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Journal of Product & Brand Management

How diverse is corporate brand Management research? Comparing schools of corporate brand
management with approaches to corporate strategy
Holger J. Schmidt, Jörn Redler,
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How Diverse Is Corporate Brand Management Research?
Comparing Schools of Corporate Brand Management with
Approaches to Corporate Strategy
Purpose – This paper contrasts research streams in corporate brand management (CBM) with an orientation toward
general strategy. The aim is to (a) examine whether CBM research is as diverse as research on general strategy and (b)
identify potentially new research perspectives within CBM.
Design/methodology/approach – First, the main dimensions to capture approaches and directions in general strategy
research are carved out and integrated into a framework for subsequent analysis (Strategy Descriptor Cube). Second,
research streams within CBM are clustered into predominating schools. Third, the framework is then used to classify
the identified schools, allowing further evaluation. In doing so, an innovative view on the status of and developments in
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CBM research is provided.

Findings – Most schools of CBM are built on rational and prescriptive approaches, while political and emergent
conceptions are hardly addressed. Thus, from the strategy-derived dimensions, approaches to CBM are surprisingly
homogenous, with only one school diverging from the dominating pattern. A variety of perspectives as found in strategy
research cannot be validated for CBM. Alternative conceptualizations to CBM in terms of assumptions about the
genesis of strategic directions and the perspective of analysis might provide impetus for progress in CBM research.
Research limitations/implications – The question arises why emergent and political perspectives have not been
seriously pursued in the last decades of brand research. Researchers might seize opportunities to be further stimulated
from the many faceted research approaches in general strategy. Further dimensions for description as well as alternative
clusterings of CBM schools should be discussed.
Practical implications – A broadening of perspectives, including potentially a more attentive reception of agile trends
in CBM, might become increasingly relevant for CBM practitioners. As new realities shape the present and future of
corporate brand building, new paradigms should be explored and tested.
Originality/value – The corporate brand-strategy link is evidently important; however, to date, few papers have such a
focus. This is the first paper to apply reasoning and perspectives that have contributed to significant developments in
general strategy research to the current situation in CBM research. It introduces a novel way to analyze and discuss
developments between and within CBM schools.

Keywords Brand management, corporate branding, corporate strategy, strategy descriptor cube, brand co-creation
Paper type Conceptual paper

1 Introduction

Corporate strategy (CS) and corporate brand management (CBM) are well-developed disciplines in

modern management science. Apparently, they show much resemblance in their concerns (Ind,

1997a): both concern top-level evaluations regarding how to adjust an organization within a market

context (Hatch and Schultz, 2003) and discuss how competitive advantage can be achieved (Porter,

1980; Aaker, 1989). Therefore, common sense suggests that related research should not perpetuate

as two isolated lines of investigation but should be intertwined, with many references to each other

(Louro and Cunha, 2001). In this regard, among brand management scholars and practitioners, not

many would neglect the strategic nature of CBM (Balmer and Wang, 2016).
Notwithstanding, when analyzing the range and breadth of assumptions and methodological

perspectives that have been unveiled in inquiry on CS, one may wonder whether CBM, as a field

that emerged chronologically after strategy research (Urde and Koch, 2014), has been able to fully

exploit the heritage of the related discipline. Since the history of science shows that researchers are

often caught in the domains from which they originated, forming a kind of self-contained system

(Boulding, 1956a; Gerard, 1952), the question arises to what extent CBM researchers and their
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corresponding schools of thought have been open to the ideas of impactful CS scholars. The

analysis presented in this paper will discuss whether CBM might seize opportunities to be further

stimulated from the extensive and many-faceted research approaches in general strategy.

Therefore, this paper aims to (a) contrast established, as well as recently emerging views, within the

dynamic field of CBM research with prominent approaches within the investigation of CS in order

to (b) identify angles that appear to be rather congruent within these research fields or that tend to

be unexplored viewpoints in CBM science. The overall goal is to (c) propose ways to exploit new

perspectives in order to contribute to the further development of the discipline. Given the limited

space of a journal article, the authors’ arguments, at one point or another, are pointedly formulated

and might seem rather provocative.

In line with the aforementioned research goals, the paper is organized as follows: Initially, the main

lines of strategy research are carved out, and the core dimensions of accessing CS are delineated. As

a preliminary result, the “Strategy Descriptor Cube” is introduced. Subsequently, the field of CBM

is narrowed down. A review of the literature on brand management, conversely, serves to identify

important research schools that are characterized by certain constitutive traits. Finally, CBM

schools are classified into the logic of the Strategy Descriptor Cube in order to explore to what

extent the approaches correspond. The paper closes with some explanations of the findings and a

discussion of the implications for CBM research.

2 Capturing the fundamental perspectives of approaches to corporate strategy

2.1 General concept of strategy and scope of corporate strategy

Strategy has been considered in various ways. Originating from a military context, the notion of

strategy diffused into business research and teaching. Authors such as Drucker (1954), Chandler

(1962), Ansoff (1965), Andrews (1971) or Porter (1980) are names that can be mentioned in the

forefront in this regard.

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Recently, Ronda‐Pupo and Guerras‐Martin (2012, p. 180) have proposed a synthesis of previous

definitions, namely, that strategy is “the dynamics of the firm’s relation with its environment for

which the necessary actions are taken to achieve its goals and/or to increase performance by means

of the rational use of resources”. However, the ambiguity with a formal consensus definition of

strategy has repeatedly been accentuated (Mishra et al., 2015; Ronda‐Pupo and Guerras‐Martin,

2012; Carroll, 1987).

Apart from the debate regarding a comprehensive definition, the core of strategy might be revealed

by gathering typical attributes, relevant arguments and important logics that are used when strategic

situations or strategic behavior is discussed (Mintzberg, 1994; Andrews, 1971; Whittington, 2002;

Tovstiga, 2013; Ansoff, 1987; Nag et al., 2007). Hence, at least four intermediate conclusions might

be noteworthy. First, strategy guides the main routes of a company´s business orientation, allowing

for a target orientation of actions; they also exert a controlling effect. Second, strategy concerns

long-term effects and long-term success. Third, strategic situations entail a high extent of insecurity,

and the quality of the problem is unstructured and therefore requires deconstruction. Fourth,

strategy development is based on an evaluation of internal, as well as external factors, for a

company’s success.

