Laure PIEDNOIR Caroline MARTIN
MASTER THESIS “Employees as brand drivers”
Tuteur: Xavier LECOCQ November 2011 – May 2012
MASTER THESIS “Employees as brand drivers” IESEG School of Management (Lille) 3 rue de la Digue 59000 Lille
« L’IÉSEG n’entend donner aucune approbation ni improbation aux opinions émises dans les mémoires; ces opinions doivent être considérées comme propres à leurs auteurs »
This research would not have succeeded without the precious help we received morally and technically. It is therefore with great pleasure that we dedicate the first lines of our paper to all persons who, directly or indirectly, have been with us, contributing to the development of this master thesis. Our sincere thanks are addressed to: Mr. Xavier Lecocq, our thesis director, for his guidance and valuable advices he has provided us, for his availability and his support. Mr. Jacques Angot, who kindly and spontaneously guided us with interesting marketing insights. We also express our gratitude to all the respondents that have taken the time to answer our questionnaires and without whom this thesis could not have been conducted. A special thought is also goes to our families, friends and acquaintances, for their invaluable support and encouragement. Finally, we thank Mr. LoĂŻc PlĂŠ, who agreed to serve on the jury during the study presentation in June.
ABSTRACT This paper is the investigation of the role of employees in nowadays marketing strategies. Because of the shift toward humanized brands and the growing expectations for meaningful environments, practitioners are now facing new challenges to satisfy their audience. In consequence, employees have become a new center of interest for customers and companies. The purpose of this study is to examine the new perception mechanisms that arisen from this new idea of the brand image. In order to conduct this study, we invited a sample of French customers to answer questionnaires about the brand image of two specific brands: SONY and DECATHLON. In order to measure their attitude toward the employee we build scenarios involving the employees of each company. In the end we were able to run quantitative tests to answer our research problem. Thanks to our hypothesis testing, we highlighted the growing importance of employees when put in front of the stage. In addition, respondents demonstrated a positive affective response toward the behavioural branding situations. These findings invite marketers to update their brand image approach and to collaborate with Human Resources Management to create a coherent global brand message. The exploratory dimension of this research led to several limitations, consequently, further research problematics are suggested to contribute to this work. The idea and added value behind the present study is to initiate new investigations about a new brand image virtuous circle
Key Words: brand image, brand personality, brand attitude, employee perception, brand attachment, consumerâ€™s perception.
I/ FROM BRAND IMAGE TO PEOPLE 1/ FROM THE BRAND IDENTITY PRISM BY KAPFERER TO THE BRAND IMAGE 2/ THE BRAND IMAGE CONCEPT 3/ BRAND IMAGE AS A HUMAN BEING: THE BRAND PERSONALITY CONCEPT 5/ FROM BRAND PERSONALITY TO THE PERSONIFICATION METAPHOR II/ FROM AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION WITH THE BRAND TO BRAND ATTITUDE 1/ ATTITUDE AND BEHAVIOUR 2/ BRAND ATTITUDE 3/BRAND ATTACHMENT: AN EMOTIONAL MECHANISM III/ THE EMPLOYEE PERCEPTION: UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BRAND IMAGE AND BRAND ATTITUDE 1/ THE EMPLOYEE PERCEPTION: THEORETICAL EXPLANATION 2/ THE EMPLOYEE: AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF THE BRAND IMAGE 3/ THE EMPLOYEE PERCEPTION AS A DRIVER OF BRAND ATTITUDE
9 9 13 14 16 17 17 20 23
I/ REMINDER OF THE RESEARCH QUESTION 1/ RESEARCH PROBLEM 2/ RESEARCH QUESTIONS 3/ CONCEPTUAL MODEL II/ METHODOLOGY 1/ STUDY DESIGN 2/ DATA COLLECTION 3/ DATA ANALYSIS
38 38 39 39 40 40 45 53
26 27 29 36
1/ CONGRUENCE BETWEEN EMPLOYEE PERSONALITY AND BRAND PERSONALITY 56 2/ CUSTOMER’S REACTION TOWARD THE EMPLOYEE 59 3/ INFLUENCE OF THE EMPLOYEES ON BRAND PERSONALITY AND BRAND ATTACHMENT: THE BEFORE/AFTER EFFECT 61 4/ IMPORTANCE GIVEN TO THE EMPLOYEES 63 DISCUSSION
I/ MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS 1/ THE EMPLOYEE: A LINK BETWEEN MARKETING AND HR FIELDS 2/ EMPLOYEES-‐CUSTOMERS INTERACTION CONTEXT II/ RECOMMENDATIONS
67 67 70 71
1/ CULTIVATING EMPLOYEES FROM THE INSIDE: TO ANOTHER IDEA OF THE BRAND IMAGE 2/ CREATING A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE THROUGH THE EMPLOYEE: TO ANOTHER IDEA OF PERCEPTION 3/ DEVELOPMENT OF AN “OPERATIONAL FRAMEWORK” III/ LIMITS IV/ FUTURE RESEARCH 1/ OTHER MEDIATION MECHANISMS 2/ FURTHER INVESTIGATION ABOUT THE EMPLOYEE 3/ SCALES DEVELOPMENT 4/ IMPACTS ON CUSTOMER BEHAVIOUR
71 75 76 77 79 79 80 80 81
