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Corporate heritage tourism brand attractiveness and national identity

John M.T. Balmer (The Marketing and Corporate Brand Research Group, Brunel University Business School, London, UK)
Weifeng Chen (The Marketing and Corporate Brand Research Group, Brunel University Business School, London, UK)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 16 May 2016



This paper aims to examine the attractiveness of the Tong Ren Tang (TRT) as a Chinese corporate heritage tourism brand and consider the significance of TRT for Chinese national identity. The study considers the saliency of Balmer’s augmented role identity notion vis-à-vis corporate heritage institutions/corporate brands. Insights are made from and for corporate heritage, heritage tourism and national identity literature.


A conceptual model comprising five hypotheses was developed and this informed a survey-based questionnaire administered to domestic tourists/customers visiting Tong Ren Tang’s flagship shop in Beijing.


The attractiveness to domestic Chinese tourists/customers of the TRT corporate heritage tourism brand was found to be attributable to its multiple role identities: national, corporate, temporal, familial and imperial. As such, this study lends credence to Balmer’s augmented role identity notion. Chinese domestic tourists/customers – as members of an ethnic Chinese community – in visiting TRT not only consume an extant corporate heritage by tangible and intangible means but can also be seen to express, and reaffirm, their sense of Chinese national identity.

Practical implications

For TRT’s managers, there should be an appreciation that the attractiveness of TRT as a corporate heritage tourism brand rests not only on what it sells but also in what it symbolises in national and cultural terms. This finding is applicable to the managers of many other corporate heritage/corporate heritage tourism brands.

Social implications

Adopting a primordial perspective, the TRT pharmacy was found to be of singular significance to China’s national identity. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Confucian and Daoist religious/philosophical and China’s erstwhile Imperial polity are significant and enduring precepts of Chinese national identity. As such the TRT flagship shop/brand is of singular importance, as China has eviscerated much of its cultural heritage – particularly in relation to its corporate heritage brands.


This is the first empirical study to focus on corporate heritage tourism brands and one of the first studies to examine a Chinese corporate heritage/corporate heritage tourism brand. Also significant in focussing on the TRT corporate heritage brand. Established in 1669, TRT’s history spans five centuries: a corporate provenance which is exceptional within the People’s Republic of China. The study links the corporate brand notion with the nascent corporate heritage brand domain and the established area of heritage tourism.



Balmer, J.M.T. and Chen, W. (2016), "Corporate heritage tourism brand attractiveness and national identity", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 223-238.



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