The “family business brand”: an enquiry into the construction of the image of family businesses

Alexander Krappe (Witten Institute for Family Business, University of Witten/Herdecke, Witten, Germany)
Lazaros Goutas (Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)
Arist von Schlippe (Business Economics, University of Witten/Herdecke, Witten, Germany)

Journal of Family Business Management

ISSN: 2043-6238

Publication date: 22 April 2011



Family businesses (FBs) play an important role in economies across the world. FBs are consistently associated with specific attributes and expectations, which is something that points towards the notion that FBs can be regarded as a “brand” on their own. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether FBs have actually become a “brand” in the eyes of the wider population.


The empirical investigation is based on the “Personal Construct Theory” (PCT), developed by George R. Kelly. According to this theory, human beings categorise and evaluate the world by building “personal constructs” that reflect their unconscious attitudes and value systems. To find out about the attitudes towards FBs, we used the “Nextexpertizer”® program, which exploits the PCT as a computer‐based survey instrument. Finally, these results are connected with two different brand theories: the identity‐oriented brand theory of Heribert Meffert and a sociological‐based understanding of brands. The study was conducted in two stages: in 2007/2008 the authors interviewed a randomised sample of 80 people across Germany. In 2009 they interviewed 30 people with almost identical socio‐demographic characteristics, to assure the comparability of the two surveys.


The analysis of the aforementioned brand theories shows that FBs can be indeed described as a brand on their own. In order to speak of a strong brand, the identity‐oriented approach requires the compliance between the intro‐perspective and the external‐perspective of brands. The perceptions of FBs exhibit a remarkable stability in both surveys. In sum, FBs are perceived as the most sustainable and social type of company. Nevertheless, FBs are also associated with certain negative attributes: for example, middle‐size FBs are regarded as particularly inflexible.


The study shows that FBs address the identity myths of stability and safety like no other company type. Yet the identity myths also evoke other societal needs, such as egoistic self‐fulfillment motives, or the will to live free and without boundaries. For these needs, FBs are perceived as inflexible and stiff.



Krappe, A., Goutas, L. and von Schlippe, A. (2011), "The “family business brand”: an enquiry into the construction of the image of family businesses", Journal of Family Business Management, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 37-46.

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