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Academic Journal Articles Reviewed:
Keller, K.L. (2006), ‘The Importance of Corporate Brand Personality Traits to a Successful 21st Century Business.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, 74-81.
Reckom, J. V. (2006), ‘Capturing the Essense of a Corporate Brand Personality: A Western Brand in Eastern Europe.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, 114-124.
Hulberg, J. (2006), ‘Integrating Corporate Branding and Social Paradigms: A Literature Study.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, 60-73.
The first thing to be considered in this essay is just what corporate branding is and how it differs to product branding. Corporate branding may be considered as the use of a company’s name to create a desired perception of the company and the products / services it produces. The key difference between product branding and corporate branding is that corporate branding encompasses a wide variety of factors (a number of which are internal), which it bases itself upon. These include aspects such as employees, values, beliefs of the company. Product branding is more specific and tends to focus on external factors and consumer perceptions.
With this in mind, we will now begin to look at corporate brand personality. Brand personality, as described by Reckom (2006), ‘can be seen as the set of human characteristics associated with a brand which is connected in consumer memory to numerous other brand features.’ Therefore, a corporate brand personality is the human characteristics or traits that a consumer associates with a company.
In order to establish a positive corporate brand personality, it is essential that a company has an in depth understanding of itself, who it wants to be and how it can become what it wants to be. There are six traits which are necessary if a company wishes to succeed in today’s environment and these have been grouped into three dimensions - heart, mind, and body (Keller 2006).
Within the heart dimension are passion and compassion. The employees of the company must be passionate about what they do and believe in it. If they are not then it will have a negative impact on their work. Keller (2006) points out that it is ‘especially imperative that employees be passionate about what they do for their customers…as customers are the core asset of any company.
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Within the mind dimension are creativity and discipline. Creativity is must for any successful company as it allows for greater differentiation from competitors through product / service development, creative marketing techniques, etc. It also helps to ‘overcome the trade-offs inherent in virtually all aspects of business’ (Keller 2006), whether they be financial, strategic or tactical. While creativity is important, a firm must also be disciplined in order to remain focused on its primary business. This can be done by ‘setting appropriate priorities that provide clear direction to all member of the organisation’ (Keller 2006),
Within the body dimension are agility and collaboration. In such a rapidly changing environment, modern day companies must be agile enough shift with market trends and capitalise on new opportunities while adhering to their core values and catering for their stakeholders. Collaboration, both internally and externally, is a necessity for companies wishing to secure there place in the market. Greater levels of interdepartmental team work within the company will improve communication, thus enhancing the overall performance of the company. Well established relationships with complimentary external partners, suppliers, etc. also make a company more agile by creating more intricate networks.
As mentioned before it is essential that the company has a good understanding of itself. The traits described above should be used to portray the brand identity – ‘A unique set of associations that the brand strategist aspires to create or maintain. These associations represent what the brand should stand for and imply a potential promise to customers’ (All About Branding) - of the company. However, the message a company wishes to deliver and how it is perceived by the consumer (brand image) may be very different. Rekom et al. discuss the importance of the essence of the brand and how consumer’s ‘naïve theories’ may impact on the brand. According to Reckom et al.(2006) naïve theories are the associations consumers have to organise and ‘casually link the different characteristics of the brand.’ It is these casual links that form the corporate brand personality in the mind of the consumer. Based of feedback the company receives from consumers, through market research, it can see if its brand identity is inline with consumer perception. If it is not, then the company will have to augment its marketing communications strategy to suit its consumers. This is a very delicate area as diversifying too far from the brand identity may result in rejection from the consumer. This is highlighted by Reckom et al(2006) when they discuss the disastrous consequences that Camel cigarettes encountered when they changed their image from that of a rugged, outdoor brand to that of a relaxed and funny brand. They credited Camel’s 50 percent drop in market share to their removal of two of the foundation characteristics (‘ruggedness’ and ‘outdoorsy’) upon which a number of other characteristics relied. With reference to Ahn’s theory of essence, Reckom et al(2006) point out that’peopple generally attach greater importance to the characteristics they perceive to underlie one or more other characteristics. A characteristic that is perceived to cause a greater number of characteristics is perceived to be more ‘essential’ to the concept.’ This argument is further supported in their article when they look at McDonald’s brand essence in Slovenia. What they found was that particular traits (characteristics) were more prominent in the minds of consumers in Slovenia. These were traits such as ‘happy’, ‘fast’, and ‘communicative’ – all characteristics that McDonalds try to instil into their corporate brand personality which shows the successful implementation of branding strategy.
This article seems to support Keller’s article as McDonalds apply the three dimensions, described above, to their corporate branding strategy. They are highly motivated. They contribute largely to cause-related activities. They are continually developing new products while adhering to their primary function. They have altered and added their company in order to keep up with market trends and they have collaborated with other high profile companies such as Coca-Cola.