Overall, the construct seems to rest on two accepted ideas as the main pillars. The first one refers to

the link between the company and its environment that strategy must establish (Ansoff, 1965, or

Andrews, 1987, were first main proponents of this thought). In other words, a concrete strategy will
evolve by simultaneously considering the inner and outer world of the company in order to derive a

suitable and successful framework for managerial action (see horizontal link in figure 1). Another

idea refers to the circumstance that strategy will serve as a kind of guideline for the question in what

way intended goals should be achieved and thus channel managerial actions (Cannon and Sayles,

1968; Glueck, 1972; Ansoff, 1987; see also the strategy mode “plan” described by Mintzberg,

1987). Hence, strategy links organizational goals and organizational actions (see the vertical link in
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figure 1) and serves as “a map or compass for steering the corporate ship to its defined goal”

(Srinivasan, 2009, p. 129). Because of their nature, strategy decisions are a top-management issue

(e.g., Jemison, 1981; Carroll, 1987; Eisenhardt, 1999). Consequently, strategy can be characterized

by a dual link, as highlighted below in figure 1.

Figure 1: Dual link character of strategy.

As the following considerations focus on CS, its difference from business-level strategy requires

short consideration. Indeed, CS is frequently viewed as a kind of counter-concept to business-level

strategy (e.g., Johnson et al., 2014; Beard and Dess, 1981; Lynch, 2012; Varadarajan and Clark,

1994). CS centers the strategic orientations on the general or headquarters level of multi-product

companies (Andrews, 1987; Lynch, 2012; Johnson et al., 2014; Campbell and Park, 2005), and it

usually applies to the whole company and defines the businesses in which a company competes.
Related decisions create a picture of the kind of company that it is to be and therefore influence the

company on several levels while allocating a significant portion of a company’s resources to the

expected outcomes that unfold in the long run (Andrews, 1987). Important decisions apply to the

number and directions of strategic business units serving defined product-market constellations.

Therefore, strategy on a corporate level is mainly relevant to companies that engage in more than

one business (“multibusiness firms”; e.g., Chandler, 1991; Collins, 1996). Vertical
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integration/parenting of corporations, multinational issues, diversification, mergers/acquisitions and

alliances or portfolio matrix management are considered the main topics of CS (Campbell and Park,

2005; Grant, 2012; Johnson et al., 2014; Goold et al., 1994), particularly as questions regarding

synergies need to be addressed.

Business strategy, in contrast, concerns settings for given business segments and patterns to respond

to customers, suppliers, competitors and other stakeholders within the concrete business (e.g.,

Hambrick, 1980). Its focus in on how business units compete to achieve market advantage. For

companies that engage in one business only, business strategy and CS might formally coincide.

Usually, CS is considered superordinate to business strategy (Hambrick, 1980).

2.2 Differences in accessing corporate strategy

Considering the CS literature, three levels of distinctions become apparent. First, different lines of

arguments exist on how a strategy originates. Second, contrasting ideas regarding the relevance of

internal resources for a successful strategy can be traced. Third, the way of perceiving and

analyzing strategy and developing CS can be conceptualized from different angles.

Prescriptive vs. emergent strategy

Prescriptive strategy represents a strategy that is defined before it is implemented. It is actively

designed in terms of an objective that had been set in advance. Task fields such as strategic

analysis, strategy development, and implementation are core activities; they are linked together

sequentially (Lynch, 2012; Campbell et al., 2011; de Wit and Meyer, 2010; Chakravarthy and
Lorange, 1991; Ackermann et al., 2004). This view corresponds to Ansoff´s (1987) “proactive

systematic mode”, which accentuates long-range, strategic planning and management. Prescriptive

conceptualizations of strategy not only dominate current management research and teaching (e.g.,

Andrews, 1987; Chakravarthy and Lorange, 1991; Chandler, 1962; Ansoff, 1965) but also prevail in

organizational practice (Lynch, 2012).

Critics of prescriptive strategy primarily argue that the approach is based on a number of dangerous
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assumptions such as the ability to separate implementation from strategy extraction; the

consideration of a strategy merely as a management decision that then happens; the implementation

of a strategy that is merely a logical matter that can be managed in a way that it is proposed; the

understanding of the future as an object, which can be predicted sufficiently accurately to make

rational decisions; or the assumption that human beings constantly decide and act in a rational and

logic manner (Mintzberg, 1990, for a comprehensive overview). Related criticism has led, as a

counter project, to the elaboration of perspectives of emergent strategy.

Within an emergent strategy approach, the final objective is unclear, and elements of the strategy

evolve during the course of its life as the strategy proceeds (Johnson and Scholes, 1993; Lynch,

2012; Mintzberg, 1990; Mintzberg and McHugh, 1985). The strategy is not developed, but it has

emerged in adaptation to human needs and unknown innovations and developments. Furthermore, it

continues to develop further over time. In this way, the approach has taken up research on

organizational learning (e.g., Argyris, 1999; Senge, 1990). In essence, the emergent line of thinking

is that strategy might be best grasped by a process that emerges from organizational

experimentation and small steps forward. Within this perspective, core areas of analysis, strategy

development and implementation are interrelated – but not in a linear manner and with development

and implementation not being clearly separable as phases. This is why strategies, as patterns, are

recognizable only after the realization of management action; they might also become potentially

radical in nature (Mishra et al., 2015).

As a matter of course, the emergent view of strategy has provoked several lines of counter-

arguments (e.g., Ansoff, 1991), and the main related issues concern a) the passive attitude and

approach from management without a clear vision; b) the allocation of resources without strategic

planning; c) the ignorance concerning findings that rational and logically derived decision making

has a greater likelihood of success; and d) the problems that arise around management control.

Resource-based vs. environment-based development modes

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A resource-based approach to strategy considers the company’s resources and their heterogeneity

as the source of a company´s competitive advantage (Barney, 1991; Dicksen, 1996; Lynch, 2012;

Mishra et al., 2015; Johnson et al., 2014). The basic idea might already be traced in Drucker’s

(1954) work, as the author stresses the importance of acquisition and the deployment of resources in

his understanding of strategy. Likewise, authors such as Schendel and Hatten (1972), Wernerfelt

(1984), Peteraf (1993), Teece (1982, 1990), Nelson and Winter (1982) and McNichols (1977)

emphasize the role of a company’s chief resources and competencies as the principal source of

successful strategies.

Critics of the resource-based approach to strategy note that these theories do well in analyzing

competitive advantages once it has been achieved, but they offer rather less insight when it comes

to the question of how to develop competitive advantage or how to respond to a changing

environmental situation (Kraaijenbrink et al., 2010; Priem and Butler, 2001).

