Branding Activities of a Micro Industrial Services Company

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Case study

Branding activities of a micro industrial services company
¨ ¨ Jenny Sandbacka, Satu Natti and Jaana Tahtinen
Department of Marketing, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the internal and external corporate branding activities of micro-sized industrial business services companies. Design/methodology/approach – An abductive research approach and a case study method were used. Data were gathered with thematic interviews from three sources, a case company, its distributors, and its end customers. Findings – A model for building a corporate brand identity and image in a micro-sized industrial business services company was devised. Key activities, including defining company values and the business idea, designing, managing and stabilizing the service process, utilizing holistic corporate communications, networking as well as activating and retaining stakeholders and utilizing feedback, to build a corporate brand were identified. Research limitations/implications – As the importance of the internal branding can be presumed to rise with headcount, the repeatability of this study is weakened by the case organization being a micro company. Several suggestions for future research can be made based on this study: the causality of the presented model’s connections with quantitative methods, the network branding and service company brand hierarchies. Practical implications – This paper shows how a micro company can build its brand, without deploying extra resources. Moreover, it suggests ways of utilizing external resources, by exploring how the company’s stakeholders can participate in the branding process. Originality/value – This study expands the service branding literature to industrial services micro companies by identifying activities that they can undertake. Keywords Corporate branding, Business-to-business, Stakeholders, Networking Paper type Case study

Introduction
The strong growth of the service sector (Mitchell, 1998), intensified competition within it (Berry, 2000), the shortening of the service lifecycle, and the imitability of services have directed researchers’ and practitioners’ attention to branding (King, 1991). Yet the understanding of branding services companies has not kept up with the growth of the industrial service sector (Davis et al., 2008) and service brands have been less successful than product brands (McDonald et al., 2001). The reason is most likely a lack of branding knowledge contributing to unproductive product branding initiatives in the service context (de Chernatony et al., 2003). Research on branding industrial services companies has been very limited (Davis et al., 2008) partly because businessto-business (B2B) transactions are considered purely rational and the effect of brands to be minimal (Mudambi et al., 1997, p. 84 cited in de Chernatony, 1998, pp. 73-86; Ballantyne and The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0887-6045.htm

Aitken, 2007). However, several studies (e.g. Lynch and de Chernatony, 2004, 2007; Kotler and Pfoertsch, 2007) have shown that the influence of emotional and intangible factors is not limited to consumer markets. In fact, professional buyers who consider the purchase decision important and risky as well as those that prefer partnering are receptive to branding (Mudambi, 2002). Branding industrial services organizations requires a special approach. First, service provider selection is a strategic choice (e.g. Dibb and Simkin, 1993). Second, the interaction between the buyer and the industrial service provider is highly complex and long-lasting (de Chernatony et al., 2003). Finally, King (1991) and Berry (2000) suggest that corporate branding is more suitable for services companies than service branding, owing to the inherent difficulties of differentiating between services (Ferguson, 1996). In corporate branding the whole firm is mobilized to...
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