Internal corporate brand building : case studies of three Swedish service firms

Abstract: The brand is often mentioned as the most valuable asset for a firm, and this is especially true for the brand that bears the company name, i.e., the corporate brand. This study's research problem "what are the major components of internal corporate brand building in service firms?" is justified both by the potential of the corporate brand to create value for the service firm and its stakeholders, and by the lack of research in this area. Internal corporate brand building refers to the activities that occur before implementation. Furthermore, the corporate brand is often the major brand in service firms, and a strong brand will help the firm to overcome the problems caused by the characteristics of services, such as intangibility, inseparability and heterogeneity. The research problem was divided into two research questions, focusing on the brand building process (Research Question 1) and the brand team involved in the process (Research Question 2). The thesis adopted a qualitative research approach and case studies were conducted in three Swedish service firms. The data was collected mainly through personal interviews with the marketing manager in each firm, but secondary data such as internal documents and the annual report was also used. The findings support the general framework, although some minor differences were found. Most of the elements found in each step of the internal corporate brand building process, i.e., the brand audit, brand identity and brand position, were supported by previous research. Also, the comparison across cases revealed both differences and similarities. For instance, all firms wanted to strengthen the corporate brand in their brand portfolio (although only one firm used the corporate brand), by reducing sub-brands and by updating their brand identity and brand position. All firms also had associations they wanted to remove from and associations they wanted to add to their corporate brand. The brand team was identified in the three cases, and it was divided into a core brand team and an extended brand team. A formal reference group of employees could, for instance, be identified in the extended brand team, which assisted the core brand team in the brand building process. The marketing manager was identified as the brand champion in two of the three cases. The CEO was also part of the brand team, but did not have the central responsibility of the corporate brand that was suggested in the literature.