Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Product & Brand Management, Volume 24, Issue 1
Welcome to this issue of the Journal of Product & Brand Management that compiles papers presented at the 2014 Global Branding Conference – the 9th annual conference of the Brand, Identity and Corporate Reputation Special Interest Group of the Academy of Marketing – held at the post-industrial site of the de Havilland factory which was closed by British Aerospace in the 1990s. The conference itself was part of a developing brand, identity and corporate reputation of the current major employer in the area: the University of Hertfordshire. We believe that the seven papers selected from the conference for this issue together contribute strongly to our understanding of these issues in a post-industrial world.
The value of brands may be hotly contested in the context of mergers and acquisitions by those from the neighbouring disciplines of finance and accounting. From within marketing, we present the latest attempt to provide a grand theory that explains brand equity. This is surely crucial in a world where little remains unbranded. This world is generating increasingly sophisticated consumers of brand meaning and co-creators of brand value. Into this world, Davcik et al. present an overview of themes, a taxonomic framework and suggestions for more comprehensive methodological approaches to this issue that are of interest to academics, marketing practitioners and organisation finance directors.
From such a panoramic perspective, this issue moves to consider one particular nation and how branding practices can connect theory about an individual’s personality to nation brand personality. Rojas-Mendéz et al. take the novel approach of understanding the USA from the perspective of Saudi Arabia. This is of direct interest both to US companies trading in Saudi Arabia and to travel firms interested in increasing travel to the USA from Saudi Arabia. Armed with the Saudi personality, they can adapt their offerings to fit; self-congruity will create more positive attitudes among Saudi consumers.
Consumers are the focus for the third paper in this issue; another managerial challenge is met – that of how to engage the consumer. In the case of Dessart et al., the context for this engagement is social media. As such, it is clear that this novel challenge is crucial for the future success of marketing managers. Consumer engagement is perhaps the new Holy Grail of marketers – the world of social media the newest New England! This study clarifies three key concepts within online engagement (cognition, affect and behaviour) and then, more importantly, explicates their meaning and application in this online world. The newly provided conceptual framework emphasises that engagement is a social and interactive construct. This study paves the way for further development of understanding of both this new world and the new social world of brand community. Most usefully, this framework distinguishes better understood dimensions of marketing relationships such as trust, satisfaction and loyalty from engagement. Engagement is broadened and deepened by moving beyond current notions of participation, involvement or simply membership to an integrated perspective that connects the three key concepts of cognition, affect and behaviour. Understanding these dynamics is key to understanding the online brand community member as consumer.
And now, for something completely different, the fourth paper by Azar addresses sexual imagery in branding. The paper focusses on providing an understanding of the different types of sexual associations that can be attributed to brands. Sex and gender are discussed, in a somewhat entwined manner, by looking at the nature, structure and antecedents of brand sexual associations. The result is a new way of branding based on sexual associations. The fifth paper discusses another pairing – in this case, the rather unlikely connections between purchasing second-hand, used or, perhaps more euphemistically named, “pre-loved” goods and purchasing luxury goods. Turunen and Leipämaa-Leskinen wonder how the notion of luxury can live alongside choosing what has been discarded by the initial consumer? The meaning of purchasing pre-loved luxury items in the product category of fashion accessories is explored and explained. Five themes are unearthed: pre-loved treasure, unique find, sustainable choice, real deal and risk investment. This shows that in linking these two notions, a rich seam of varied consumer meanings has been mined. Managerial implications are provided for this fifth managerial challenge in this selection of papers: the life cycle of the luxury fashion accessory needs to be incorporated into the product development of such goods; there is potential to address the fashionable theme of sustainability by focussing on the later stages of this life cycle in marketing communications; and third, this could address the even bigger challenge facing luxury brands: the presence of counterfeits.
The theme of the varied responses within consumers in a post-industrial society is continued into the sixth paper: how do negative reviews function in the online world? Ullrich and Brunner know that the savvy, sophisticated online consumer has a wealth of information at their fingertips. Here, the peer-to-peer realm holds sway. No longer can brand managers retain control of the brand reputation or even identity. This paper investigates this move towards reliance upon the experience of unknown others, provided by the review section of the Internet space for brands. This paper provides more managerial guidance as to how to react to this recent phenomenon of the power of negative reviews online. It is an old suggestion for this new setting; preparation is all, and a well-prepared early offence is better than a later reactive defence. Reviews need constant monitoring, and early adopters should be engaged with at an early stage and encouraged to begin the online conversation. Both weak and strong brands can benefit from thus strengthening their brand reputations.
The final paper provides a narrower focus within this whole challenge of brand reputation and identity in a setting of knowledgeable consumers in a post-industrial world. Machado et al. ask, how does the simple logo element of the whole branding process function in this setting? Can naturalness make a simple appeal to savvy consumers in a complicated world? This study investigates the influence of different natural logo designs on affective responses. It finds that natural logos are indeed preferred to abstract logos. The natural world has its own appeal even in the digital post-industrial world inhabited by all the conference goers.
We suggest that a holistic understanding of branding – meanings, valuations, values, appeals and its role in both social and organisational life – is not provided by these seven papers. It is beyond the scope of one conference to encompass such a lively feature of post-industrial society. But the careful reader will cull many insights and have their curiosity sated – and then piqued and so the life cycle of the annual conference will continue. The topics addressed in this issue of the Journal of Product & Brand Management are both generative and worthy of further investigation.
Sue Vaux Halliday and David Ross Brennan