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Exploring brand governance in SMEs: does socialisation provide a means to value creation?

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Abstract

Open access strategies and dialogue between firms and customers increase the risk of loss of brand distinctiveness, with implications for maintaining brand position, image, reputation and authenticity. This is of importance to new and emerging small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and organisations whose brand distinctiveness may represent one of few areas of competitive advantage. Our paper draws together concepts of SME brand orientation and the underdeveloped framework of brand governance to explore brands and brand image in online and offline engagement contexts. Investigating the role of four relational norms, selection, solidarity, information exchange and flexibility in six brand-oriented SMEs, we discuss their use in the context of interactive engagement with stakeholders. Findings show that each of the four relational norms enables, supports and provides guidance for the management of SME brands. This exploratory work initiates a conversation around brands, brand management and brand governance in SMEs and points to several areas for future research direction.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Exploring brand governance in SMEs: does socialisation provide
a means to value creation?
Michelle Renton
1
James E. Richard
1
Revised: 24 February 2018 / Published online: 2 January 2019
Springer Nature Limited 2019
Abstract Open access strategies and dialogue between
firms and customers increase the risk of loss of brand
distinctiveness, with implications for maintaining brand
position, image, reputation and authenticity. This is of
importance to new and emerging small- and medium-sized
enterprises (SMEs) and organisations whose brand dis-
tinctiveness may represent one of few areas of competitive
advantage. Our paper draws together concepts of SME
brand orientation and the underdeveloped framework of
brand governance to explore brands and brand image in
online and offline engagement contexts. Investigating the
role of four relational norms, selection, solidarity, infor-
mation exchange and flexibility in six brand-oriented
SMEs, we discuss their use in the context of interactive
engagement with stakeholders. Findings show that each of
the four relational norms enables, supports and provides
guidance for the management of SME brands. This
exploratory work initiates a conversation around brands,
brand management and brand governance in SMEs and
points to several areas for future research direction.
Keywords Brand governance Social media Brand risk
SME Brand management
Introduction
As firms increasingly integrate online and social media into
their communication platforms, the effects on firm-level
branding remain unclear. Leading consultants recommend
that collaborative brand management emphasises agility in
developing stakeholder partnerships while maintaining the
inviolability of the brand’s core values (Cutrone 2017;
Hernandez et al. 2017; Ordahl 2017). The influence of
consumer engagement activities on brands becomes more
purposeful for small- and medium-sized enterprises
(SMEs) as open access strategies and dialogue deepen
connections between firms, consumers and communities
and bring additional risk to sacrosanct core values (Gro
¨n-
roos and Voima 2013; Halliday 2016; Hatch and Schultz
2010; Helm and Jones 2010; Priporas et al. 2017). Despite
SMEs representing up to 99 per cent of business world-
wide, few studies have investigated the impact of digital
networks and social media on collaboratively formed SME
brands, brand management or brand governance (OECD
2010; Spence and Essoussi 2010; Wong and Merrilees
2005,2008).
For large organisations, stakeholder engagement is often
the purview of digital, social media, marketing or com-
munication teams, but for less resourced, unstructured
SMEs, the founder/CEO often deals with external stake-
holders, and the threat posed by off-brand conversations
becomes more difficult to manage. Resources normally
allocated to proactively promote the brand may be diverted
as founder/managers react to public conversations about
unforeseen issues (Levitin 2017; Pilmer 2017). Alterna-
tively, founders unsure of how best to deal with off-brand
conversations, simply ignore them, allowing external
stakeholders to monopolise brand conversations and
potentially derail the public focus and conversation away
from core values. At the heart of this paper is the realisa-
tion that all too often, the result of SMEs striving for
deeper engagement with consumers and communities leads
not to connection and advantage, but to the erosion of time
and money, the possibility of rumours, and the loss of
&Michelle Renton
Michellle.renton@vuw.ac.nz
1
Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
J Brand Manag (2019) 26:461–472
https://doi.org/10.1057/s41262-018-00143-5
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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