The environmental view of strategy, on the contrary, stresses the importance of external factors such

as governments, markets, customer segments or competitors for strategic success, which leads to

profitability. Within this perspective, profits are mainly delivered by accurately selecting the most

attractive industries and competing better than others within those industries (Wheelen and Hunger,

1992; Porter, 1980; Rumelt et al., 1991; Ōmae, 1983; Porter, 1985). Basic ideas within this area had

already evolved from the works of Chandler (1962), Andrews (1987), Ansoff (1965) and Sloan

(1964). An analytical exploration of opportunities and threats that an organization faces is

prototypical for environmental-based strategic thinking. However, Kay (1993) and Prahalad and

Hamel (1990), inter alia, have fundamentally criticized this approach, arguing that the essential

emphasis on competitive industry comparisons is misleading and neglects issues of own resources

and skills formation. The aspects that theories in this field overemphasize a formal strategic

planning process and much too often take a likewise simplistic position are the main criticism areas,

which Mintzberg (1987, 1994) holds in this regard. Environmental perspectives have been
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combined by Aragon-Correa and Sharma (2003) with the resource-based view in strategy via a

contingent approach.

Rational vs. political analysis of strategy

Most academic literature (e.g., Hofer and Schendel, 1980; Porter, 1980; Ansoff, 1965) in the field

of strategy is characterized by basic beliefs of mainly rationalist origin. In this orthodoxy, strategy

is “perceived as a set of `rational´ techniques for managing complex businesses in a changing

environment” (Knights and Morgan, 1991, p. 251). This perspective assumes that top management

can agree on aims and priorities, can do thorough search for alternatives, and can integrate the

optimal choice into a CS (Fredrickson and Mitchell, 1984).

The above perspective has been challenged by authors such as Pettigrew (1977, 1985), Mintzberg

(1977) and Mintzberg and McHugh (1985), who emphasize the need for political approaches. The

political view unveils the inability that is inherent within rational strategy approaches in terms of

explaining the uncertain direction and speed of a company’s change (Knights and Morgan, 1991;

Eisenhardt and Bourgeois, 1988) and underlines the socially constructed character of strategy and

strategy development. As Dean and Sharfman (1993) note, political behavior indeed influences

company decisions.

Political analysis draws attention to strategy formation as a continuous process (Pettigrew, 1977;

Dean and Sharfman, 1993) of discrete decisions and choices of individuals and groups (Pettigrew,

1977) and assumes that strategy formulation might widely depend on the power that individual
managers or groups are able to exert, as well as their personal targets that do not need to be

congruent with those of the company. Managers’ own agenda might even distract managers’

attention from firms’ goals regarding self-interests (Dean and Sharfman, 1993). Beyond that, there

are aspects of mass public opinion, interest group pressure, government relations, and firm size on

strategic decisions are objects of interest (e.g., Neiheisel, 1992).

Through the lens of the political approach, CS is a set of discourses and practices of individual
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subjects who secure their sense of purpose and reality by developing, evaluating and formulating

strategy (Knights and Morgan, 1991). That is why political analysis is attentive to the emergence,

development and reproduction of the discourse (with the concept of discourse referring to

Foucault’s work; e.g., Foucault, 1980), conceiving it as a “set of ideas and practices, which

condition out ways of relating to, and acting upon, particular phenomena” (Knights and Morgan,

1991). Following this argument, CS evolves from political processes of negotiation between

elements within an organization and between the organization and elements of its environment. The

political approach has been advanced by recent research. For example, Elbanna et al. (2014) show

that aspects of decisions, the environment and organizations affect the extent and direction of

political behavior. Eisenhardt and Bourgeois (1988) examine facets of coalitions, power

centralization, covert action and power enhancement, and Kapoutsis (2016) or Kapoutsis et al.

(2016) explore political influence styles and tactics.

In sum, the political view questions the extent to which strategy embodies rational processes

(Knights and Morgan, 1991), especially in complex contexts (e.g., Child and Rodrigues, 2012;

Eisenhardt and Bourgeois, 1988).

2.3 The Strategy Descriptor Cube as a means to typify approaches to corporate strategy

The above-discussed differences in accessing CS were based on the three distinctions between

“resource-based vs. external-based development mode”, “prescriptive vs. emergent nature of

strategy” and “rational vs. political analysis”. For the next steps of the examination, each pair of
attributes are considered as manifestations of underlying dimensions to describe specific strategy

approaches, as a new framework.

Derivation of dimensions:

• The contrast of a resource-based vs. external-based development mode concerns

assumptions about whether strategy development predominantly draws on factors internal or

external to the organization. It goes back to the important controversy on whether main
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sources of strategic advantage should be based on internal resources or external factors. The

essential tendencies can be seen as different manifestations of a one-dimensional criterium

that shall be labeled a “source of strategic advantage”. Taking into account the

abovementioned views, it is of dichotomous categorical quality with “external factors” and

“intra-organizational factors” as two modifications of this dimension. The dimension

captures whether strategy is predominantly developed outside in or inside out.

• The distinction of a prescriptive vs. emergent nature of strategy refers to assumption on how

a strategy develops. A main body of literature assumes that CS is actively planned and

developed (“a prescriptive strategy”). As outlined above, this notion was challenged by the

idea that strategy situationally emerges and can be interpreted only retroactively (“emergent

strategy”). The divergence can be traced back to differences on a dimension “genesis of

strategy”, with its dichotomous values “prescriptive” and “emergent”.

• The contrast of a “rational vs. political analysis” of strategy goes back to perceptions, value

patterns and methods, on the one hand, and to the extent that power and the personal

interests of managers are included in the inspection and interpretation of strategy

development, on the other hand. These aspects are to be addressed by the dimension of

“perspective of analysis”. Picking up the discussions above, the two categorical values of

the criterion are “rational” and “political”. Whereas a “rational perspective” builds on a

positivist, rationalist technique for analyzing and developing strategy in a “neutral” way
(referring to paradigms of natural sciences), a “political perspective” considers the socially

constructed character of strategy and includes aspects of power and personal aims into the

analysis of strategy (referring to paradigms of social-constructivism and post-positivism).

Combining the dimensions to the Strategy Descriptor Cube: The three dimensions, (a) source of

strategic advantage, (b) genesis of strategy and (c) perspective of analysis, are logically independent

criteria to characterize facets of CS. Integration of these criteria leads to a three-dimensional

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framework that can be called the “Strategy Descriptor Cube” (SDC). This name refers to the

visually, dimensional space that is constituted by the dimensions, as shown below in figure 2.

The SDC constitutes an important intermediate result of our reflections: First, the SDC serves as a

possible means to describe and evaluate the situation of, inter alia, corporate brand research.

Second, the dimensions and specifications of the SDC provide important vocabulary to render the

characteristics of strategic ideas and directions accessible. Third, the SDC facilitates the

visualization of available constellations.

