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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: European Journal of Marketing, Volume 42, Issue 5/6.
About the Guest EditorsLeslie de Chernatony is Professor of Brand Marketing and Director of the Centre for Research in Brand Marketing at Birmingham University Business School. With a doctorate in brand marketing, he has a substantial number of publications in American and European journals and is a regular presenter at international conferences. He has several books on brand marketing, the two most recent being Creating Powerful Brands and From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation. A winner of several research grants, his two most recent grants have supported research into factors associated with high performance brands and research into services branding. He was Visiting Professor at Madrid Business School and is currently Visiting Professor at Thammasat University, Bangkok and University of Lugano, Switzerland. Leslie is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Fellow of the Market Research Society. He acts as an international consultant to organisations seeking more effective brand strategies and has run acclaimed branding seminars throughout Europe, Asia, America and the Far East. He is an experienced expert witness in legal cases involving branding issues in commercial and competition cases.
This special issue on brand management is the culmination of two branding events in 2006. The Thought Leaders International Conference on Brand Management, hosted by the Centre for Research in Brand Management at the Birmingham University Business School, took place on 28-29 March. The 2nd Academy of Marketing International Brand and Corporate Reputation Special Interest Group Colloquium took place on 7-8 September at the Manchester Business School. Both sets of organisers thought it would be a good idea to have a selection of their papers published in the European Journal of Marketing. After presenting their papers at these double blind refereed conferences, authors were made aware of the opportunity to revise their papers after feedback from the audiences and to submit them for this Special Issue. Those papers that passed a further round of double blind refereeing are included.
The first of the six papers from the Thought Leaders International Conference on Brand Management, by Merrilees and Miller, focuses on corporate rebranding. It is not difficult to find examples of corporate rebranding, yet there is little theory about this. Following a review of the limited literature, six principles are postulated about successful corporate rebranding. Three principles address the process of revising the corporate brand vision, one relates to the importance of staff “buy-in”, and two to the implementation of the new strategy. Using the case study of a Canadian specialist leather goods retailer, the authors found support for their principles. Given the importance of this topic and the pioneering work of these researchers, it would be good for others to consider extending these principles and testing them in other corporations.
Following the tradition of academic rigour at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, Winchester, Romaniuk and Bogomelova investigated the infrequently researched domain of negative brand beliefs. Specifically, they investigated how negative and positive brand beliefs change over time as buyer behaviour changes. The literature is unclear as to whether brand beliefs are predictors of future brand buying behaviour, a reflection of previous behaviour, or a combination of both these options. Two studies were undertaken, one in the personal car insurance market and the other in a business-to-business banking market, in each market re-interviewing respondents over time. Some of the findings are consistent across studies, for example the differences between those who defect are detectable through changes in brand belief levels prior to behaviour change. However, differences were found between the studies. Helpful indicators for future research studies are suggested by these researchers.
In the third paper, Ouwersloot and Odekerken-Schröder explore whether a brand community can be segmented on the basis of individuals’ motivations to join the community. Building on McAlexander et al.’s model they focus on four motivations for joining a community, i.e. reassurance of product quality, high involvement with the category, opportunity for joint consumption and the brand’s symbolic function. They investigated whether differences exist among community members with respect to the importance attached to these motivators. Using a community of players of a board game and also a Swatch community, while homogeneity exists, some heterogeneity was noted. This has implications for communications and raises the question of whether these findings are unique to these two communities.
The fourth paper, from Power, Whelan and Davies, addresses the issue of why some brands which have negative associations can be successful. Specifically they focus on those brands perceived as ruthless, possibly due to their leaders’ images. Postulating that trust might mediate negative images, they consider how this impacts on two aspects of brand relationships, i.e. attractiveness and self-connectedness. Their empirical research, based on four ruthless brands, shows that provided the brand is trusted, the negative influence of a ruthless image does not dominate the relational outcome. The importance of trust in building relationships is evident, but as these researchers question for the future, is trust in the leader or corporation the greater driver of relationship strength?
In the fifth paper, Iversen and Hem investigate from a theoretical stance provenance associations as core values of place umbrella brands. Place branding is attracting much attention, not least because of the benefits from attracting and retaining key stakeholders. However, the challenge is that those diverse stakeholders may have incongruent interests and there is rarely a dominant party controlling branding programmes. The authors address some of the issues involved in place branding. They develop a model to assess how favourable provenance associations can be built and capitalised upon as core values across a country’s goods and services. A series of propositions are advanced which need to be tested if knowledge is to advance about this important topic.
