail organisations must: . have national coverage in the UK; . operate the “fast fashion” concept; . target broadly similar market segments; and . be established brands in the UK high street in their own right. This is theoretical case sampling following Miles and Huberman’s (1994) approach to sampling strategy, to choose purposively cases to compare and contrast where the phenomenon of corporate identity in this specific context is observable. Since the purpose is to focus on questions related to corporate identity rather than the case itself, the two organisations are compared as a basis to analyse differences and similarities in representing their corporate identity. Two selected organisations matching the criteria were H&M and Zara. It was necessary to examine the two organisations as they show themselves to consumers through their marketing activities, i.e. website, brochures, press reports, stores, and staff interacting with customers. It was also deemed sufficient to do so to avoid bias that could possibly be introduced unwittingly by conducting (noise) interviews with top management who might attempt to emphasise (reify) aspects of meaning to avoid the negative effects of these activities and interactions by offering a posteriori justifications of their decisions. In order to obtain the perceptions of customers it was necessary to draw a further sample from people matching the criteria of a customer of these two organisations and to ask a series of questions relating to the a priori framework drawn from the literature (see the Appendix). The framework provided initial categories for the customer discussions in the form of initial a priori codes in which customer responses could be organised.

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In examining perceived identity, interviewees were selected adopting snowball-sampling techniques, which can be categorised as both convenient and purposive (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994; Miles and Huberman, 1994). The sample is selected in a non-probability manner. The main criteria for selection are: . fit with organisational customer profile demographic; . customer experience with shopping in one of the case organisations’ stores; and . frequency of visits to the store in the last month. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants, equally split into male and female customers. Their ages ranged between 23 and 41, which fits the customer profile and is congruent with the two fashion retail chains’ stated target audiences (Mintel, 2002). The mean ages of the participants for H&M and Zara are 29 and 28, respectively. Each participant shopped in either H&M or Zara at least once a month. Ten semi-structured interviews were carried out for each case organisation. Each interview lasted 45 minutes to an hour. The interview guide was used to add structure to the questioning supplemented by laddering techniques in common with the approach taken (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994; Miles and Huberman, 1994). Coding essentially consists of attaching an identifier to each category of data, a process described by various authors including Lincoln and Guba (1985), Strauss and Corbin (1990), Miller and Crabtree (1994), Miles and Huberman (1994) and Glaser and Strauss (1999). A thematic coding method (Denzin and Lincoln, 2000) has been used to categorise the data into the a priori themes drawn from the literature, explaining the corporate identity mix (Sinkovics et al., 2005). We have adopted Eisenhardt’s (1989) “roadmap” for building theories from case research. Eisenhardt (1989) states that the a priori specification of constructs sharpens the focus of the research and makes for good theory-building. The case evidence gathered for this purpose in the form of interview transcripts and public documents were categorised into components of corporate identity mix manually, which include five main constructs: (1) corporate culture; (2) corporate behaviour; (3) products and services; (4) communications and design; and (5) market conditions and strategies. The coding process enables the authors to identify gaps between desired and perceived identity, to analyse, synthesise and reconceptualise. In evaluating any research it is important to consider a number of important issues that provide the reader with confidence in the rigour of the research conducted. Stake (1978) began encouraging researchers to focus attention on practical concerns of stakeholders in the immediate context, rather than more abstract questions of remote decision makers and this advice has been followed in this study. It allows experiential understanding and generates knowledge of the issues within a bounded context (Greene, 1998, p. 388). In this research we have used multiple sources of data from which to construct the instrumental case evidence (Yin, 1989). Documents, notes and interview transcripts were classified and summaries have been presented in the tables

in the paper, thus establishing confirmability and credibility in reaching our interpretations. This is what some researchers refer to as triangulation and validity. The selection of case material was appropriate to the research questions, serving as “enlightenment” to make sense of questions addressed (Patton, 1990). The researchers continuously questioned their assumptions about interpretations being made and established a way of working, exchanging and confirming views through justifications in the writing process, meetings and email communications which can be usefully audited by the research team. Thus credibility is established. Transferability was established at the research design stage through the structuring of case material for comparative purposes (Yin, 1989). It was further established through the a priori coding protocols adopted (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). Finally, in common with other research of this type, dependability is established through the documentation processes for the research together, with awareness and avoidance of bias that could potentially impede the integrity of the research (Hirschman, 1986). The evidence is discussed next. Instrumental case evidence discussion and analysis This section examines the gap between organisations’ desired identity and perceived identity. The results have been compiled by focusing on the key components of the corporate identity mix identified in Schmidt’s (1995) framework. Table I was compiled from documentary evidence. Tables II and III were compiled from documentary evidence and interview data and contain a summary of the chain of evidence for the commentary in this section. The evidence from the case studies has revealed similarities and differences in how these two retail organisations present their identities to the public and how customers perceive their identities. The constructs have been reconceptualised under three headings reflecting the retail context: (1) corporate identity as a means of differentiation; (2) corporate identity as product and service interactions; and (3) corporate identity as corporate strategy. Corporate identity as a means of differentiation Corporate identity does not simply refer to an organisation’s logo; rather, it is a multidisciplinary concept (Balmer and Dinnie, 1999; Knox and Bickerton, 2003; van Riel and Balmer, 1997). As Melewar (2003, p. 196) argues, identity refers to “individual characteristics by which one organisation can be differentiated from another”. Although the aim of “fast fashion” retailing is to provide disposable fashion garments to customers within the shortest possible time, each individual retailer in the industry has its own unique corporate identity. H&M and Zara have similar characteristics in terms of their aims and mission of their respective businesses (see Table I) but customers perceive their corporate identities differently. The results of the case studies have indicated that H&M has a larger desired-perceived identity gap than Zara. Similarities in the way both organisations represent themselves to customers are visible from Table I. They are keen to portray their origins through their national identity. Both organisations have a clearly defined mission summarised in Table I and both organisations target similar customers in terms of age and fashion consciousness. Zara has a broader geographical span and in 2005 Zara’s parent group Inditex

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Sweden Offers fashion and quality at the best price through a broad and varied range of fashions for the entire family “Fast fashion” – sells cheap and chic fashion to women, men and children Own label brands Aged 15-45, ABC1 1947 (Sweden) as a single store retailer Multiple retail format trading under a single brand H&M 1970 Europe, USA, Canada 24 countries 1,300 (30 November 2006) 112 £457 million (UK third largest market) Approximately e682 million Total turnover SKr 61.2bn for the year ending 30 November 2005 700 (Asia and Europe), 30 per cent sourced from China None 22 located in supplier base countries

