«of the AM’s Brand, Corporate Identity and Reputation SIG INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SESSIONS Sessions chairs The main function of a session chair is to ...»
Traditionally, the primary brand identity perspective is internally oriented, referring to a value- and culture-driven strategy that is supposed to be stable over time. It is only recently that dynamic aspects of brand identity have been studied and conceptualized (see, for example, da Silveira, Lages and Simões, 2013). Brand positioning is supposed to indicate the direction of the brand’s marketing activities to achieve the goal of building strong brands and achieving or defending an intended position (Aaker and Shansby, 1982; Keller and Lehmann, 2006; Riezebos and van der Grinten, 2012). Traditionally, the primary brand positioning perspective is externally oriented, referring to a customer- and market-driven strategy that sometimes requires changes. Surprisingly, research into the dynamics of positioning brands over time has only received limited research attention (see, for example, Koch, 2014).
In an attempt to better understand the relationship between brand identity and positioning conceptually, Urde and Koch (2014) identified five schools of positioning and separated them along a spectrum from market orientation (image-driven) to brand orientation (identitydriven). The choice of school depends on how the intended position is defined and how the process of positioning is to be implemented. Urde (2013) argued that ‘position’ is an essential part of the ‘corporate brand identity matrix’. The ‘wanted position’ is part of the definition of the corporate brand identity and a point of reference for the positioning process. Figure 1 highlights the ‘positioning process’ (bold dotted diagonal arrow). It cuts across the corporate brand identity and the communication and reputation dimensions (cf. Urde, 2013; Urde and Greyser, 2014). The positioning process links the internally perceived ‘mission and vision’, the central ‘brand core’, and the ‘wanted position’. ‘Wanted position’ is an identity element defined by the brand owning organisation and its management. The communication of the wanted position includes the organisation’s behaviour and all its activities. The actual, externally perceived position is part of the brand’s overall reputation and primarily relates to ‘differentiation’, whereas mission and vision relates primarily to ‘willingness-to-support’ (cf.
Urde and Greyser, 2014). However, the way in which identity and positioning unfold over time remains unclear. This point ties in with the present paper’s aim of bridging the brand identity and positioning concepts.
Figure 1 Positioning process and the ‘corporate brand identity and reputation matrix’ (cf.
Urde and Greyser, 2014) Methodology / approach We adopted a process-focused qualitative case study design with longitudinal elements (Eisenhardt, 1989; Langley, 2011; Yin, 2009). Our intention is to capture the impact that major changes have on brand identity and positioning in the case of Falu Rödfärg (a Swedish company that produces traditional red paint). Excellent case company access and the unique case company context make this a “revelatory” single case (Yin, 2009, 49). The choice of the case study approach was motivated by the opportunity to study brand identity and positioning development at first hand – a form of action research (Argyris, 1973). In action research, “the [research] output results from an involvement with members of an organization over a matter which is of genuine concern for them” (Eden and Huxham, 1996, 75). The authors of the present paper were both directly and indirectly involved in influencing and changing the organization and its brand. This is typical for action research-inspired studies (see, for example, Schultz and Hatch, 2003). In our case study, the interpretations of ongoing brand identity and positioning finding processes have been discussed in ongoing conversations with knowledgeable respondents (such as the CEO, brand managers, and consultants).
Consequently, the findings presented in this paper are the result of a mutual knowledgebuilding process between researchers and practitioners (Van de Ven, 2007). One author of this paper worked mainly as an external advisor, helping the company to formulate and implement a new brand strategy. The other author took the role of an outside observer to theorize the brand identity and position finding process suggested by the case.
Case company Falu Rödfärg is a subsidiary of Stora Kopparberg, which was founded in the 13th century (in
1288) and is the world’s first limited liability company. The company’s production of traditional red paint (known as Falu Rödfärg) dates back more than 250 years. Small red and white houses have become closely associated with Sweden and are part of the country’s cultural heritage. Falu Rödfärg has almost become a generic name for this type of traditional red paint. From an economic perspective, the company Falu Rödfärg reported losses for several years due to declining sales; competition from modern synthetic paints; and ‘copycat’ paints threatening the future of the company. In 2011, the company initiated a radical repositioning and rebranding strategy that involved adopting a new business model and reviewing the paint’s identity and position. The long heritage of Falu Rödfärg and the emotional associations with this authentic product were identified as a differentiator and part of the value proposition and wanted position. Figure 2 illustrates Falu Rödfärg’s corporate brand identity.
