«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 ...»
Wallpach, S. (2009). A Multi-Stakeholder Approach to Brand Meaning. Dissertation. Innsbruck University, June.
The dynamics of hybridity in corporate rebranding: The case of British charities Lee, Zoe Purpose of paper This research examines dynamics and tensions emerging from identity drift during corporate rebranding strategies. Corporate rebranding refers to an organisation change from one corporate brand formulation to another; typically with associated with new meanings that will enhance the organisations’ image among its key stakeholders and performances (Gotsi & Andriopoulos, 2007; Merrilees & Miller, 2008). Research to date has focused on the impact of name changes (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003; Melewar, et al., 2005; Stuart and Muzellec, 2004), its relationship with financial outcomes (Kalaignanam & Bahadir, 2013), stakeholders engagement (Hatch & Schultz, 2003; Lomax & Mador, 2006; Miller & Merrilees, 2013), but less on understanding the dynamics of identity change in the rebranding process. Urde (2003) argues that organisation’s goal is to live its core values, and thus its brand (Balmer, 2001).These core organisational values and beliefs held by employees and communicated to all stakeholders represent a true and unique organisational identity. In a rebrand, identity drift can change the direction of its core values and beliefs and as such, signal confusion regarding ‘who the organisation is’.
Nonprofit organizations operate in significantly dynamic environments (Billis, 2010;
Minkoff, 2002; Schmid, 2013). Increased competition and reduced statutory income from the governments (Charity Commission, 2010) forces them to adapt their ideologies, image, identity and organizational strategies to ensure their survival, and to continue to achieve their social mission and objectives. To accommodate these demands, many have become hybrid (Billis, 2010; Minkoff, 2002) and combine different, often conflicting identities such as normative and utilitarian identities (Moss et al., 2011). Normative identities are typically ideological driven to maintain a particular organizational patterns and employee commitment (Albert & Whetten, 1985). Studies show that “community”, “artistic” and “people” normative identities in Smith (2014), Glynn (2000) and Moss et al (2011) encompass different elements of community engagement, relationship building, donors, sponsors and beneficiaries relationships. On the other hand, utilitarian identities stresses the outcome of the decision making process, particularly in generating revenues and profits and hence is commercially driven. Many innovative nonprofit organizations are increasing their income via business activities (trading and government contracts) and developing corporate partnerships (Social Enterprise UK, 2013; Guo, 2006; Kylander & Stone, 2012). These forces contribute to the rising prominence of utilitarian identities and to some extent identity blurring and ambiguity (Billis, 2010; Corley & Gioia, 2004; Schmid, 2013). The dual identities logics of normative (i.e. social) and utilitarian identities (i.e. business) of nonprofit organizations are arguably co-exist in an unstable relationship (Moss et al., 2011, Smith, 2014). Meeting the demand of one identity may promote conflict, and have subsequent negative effect on the other (Albert and Whetten, 1985; Glynn,. 2000; Pache & Santos, 2013), particularly in relation to changes in organizational behaviours, strategies and structure (Billis, 2010; Minkoff, 2002). To complicate the situation, nonprofit rebranding strategies can add more tension to the process of managing and sustaining both identities.
Our research zeroes in on managing the interplay and connection between these dual identities and organization rebrand. We argue that brands is no longer a passive communication tools but rather a constant process where multiple identities, meanings and relationships are negotiated and fought over within the organizations (Arvidsson, 2008).
Scholars tend to emphasize the economic value of rebranding strategies in increasing profitability, positioning and competitiveness (Jaju et al., 2006; Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006), but the need to align these with social objectives has been largely ignored.