Country of origin Mission/aim of business

Brands Main target audiences Established

First store in the UK Worldwide operations Number of worldwide operations Number of stores worldwide Number of stores in the UK Turnover

Owned factories Production offices

Sources: Compiled from Mintel (2004, 2005), Hennes and Mauritz (2006, online press release), Inditex (2006, online press release #57), and www. (accessed 6 March 2007)

Spain Offers quality clothing at affordable prices that keep customers in step with the latest international trends each season “Fast fashion” – sells high fashion clothing to women, men and children “to get the shortest time to market” (Jose Castellano, CEO) Own label brands Aged 20-40 1975 (Spain) grew out of Inditex formed in 1963 as a clothing manufacturing company. Inditex is a holding company with several retail brands of which Zara is the most well known and represents approximately 70 per cent of turnover for the group 1998 Europe, USA, Latin American, Middle East, Asia 63 countries 992 49 e3,819.6 million worldwide 2004 UK turnover not disclosed e6.74 bn for the financial year ending 31 January 2006 Vertically integrated company 72 per cent manufactured in Europe mainly in owned production centres (28 per cent manufactured in Asia) Yes – La Corun˜a (Spain) La Corun˜a (Spain), Zaragoza logistics hub



Supply base


Table I. Comparison of corporate identity H&M and Zara (origins, mission, structures and turnover summary)

Comparative table

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“H&M is just like a brand, it does not tell the public anything about it . . . it sells bags of cheap disposable clothes to women, men, teenagers and children” “What I think of them is that they are highly fashionable” “They offer the latest, most trendy things at affordable prices” “A very cheap, fast, low quality organisation” “H&M was established in Sweden in 1947 by Erling H&M was variously described as German/French/Dutch/Swiss/British Persson” “The staff are trendy, young most of the time and they are relaxed” Adopts direct communication approaches with staff “I wouldn’t say it looks Scandinavian or Swedish” “Open door spirit” “I mean in terms of culture, they are quite informal as well” “Provide fashion and quality at the best price” “In terms of quality of clothing, I wouldn’t say they are really good quality” “It’s cheap, perky, disposable fashion I would say, rather than quality fashion” “Everyone works towards the same goal – give “I don’t think the staff management is very good because if you go to H&M on customers unbeatable value through fashion, quality any day, there are always massive queues at the checkouts” and price” “The interactions that I have had in the past seems that the staff are not “Our customers’ shopping experience will be formed by organised. They do not always know where things are, they are not always their personal reception from our employees as well as helpful” other impressions” “Customer services doesn’t seem to be high on their agenda” “H&M provides internal training in customer care” “Giving the customer unbeatable value through the “I don’t think they are very good at customer services, not something that they combination of fashion, quality and price . . . provides are actually focusing on a lot” internal training in customer care” “Variety, massive variety. You’ve got lots of styles and themes” “All garments in H&M’s collection go through a “I’m more conscious of buying clothes from H&M because of the quality number of quality and security tests” aspects” “Creates a comfortable and inspiring atmosphere in the “I’ve never really thought about the de´cor, all I thought about is how the hell you store . . . great efforts have been put into the layout of are going to find anything in here, it’s just crammed out” stores and the way in which the goods are presented . . . “The clothes are fashionable, the designs are there” shopping in H&M should be an easy, pleasant and “The store is very messy and they have too many clothes” inspiring experience” ‘When I see the logo, I would be like – Yuk! It’s not fashionable, it’s not nice. It “Communicate what H&M stand for and what they doesn’t say anything. What is H&M? You can’t associate it with anything” offer customers” Advertising campaigns around Europe and in parts of “Given the age group, I would say their competitors are Topshop, Miss the USA Selfridge, I wouldn’t necessarily say Zara, Mango or River Island because they Has one of the fastest turnaround times. Products can are slightly better quality and better organised” move from drawing board to store shelves in as little as three weeks

“Provides fashion and quality at the best price”

Perceived identityb

Notes: aDesired identities taken from documentary sources in the public domain: company web site, brochures, press reports,, Mintel (2004, 2005) and Hennes and Mauritz (2006). bPerceived identities generated from interview data with customers

Market conditions and strategies

Communications and designs

Products and services

Corporate behaviour

Corporate culture

H&M’s corporate identity?

Desired identitya

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Table II. Case study 1: Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) – desired identity and perceived identity

Table III. Case study 2: Zara – desired identity and perceived identity

Notes: aDesired identities taken from documentary sources in the public domain: web site, brochures, press reports (Mintel, 2004, 2005; Inditex, 2006). b Perceived identities generated from interview data with customers

Market conditions and strategies

Communications and designs

“You can’t really tell by looking at the logo what Zara is about, unless you actually go into he stores and have a look around to see it yourself” “Zara’s culture is clearly defined. They want to have high quality clothes appealing to specific audiences, to young professionals” “The culture of Zara emphasises the importance of high quality clothing at reasonable price. You can see the mentality has been transmitted to the staff as well. They are very helpful and professional” “The managers are all well trained. If you ask the staff questions, they are always there to help you. They always know the information about the products” “I think the staff have an idea of what the image of Zara is, the brand and what the managers want them to portray” “The staff certainly have training. They are quite laid back but helpful”

“Their clothes are generally very stylish, but not practical” ‘They sell smart fashion and casual fashion ranges to customers” “They have a variety of clothes” “The quality of clothes is good, excellent, but it does not always fit though” “Services, I think it’s excellent. I’ve never had a complaint, and I’ve never encountered a problem” “Zara’s logo is one of the most recognisable logo in fashion industry, along “The store are designed to create a special with a couple of others, like H&M, very strong brands” atmosphere that will allow the client to feel the “The logo is just the name really. I don’t know what Zara means” pleasure of buying fashion” Encourages horizontal communication within Zara “Their communications are very structured. The staff know when and Customers are free to express views and opinions on where to call the managers” fashion “I don’t think they target students really, young professionals are certainly Target customers from all generations one target” Uses fashion to bring people together “The ability adapt the offer to meet customer desires “A competitor could be FCUK because recently they are trying to look very smart casual” in the shortest time possible” “It may have competitions from two different angles, one is coming from Store staff use PDAs to communicate customer feedback to HQ in Spain and to react fast to trends high end, like Austin Reed, Reiss, Ted Baker, FCUK, the other one is Topman, River Island and may be H&M, but I’m not sure” identified

Refer to its corporate logo as the company’s corporate identity “Corporate culture is characterised by teamwork in a horizontal structure, where open communication and accountability at all levels are the foundations for motivation and personal commitment to customer satisfaction” Corporate behaviour “Inspires staff to motivate themselves to satisfy customers” “Keeps business transparent and build relationships with all groups that hold a stake in Zara” “Responsible and socially committed company” “Offers customers a standard of excellence in all its products” Products and services “Designs are inspired from prevailing trends in fashion market and from customers” Provides quality clothing to customers Have a strong customer focus

