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Industrial Marketing Management 40 (2011) 830–837

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Industrial Marketing Management

A literature review and future agenda for B2B branding: Challenges of branding in a B2B context Sheena Leek ⁎, George Christodoulides 1
Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom

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The existing body of research knowledge on brand management has been predominantly derived from business-to-consumer markets, particularly fast moving consumer goods and has only recently started to expand in other contexts. Branding in business-to-business markets has received comparatively little attention in the academic literature due to a belief that industrial buyers are unaffected by the emotional values corresponding to brands. This paper provides a critical discussion of the fragmented literature on business-to-business branding which is organized in five themes: B2B branding benefits; the role of B2B brands in the decision making process; B2B brand architecture; B2B brands as communication enablers and relationship builders; and industrial brand equity. Drawing on the gaps and contradictions in the literature the paper concludes by proposing an agenda for future research. © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 4 November 2010 Received in revised form 3 March 2011 Accepted 19 May 2011 Available online 25 June 2011 Keywords: Branding B2B brands Industrial brand equity Literature review Future research

1. Introduction Branding is a discipline that has emerged from the consumer goods domain particularly fast moving consumer goods (FMCG). Historically, brand has been inextricably linked to the product (e.g. Gardner & Levy, 1955) and branding is seen as the process of adding value to the product (Farquhar, 1989). A brand is a cluster of functional and emotional benefits that extend a unique and welcomed promise (de Chernatony & McDonald, 2003). This conceptualization of a brand is universal and applies to various domains including FMCG, internet services and B2B (de Chernatony & Christodoulides, 2004; Lynch & de Chernatony, 2007). What changes in every context is the enactment of the brand. It is argued that the concept of a brand is universal however some adjustments are required in line with the specific context applied; in this case the B2B context. Branding has myopically been viewed by business marketers as largely irrelevant to business markets. Associated mostly with emotional value, branding was believed to offer very little to what is traditionally considered a very rational process i.e. the organizational decision making process (Robinson, Faris, & Wind, 1967). More recent research acknowledges that despite the differences between B2C and B2B contexts (e.g. fewer and larger buyers in B2B markets) both B2C and B2B brands need to engender trust and develop both cognitive and affective ties with stakeholders (Lynch & de Chernatony, 2004). Various changes in the business environment such as the ⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 121 414 6226; fax: +44 121 414 7791. E-mail addresses: S.H.Leek@bham.ac.uk (S. Leek), G.Christodoulides@bham.ac.uk (G. Christodoulides). 1 Tel.: + 44 121 414 8343; fax: + 44 121 414 7791. 0019-8501/$ – see front matter © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.indmarman.2011.06.006

increasing homogeneity of product quality and the decreasing number of personal relationships due to digital communications have also lead to an increase in the interest in B2B branding (Baumgarth, 2010). The paper makes an attempt to bring together the fragmented body of research on B2B branding. Through a systematic and critical review we identify contradictions and gaps in the pertinent literature and propose an agenda to push B2B branding research forward. It is noted that the majority of studies on the subject were predominantly published in the last...
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