cube_s.gif Brand Management

This field of research deals with brand development processes and how they can be influenced. We examine how brand meanings develop within social interactions, how they become subject to experience through brand manifestations (the organization, its products and services, as well as people, symbols and activities), and finally how people interested in a brand participate in brand related interactions. In particular, we focus on the question of how lasting emotional relationships between organizations and important stockholders develop and how these relationships may strengthen or weaken the brand position. From this, implications for branding actions should emerge.

Selection of current projects:

Drivers of Customer-Brand Identification: Theory and Empirical Test
(N. Stokburger-Sauer, S. Ratneshwar, University of Missouri-Columbia, USA; S. Sen, Baruch College, USA)

The concept of customer-brand identification (CBI) is central to our understanding of many successful brands. We propose a theoretical framework for the antecedents of customer-brand identification that synthesizes literature from consumer behavior, brand management, organizational behavior, and social psychology. Six key drivers of CBI and two important moderating variables are posited. The framework is tested with survey data from large samples of German and U.S. customers, and four different product categories are investigated. The results confirm that brand-self similarity, brand distinctiveness, brand prestige, brand social value, brand warmth, and brand nostalgia are key drivers of CBI. Further, we find that the primarily cognitive antecedents of CBI—brand-self similarity, brand distinctiveness, and brand prestige—have much stronger influences on CBI when consumers have higher involvement and perceive greater symbolic value in the brand’s product category. Implications for brand management and consumer behavior theory are discussed.


Drivers of Customer Equity: Does Relationship Equity Matter?
(N. Stokburger-Sauer, K. Teichmann)

Both marketing research and practice have recognized the relevance of customer equity for a company’s long term success. A large body of research has therefore investigated the drivers of customer equity that can be classified into value, brand, and relationship equity. There is a lack of empirical knowledge, however, on the interrelationships of these constructs. The objective of this project is thus to analyze the impact of selected relationship marketing instruments on customer and value equity respectively. Furthermore, the role of value vs. relationship equity in driving customer equity will be investigated. The empirical design involves four relationship equity stimuli (RES) that are distinguished by its perceived closeness to the initial service offering (i.e., direct vs. indirect) and its perceived functional vs. hedonic value.




On this page you'll find completed and current projects related to the RF3.

Brands as complex social systems

This field of research portrays brands as highly integrative and complex systems including companies, organizations and stakeholders. From our perspective we define brands as systems of brand meaning, brand manifestations and members of the brand interest group. The brand system is subjected to ongoing change, redefinition and rejuvenation through social discourse. In a first attempt to grasp the brand phenomenon we engage in a thorough definition and conceptualization of its components: brand meaning, brand manifestation and brand interest group. Brand meaning, in our view, is composed of shared meanings that evolve in particular contexts and environments. Some of these meanings are contextually independent and therefore relevant across contexts, some are contextually bound and thus peripheral. We will further investigate the discursive processes that lead to the development of brand meaning. Brand meaning is manifested in products, personalities or brand experience. Such brand manifestations are developed by brand managers and shaped by other members of the brand interest group as well. We aim to uncover the role of different members and the discursive processes which shape the development of the brand, including phenomena such as consumer innovation and antagonistic brand discourse. In order to explain brand-relevant behavior and social practices of different members of the brand interest group we put particular emphasis on researching emotional bonds with brands. Implications for the development of brands will be drawn.

Project leaders: Hans Mühlbacher and Andrea Hemetsberger



Potential Non-conscious Influences on Consumers

Consumer research has by and large failed to observe that much consumer judgment and behavior occurs without conscious awareness or intent. At present there is no clear evidence whether or not people can be influenced without being consciously aware of that influence. Whereas some scientists still maintain that the phenomenon of non-consciously influencing people does not exist at all, previous laboratory research shows that non-conscious influences on people's attitudes or behavior can be quite powerful. The aim of this research project is to find out whether or not consumers can be influenced without conscious awareness and against their preferences or will, and, if so, which techniques are effective and applicable in real life contexts. The results should provide the basis for company policies as well as political decision making to avoid misuses of influencing techniques. The proposed research project has the following objectives:
* To find out whether techniques of non-consciously influencing people can be applied effectively in real consumer behavior situations.
* To find out what kinds of non-conscious influencing techniques are effective in real consumer behavior situations.
* To make proposals concering how misuse of these techniques can be prevented.
This project is supported through a grant from  the Jubiläumsfonds of the
Österreichische Nationalbank.

Project leader: Robert Schorn


  • Brand Development and Online Consumer Agency (Andrea Hemetsberger): Users and consumers are members of the brand interest group. Recently, literature has reported an increasing number of productive and innovative consumer cultures, such as for instance the open-source community and many other brand communities. These creative communities actively develop brands, such as for instance Linux, through sophisticated (online) systems of social exchange and free sharing. New business models have evolved which have radically altered existing markets, such as for instance the software and the music industry. This research focuses on how consumer agency changes modern views of the market and contributes to the development of new markets, consumptionscapes and brandscapes.
  • Consumer devotion (Elisabeth Pichler, Andrea Hemetsberger): Consumer devotion describes strong emotional person-object and person-brand relationships. We first describe this phenomenon theoretically and delineate consumer devotion from existing theoretical concepts, such as for instance brand love, desire, passion, attachment and commitment. We develop a tripartite view of consumer devotion as constituted by passion, closeness and dedication. In a first attempt to portray devoted consumers, we investigate in what way personality traits are explanatory for an increased level of passion and its behavioral consequences, such as consumer evangelism. The main objective of this research field is to uncover the distinctive behavioral patterns that accompany the emotional state of devoted consumers, such as consumer innovation, worshipping, evangelism, consumer community commitment, collecting, pilgrimage and many others. We look at these behaviors from the viewpoint of individual identity projects in the tradition of consumer culture theory.
  • Brand Reputation - A Stakeholder Perspektive (Oliver Koll, Sylvia von Wallpach): This project investigates the relevance of brand for different stakeholder groups. By looking at the development and content of brand associations of different stakeholders, we aim to uncover similarities and differences in (the development of) brand reputation between these groups. The results should help organizations to assess the useful/uselessness of aiming for stakeholder-spanning brand reputations.
  • The Relationship between Store and Brand (Oliver Koll): Discounters increasingly list national brands in their stores. Manufacturers now face the dilemma of whether the incremental sales they might attain in the added channel outweigh the costs of possibly deteriorating relationships with existing channel partners, as discounters have to choose brands that add to the attraction (and sales) of the category (and the store). This project investigates how discounters' brand listings affect consumer choice (cannibalization, brand switching, store switching) and consumer attitude towards the brand and store.
  • Internal Branding – Structures as Antecedents of Employee Commitment: (Sylvia von Wallpach): The work environment of employees is known to exert a considerable influence on the employees' emotional bond towards their corporate brand. This work environment consists of elements that signal a certain brand meaning. Companies have the opportunity to consciously design the work environment of their employees in order to communicate desired brand meaning. Questions: What elements characterize the work environment of employees? What brand meaning is communicated by these elements? How can companies design the work environment of their employees in order to communicate desired brand meaning? Research methods: qualitative research: narrative interviews (storytelling), observation of everyday interaction; social discourse analysis.
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