Perceived identityb


Zara’s corporate identity? Corporate culture

Desired identitya

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overtook H&M as the leading largest European clothes retailer, with its aggressive pace of store openings. There are some important differences highlighted in the evidence summarised in Tables I-III. According to Jose Castellano, CEO of Zara, a key objective of the company is “to get the shortest time to market” (Inditex, 2006). Zara mainly supplies product via its owned factories, which gives it strategic and tactical flexibility. However, when it chooses external manufacturers it is very customer-focused and must provide speed over cost. Zara monitors sales carefully and seeks customer input. Zara reports that it has limited discounting and no clearance racks and through this strategy it creates a sense of scarcity in the products it offers in stores. The assortment of merchandise changes 70-90 per cent each month in Zara’s retail stores. Zara has been effective in projecting these messages into the public domain and customers are quite well informed about Zara’s “fast fashion” business model and appreciate it. H&M, in contrast to Zara, outsources all clothing manufacture, with 30 per cent of product sourced from China. Customers are not so well informed about the “fast fashion” concept and how that impacts positively on their experience; this was clear from the interview data gathered (Table II). The findings show that customers’ perceptions of corporate philosophy and corporate mission are clearly out of line with H&M’s desired corporate identity. Moreover, our findings suggest that H&M’s historical background and country of origin are not clear to the customers. In contrast, Zara has successfully delivered their desired corporate culture, including their mission, philosophies, company background and country of origin to its customers. According to Kiriakidou and Millward (2000), personnel and corporate culture play an important role in corporate identity management. Within the corporate culture, the values held by the personnel and management should be reflected in an organisation’s identity. An organisation’s performance may be affected if there is any gap between the values held by the personnel and the organisation (van Rekom, 1997). Customers felt that employees do not reflect H&M’s corporate culture in stores whereas Zara’s stores and employees were perceived as reflecting their organisation’s desired identity to customers. Senior management is responsible for providing a consistent corporate identity in order to achieve a favourable reputation and competitive advantage (Melewar and Jenkins, 2002). However, customers in this research suggested that H&M does not communicate to employees and to customers the organisation’s corporate identity as effectively as Zara, as evidenced in Table II. Moreover, according to customer comments, H&M’s employees do not reflect the company’s target market. As a consequence, it is suggested that the corporate strategy in terms of communicating its identity, does not match with that of its corporate mission (van Riel, 1995). Zara does not appear to have a significant identity gap in terms of corporate behaviour. The findings have shown that management styles and employee behaviour in Zara are consistent with its mission and business model, and that its desired identity is reflected in the customer service ethic which it has successfully demonstrated to the customers interviewed. Corporate identity as product and service interactions An organisation’s products and services should also reflect its mission and organisational philosophies (Balmer, 1995). Furthermore, the performance of products can enhance corporate reputation (Melewar and Wooldridge, 2001). In

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H&M’s case, the results have revealed that “fashion and quality” was not reflected in customer perceptions of its products. In the long term this could harm H&M’s corporate identity. In contrast, customers’ opinions of the product offerings, quality levels and the price range at Zara was emphasised by customers as being consistent with Zara’s mission. The way in which the two business models are constructed with Zara maintaining complete control of its supply base and H&M having to rely on a large number of outsourced manufacturing organisations with little direct control may contribute to this customer perception of difference. Personnel who deliver the customer services have an impact on how customers perceive the company’s corporate identity (Schmidt, 1995). H&M’s service delivery by its personnel is perceived as being very poor, while Zara has excellent service delivery. This suggests that while Zara has effective communication channels with its employees to ensure the company’s mission is aligned with the customer services delivered by its employees, H&M is not as effective. Products and services are not the only factors that help retail organisations to differentiate themselves (Birtwistle et al., 1999; Burt and Carralero-Encinas, 2000; Martineau, 1958; McGoldrick, 2002; Newman and Atkinson, 2001; Schmidt, 1995). The findings have shown that H&M’s store layout, window displays, changing rooms and store personality are not consistent with its desired identity. H&M store image was negatively perceived by customers, while Zara’s store design and window displays were viewed as being consistent with its desired identity. All types of marketing and corporate communications are considered to be important to the formation of an organisation’s corporate identity (Bickerton, 2000; Kennedy, 1977; Suvatjis and de Chernatony, 2005). The findings of this research have suggested that H&M’s desired identity is not reflected in both the internal and external communication channels. This two-way communication is vitally important to organisations. This is due to customers’ experience with H&M’s employees and their behaviour. Customers also suggested that the company’s desired identity is not reflected in its advertising campaigns. The advertising campaigns fail to reveal who H&M really is. It is believed that an effective communication strategy would help a company to build a stronger corporate brand, achieve competitive advantage and gain a favourable reputation. This is certainly the case for Zara. Zara’s desired identity is reflected in its communications, which are effective and structured. A strong industry identity can be projected in an organisation’s corporate identity (Melewar, 2003). Both H&M’s and Zara’s customers agreed that their desired identities as fast fashion retailers are reflected in their nature of business, business operations, and product offerings. The market position and the competitiveness of H&M have been questioned as its desired target customers and competitors do not align with its actual product offerings. Respondents therefore compared H&M to some of the value clothing brands rather than fast fashion high street brands. In contrast, Zara’s desired target customers and competitors’ fit into its product offerings and services; the company was compared to some other fashion brands such as Reiss and Ted Baker. Corporate identity as corporate strategy Corporate strategy helps an organisation to enjoy the advantages of differentiation and positioning (Melewar, 2003). Furthermore, appropriate corporate strategies will help an organisation to determine its existing and future corporate identity (Melewar and

Karaosmanoglu, 2006). This research has indicated that out of the two cases, Zara has been more effective in achieving its desired identity through having a more congruent corporate strategy with its products and service interactions, thus enabling differentiation. In Zara’s case, customers agreed that the company’s desired identity aligns with its corporate strategies. Indeed, Zara is perceived as having a clear and consistent corporate identity, providing differentiation in terms of its quality product offerings. This may suggest that H&M is underperforming in striving to differentiate itself and achieve competitive advantage. The strategic consequences of corporate identity have been identified as having important business impact and we now focus attention upon three propositions emerging from this research: P1.

Retail identities rely on customer perceptions which are formed without reference to the retailer’s desired identity.