In the following reflections, the SDC will be applied to CBM research orientations in order to grasp

substantial traits of different research directions. However, before doing so, the main research

orientations (schools) of CBM need to be extracted. This is done in the following section.
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Figure 2: Strategy Descriptor Cube (SDC)

3. Inventory of current corporate brand management research

3.1 Nature and origin of corporate brand management

While already in the twenties of the last century, scientific approaches to advertising (Hopkins,

1923) have been discussed to strengthen the positioning of product brands such as Listerine or

Coca-Cola (Wu, 2016), with some exceptions, including fashion houses such as Dior and Chanel or

automotive manufacturers such as Mercedes and BMW (Hatch and Schultz, 2009), the interest in

corporate brands emerged far later (Urde, 2013) and under a different headline. It was not until the

mid-fifties that marketing scholars such as Newman (1953), Boulding (1956b), Swanson (1957) and

Martineau (1958) increasingly looked into subjects such as corporate image, and corporate identity,

not before the seventies (Pilditch, 1970; see Abratt, 1989 for an overview). In fact, the advent of the

discipline CBM can only be dated back to the end of the last century when brand management

scholars felt inspired by the field of corporate identity management (e.g., Balmer and van Riel,

1997; Balmer, 1998; Melewar and Harrold, 2000). The first journal article that included the words

of corporate branding in its headline was that of Balmer (1995, also see Balmer, 2013); it was
written decades after the management of product brands had established itself as an important

aspect of the marketing discipline. Some of the major market-driven reasons for this shift in

attention were identified as the homogenization of products and services; the broadening of

competition within supply markets; the high number of mergers and acquisitions; globalization; the

increasing awareness of the financial value of brands; the shorting of product life cycles; the

increasing costs of promoting individual line brands; the introduction of category management; and
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the growing importance of the service sector (Hatch and Schultz, 2009; Meffert and Bierwirth,

2005; de Chernatony, 1999; Hatch and Schultz, 2003). Additionally, the rise of identity-based

concepts of brand management in the mid-nineties accelerated the increased interest in corporate

brands (Kapferer, 1994; Harris and de Chernatony, 2001).

The enhanced level of interest in corporate brand issues led to a significant degree of fragmentation

in the corresponding approaches (Ind, 1997b). In this regard, Balmer (2001a) identifies a “dense

fog”, which prevents a clear view of corporate brands in many respects. One aspect, however,

seems to be undoubted: a corporate brand should be more than the outward manifestation of an

organization such as its name, logo or visual code (Ind, 1997b). It is not only visual or verbal; it

also comprises a behavioral expression of an organization’s business model (Knox and Bickerton,

2003) and “defines the organization that will deliver and stand behind the offering” (Aaker, 2004, p.

7). Therefore, the corporate brand, regarded as a “distinct identity type” (Balmer, 2012b, p. 1069),

should be closely aligned with the corporate identity (Balmer, 2001c; Hulberg, 2006). Balmer’s

AC4ID test of CBM can be helpful in achieving this affiliation (Balmer, 2012b, 2001b; Balmer and

Soenen, 1999).

Burmann et al. (2009a) define a corporate brand as a bundle of benefits that makes a specific

company sustainably different from other. It has also be described as an expression and image of an

organization’s identity (Abratt and Kleyn, 2012) or as a promise that an organization makes to its

stakeholders (Melewar et al., 2012). CBM aims to build a clearly defined brand proposition, which
“underpins organizational efforts to communicate, differentiate, and enhance the brand vis-á-vis key

stakeholder groups and networks” (Balmer, 2001a, p. 281). This closely corresponds to

Wiedmann’s view, who defines the process of corporate branding as “highlighting the most

valuable & valued corporate strengths” (2015, p. 750). Therefore, a corporate brand can also be

considered an information cue of company’s values and goals (Halliday, 1998; Kay, 2006; Urde,

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3.2 Relevance, scope, and concern of corporate brand management

In most industries, the overall relevance of the corporate brand concept is significant, and

organizational practice therefore reflects a high degree of brand orientation (Urde, 2013). Many

experienced executives consider the brand of their organization to be something that is strategically

important (Balmer, 2010). Apart from multinational corporations, this is also true for small and

medium enterprises (Abimbola and Vallaster, 2007), social businesses (Schmidt et al., 2015),

political parties (O'Cass and Voola, 2011), educational institutions (Casidy, 2013; Morschheuser

and Redler, 2015), destinations (Hankinson, 2007), soccer clubs (Balmer, 2010) and many more

organizations (Urde and Greyser, 2015; Balmer, 2007).

The popularity of CBM across industries might be attributable to the following: a corporate brand

has something to do with the core values that define an organization (Ind, 1997b), insofar as this

core makes the company somehow different from competitors and adds value to the company’s full

product or service range (Ind, 1997b). This should be of interest to almost all role players within

today’s competitive market environment. Therefore, a corporate brand “involves the conscious

decision by senior management to distil and make known the attributes of the organization’s

identity in the form of a clearly defined branding proposition” (Balmer, 2001a, p. 281). Instructions

on how this can be done have been provided by various macro and micro models (Knox and

Bickerton, 2003), including the works of Dowling (1993), Hatch and Schultz (2001) and Balmer

and Soenen (1999).

Corporate brands have been described as brands that focus on multiple, internal and external

stakeholder groups (e.g., customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers and the general public;

Curtis et al., 2009), compared to product brands that focus mainly on customers (Balmer, 2001a;

Kernstock et al., 2014). Hence, corporate brands are in need of a different management approach

than product brand (Harris and de Chernatony, 2001), and CBM should therefore be integrated into

a much broader and comprehensive concept of corporate leadership that attracts and preserves all
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relevant stakeholder groups (Wiedmann, 2015). A central characteristic of the corporate brand is its

function to build enduring confidence in the company’s offers (Griffin, 2002). The resulting trust is

one of the company’s central resources (Kernstock et al., 2014), which leads to a positive corporate

reputation (Argenti and Druckenmiller, 2004; Wiedmann, 2015). Other functions of corporate

brands include lending credibility (Argenti and Druckenmiller, 2004) and reducing media costs

(Schultz and de Chernatony, 2002) when launching new products or entering new markets;

connecting strategy and vision to a firm’s marketing functions (Argenti and Druckenmiller, 2004);

aligning organizational subcultures across functions and geographic boundaries (Schultz and de

Chernatony, 2002); supporting internal brand building (Aaker, 2004); and attracting talents (Balmer

and Gray, 2003).

3.3 Criteria to describe corporate brand management research activity

Within the last 25 years, brand management has gone through major changes (Veloutsou and

Guzman, 2017), which may be a reason for its fragmented nature (Ind, 1997b). The resulting

streams of thought can be classified in a number of ways (Balmer, 2013; Kernstock et al., 2014).

Considering the broad literature on brand management, four criteria might be helpful to structure

research directions and traditions in the field of CBM, and they are described below.