Figure 2 Falu Rödfärg corporate brand identity (cf. Urde, 2013) Findings The major repositioning process at Falu Rödfärg started approximately three years ago and is now entering its finalization phase. The findings presented hereafter are preliminary as our research is still ongoing.
A parallel process of ‘identifying’ and ‘positioning’ Preliminary results indicate a mutually influencing development between identity and position finding processes, rather than a static sequence of first choosing a brand identity followed by an intended position selection. While the ‘intended brand position’ is grounded in the strategic intent of the organization, the intended position also corresponds with an ‘intended brand identity’ that is grounded in organizational and visual identity. This is followed by a parallel process of ‘positioning’ and ‘identifying’, which leads to an ‘actual position’ and an ‘actual identity’ (more or less matched by the brand owner’s intentions) once changes have been implemented and communicated.
From a ‘generic default position’ to ‘deliberate positioning’ Before the brand identity review Falu Rödfärg held, what we term, a ‘default position’. That is to say, a position that was not intended, but rather a position that came about after 250 years of “being part of the fabric of Swedish culture”. The internal review and reconstruction of the firm’s history made it possible to identify key elements of heritage. Viewed over time, these elements gave an impression of the Falu Rödfärg track record. Working with the Falu Rödfärg identity as a brand, the intended position was defined as “modern in all times”. This became the brand’s ‘deliberate position’.
From product perceptions to brand perceptions Falu Rödfärg had tendencies to be perceived as a type of traditional paint (that is, a common name for a product category). To equal the category is the opposite to be positioned. The definition of its heritage and identity strengthened the distinctiveness of the brand. The formulation of the intended position further defined how the brand should be set apart from other manufacturers’ products in the category. More fundamentally, Falu Rödfärg was set apart from the category itself, mostly by utilizing brand-oriented techniques of positioning.
From product brand to corporate brand We discovered a strong organizational commitment to Falu Rödfärg “as a living cultural heritage”. This sentiment, and the way the organization described its identity and intended position (“modern in all times”), indicated that Falu Rödfärg was emerging from being perceived as a product brand (typically referred to as “it”) toward being viewed as a corporate brand (typically referred to as “we”). This gradual perceptual change of the organization’s self-image and reflection resulted in a management decision to redefine Falu Rödfärg as a corporate brand.
Theoretical implications First, a major preliminary implication is that positioning does not follow sequentially from identity. Both concepts are dynamic and mutually influence each other over time in a parallel process of identifying and positioning. Second, different schools of positioning (Urde and Koch 2014) apply at different stages in the process of positioning. Each school is strongly connected to identity, albeit in different ways. Third, activating heritage implies a brandoriented approach to positioning rather than a market orientation. One school of positioning characterizes the overall mind-set of an organization.
Practical implications First, managers should be aware that brand identity and positioning are strongly related.
Contrary to popular belief, brand identities do not represent relatively fixed and stable meanings. Instead, they co-develop with altered brand positions over time in a mutual manner. Second, depending on the primary objective of the (re)positioning process, management must select a suitable school of positioning that characterizes the mind-set of the organization and its brand(s) related to identity. It is important to build an internal agreement regarding the application of other positioning schools and techniques in the process in order to avoid misunderstandings.
Limitations This study has the usual limitations of a single case due to its immense context dependency.
However, this limitation is also a major advantage as the study facilitates in-depth insights in a longitudinal manner. Nonetheless, the validity of these findings needs to be strengthened by applications to other organizations with varying degrees of heritage and identity activations in positioning processes.
Originality/value As far as we can ascertain, this is the first study to shed light on the interplay between brand identity and positioning over time based on an in-depth case study and action research.
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The corporate brand as a valuable resource in B2B relationships Koporcic, Nikolina Purpose The main purpose of this paper is to explore the role and importance of corporate brands for business relationship development and to reconfigure thinking in which valuable resources appear only as a result of interactions in already established relationships. Understandings of the value corporate brands have, by revealing their potential as a resource in the prerelationship stage is found as necessary and therefore seen as a missing link in this area or research. The potential of corporate brands can be based upon their reputation in a network of business actors. Hence, the article focuses on a corporate brand as a powerful tool and valuable resource which attracts partners and leads to initiation of a buyer-seller relationship and differentiation from competitors.
Theoretical approach The article combines different views on a corporate brand, going from relational, the IMP interaction approach view (Håkansson 1982) to the Resource based view (Barney 1991), where the link that consolidates them lies in resource-dependency.