This research demonstrated that there is often a disconnection between the desired and perceived identity. This has implications for marketing communications. In order to influence customer perception, customers need to be informed and they need to believe the messages being transmitted through words, deeds and symbols. Marketing communications in this sense are not simply through traditional modes but must recognise the total customer interaction experience. As a consequence, in-store influences become paramount in the formation of perceived identity. This leads to a second proposition: P2.

The most important influences on customer perceptions and customer belief is product, followed by store environment and staff interaction with the customer.

Customer opinion can be transformed quickly if any of their encounters are negative in relation to these three factors. The reverse may also be true: P3.

Corporate communications can only influence perceptions of identity if customers’ experiences are congruent with the desired identity statements.

In the H&M case study in particular, customers’ observations and sense experiences did not match with the statements for desired identity. Customer experience is perhaps the most important influence on perceived identity in this context. The final section draws conclusions and considers implications for corporate identity theory, retail management and further research. Conclusion and implications The outcome of this study contributes to the existing corporate identity literature by identifying that gaps exist between desired and perceived corporate identity. The results of the present research show that organisations cannot primarily focus on the desired-actual identity gap and ignore the desired-perceived identity gap. Organisations should take into account customers’ perceptions towards their identity when they promote themselves. This paper has a number of managerial implications for the two case organisations. The gap between desired and perceived identity is important because it is essentially a measure of the effectiveness of an organisation’s corporate strategy manifested through its corporate identity. It demonstrates a significant divergence of insights into

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how the decision-maker presents corporate identity and how customers perceive it. We argue that an organisation cannot simply present its corporate mission statement to its employees at all levels and expect them to promote this identity to its customers. Effective internal communication channels and appropriate training programmes are essential. Corporate advertising should reflect the company’s philosophy (Bernstein, 1989). Effective advertising campaigns should be delivered clearly on what the company is and what the company stands for to its customers. In order to have a consistent corporate identity, H&M should acknowledge that the alignment of the desired and perceived identity is of critical importance. However, it is not simply through advertising but through a wider recognition of modes of customer communication and interaction identified in this research that is of paramount importance to closing the gap between desired and perceived identity. By carrying out these suggested measures, these gaps should be reduced. Every employee within the organisation, from the top management to personnel at the store level should be involved in building favourable corporate identity. We deliberately chose to identify desired corporate identity by analysing publicly available documents and artefacts. We do not consider this in itself to be limiting per se as these public documents reflect the strategic intent of an organisation in an objective way. However, given the significant part played by retail staff in communicating the corporate identity of an organisation it would perhaps be useful to add a third dimension to our qualitative interpretations by interviewing staff in-stores to elicit their views and observe their social interactions with customers. Our initial research has suggested that these further lines of inquiry might prove fruitful. It is intended that the existing study will form the starting point for a quantitative study to test the propositions emerging from this research. Future research could also investigate the relative importance of each corporate identity construct from both the desired and perceived perspectives. References Alessandri, S.W. (2001), “Modeling corporate identity: a concept explication and theoretical explanation”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 173-82. Baker, M.J. and Balmer, J.M.T. (1997), “Visual identity: trappings or substance”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 Nos 5/6, pp. 366-82. Balmer, J.M.T. (1995), “Corporate branding and connoisseurship”, Journal of General Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 24-46. Balmer, J.M.T. (1998), “Corporate identity and the advent of corporate marketing”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 14, pp. 963-96. Balmer, J.M.T. (2001a), “From the Pentagon: a new identity framework”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 11-22. Balmer, J.M.T. (2001b), “Corporate identity, corporate branding and corporate marketing”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 35 Nos 3/4, pp. 248-91. Balmer, J.M.T. and Wilson, A. (1998), “Corporate identity. There is more to it than meets the eyes”, International Studies of Management and Organization, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 12-31. Balmer, J.M.T. and Soenen, G.B. (1999), “The acid test of corporate identity management”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 15, pp. 69-92.

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Melewar, T.C. and Akel, S. (2005), “The role of corporate identity in the higher education sector. A case study”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 41-57. Melewar, T.C. and Jenkins, E. (2002), “Defining the corporate identity construct”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 76-80. Melewar, T.C. and Karaosmanoglu, E. (2006), “Seven dimensions of corporate identity: a categorisation from the practitioners’ perspectives”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40 Nos 7/8, pp. 846-69. Melewar, T. and Saunders, J. (2000), “Global corporate visual identity: using an extended marketing mix”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 34 Nos 5/6, pp. 538-50. Melewar, T.C. and Wooldridge, A.R. (2001), “The dynamics of corporate identity: a review of a process model”, Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 327-40. Miles, M.B. and Huberman, A.M. (1994), Quality Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Miller, W.L. and Crabtree, B.F. (1994), “Clinical research”, in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, p. 36. Mintel (2002), “Clothing retailing in Europe – UK”, Mintel International Group Limited, London. Mintel (2004), “Womenswear retailing – UK”, Mintel International Group Limited, London. Mintel (2005), “Clothing retailing – UK – July 2005”, available at: sinatra/reports/my_reports/display/id ¼ 114754&anchor ¼ atom/display/id ¼ 170726 Newman, A. and Atkinson, N. (2001), “The role of store image in the re-branding of Selfridges”, in Hines, A. and Bruce, M. (Eds), Fashion Marketing. Contemporary Issues, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, pp. 89-104. Newman, A. and Patel, D. (2004), “The marketing directions of two fashion retailers”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 38 No. 7, pp. 770-89. Olins, W. (1978), The Corporate Personality. An Inquiry into the Nature of Corporate Identity, Design Council, London. Patton, M.Q. (1990), Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA. Patton, M.Q. (2001), Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods, Sage Publications, London. Richardson, L. (1998), “Writing: a method of inquiry”, in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds), Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials, Sage Publications, London, pp. 345-71. Rode, V. and Vallaster, C. (2005), “Corporate branding for start-ups: the crucial role of entrepreneurs”, Corporate Reputation Review, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 121-35. Rowley, J. (2002), “Using case studies in research”, Management Research News, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 16-27. Schmidt, K. (1995), The Quest for Identity: Corporate Identity, Strategies, Methods and Examples, Cassell, London. Sinkovics, R.R., Penz, E. and Ghauri, P.N. (2005), “Analysing textual data in international marketing research”, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 9-38. Stake, R.E. (1978), “The case study method in social inquiry”, Educational Researcher, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 5-8. Stake, R.E. (1995), The Art of Case Study Research, Sage Publications, London.