Instrumental objective(s). Overall objectives of brand management have been discussed in

marketing research, among them are trust and loyalty, the improvement of quality perceptions and

the realization of a price premium (e.g., Aaker, 1996). While these general targets, which are
considered to be favorable end states or terminal goals (Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987), seem to be

accepted by all CBM researchers, there is a wider range of instrumental objectives for CBM,

including the communication of a unique selling proposition (USP; Reeves, 1961) or an increase of

brand equity (Burmann et al., 2009b). Instrumental objectives, as used as a criterion here, refer to

the more substantiated sub-targets of the overall brand management objective that sketch the main

levers and that might have been considered a first step toward the operationalization of the brand
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Conceptual kinship. Contributions to CBM have their roots in different traditions and address quite

a range of different problems. Accordingly, authors draw on an interdisciplinarily diversified body

of theory when developing their ideas. Within the considerable spectrum, some conceptual

approaches seem to be more frequent and might be considered central pillars in the advancement of

CBM research. The criterion conceptual kinship is used to characterize CBM research activity in

terms of its reference to other, basic or bordering theory.

Degree of cross-functionality. To realize CBM goals, an organization can make use of a broad

range of activities that involve multiple departments (e.g., Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, IT).

Brexendorf and Kernstock (2007, p. 33), in line with Balmer (2001a), call this a “multidisciplinary

approach”. In contrast, certain streams within CBM research consider some departments (e.g.,

marketing communications) to be of higher importance for CBM than others and, therefore, utilize a

much narrower scope of instruments.

Orientation of the CBM process. Significant differences exist in the design of the CBM process,

notably in the aspect of what the initial step in such a process might be and whether the outset

should be inside or outside of the company (Knox and Bickerton, 2003). Some researchers (e.g.,

Frazer, 1983; Supphellen, 2000) assume that a deep understanding of purchasers’ perceptions of the

brand is the fundamental step. A process such as this has been called an outside-in perspective of

brand management (Ind and Bjerke, 2007). In opposition to the outside-in perspective, researchers
might emphasize the brand, as constructed by brand executives, who design a brand identity, which

in turn, serves as a guideline to manage brand touchpoints. This is commonly called an inside-out

approach to CBM (Ind, 2003; Burmann et al., 2009a). With the so-called relational paradigm,

Louro and Cunha (2001, p. 865) propose a brand management process that integrates these views

and conceptualizes brand management “as an ongoing dynamic process, without a clear beginning

and ending”.
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3.4 Clustering schools of corporate brand management

The above-explained criteria were considered to evaluate the literature on (corporate) brand

research. As a result of that analysis, we were able to identity five clusters. In the following, they

are introduced and characterized as schools (Balmer, 1995). These schools are one possible solution

to capture a pattern of the situation in CBM research and are primarily a means of reducing the

range of single research contributions in order to a manageable and manifest structure. Thus, it

should be noted that the presented categorization might at some point be perceived as “black-and-

white”; the schools might have significant areas of overlap when building on other criteria, and

evidently numerous CBM researchers have contributed to various of the schools outlined here. It is

in the nature of things that points of criticism of a reduction of complexity need be kept in mind.

Image school

A considerable strand of literature has its roots in approaches to corporate design and

communications (e. g., Ogilvy and Atherton, 1963). Contributions to this line of research highlight

the market-oriented view of the company, focusing on the satisfaction of individual and changing

customer needs and wants (Kohli and Jaworski, 1990; Shapiro, 1988), with the brand considered to

be an impression in the customer’s mind, which partially arises from perceptions of brand

differentiation (Doyle, 1990; Kotler, 1988; Murphy, 1992; Trout and Rivkin, 2010). A group of

contributions we name the image school, a term already mentioned in a piece by Meenaghan

(1995). According to this perspective, CBM should aim to position the brand, building on in-depth
insights into consumers’ evaluation of products, organizations and attitudes, while also using

findings from communication sciences. Regarding the instrumental objective, the positioning within

customers’ minds is meant to result in image creation and differentiation from competitors (Trout

and Ries, 1981). Important to note, the concept of positioning is closely linked to the term unique

selling proposition (USP), which has dominated product marketing for the past decades (Knox and

Bickerton, 2003).
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To create the desired brand image, managers should rely primarily on marketing communications

(Speak and Hanson, 2008), specifically on advertising (Meenaghan, 1995). It is advertising

managers who are responsible for “inform[ing] consumers of the functional capabilities of the brand

while simultaneously imbuing the brand with symbolic values and meanings relevant to the

consumer” (Meenaghan, 1995, p. 23). This implies that ideas of the brand should be designed in

advance in order to be attractive to audiences and to meet their expectations (Wood, 2000).

Therefore, it is relevant to analyze how a company’s brand is perceived—also relatively to the

competition—in terms of critical attributes (Gwin and Gwin, 2003). Hence, CBM processes are

orientated rather outside in.

Behavioral school

Important research contributions might be assigned to a cluster to be named the behavioral school.

Articles within this assemblage draw on the market-oriented foundations of the image school, as

they also consider the corporate brand as a mental idea of a company (Aaker, 2004). Originating

from product branding ideas, they introduce the notion of customer-based brand equity (CBBE;

Keller, 2001), which is defined as the differential effect of brand knowledge on a person’s reaction

to marketing stimuli (Keller, 1993). The construct of brand knowledge is acknowledged as the

source of CBBE; it is operationalized via brand awareness and brand image associations (Keller,

1993), and it is partially influenced by the history of the brand (Keller, 2001). A main principle lies

in the establishment of favourable associations in the minds of the stakeholders. That is achieved by
a marketing department that is responsible for the implementation of integrated marketing

communication, with only little overlap with other corporate functions. As a theoretical grounding,

contributions within the school draw on learning theory and exceedingly recognize findings of

socio-scientific research.

Researchers who associate with this behavior-orientated perspective consequently concur that the

brand is a construct that is established in the minds of customers, in a sphere that is external to the
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organization (e.g., Keller, 1993; Franzen and Bouwman, 2001; Kapferer, 2011; de Chernatony and

Dall'Olmo Riley, 1998). Ergo, within this school, brand planning emphasizes outside-oriented

aspects, such as brand awareness or brand associations, as fundamental pillars to achieve

competitive advantage. For example, Keller (1993, p. 14) advises marketers to define “knowledge

structures that they would like to create in the minds of consumers”.

Identity school

The roots that we group within an identity school might be traced to the works of Aaker (1989,

1996), Balmer (1995), Hatch and Schultz (2001), Balmer and Gray (2003), and Burmann et al.