However, Jon Hulberg (2006) brings to light, through the use of sociological paradigms, a number of factors that must be considered by managers when establishing their corporate branding personality. He describes four types of sociological paradigms (‘can be regarded as social constructions reflecting dominant values and interests’ (Hulberg 2006)), into which people fall into, and use (often subconsciously) to create their opinions and beliefs about the world around them. The paradigms he lists are the functionalist paradigm, the interpretive paradigm, the radical humanist paradigm, and the radical structuralist paradigm.
He does not disagree with corporate branding. In fact he supports it, acknowledging that ‘Products and services have a tendency to become similar over time while organisations are inevitably very different’ and that due to information overload and increased noise in communication, greater focus on corporate branding is advisable. However, he does believe that the majority of managers, when developing their corporate branding strategy, tend to be in the functionalist paradigm. People in this bracket are described by Hulberg (2006) as having a ‘means-end mentality and being ‘concerned with rational explanations…using theories that offer practical solutions to practical problems.’ The problem with these people is that they assume that everyone within the company has the same view as they do. They neglect the other paradigms and thus neglect the perceptions of other people, particularly those from the radical structuralist paradigm who are highly sceptical of companies and their acts.
In order to create a positive corporate brand personality it is absolutely essential for marketers to be open-minded and to understand these alternative attitudes and attempt to cater for them as best as is possible without sacrificing their brand identity.
Overall, although there may be some small differences between the beliefs of Keller, Reckom et al and Hulberg, they are in agreement with the approach that should be taken to establish a successful corporate brand personality. They all agree that the corporate brand identity (its essence) must be present in everything a company does and that it should be emulated by the employees of the company. They agree that the all employees should share a similar belief in the company and their contribution to the company’s success, as they are the ones who ‘bring the brand to life and actually determine who a company is’ (Keller 2006). Finally, they agree that it is essential to continually ensure that the brand identity and the brand image are inline with one another to ensure that they are perceived in the manner they wish.
One company that has developed a highly successful corporate brand personality is Nike. They seem to have integrated all the theory, described above, into their corporate branding strategy. When one thinks of Nike, (whether they are talking about running shoes, football boots, tracksuits, caps, etc.), they think sport, quality, reliable, fun, and so on. This shows their success in establishing a brand strong brand image in line with their brand essence (which was an important factor pointed out mostly by Rekom et al.)
They are passionate about sport and advancing their products to enhance sport performance. Meanwhile, the show compassion through their NikeGO campaign, to develop a greater interest in sport among children, and their Nike Reuse-A-Shoe recycling programme which is aimed at reducing waste and toxic substances. They have stayed up to date and have even dictate trends, showing their agility and creativity, whilst never forgetting what their core business was, which shows discipline.
Nike, seek to cater for all paradigms, not only through their diverse range of products, but also through their employees. All Nike employees (in any of their stores) are sports enthusiasts. However their interests cover a variety of different areas, from conventional sports like rugby, football and tennis, to alternative games like break dancing, surfing and lacrosse. They are also excellent brand ambassadors who enjoy Nike products which strengthens Nike’s corporate brand equity by creating a positive image to all stakeholders.
• Aaker, D. and McLaughlin, D. (2007) Strategic Market Management, European ed., Wiley.
• All About Branding, Brand Identity. Viewed 2nd December 2007 http://www.allaboutbranding.com/index.lasso?page=11,54,0
• De Chernatony, L. (2006) From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation, 2nd edition, Butterworth-Heinemann.
• Hulberg, J. (2006), ‘Integrating Corporate Branding and Social Paradigms: A Literature Study.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, 60.
• Hulberg, J. (2006), ‘Integrating Corporate Branding and Social Paradigms: A Literature Study.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp.61.
• Lynch, Joanne (2007) ‘Branding Strategies’
• Hulberg, J. (2006), ‘Integrating Corporate Branding and Social Paradigms: A Literature Study.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp.66.
• Keller, K.L. (2006), ‘The Importance of Corporate Brand Personality Traits to a Successful 21st Century Business.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp. 76.
• Keller, K.L. (2006) a, ‘The Importance of Corporate Brand Personality Traits to a Successful 21st Century Business.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp. 77.
• Keller, K.L. (2006) b, ‘The Importance of Corporate Brand Personality Traits to a Successful 21st Century Business.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp.77.
• Keller, K.L. (2006) c, ‘The Importance of Corporate Brand Personality Traits to a Successful 21st Century Business.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp.77.
• Keller, K.L. (2006), ‘The Importance of Corporate Brand Personality Traits to a Successful 21st Century Business.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp.79.
• Keller, K.L. (2006), ‘The Importance of Corporate Brand Personality Traits to a Successful 21st Century Business.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp.81.
• Reckom, J. V. (2006), a ‘Capturing the Essense of a Corporate Brand Personality: A Western Brand in Eastern Europe.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp. 116.
• Reckom, J. V. (2006), b ‘Capturing the Essense of a Corporate Brand Personality: A Western Brand in Eastern Europe.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp. 116.
• Reckom, J. V. (2006), ‘Capturing the Essense of a Corporate Brand Personality: A Western Brand in Eastern Europe.’ Journal of Brand Management. Vol. 14. Nos. 1/2, pp.117