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Stake, R.E. (2000), “Qualitative case studies”, in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, Sage Publications, London, pp. 443-66. Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1990), Basic of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques, Sage Publications, London. Stuart, H. (1999), “Towards a definitive model of the corporate identity management process”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 200-7. Suvatjis, J.Y. and de Chernatony, L. (2005), “Corporate identity modelling: a review and presentation of a new multi-dimensional model”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 21, pp. 809-34. Topalian, A. (1984), “Corporate identity: beyond the visual overstatements”, International Journal of Advertising, Vol. 3, pp. 55-62. van Rekom, J. (1997), “Deriving an operational measure of corporate identity”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 Nos 5/6, pp. 410-22. van Riel, C.B.M. (1995), Principles of Corporate Communication, Prentice-Hall, London. van Riel, C.B.M. and Balmer, J.M.T. (1997), “Corporate identity: the concept, its measurement and management”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 Nos 5/6, pp. 340-55. Yin, R. (1989), Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Sage Publications, London. Yin, R. (2003), Case Study Research: Design and Methods, 2nd ed., Sage Publications, London. Appendix. Corporate identity interview question guide This guide was used to generate the semi structured interview data and used laddering techniques as appropriate. Part 1: General information (1) Gender: female/male. (2) How old are you? (3) Have you shopped with the company before? And how often? (4) Why do you like to shop with the company? Part 2: Corporate culture (1) Can you recall the nationality of the company? If yes, what is its nationality? (2) Each company has a corporate culture. How would you describe this culture of this company? (3) What are your perceptions towards the company as a whole, such as its mission, its objectives, its values, its philosophies and its activities? Part 3: Corporate behaviour (1) Do the managers’ and employees’ behaviour mirror the identity of the company? How? Can you recall any of your experience? (2) How would you describe the company’s relationships with the public? (3) Do you know whether the company has any policies related to: corporate responsibility, ethical trading or the environment? If yes, can you provide an example?

Part 4: Products and services (1) Do the product designs and store designs, quality of the products customer services reflect the company’s philosophies and identity? And how does the company achieve that in your opinion? (2) How do you rate the quality, products and services performance of the company (if 1 is superior and 5 is inferior)? Do you have any good or bad experience?

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Part 5: Communication and design (1) Are you familiar with the company’s store design/window display/company logo? Do you think these have effects on the company’s identity? How? (2) Do you know the company’s product brands? Can you recall any? (3) How do you describe the internal communication channels and external communication channels of the company? Part 6: Market conditions and strategies (1) Who are the company’s main competitors in your opinion? What are the main differences between the company and its competitors? (2) What in your opinion are the strengths and weaknesses of the company? (3) Do you think the company is successful in the industry? Why?

About the authors Ranis Cheng is a doctoral researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School (MMUBS). She is currently completing her PhD thesis on the role of corporate identity within the fashion retail sector. Ranis Cheng is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected] Tony Hines PhD is Professor of Marketing and Director of the Doctoral Programme at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. A leading international marketing scholar, his research interests are global supply chain strategies, making sense of marketing decisions, lifestyles, consumption and identity. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Supply Chain Strategies – Customer-Driven and Customer Focused, published by Elsevier, and co-author of Fashion Marketing, published by Butterworth-Heinemann. He is in demand regularly as a commentator on contemporary marketing issues in print and broadcast media. Prior to an academic career he worked in management and management consultancy in different industrial and commercial settings including: chemicals, commodities, entertainment, publishing, packaging and financial services. Ian Grime is a Principal Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School (MMUBS). He has a first degree in Retail Management and a PhD focusing on brand personality and the impact of brand extensions. He is now investigating a variety of research topics in the area of brand management including brand personality, brand extensions and corporate identity. He has published in the European Journal of Marketing.

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Undesired self-image congruence in a low-involvement product context


Michael Bosnjak

Received October 2006 Revised January 2007; March 2007 Accepted April 2007

School of Economics and Management, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy, and

Nina Rudolph MindShare GmbH, Frankfurt a.M., Germany Abstract Purpose – The paper seeks to investigate the incremental value of a construct termed “undesired self-image congruence”, and capture consumers’ perceived closeness to negatively valenced brand-related attributes over and above established self-image congruence factors known to affect consumption-related attitudes and intentions. Design/methodology/approach – A questionnaire-based study was used to assess consumers’ attitudes and intentions to consume a low-involvement product (Marlboro cigarettes; n ¼ 211). Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were employed to determine the incremental predictive value of the newly introduced undesired congruity component over and above established self-image congruence facets. Findings – Undesired congruity proved its substantial and incremental value in predicting consumption-related attitudes, but did not directly influence purchasing intentions. Research limitations/implications – Avoidance motives related to undesired brand images appear to influence purchase decisions at early stages of the decision-making process, namely in attitude formation and evaluative responding. Controlled experimental approaches with a broader set of products should be used to corroborate this potential research implication. Practical implications – Because negative stereotypical images appear to feed into purchase-related decision processes at early stages, due caution should be exerted in primary data collection and brand positioning. Primary data collection should capture both positive and negative brand-related meanings attributed by consumers. Because the results show that undesired congruity has an incremental explanatory effect, positive versus negative symbolic meanings are clearly not just “two sides of the same coin”. Consequently, brand positioning should define its strategy by simultaneously maximizing both the closeness to desired symbolic meanings and the distance to undesired symbolic associations. Originality/value – The value of the paper lies in testing the operation of undesired congruity and in quantifying its incremental contribution in the symbolic consumption context. Keywords Consumption, Brand image, Consumer behaviour Paper type Research paper

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 42 No. 5/6, 2008 pp. 702-712 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560810862598

1. Introduction In addition to physical, utilitarian, and experiential attributes, commercial brands are significant consumption symbols, with the ability to provide symbolic or value-expressing functions to the individual (e.g. Shavitt, 1990; Sirgy et al., 1991). A The authors are grateful for the valuable comments given by two anonymous reviewers and Iris Haas, and thank Dr Brian Bloch for his comprehensive editing of the manuscript.