(2009b), among others. The basic assumption is that building a corporate brand is an initiative of

the brand owner, based on the core competencies and characteristics of the organization itself (the

resource-based view; e.g., Balmer, 2007). This view is in accordance with Balmer’s suggestion that

“the management of the corporate brand should be founded on reality” (Balmer, 1995, p. 38). If this

is true, a deep look into the organization becomes specifically relevant in order to manage brands

(Harris and de Chernatony, 2001). Hence, authors subscribing to identity-based approaches stress

brand identity design as the key (instrumental objective) and claim the indirect emergence of an

external image over time (Wiedmann et al., 2011). This view is in line with important ideas of

(social) identity research.

Brand identity, in this school, is considered to be a crucial construct (Balmer et al., 2009) that

includes brand characteristics that from the viewpoint of internal stakeholders define the essence
and character of the brand over a longer period of time and along different brand touch points

(Burmann and Zeplin, 2005). On the one hand, brand identity can be grasped and determined by

analyzing the brand’s heritage (e.g., historic achievements, perceived track record, founding story;

Wiedmann et al., 2011; Urde et al., 2007). Conversely, its current status (e.g., competitive

differentiating characteristics, behavior of employees) and future strategy (Hatch and Schultz, 2003)

must also be considered.

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Contrary to the image and the behavioral school, identity school contributions assume that corporate

brand image will develop only over time, based on customers’ previous and holistic experiences

with the branded company (Wiedmann et al., 2011). Hence, the identity school focusses on a

brand’s values and on ways to make the value proposition come alive for customers and employees

(Saleem and Iglesias, 2016), which includes not only traditional marketing activities but also a

broad range of human resources and change management instruments (Punjaisri et al., 2009;

Burmann et al., 2009c; Punjaisri and Wilson, 2007). Consequently, the marketing department has to

co-work with other corporate functions to achieve its goals of creating and cultivating an identity.

Since the brand represents the company’s core values and beliefs, identity-oriented schools

conclude that core values and beliefs must be demonstrated in every internal and external activity in

which the company is involved (Simoes and Dibb, 2001). Following an inside-out approach (Urde

et al., 2013), the identity school begins with an analysis of the branded corporation and first

focusses on the roles of internal stakeholder groups (Burmann et al., 2009b). In this respect, aspects

of employees’ brand value internalization have been discussed as crucial (Morhart et al., 2009; de

Chernatony, 1999).

Strategy school

The cluster named the strategic school covers contributions to CBM that acknowledge that a strong

corporate brand not only provides social, emotional, and symbolic value (Balmer, 2012b) but also

leads to more revenue, lower costs and higher profits for the company (e.g., Madden et al., 2006
and Harter et al., 2005). From the school’s perspective, corporate brands are considered strategic

assets (Balmer, 2007; Veloutsou and Guzman, 2017) that might prosper and grow if vision,

strategy, culture and image are aligned (Hatch and Schultz, 2001, 2008; Balmer et al., 2009) –

aspects that reflect instrumental objectives. These objectives are compatible with the resource-based

view of strategy, which has noted that intangible capabilities, such as brands, create sustainable

competitive advantage (Abratt and Kleyn, 2012; Omar et al., 2009). Hence, this school attaches
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strategic importance to CBM (Aaker, 2004; Vallaster et al., 2012), and it is consequently associated

with claims that top management needs to account for such factors (Balmer, 2010) and should strive

for a brand-oriented culture (Urde, 1999). As a consequence, CBM “requires total corporate

commitment to the corporate body from all levels of personnel" (Balmer, 2001a, p. 281). Such an

effort includes financial support and the attention of top management, even the CEO (Balmer,

2012a). With regard to this perspective, brand management is not merely a marketing department

task but rather one for the entire organization (Hatch and Schultz, 2001). Overall, this view seems

to be closely related to the ideas of the brand-oriented corporation (Urde et al., 2013).

Moreover, brand strategy is perceived to be the external face of business strategy and, conversely,

represents a central internal asset of company value on its own (Kernstock et al., 2014). The latter

argument, in particular, is evident in the works of Simoes and Dibb (2001, p. 218), who note that

corporate branding (seen as CBM) “becomes the strategic direction for an organization’s activities,

providing consistency through the connection between positioning, communication and staff

working style/behavior". Hence, through the brand, current business performance and long-term

strategy can be viewed simultaneously (Simoes and Dibb, 2001). Hatch and Schultz (2009, p. 122)

point in the same direction when proposing that corporate brands are channels “to communicate the

strategy of the organization to its own employees".

Co-creative school

The cluster that we name the co-creative school is shaped by recent contributions that call for a

more agile (Belz, 2006), organic (Iglesias et al., 2013; Saleem and Iglesias, 2016) or participative

(Christodoulides, 2009; Ind et al., 2012) approach, with some authors explicitly claiming that brand

management requires a paradigm shift (Ind, 2014; Lawer and Knox, 2007). The varied angles go

back to changing customer demands and new drivers of (empowered) customer value (Lawer and
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Knox, 2007) and theory formation on digital interactivity. They are also affected by the “service

dominant” considerations of Vargo and Lusch (2004, 2017). Regarding the instrumental objective

level, the school might be characterized by brand management’s need to enable and influence social

processes that involve multiple stakeholders (Iglesias et al., 2013). In this regard, the definition of

corporate brand meaning can no longer be considered an internal activity that is solely initiated by

the branded company (Kornum et al., 2017; Wallpach et al., 2017). Rather, owing to major social

(e.g., the rise of communities; see O'Brien, 2011) and technological (e.g., advanced possibilities of

interaction through social media; see Hunter and Garnefeld, 2008; Arora et al., 2008) changes, as

well as shifting consumer expectations (e.g., increasing demand for customized products; Franke et

al., 2009; Romero and Molina, 2009), brand management might only provide direction, but it is no

longer in control of brand meaning (Iglesias et al., 2013). This includes the possibility that “brands

may allow society to regain control over massive international corporations lost during the recent

period of globalization” (Hatch and Schultz, 2010, p. 590). Hence, brand value is permanently

negotiated among many different stakeholders (Ind et al., 2013), which seems to be especially

relevant and complex for corporate brands (Roper and Davies, 2007). As brand value is considered

to be co-created by a number of parties, marketing is only one of many corporate functions that is

involved in this process, leading to a high degree of cross-functionality on the one hand and internal

and external triggers that need to be integrated as counter-acting streams in the CBM process on the

other hand.
Overview of schools

The arguments and positions that were expounded above are summarized in table 1. Referring to the

presented criteria for CBM descriptions, it might serve as a brief overview of the outlined