INTRODUCTION The Brand Defining what exactly a brand is has been for years, the utmost difficult task for both theorists and practitioners. Raising many questions the brand entity has found an increasing appeal for companies and consumers. The traditional definition of the brand by the American Marketing Association defines it as "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." In the current consumerist period the brand has become more than just a name but a symbol and a media for self-representation. Because of this intricate relationship with the customers and its practical components, defining the brand is a complex challenge. There is an extensive literature on this concept that can now be considered as a symbol of the 21st century. From all the definitions exposed by the worldâ€™s leading expert in marketing, G.Lewi and J.Lacoeuilhe (2007) have dispatched them in five different approaches: marketing, financial, discursive, utilitarian and systemic. The Brand, a social concept Today, the brand defines the identity of those who consume it and it has become a sign of recognition, bringing together people with common values represented by the brand, and differentiating them from others. It predicts to a certain degree the customersâ€™ attitudes, norms and practices. This appropriation exceeds the idea of consuming the brand and people are now wearing the brand. Consumers tend to embody the brand that best reflects their visions and values and consequently convey the brand image. In this way, the brand has shifted to a social and moral conductor that can also be seen as a cultural and societal representation, a new norms system for the consumer to position itself toward its environment. When considering the brand as a marketing tool, Philip Kotler has developed the marketing mix composed by four different variables: product, price, place, promotion (also referred as the 4Ps). This model has helped marketers to build strong product positioning and consequently strong brands. Beyond this representation of the brand, the present environment has led to think that there are more than just tangible variables.
Nowadays, the brand encompasses both material characteristics and subjective dynamics. The perception of a brand is now constructed through mental associations: brand image attributes and benefits, advertising campaigns, spokesperson, etc. From what we can see, the new trends in marketing tend to focus on the human traits of a brand (advertising, social networks...). For that reason this research will focus on this updated framework and its purpose is to expose the role of “People” in the brand image perception and its impacts on the consumer. The Brand and the Employees By “People”, we have decided to focus on the employee of the brand. From the salesperson to the marketers and business developers, at every level of the company this paper will analyze how employee can empower and convey the brand image. The term “employee variable” will be used to describe the position of the employee when a consumer perceives the brand. It is important for the reader to understand that it concerns all the employee of a company. Because of the human value inherent to the employee variable, this study will also raise ethical questions and management issue as it cannot (and shouldn’t) be interpreted and assess the same way marketers manage their product positioning. From the brand image definition and evaluation we will introduce to the notion of personification and expose the possibility of an employee variable. Furthermore, an understanding of the brand attitude will be developed to finally argue about the relationship between the brand image perception and the brand attitude through the employee. The exploratory dimension of this study has made the research interesting and surely of benefit for further researches. The idea behind this paper is to expose the significant value of human traits in a brand through the employee and to suggest an appropriate approach to understand how it can be interpreted and managed. At every step the consumer’s point of view will be at stake. The reader should see here the premises to construct a new valid framework about the brand image including the employee variable and express people as brand drivers.
LITERATURE REVIEW I/ FROM BRAND IMAGE TO PEOPLE
1/ From the brand identity prism by Kapferer to the brand image Many frameworks have been developed to expose the mechanisms of the brand. Aaker (1996) defines it as "a unique set of mental associations that the brand manager aspires to create or to maintain." Nowadays, brands are more than just a name, a symbol or a logo. With the globalization, the advertising, the mass consumption and other worldwide factors such as economy, politics, and culture, the brand has now become a societal phenomenon and even more: an institution. For evidence, some brands products have become and are now used as common names by everyone: “Kleenex”, “Frigo”, “Moleskine” etc. The brand has now a multifaceted dynamism and is sometimes a sign of affiliation to a social group. Some products can actually grant their success to the brand they are related to. What is even more striking is that we buy the brand before buying the actual product. The present literature review will demonstrate that the brand can stand as a message (the brand identity) delivered in a precise and thoughtful way by marketers (the brand positioning) to the public whose role here is to receive this message (brand image) and evaluate it. Kapferer (1988, 1992) explains that brand identity is an emission concept, which comes from the company itself. The brand image that we will define in the next paragraph is on the contrary a concept related to its reception. Kapferer's Identity Prism has proven to be one of the most relevant models to represent the components of the brand. As portrayed below we can identify six variables divided into two areas: the external and internal environment of the brand. What we can observe here is that a brand consists in both outer and inner variables. Its physical aspects cannot only represent it; the idea of “mentalization” is intrinsic to the brand. The receiver is exposed to both a reliable and tangible vision of the brand and a mental conceptualization through the personality. This prism itself summarizes well the duality of the brand. The author also explores another contrast when he represents the receiver and the source of the brand.