considerable body of empirical research has shown that by purchasing and using commercial brands, individuals are inclined to maintain, enhance, or approve (socially) certain aspects of their self-concept (Belk, 1988; Dolich, 1969; Grubb and Grathwohl, 1967; Levy, 1959; Sirgy, 1985, 1986). In a nutshell, the self-image congruence hypothesis is that individuals hold favourable attitudes and intentions towards, and will most probably purchase, those brands that match particular aspects of their self-concept. In almost all applications of the self-image congruence hypothesis, positive, desirable, or telic self-concept facets are stressed. In other words, implicit comparisons between the self as currently experienced and an imagined desired end state are emphasized. For instance, in Sirgy’s self-image congruence theory (Sirgy, 1982, 1985, 1986), a differentiation is made between four self-congruity types affecting consumption-related constructs: (1) actual; (2) ideal; (3) social; and (4) ideal social. Actual congruity refers to the match between how consumers see themselves in terms of a set of attributes and how they see a stereotypical user of a brand with respect to the same set of descriptives. In terms of the other congruity types, the closeness of the typical brand user is compared to how consumers would like to see themselves (yielding ideal congruity), how consumers believe they are seen by significant others (resulting in social congruity), and how consumers would like to be seen by significant others (leading to ideal social congruity). These four congruity aspects are driven by motives, which can all be classified as “approach motives”. The need for consistency affects actual congruity, the need for self-esteem determines ideal congruity, social consistency motives drive social congruity, and the need for social approval influences ideal social congruity. Despite the fact that self-image congruence theory is explicitly open to both approach as well as avoidance behaviours in principle (see, for example, Sirgy, 1982, pp. 289f, 1986, pp. 19f), primarily approach behaviours have been the empirical focus, ignoring avoidance tendencies and deliberate anti-choice behaviours (see Hogg, 1998; Hogg and Banister, 2001). Aaker’s brand personality concept is another example of the one-sided orientation towards approach behaviours (Aaker, 1997), resulting in a scale for measuring both brands and people on a set of personality attributes. By doing so, her scale provides a generic basis for operationalizing the self-image congruence hypothesis. However, a closer examination of the procedure used by Aaker (1997) reveals that negatively valenced attributes, i.e. those which may contribute to portraying negative brand-related images, are deliberately excluded. To justify this selection, Aaker (1997, p. 350) states: Primarily positively valenced traits were used, because brands are typically linked to positive (versus negative) associations and because the ultimate use of the scale is to determine the extent to which brand personality affects the probability that consumers approach (versus avoid) products.

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While the first assertion (that brands are linked primarily to positive associations) is not at all grounded empirically, the second part reflects the intended use of the concept to influence consumer behaviour via stimulating and aligning approach motives, leaving avoidance tendencies aside. What is questionable about this common practice of focusing primarily on approach behaviours and their motivational antecedents? Firstly, by focusing on approach motives, most applications of the self-image congruence hypothesis fail to provide the full range of actionable insights into the “mental model” of consumers who have a multitude of brand-related beliefs. These beliefs can be valenced positively, negatively, and ambivalently. Consequently, brand positioning strategies may fail to balance both the closeness of a brand to desirable symbolic meanings as well as the distance to negative ones, resulting in suboptimal brand strength. Secondly, psychological research has demonstrated that the perceived discrepancy between the self as currently experienced and imagined undesired end states is an additional and sometimes an even stronger predictor of satisfaction and well-being than closeness to desired end states (e.g. Ogilvie, 1987; Heppen and Ogilvie, 2003). Recent qualitative research suggests that a similar mechanism appears to affect consumer’s (anti-)choices (Banister and Hogg, 2004; Hogg and Banister, 2001). Therefore, there are both practical and theoretical reasons for exploring further what drives consumption-related avoidance tendencies from a symbolic consumption perspective. Consequently, the pertinent research issues for a component serving as a reference point for undesired self-related end states (the “undesired-self”) in consumer psychology and marketing will be outlined briefly below. 2. The undesired self: a useful extension to the understanding of symbolic consumption? Ogilvie (1987) introduced the “undesired self”, which he characterized as a least-desired identity, comprising the sum of negatively valenced traits, memories of dreaded experiences, embarrassing situations, fearsome events, and unwanted emotions the individual is consistently motivated to avoid (Ogilvie, 1987, p. 380). The results of his study suggest that the dominant implicit standard that individuals use to assess their well-being is how distant they are from subjectively being like their most negative self-image, i.e. their “undesired-self”. Moreover, individuals tend to keep track of their everyday, actual/real self, by implicitly referring to their undesired self: “without a tangible undesired self, the real self would loose its navigational cues” (Ogilvie, 1987, p. 380). Recent research confirms the important role of the undesired self in evaluating life satisfaction and regulating emotional experiences. For instance, Carver et al. (1999) describe the “feared self”, defined as the “set of qualities the person wants not to become, but is concerned about possibly becoming” (Carver et al., 1999, p. 785). This is accompanied by ideal and ought-to-be selves used to predict both positive and negative dejection- and agitation-related emotions. While both actual-self/ideal-self and actual-self/feared-self discrepancies correlated with dejection-related emotions (i.e. depression and happiness), actual/feared discrepancy was the strongest predictor. Similar results based on the undesired self, according to Ogilvie (1987), were reported by Ogilvie and Clark (1992), Cheung (1997), and Heppen and Ogilvie (2003). In order to understand both approach and avoidance tendencies and anti-choice behaviour, Hogg and Banister (2001) introduced the undesired self into the field of consumer behaviour. Hogg and Banister (2001) and Banister and Hogg (2004) presented the first empirical evidence demonstrating the relevance of consumers’

propensity to avoid undesired stereotypical images (the undesired self), leading to negative brand/product evaluation and rejection in the clothing sector. The evidence encompassed small-scale, exploratory qualitative studies based on focus and discussion groups. One key conclusion was that “the consumption activities of the majority of consumers in our study seemed to be predominantly informed by the motivation to avoid consuming (or being identified with) negative images, rather than reflecting attempts to achieve a positive image” (Banister and Hogg, 2004, p. 859). Following this important first step, which highlighted the largely neglected role of avoidance motives and provided initial evidence about its function in consumer decision making, three newly emerging areas deserve further elaboration. First, to what extent does the undesired self contribute to explaining consumption-related antecedents over and above the established (positive) self-congruity facets? Is the undesired self just “the other side of the same coin” after all, and therefore the inverse of desirable self-concept facets already established in the symbolic consumption area? If this were so, the undesired self should not exert any incremental impact on consumer behaviour, beyond the factors already established in the symbolic consumption area. However, given the known role of the undesired self in subjects’ judgment of satisfaction and well-being which has been outlined above, we can expect an incremental contribution. The evidence available so far does not encompass stringent tests of this proposition, nor does it provide any quantitative effect size. Second, the results presented to date are, in our opinion, far from conclusive with regard to the psychological constructs involved and their interrelations. What exactly is affected by the closeness of the undesired self to a brand image? Are primarily consumption-related attitudes, intentions, or both affected? Answers to these questions may contribute to a better understanding of the psychological mechanisms involved, and should therefore provide clues for deriving actionable recommendations useful to marketers. Third, only one product-category (clothing) has been addressed so far, and this is characterized by high involvement (Ratchford, 1987), thus restricting the transferability of results to other product categories with a lower level of involvement. In order to find empirical answers to these questions, we specify them further below, in the context of hypotheses.

