Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Advancing branding research: a qualitative agenda
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Volume 17, Issue 2
We were pleased to invite contributions to Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal on the topic of advancing branding research with a strong qualitative emphasis. The special issue was supported and encouraged by the then General Editor for QMR, namely Len Tiu Wright.
Papers went through a rigorous blind-refereeing, reviewing process. Thus, we are particularly grateful for the time and care that reviewers have put into the process. We thank them for this significant contribution. In all cases, papers were revised at least once and usually twice, based on the guidance of the reviewers. Based on the reviewer feedback some papers were eliminated at each stage of the reviewer process, after the initial submission and in two cases, after the first revision. In the end four papers are included in the special issue.
The papers achieve what the Guest Editors hoped for at the start, namely cutting-edge empirical studies in the domain of qualitative market research, applied to branding research. One aspect of the potential richness of qualitative research is the diversity of approaches to it.
Paper 1 by Dale Miller is novel and innovative because it takes a structured historical approach with emphasis on archival research for branding discovery. Miller has analysed how the brand building activities of an iconic retailer, Canadian Tire, has evolved over two distinct time periods. She terms the two time periods, Entrepreneurial Era and Professional Era. The findings identify similarities and differences across the eras, with an emphasis on brand building activities based on brand values.
Paper 2 by Mari Juntunen takes an interpretative narrative process approach, in a more recent bout of organisational history. A key finding is that the corporate renaming process is a long lasting, complex, iterative and management-centric process among small firms. The renaming process consists of six main events, but which can be further divided into sub-events to reveal their order.
It is noteworthy that both of the first two papers are essentially dealing with rebranding. The first paper takes a broader more strategic approach to rebranding, while the second paper focuses on the renaming aspect. Corporate rebranding is an emerging area of branding research, so it interesting that both papers tackling such a topic have used in varying degrees an historical approach, which makes sense because rebranding refers to changes over time.
Paper 3 by Wilson, Bengstsson and Curran provides a good example of case study methods to explore research propositions about brand meaning across stakeholder groups. Their study reinforces the small but growing literature on brand complexity and brand polysemy. Although multiple brand meanings exist for stakeholders, the meanings are relatively assonant (harmonious) and positively valenced. Four types of meaning gaps may lead to situations where brands are beloved, on-the-cusp, hijacked, or facing disaster.
Paper 4 by Bulmer and Buchanan-Oliver represents a novel multi-model interpretative narrative approach. Their method offers a faster, cheaper and more convenient means of gaining access to consumer experiences of brands than traditional ethnographic methods. The consumer narratives generated provided rich insights into the role of brands in contributing to national identity.
In summary, although not a deliberate imposition by the Guest Editors, the resulting four papers have presented four diverse ways to conduct qualitative research in branding. The different research methodologies are themselves instructive for future branding research. Collectively, the four papers suggest more options in the way that qualitative brand research can be approached. Of course, the particular qualitative methodology has to fit the research purpose and question. The four diverse methods also reflect the benefit of using qualitative research to investigate difficult and complex aspects of branding research, which increasingly is inherent in the nature of branding and the challenges it faces. We hope that the audience will enjoy reading the papers as much as we have.
T.C. Melewar and Bill Merrilees
About the Guest EditorsT.C. Melewar is a Professor of marketing and strategy at Middlesex University London, UK. His research interests are in the areas of branding, corporate identity and international marketing.
Bill Merrilees is a Professor of marketing in the Griffith Business School, Queensland, Australia. Most of his research is in branding, across many facets, including brand orientation, city branding and corporate branding and rebranding.