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Corporate heritage identity stewardship: a corporate marketing perspective

Mario Burghausen (Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom)
John M.T. Balmer (Brunel Business School, Brunel University, London, United Kingdom)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The purpose of this empirical study was to introduce the theory of corporate heritage stewardship by focussing on the nascent corporate heritage identity domain. In particular, the research explores managers’ collective understanding of their organisation’s corporate heritage and how the latter is marshalled, and strategically represented, by them. The case study was undertaken in Great Britain’s oldest extant brewery. Established in 1698, Shepherd Neame is one of UK’s oldest companies.


Empirical research informed by a theory-building, case study using qualitative data. This study draws on multiple sources of data generated through semi-structured interviews, the analysis of documents and non-participant observations. The analysis of data was facilitated by a multi-stage coding process and a prolonged hermeneutic interaction between data, emerging concepts and extant literature.


Corporate heritage identity stewardship theory argues that the strategic enactment of a corporate heritage identity is predicated on a particular management mindset, which is meaningfully informed by three awareness dimensions expressed by managers (i.e. awareness of positionality, heritage, and custodianship). These awareness dimensions are underpinned by six managerial stewardship dispositions characterised by a sense of: continuance, belongingness, self, heritage, responsibility and potency. The findings are synthesised into a theoretical framework of managerial corporate heritage identity stewardship.

Research limitations/implications

The insights from this empirical case study meaningfully advance our theoretical understanding of the corporate heritage identity domain. Whilst the empirical contribution of this study is qualitatively different from statistical/substantive generalisations, which seek to establish universal laws, the research insights are valuable in terms of theory-building in their own terms and are analytically generalisable. The insights from this study have the potential to inform further studies on corporate heritage identities, including research underpinned by a positivistic, and quantitative, methodology.

Practical implications

The findings have utility for corporate marketing management, in that they illustrate how a collective corporate heritage mindset can both inform, as well as guide, managers in terms of their stewardship of their firm’s corporate heritage identity. The theoretical framework is of utility in practical terms, in that it reveals the multiple dimensions that are significant for management stewardship of a corporate heritage identity.


The research confirms and expands the notion of management stewardship in corporate identity in corporate marketing contexts by identifying how a multi-dimensional managerial mindset has constitutive and instrumental relevance. Moreover, this study identifies the distinct characteristics of this corporate identity type – corporate heritage identity – which are revealed to have a saliency for managers. Both insights underpin the corporate heritage identity stewardship theory explicated in this article.



Burghausen, M. and Balmer, J.M.T. (2015), "Corporate heritage identity stewardship: a corporate marketing perspective", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 49 No. 1/2, pp. 22-61.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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