3. Research questions and hypotheses The basic research question is that of determining the incremental contribution and operation of the “undesired self-image congruence” (or “undesired congruity”) component beyond the established factors known to affect consumer behaviour. Undesired congruity is defined here as the closeness of: personality imagery associated with a brand/product to undesired personality imagery. According to action-theory approaches to consumer behaviour as specified in the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975) and Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991), attitudes towards consumption and intentions to consume are determinants of behaviour. By focusing on these two concepts, it is possible to determine whether undesired congruity directly feeds into attitude formation, or rather into the formation of consumption-related decisions and plans of action (i.e. intentions), or both:

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H1. Undesired congruity is negatively related to (a) consumption-related attitudes and to (b) consumption-related intentions. H21. Undesired congruity significantly contributes to the prediction of consumption-related attitudes over and above established congruity facets.


H22. Undesired congruity significantly contributes to the prediction of consumption-related intentions over and above attitudes and established congruity facets. H1 tests the assumed negative effect of undesired congruity; H21 and H22 specify its expected incremental contribution. While H21 focuses on established self-image congruence predictors only, H22 contains attitudes as an additional determinant of intentions. The reasons for including attitudes are two-fold. First, a large body of empirical evidence suggests that behavioural intentions are influenced consistently by behavioural attitudes across various behavioural domains (e.g. Randall and Wolff, 1994; Sheppard et al., 1988; Van den Putte, 1993), including consumer behaviour (e.g. Bagozzi et al., 2002). Second, by including attitudes as an additional antecedent, together with established self-congruity facets, the incremental contribution of undesired self-congruity is tested more stringently (compared to a model without attitudes). As discussed in the previous section, studies addressing the role of the undesired self in consumer behaviour have so far focused on high-involvement product categories only (e.g. fashion). In trying to fill the knowledge gap, we will limit our study to low-involvement products. Ratchford (1987) defines involvement operationally as comprising three aspects: (1) the degree of personal importance; (2) the amount of perceived risk if the wrong product is chosen; and (3) the amount of cognitive effort invested to make a purchase decision (Ratchford, 1987, p. 28, Table 1). Because the first two aspects seem highly idiosyncratic, meaning that the personal importance and perceived risk varies considerably across consumers, we focused primarily on the remaining aspect, addressing the cognitive effort of making purchase decisions. Consequently, we will use a cigarette brand, because cigarette-brand purchase decisions typically involve minimal cognitive effort. With reference to the relevant research on habitualized behaviours (Ouellette and Wood, 1998), one might argue that the consumption of low-involvement products as defined here, is almost exclusively controlled by habit. As a result, measures of past behaviour should diminish or even nullify the effects of attitudes and self-image congruence components. To address these concerns, H21 and H22 are extended to the low involvement product category case. H31. Undesired self-congruity significantly contributes to the prediction of consumption-related attitudes over and above established self-congruity facets and past behaviour. H32. Undesired self-congruity significantly contributes to the prediction of consumption-related intentions over and above attitudes, established self-congruity facets, and past behaviour.

4. Method 4.1 Subjects and procedure The sample consisted of 211 regular smokers, selected from a large German volunteer opt-in panel (comprising 428 subjects overall) who participated in a two-wave web-based survey on topics related to “evaluating cigarette brands”. In conformity with Couper’s (2000) taxonomy, participants were recruited with the aid of non-probability methods such as announcements placed on thematically related web pages, in news forums, and mailing lists. In the first wave of the survey, demographics, brand-consumption-related attitudes, consumption intentions, future behaviour related to smoking a certain cigarette brand in the following two weeks, past smoking habits, and brand-related/ self-concept-related attributes were assessed (among other variables not reported here). The target brand to be evaluated by the sub-sample used was Marlboro. In the second wave, which started two weeks later and aimed at measuring behaviour, participants from the first wave were contacted again to report their smoking intensity for a set of brands during the last two weeks. Marlboro was one of these brands for which data on actual consumption was collected. Among the 211 subjects used in the analyses, 56.9 percent were female, on average 30.2 years old (SD ¼ 9:7), 53.8 percent were employed, and 34.6 percent were students at German universities. The mean daily cigarette consumption amounted to 13.6 cigarettes (SD ¼ 9:8), and participants had smoked for the last 12.5 years on average (SD ¼ 8:8). 4.2 Measures 4.2.1 Congruity facets. In the first-wave survey on “evaluating cigarette brands”, the facets of actual congruity, ideal social congruity, and undesired congruity were assed indirectly (Sirgy et al., 1997), i.e. attribute-based. In this study, attributes measuring the three self-concept facets as well as the brand’s image were taken from a German brand personality instrument developed by Bosnjak et al. (2007). The instrument comprises 20 traits applicable both to brands and people, and assesses the following four brand personality dimensions: (1) drive; (2) conscientiousness; (3) emotion; and (4) superficiality. The instrument was adapted to the specific German cultural context and encompasses both positively and negatively valenced attributes. Within the first wave of the study, the 20 attributes were randomly presented three times with different instructions, each time assessing a different self-concept facet (actual, ideal social, undesired). In order to measure the actual self-concept, participants had to rate on seven-point agree/disagree scales how accurately the 20 attributes describe the way they see themselves (“I see myself as being . . . ”). Ideal social self-concept assessment requested the participants to describe how they would like to be perceived by others on each attribute (“I want to be perceived by other people as . . . ”). For the undesired-self, participants had to rate themselves as “they never want to be or become” on each attribute.