Criteria Schools of CBM

Image Behavioral Identity Strategy Co-creative
school school school school school
Instrumental Find and com- Establish favora- Live a grown Create and Influence the
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objective(s) municate a ble and unique and shaped cultivate a brand social processes
unique selling associations in brand identity at as a strategic that create brand
proposition the minds of every brand intangible asset; meaning; enable
(USP) that stakeholders; touch point to integrate a and guide
serves to create a influence brand indirectly corporate vision, negotiations of
differentiating knowledge influence brand culture and the brand by
image structures perceptions image to foster, many
inter alia, stakeholders
Conceptual Product design Product Identity research Competitive Digital
kinship branding; advantage interactivity
learning research research
Degree of cross- Low; brands are Low; the Medium; the High; CBM is High; brand
functionality led by the marketing marketing linked with all value is co-
advertising unit division is division is in the strategic initia- created by all
responsible for lead, but it must tives and is stakeholders
integrated brand work closely meant to affect involving all
communications together with HR the main corporate
and/or other operational functions
divisions management
Orientation of Rather outside- Rather outside- Rather inside- Either inside-out Inside-out and
CBM process in; analysis of in; a focus on out; brand or outside-in outside-in as
external target external brand planning is (depending on counteracting
groups’ awareness and shaped by the the strategy and simultaneous
perception of brand knowledge competencies approach) perspectives
rules regarding determines brand and
brand planning planning characteristics of
the organization
that form the
brand values

2 examples of Ogilvy and Keller (1993); Balmer (1998); Simoes and Dibb Ind (2014);
contributions Atherton (1963); Franzen and Burmann et al. (2001); Hatch Iglesias et al.
Trout and Ries Bouwman (2009a) and Schultz (2013)
(1981) (2001) (2001)
Table 1: Overview of corporate brand management schools
4. Contrasting brand management schools with strategy research approaches

4.1 Idea and findings

In two independent steps of analysis, a) three basic dimensions that serve to characterize approaches

to CS (section 2) have been carved out, and b) according to valid criteria, CBM schools have been

clustered (section 3). In the following third step of our exploration, the CBM schools are analyzed

for the reported basic dimensions. The analysis aims at a) an assessment of which perspectives of
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CS are prevalent in corporate brand research in order to b) stimulate a discussion for alternative

research directions within CBM. Note that this is not meant to demonstrate the superiority of any

school. On the basis of the dimensions from section 2, the CBM schools can be reasonably

characterized as follows:

Image school: As described above, the image school focuses on the instrumental objective of

creating an USP on the basis of which an image is created. This image will serve to build a

competitive advantage. As the image lies in the minds of brand stakeholders and is external to the

organization, this school might be classified as grounding on an external factor as the source of

strategic advantage, and that is why it is to be assigned to the value “external” on that dimension.

According to this school, brand managers do not primarily consider the strengths and capabilities of

the company; rather, they focus on positioning gaps that may offer a unique possibility for the brand

to grow (Sengupta, 2005). Regarding the genesis of strategy, prescriptive styles are dominant,

which becomes obvious based on the idea that brands can be artificially designed, probably to fit

into positioning gaps (Trout and Ries, 1981). Within this school, USP and images are tailored in

advance to the needs and wants of the target market (Wood, 2000); then, advertising is used to

realize the planned effects (Meenaghan, 1995). Thus, the school should be classified as

“prescriptive” on the genesis-of-strategy dimension. Since the brand planning process builds on

rationalist techniques of analysis and prediction (King, 2007, 1991), the process of strategy

development is assumed to be of objective quality, and as an analysis of power and managers’

personal interests are not examined, the image school seems to fit the rational value on the

dimension “perspective of analysis”.

Behavioral school: According to this school, the success of CBM is attributed to stakeholders’

learning of brand associations as a reaction to the systematic use of communication stimuli (Keller

and Lehmann, 2006). Like an image, learned brand associations concern reactions in the minds of

stakeholders, something that is external to the organization. Consequently, the behavioral school of
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CBM is categorized as grounding on an external factor as the source of strategic advantage. Since

aspired associations are systematically planned in advance (Keller, 1993) to design a suitable

communication mix to ensure that learning outcomes are achieved, a prescriptive approach to brand

strategy genesis might be revealed. The perspective of analysis, further, is more a rational one. This

is apparent in the circumstance that questions of power and discourse are not commonly addressed

while rationalist thinking prevails in analysis and assumptions about decision making. In particular,

the stimulus-reaction perspective of learning plays a major role (Villas-Boas, 2004; van Osselaer

and Alba, 2000).

Identity school: In terms of the source of strategic advantage, contributions within the identity

school emphasize internal factors. In particular, the company’s resources, such as competencies,

culture and knowledge, are in focus and are considered to be the building blocks to gain an

advantage (Aaker, 1989, 1996; Wiedmann et al., 2011; Urde et al., 2007). External factors, such as

market trends, weaknesses among competition, and stakeholder expectations, are acknowledged but

considered secondary inputs to develop a brand strategy (Burmann et al., 2009b). The process of

brand building is guided by phase models or blueprints as apparent in the papers of Urde (2013) or

Keller (2001). Therefore, looking at the dimension “genesis of strategy”, the school seems to be

prescriptively oriented. Though some work has been done to analyze how internal commitment

regarding brands can be achieved (King and Grace, 2008; Mitchell, 2002; Balmer et al., 2011),
most contributions take a more rational perspective: neither the organizational discourse or

negotiation of brand strategy nor power analysis are seriously addressed.

Strategy school: Contributions within this school refer to internal as well as to external aspects as

sources of comparative advantage (Hatch and Schultz, 2001; O'Cass and Viet Ngo, 2007).

Accordingly, this school might be assigned to both values on the dimension “source of strategic

advantage”. In terms of the “genesis of strategy”, there is evidence that the school should be
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classified as being rather prescriptive: included contributions assume that the brand strategy is

actively planned and derived from CS in order to be implemented afterward (Hambrick and

Fredrickson, 2001). Additionally, brand strategy development is considered to be of a rational

nature and by use of objective methods (as in, e.g., Park et al., 1986) without considering humans,

their interactions and power. Thus, the strategy school might be well positioned in the “rational”

intercept of the “perspective of analysis” axis.

Co-creative school: Regarding the description of this school on the dimension “source of strategic

advantage”, it might be stated that contributions to the co-creative school fit both with the external

and the internal value of the criterion. This might be transparent when considering that according to

this school, a brand as the means of advantage is co-created by the company and the stakeholders

(Ind, 2014; Wallpach et al., 2017). It is also owing to the co-creation principle that the school

should be classified by taking a political perspective since the brand results from negotiation rather

than from a rational decision (Hatch and Schultz, 2009; Iglesias et al., 2013); it also builds heavily

on the analysis and formation of social processes (Black and Veloutsou, 2017; Merz et al., 2009).