Methodology To understand the dynamics of hybridity in the rebranding process and potential tensions related to this, we used interpretive and case study research approaches. We conducted semistructured interviews in ten selected cases (within the UK top 100 Charity Index) with senior managers who have experience of leading and implementing the rebranding strategies (see Table 1). We selected the British charities based on four criteria: size, cause, degree of change (from visual refresh to complete name change) and recency (in the past 6 years). We also conducted four interviews with design consultants and agencies who facilitated the rebranding process across the nonprofit sector, and who were therefore able to provide a sense of common concerns and patterns. Informants were asked to describe areas of difficulty in managing rebranding and to describe ‘who they thought the organisation is’, and how it is expressed to external stakeholders. The interviews ranged from 60-90 minutes in length and were taped and transcribed. Archival data sources including documents, launch booklets, press releases and observations during visits to the head office of each organisation were also collected to allow triangulation. A typical grounded analysis was undertaken which involved open and axial coding procedures (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). Cross case analysis looked for both commonalities and differences between the case examples.
Findings The study suggests there is a need to move away from single and static organisational identity perspective and towards a better understanding of managing hybridity in corporate rebranding. Identity drift can have negative impact in managing process and managers are continuously balancing the expectations from both identities. In our research, we identified four typologies of rebranding and its relationship with dual identities (see Figure 1). An ideal rebranding strategy would show a balance between normative and utilitarian identity across different stakeholders. Although the trigger for rebranding decision may be a market directive to grow and raise income, organisations in Quandrant I are not in serious financial crisis.
Here, managers face the tension of legitimising the rebranding decision and convincing the top management team and staff. These organisations tend to be well established, larger in size with stable revenue from existing funders. Conversely, many non-profit rebranding strategies are adopted under conditions of continually falling income from fundraising, corporate partnership or statutory funding. Organisations in Quandrant IV generally show an imbalance between normative and utilitarian identities, while some have traded off visual elements of normative identity in order to secure and maintain resources from corporate partners. In such cases, as their survival is threatened, contributions from funders are valued more highly than the values upheld in the organisation. In our study, one senior designer regrettably admitted they had modified the logo and part of the visual identity to suit the needs of corporate funders at the expense of the original values and belief.
Interestingly we also found identity drift in an opposite direction, from utilitarian to normative. Organisations in Quadrant II reveal a different aspect of unbalanced rebranding strategy. They are more confident and committed to their ideals, causes and missions and resist pressure and interest from external funders. Hence, the organisation’s rebrand returned to their ‘roots’. Finally, organisations in Quadrant III also have balanced expression of both identities but at a lower level as compared to those in Quadrant I. The nonprofit organisations that fall into this category are few, typically smaller charities less dependent on voluntary income or public donations. In some cases, they may rely on statutory funding and have lesser need to prioritise either normative or utilitarian identity. Rebranding strategies help to align their image with identity and culture within the organisation.
In order to understand the mechanisms that managers used to deal with the dynamics and tension in order to restore some degree of balance, we observed there are three types of mechanism used. For example, justifying, attributing and visioning. Justifying refers to the process of searching for legitimate reasons for rebranding decisions, whether it is a complete change of brand name or some modification of the existing brand and its values. We found that for most nonprofit organisations, involvement of external consultants at the initial consultation stage is instrumental to some level of success. An external agency can helps ensure stakeholders’ honesty and openness about their thoughts on the rebranding decisions.
Equally comments and feedback from these consultants were employed in legitimising the process. In most cases, brand managers tend to emphasise utilitarian aspects of the rebrand by linking it to income generation and competitive positioning, hence not just a name change.
Attributing refers to a retrospective process of identifying causes to outcomes. We observed mixed findings in relation to this. In some cases, brand managers commented that it was difficult to link rebranding strategies with financial performance due to issues of measurement while others were quick to show statistics of financial performance. Finally, visioning refers to the communication of ideal outcomes, highlighting what the organisations can actually achieve in relation to social objectives. Brand managers commented that confidence in re-visioning what the organisation was able to accomplish in relation to its mission were important in rebranding strategies. For example, Case 4 set the benchmark for how to rebrand a nonprofit organisation successfully and this example has been quoted in interviews with other brand managers.