In the sixth paper, Nairn, Griffin and Gaya Wicks present a critique of the Piagetian developmental cognitive psychology model, which dominates research into children and brand symbolism. As they lucidly note, this paradigm overlooks the meaning and use of brands in the social and cultural context of childrens’ lives. They propose consumer culture theory as an alternative approach for researching children’s relationships with brands. This considers the cultural, economic and political context that shapes the way individuals think, feel and act in markets. Within this perspective they report their two-stage qualitative study with children. Amongst other findings, they show how children interpret “cool” in relation to brand symbols and the role of gender in children’s conversations about brands. From a rich database their study clarifies the potential value of consumer culture theory in understanding children’s use of brand symbolism and its implications for policy makers and marketers.
The next five papers in this special issue are taken from the 2nd Academy of Marketing International Brand and Corporate Reputation Special Interest Group Colloquium. Dominic Medway and Gary Warnaby’s paper is concerned with the growing area of place branding. They take an interesting perspective by investigating the de-marketing of places. De-marketing of places considers such diverse examples as the inversion of the normal league table approach, the “Crap Towns” phenomenon that epitomises the active marketing of places through a humorous emphasis on negativity, to the phenomenon of dark tourism whereby travel associated with death, tragedy and disaster (e.g. battlefield or holocaust tourism, which has grown in popularity). A typology of place de-marketing is introduced and its implications for place brands considered.
The eighth paper, by James Devlin and Sally McKechnie, deals with consumer perceptions of brand architecture in financial services. An organisation’s brand architecture is its approach to the design and measurement of its brand portfolio. Much of the literature in this field comes from an internal perspective with the views of practitioners predominating. Devlin and McKechnie challenge the existing orthodoxy by investigating the consumers’ perspective. They find that there is support for the corporate brand to play the principal role in the brand architecture of financial services firms.
The importance of the corporate brand is highlighted in the next paper, by Gary Davies, who investigates employer branding and its influence on managers. The majority of the branding literature deals with the brand as seen and understood by external groups. However, internal perspectives are considered in this paper, which uses the corporate character scale as a multi-dimensional measure of corporate brand personality, investigating the importance of employer branding on a large sample from 17 different organisations. Davies explores the influence of the employer brand upon employees’ affinity, satisfaction and loyalty to the brand, as well as the perceived differentiation of their employer.
The tenth paper, by Ranis Cheng, Tony Hines and Ian Grime, investigates the desired and perceived identities of fashion retailers. The aim of this paper is to analyse the gap between desired and perceived identity within the “fast fashion” sector. Two dynamic high-street brands are chosen as the basis of the study. Their work reinforces the importance of both internal and external considerations when building and maintaining the brand. Their research also highlights the point that considerable gaps may exist between the company’s and the customer’s perceptions of brand identity.
The final paper in this Special Issue is by Michael Bosnjak and Nina Rudolph, and looks at undesired self-image congruence in a low-involvement product context. Their work attempts to rectify the knowledge gap that is created by the fact that approach behaviours have been the study of most empirical research in this area (hence many studies have ignored avoidance tendencies). Their results show that undesired congruency has an incremental explanatory effect on behaviour, and this particularly means that undesired brand images influence decisions at the early stages of the decision making process. Bosnjak and Rudolph warn managers to consider distancing their brands from undesired symbolic associations at the same time as maximising the closeness to desired symbolic meanings.
With this Special Issue we hope to provoke new ideas on brand, corporate identity and reputation. Expanding on this growing area of discourse requires knowledge and an understanding of the issues, some of which are outlined in articles in this Special Issue. We hope that these papers will further stimulate colleagues’ views on the epistemological foundations, the interpretations of the inter-relationships and other substantial issues in this area. This type of discourse challenges us all to consider and innovatively broaden our research ideas. It is for this reason that we urge readers to evaluate the strengths and challenges of this Special Issue. We hope that you will find this collection of studies useful and stimulating. We take this opportunity to thank all the reviewers who offered their time and efforts to take part in the peer-review process for this special edition.
Leslie de Chernatony, George Christodoulides, Stuart Roper, Temi AbimbolaGuest Editors