Furthermore, brand strategy is considered to develop during the process of negotiation and is not

determined in advance (Berthon et al., 2009). Thus, the school’s approach is more political than

rational; brands are understood as being socially constructed and unstable. As Veloutsou and

Guzman (2017) claim, a brand is not to be considered a transactional tool. This approach reflects

the way in which a strategy develops from the point of view of the co-creative school. It gives
support to viewing the school as being rather “emergent” in terms of the “genesis of strategy”: a

brand manager’s control of the brand management process diffuses, and CBM shifts from being

organization centered to being relationship centered (Melewar et al., 2012; Leitch and Richardson,


The analysis of CBM schools for the dimensions of the SDC is summarized in table 2. The findings

from this third step of analysis can now, from an overall viewpoint, be examined further, as
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presented in the following paragraphs.

Dimension Source of advantage Genesis of strategy Perspective of analysis

School External Internal Prescriptive Emergent Rational Political
Image X 0 X 0 X 0
Behavioral X (X) X 0 X 0
Identity (X) X X 0 X 0
Strategy X X X 0 X 0
Co-creative X X 0 X (X) X
Explanation: X = strong correspondence, (X) = weak correspondence, 0 = no correspondence
Table 2: Classification of CBM schools in the logic of the SDC

Analysis for dimensions: The findings show that external and internal viewpoints regarding the

source of strategic advantages are balanced across all CBM schools: external and internal

approaches are identified several times. However, for other dimensions, the effect is noticeably

different. Regarding the genesis of strategy, most schools show a prescriptive approach, and

considering the perspective of analysis, the rational approach is clearly prevalent throughout most

schools. Based on the analysis of the current research, one might say that the research perspective is

one sided.

Analysis for schools: Comparisons among the different schools reveal that the image and the

behavior schools share similarities regarding their dimensional characteristics. Furthermore, it

becomes obvious that most schools differ from each other in one dimension only. The co-creative

school, however, is an exception to this pattern, since it differs with regard to both the strategy

genesis and analysis perspective.

These findings can be visualized by locating CBM schools in the SDC, as shown in figure 3. The

results reveal the following picture:

• four of the five schools accumulate in the sections of the SDC that build on rational and

prescriptive approaches;

• one (the co-creative) school has a distinctively different position compared with the other

schools; and
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• many sections of the cube are void of any approach to corporate brand research, which

implies that approaches of a political prescriptive or rational emergent nature have not (yet)

taken shape.

In sum, our findings indicate that on the one hand, though there seems to be a spectrum of research

approaches to CBM (as shown above), the approaches differ in traditions but are, regarding the

deduced dimensions, not as controversial and as diversified as it was traceable for CS. Based on our

results, it might actually be argued that the overall picture of brand research schools is largely

unbalanced. Seen through the lenses of the SDC, the field of brand research schools might even be

considered to be a two-cluster solution, with the co-creative school representing a first and all other

schools forming a second cluster.

Conversely, the cube analysis highlights unexplored sections of the cube, which reveals potential

toeholds for alternative research concepts. They might offer promising perspectives to challenge

and advance CBM research. Currently, the co-creative school seems to be the only ones to counter

other existing schools.

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Figure 3: Matching CBM schools to the SDC

4.2 Implications

The analysis of current research in CBM shows that is possible to categorize schools that should be

considered groups of similar bodies of literature. This is, however, not to suggest that there is no

evidence of interconnections between authors and lines of thought. Some authors might even have

contributed to the development of different schools. Research might therefore address the questions

of what schools can be found from different angles, how schools are interconnected and whether,

for example, a co-creative school inspires or threatens other CBM schools.

Our research borrows perspectives from the CS field and thereby might encourage altering some of

CBM’s metaphors (Whetten 1989). The findings especially provide insights into aspects regarding

the scope and diversity of CBM research. Regarding the idea that competitive advantage might

originate from internal or external factors, our analysis supports the existence of competing

approaches. However, regarding some other criteria, the schools’ positions in the SDC are

comparatively similar. Most of them were classified as building predominantly on rationalist ways

of analysis and as prescriptive in their perspective. Emergent perspectives and political approaches

to analysis, however, were not discernible from our analysis. This is worrying: a broadening of
perspectives and a more attentive reception of agile trends in CBM might become increasingly

relevant, as new media and communication realities shape the present and the future of brand

building. The recent discussion on digital branding (e.g., Cocoran, 2013; Edelman, 2010; Kohli et

al., 2015; Erdem et al., 2015) and consumer engagement in brand communities (e.g., Dessart et al.,

2015; Ind et al., 2013; Black and Veloutsou, 2017) could be considered another argument for the

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Further research could examine contributions of emergent views and of political approaches for

CBM research. An absorption of the co-creative school of CBM research might be a connecting line

as, according to our analysis, this school is the only one to address emergent and political

perspectives. Since these co-creative approaches are rather new and have not been exhaustively

discussed in the literature, there is thus a significant need for research in this particular field. Table

3 below provides an overview of some imperatives for CBM research that is fueled by our

argumentation. By gaining and building on these primary findings, CBM research might learn from

developments in the strategy discipline. It might as well strengthen its awareness for dialectics and

discourse between conflicting perspectives and approaches for the progress of the discipline.

Topic General issues Benefits

Research streams on CBM tend to How can CBM benefit from CBM might learn from the much
take a prescriptive and rational emergent and political perspectives more developed field of CS. This
perspective. on CS? might unfold broader perspectives.
Schools of CBM are if not isolated How are the different schools Existing approaches to CBM do not
from each other than not well interconnected? How, for example, need to be rewritten. Schools of
connected. does co-creation inspire other CBM CBM can adapt to current
schools? challenges.
Co-creative school gains popularity Is the low acceptance of the co- CBM might be pushed forward.
within the world of product brands, creative school dangerous? How can Developed blueprints will improve
but they are neither well recognized a co-creative approach develop CBM. CBM will adapt to the
nor fully accepted within CBM. blueprints? How can we engage changing reality.
employees, customers, and other
stakeholders to take part in the brand
management process? What will be
Table 3: Imperatives for CBM research
5. Concluding remarks

The paper began with the notion that CBM research and CS research are isolated lines of

investigation. It aimed to contrast CBM research directions with major approaches to CS research in

order to reveal parallels and differences among these perspectives. Fundamental views on strategy

were hence condensed into the SDC, which emerged as an important tool to characterize issues of

strategy. The tool was then used to describe and typify CBM schools. This approach led to a new
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landscape of CBM research, which might provide an impetus for further CBM research. The main

findings indicate that CBM research tends to be one sided and that it may run the risk of being

blinkered. Intensifying efforts in widening such research approaches might be a notable effort. It

also appears that the co-creative school might be capable of challenging and inspiring future CBM

research efforts.


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