Practical implications This research has shown evidences of identity drift in rebranding nonprofit organisations that were once associated with voluntarism, altruism and social values, but have shifted their identity towards specific economic value and profitability. Our research show some concerns whether such drift cause nonprofit organisations to be too commercially driven at the expense of meeting the needs of the beneficiaries or causes. In addition, Michel and Rieunier (2012) note that part of the goal of a rebrand is to align the desired identity with brand image. Hence, understanding which identity is important and salient is key to designing an effective campaign that will lead to higher intention to give amongst the supporters and corporate partners. Such understanding is equally important for leaders in the nonprofit sector to ensure sustainability and survival of their organisations. It will be interesting for future research to explore the hierarchical effect of these dual identities in the rebranding process and its impact on various stakeholders. For example, under what circumstances is a normative identity more prevailing compared to utilitarian identity and vice versa?
Originality/value While much research exists on corporate brand and corporate rebranding, this study is unique in its discussion in drawing theories from organisational identity (Moss et al., 2011) to explore the dynamics of hybridity in a corporate rebranding process. In short, skilful management of managing tensions between the dual identities maybe a necessary to pursue continuity and change in their corporate brand efforts.
Key words: Corporate rebranding, identity, corporate branding, hybrid
Key references Arvidsson, A. (2008). The ethical economy of customer coproduction. Journal of Macromarketing, 28(4), 326-338.
Balmer, J. M. T. (2001). Corporate identity, corporate branding and corporate marketing:
Seeing through the fog. European Journal of Marketing, 35(3/4), 248-291.
Billis, D. (Ed.). (2010). Hybrid organizations and the third sector: Challenges for practice, theory and policy. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Foreman, P. & Whetten, D. A. (2002). Members’ identification with multiple-identity organizations. Organization Science, 13, 618-635.
Glynn, M. A. (2000). When Cymbals become symbols: conflict over organizational identity within a Symphony Orchestra. Organization Science, 11(3), 285-298.
Golden-Biddle, K. & Rao, H. (1997). Breaches in the boardroom: Organizational identity and conflicts of commitment in a nonprofit organization. Organization Science, 8, 593-611.
Gotsi, M. & Andriopoulos, C. (2007). Understanding the pitfalls in the corporate rebranding process, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 12(4), 341-355.
Guo, B. (2006). Charity for profit? Exploring factors associated with the commercialization of human service non-profit. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 35(1), 123-138.
Hatch, M.J. & Schultz, M. (2003). Bringing the corporation into corporate branding, European Journal of Marketing, 37(7/8), pp. 1041-64.
Jaju, A., Joiner, C. & Reddy, S.K. (2006). Consumer evaluation of corporate brand redeployment. Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, 34(2), 206-215.
Kaikati, J. G. & Kaikati, A. M. (2003). A rose by any other name: Rebranding campaign that work, Journal of Business Strategy, 24(6), 17-23.
Kalaignanam, K. & Bahadir, S. C. (2013). Corporate brand name changes ad business restructuring: is the relationship complementary or substitutive? Journal of the Academy Marketing Science, 41, 456-472.
Kylander, N. & Stone, C. (2012). The role of brand in the nonprofit sector. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 1-32.
Lindgreen, A., Swaen, V. & Jonston, W.J. (2009). Corporate social responsibility: an empirical investigation of U.S. organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 303-323.
Lomax, W. & Mador, M. (2006). Corporate re-branding: From normative models to knowledge management. Journal of Brand Management, 14(1/2), 82-95.
Melewar, T.C., Hussey, G. & Srivoravilai, N. (2005). Corporate visual identity: the rerebranding of France telecom. Journal of Brand Management, 12(5), 379-394 Merrilees, B. & Miller, D. (2008). Principles of corporate rebranding, European Journal of Marketing, 42(5/6), 537-52.
Michel, G. & Rieunier, S. (2012). Nonprofit brand image and typicality influences on charitable giving. Journal of Business Research, 65, 701-707.