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Brand personality was measured with the same set of attributes on seven-point agree/disagree scales, using a translated version of Aaker’s (1997, p. 350) original instruction. The three congruity components used in all further analyses were computed with the aid of reversely scored mean average deviation metrics. That is, difference scores for each corresponding self-image attribute pair were computed, averaged across the 20 attributes, and the resulting mean average deviation score was then reversely scored to reflect self-image similarity (instead of discrepancy). The higher the congruity score, the closer the overall match between the respective self-concept facet and the brand’s personality imagery. 4.2.2 Attitude towards consuming Marlboro. Over the coming two weeks, this was assessed with the aid of the following seven-point polarity profile set (all pairs were arranged within one block in random order, and the endpoints were randomly flipped): good-bad, attractive-unattractive, positive-negative, pleasant-unpleasant, interesting-uninteresting, exciting-boring, charming-charmless. Cronbach’s a for these seven items was 0.91. The attitude scale values were obtained by averaging responses for this item set (mean score). The higher the attitude score, the more positively the behaviour “smoking Marlboro in the following two weeks” was evaluated. 4.2.3 Intentions to consume Marlboro. This was assessed on seven-point agree/disagree scales by means of the following two items, which were randomly distributed on different pages of the web survey: (1) “I intend to smoke Marlboro in the following two weeks”. (2) “If I am going to smoke in the next two weeks, I will choose Marlboro”. Cronbach’s a amounted to 0.95 for these items; mean scores were computed to obtain scale values. The higher the intention score, the greater the willingness to smoke Marlboro in the next two weeks. 4.2.4 Past behaviour. A composite score measuring past smoking habits was constructed, encompassing the following components: . smoking intensity of Marlboro and other brands, measured both as the average number of cigarettes per day; and . past duration of smoking Marlboro and other brands, both measured in terms of the number of month. The composite score for past behaviour was then computed as 1 2 ð“smoking intensity for Marlboro” multiplied by “smoking duration for Marlboro”) divided by (“smoking intensity for all other brands” multiplied by “smoking duration for all other brands”). The resulting composite score ranges from 0 (Marlboro was consumed for less than one month) to 1 (Marlboro was the exclusive cigarette brand in the past). 4.2.5 Actual behaviour. Self-reported smoking behaviour (assessed in the second wave of the survey) was captured with the aid of an index reflecting the number of Marlboro cigarettes smoked during the last two weeks in relation to the overall number of cigarettes smoked during the same time frame, including all other cigarette brands. Furthermore, this index was standardized to a 0-1 range, with 1 indicating that only Marlboro was consumed, and 0 that only other cigarette brands were smoked.

5. Results Table I summarizes two sets of hierarchical regression analysis. In the upper part of Table I, behavioural attitudes are regressed on the two established congruity facets (actual and ideal social; Model 1), plus undesired self-congruity (Model 2), plus past behaviour (Model 3). In the lower part of Table I, behavioural intentions are regressed on behavioural attitudes and the two established congruity facets (Model 1), plus undesired congruity (Model 2), plus past behaviour (Model 3). For the prediction of purchase-related attitudes (upper hierarchical regression set in Table I), a medium predictive effect (R 2 ¼ 0:24) is achieved for Model 1 with actual congruity and ideal social congruity as predictors. In the second step, undesired congruity is added and can significantly increase the predictive power of Model 2 by 4 percent compared to Model 1. Therefore, H21 is supported, namely that undesired self-congruity will significantly contribute to the prediction of consumption-related attitudes over and above established self-congruity facets. Model 3 tests H31, namely whether the predictive effect of undesired congruity still persists if past behaviour is introduced into the regression equation. It is evident that, despite the established congruity facets becoming insignificant in predicting attitudes, undesired congruity remains a substantial predictor. Therefore, the data support H31. In view of the direction of influence, the standardized regression coefficients for undesired congruity are negative (b ¼ 20:22 for model 2; b ¼ 20:16 for model 3) as expected, supporting H1a. For the prediction of purchase-related intentions (lower hierarchical regression set in Table I), the large predictive effect observed in Model 1 (R 2 ¼ 0:44) is caused by attitudes (b ¼ 0:55, p , 0:01) and actual congruity (b ¼ 0:20, p , 0:05), but not by

Criterion variables Attitude towards smoking Marlboro

Predictor variables Actual congruity Ideal social congruity Undesired congruity Past behavior

Intention to smoke Attitudes Marlboro Actual congruity Ideal social congruity Undesired congruity Past behavior

Bivariate predictorcriterion r

Model 1 b R2

Model 2 b R2

0.48 * *

0.29 * * 0.24 * *

0.30 * * 0.28 * *


0.47 * *

0.22 * *




20.22 * *

0.36 * *

20.16 *

0.31 * *

0.65 * *

0.55 * * 0.44 * *

0.53 * * 0.44 * *

0.33 * * 0.63 * *

0.46 * *

0.20 *

0.21 *

0.42 * *


20.37 * *

0.75 * *

Notes: *p , 0:05; * *p , 0.01; anot significant









Model 3 b R2

0.45 * *


Undesired self-image congruence

0.56 * *

Table I. Summary of two hierarchical multiple regression analyses for predicting attitudes towards smoking Marlboro and the intention to smoke Marlboro (n ¼ 211 regular smokers)

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ideal social congruity (b ¼ 0:01, NS). After adding undesired congruity to the regression equation, the amount of explained variance in Model 2 does not increase. Therefore, both H22 and H32 are not supported, namely that undesired congruity significantly increases the prediction of consumption-related intentions over and above attitudes, established congruity facets, and past behaviour. As a result of the non-detectable effect on intentions, and despite the significant zero-order correlations between undesired congruity and intentions (r ¼ 20:37, p , 0:01), H1b has to be rejected. Despite not being part of the hypotheses, the data collected provide some insight into the relationship between intentions measured within the first wave of the survey and self-reported actual behaviour assessed two weeks later. This correlation amounts to an impressive r ¼ 0:83 (p , 0:01), suggesting that behavioural intentions can really predict (self-reported) behaviour accurately, as claimed in the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991).

6. Conclusions and implications Using a product associated with a low degree of purchaser involvement, defined here as the level of cognitive effort invested in making consumption-related decisions, the two studies demonstrate that the perceived closeness of personality imagery associated with a brand to an undesired personality imagery affects consumption-related attitudes over and above established self-image congruence facets. Moreover, it was shown that this effect appears to be robust, because it still persists when a measure of habitual strength, i.e. past behavioural preference, is taken into account. Overall, undesired self-image congruence seems to feed primarily into attitude formation, and then translates into behaviour via a fully mediated causal path which can be summarized as follows: undesired congruity affects attitudes (among other factors), attitudes affect intentions, and intentions affect behaviour. Given this causal path, undesired congruity apparently operates at early stages of brand-related impression formation and decision-making. In order to explore further the validity of this initial evidence on the operation of undesired congruity as presented in this paper, controlled experimental approaches which systematically vary undesired congruity should be conducted. Furthermore, the processes involved in the formation of undesired stereotypical brand-images, the reconstruction of mechanisms relating negative brand-images and certain aspects of the self-concept, and the integration of these findings into an overall theory of consumption, emerge as important topics on the research agenda. From an applied perspective, the findings indicate the relevance of taking negative brand-related associations and stereotypical images into account when trying to understand the reasons of both choice as well as anti-choice behaviour. Marketing managers should exercise due caution in selecting consumer research data assessing consumers mind sets. Each and every step of primary data collection should be scrutinized for a possible bias towards focusing on approach motives and behaviours. In terms of (re)positioning a brand, the results stress the need to find an optimal strategy which simultaneously maximizes the closeness to desired symbolic meanings and the distance to undesired symbolic associations. That both aspects are clearly not just “two sides of the same coin” has been demonstrated in this research.

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