Figure 1.1: Brand identity prism (J-N Kapferer, 1995).
From this framework, we can give some details and explanations about the six dimensions mentioned by Kapferer: Physical facet The brand “physique” represents the objective characteristics of the brand associated with tangible added value. It combines the skills, products, services and all visual characteristics such as colors, symbols, logo...To simplify, “Physique is the combination of salient objective features or emerging ones” (Kepferer, 2000). Personality This second element of brand identity is considered as the basis of the relationship between the brand and its customers. Everything that can be assimilated to human-being traits when defining the brand is referred as brand personality. This concept can be transposed to the personality of the brand’s ambassador or other person who vehicules the characteristics of the brand through his or her own personality traits. Culture and Values The third point in Kapferer prism, also called brand culture, refers to all the cultural universe reflecting the organization, its country of origin and the values it stands for. Some factors of this universe are: the slogan significance, the logo or name, the corporate social responsibility approach, public relations perspectives, etc. To clarify the idea of brand culture, Schein (1996) defines it through three levels: artifacts, values and basic assumptions.
Relationship Brand relationship is the logical approach to a brand as an opportunity for the customer and the organization to exchange. Some researchers like Fournier (1998) have explained this concept from a psychologic point of view establishing that people build relationships with brand in a similar way they do with people. Reflected consumer (Customer reflection) Consumers tend to associate a particular status to whoever purchases the brand. Just like a mirror effect, the reflected consumer is the reflection of the brand (the external image) on this person but not the person itself. In other words, this reflection works as an identification model where the reflection is usually smaller than the target (the buyer) itself. Consumer mentalization (Customer self-image) As opposed to the previous reflection process, an internal mirror could represent this mentalization. It is the relationship that the consumer builds with himself through the brand (this term refers to a psychological positioning). Based on the construct of Kapferer we understand that the identity of the brand is based on a duality between both tangible and intangible traits and external and internal mechanisms. Furthermore in its study of the brand, the author states that identity is what comes from the company (Kapferer, 1988, 1992). Practitioners decide and position the tangible and intangible aspects of a particular brand and deliver it to the public. This second fold of the brand message is called the brand image. Relationship between the identity and the image has been an utmost topic in marketing, raising many questions about their interaction. Although their difference in origin has been widely accepted (Kapferer, 1992; Nandan, 2005; Harris and de Chernatony, 2001) it seems that they are part of the same process (Braunstein and Ross, 2010). Moreover, Hartman and Spiro argue that a well-established corporate position (the identity) will greatly and positively impact the â€œcustomer responseâ€? (2005) as they work within the same dynamic. Here below, the conceptual framework, developed by Aaker and Joachimsthaler in 2003, illustrates well the relationship between the identity and the image of the brand in its building process. In fact, the concept of brand image is more about marketing activities, studied from both consumers and companiesâ€™ perspectives in order to generate a positive 11
image (Janonis, Aisté, Dobaliené and Virvilaité, 2007). As we can see the brand image is the last result of the brand identity development process. We will see later why and how these concepts are related and yet different.
Firgure 1.2: Modified process of brand image develoment (D.Aaker and E.Jochimsthaler, 2003).
According to the authors, brand positioning has a strategic and essential role, as it is one of the most important stages in the brand image building process. In fact, “positioning is used as a specific aspect of identity during a particular time, in particular market and in front of exactly defined competitors” (Janonis, 2007). Kapferer (2003) also defines brand positioning as the “emphasis of distinctive features that provide distinction in comparison with competitors and become attractive for society”. The identity is the core added value of a brand that will highlight its “individuality” (Nandan, 2005). From these definitions, it seems obvious that the positioning of a brand precedes its image. In other words, it is based on a clear identity statement and from the brand positioning process that the image of a brand originates. Now that the relationships and the connexions between these three different concepts have been stated, we can shift the discussion and our literature review to the explanation of the last but not least concept of the framework below: the brand image itself.
Figure 1.3: Theoretical model of brand identity and image relationship
Through the collection of definitions of the brand image, it seems relevant to identify and select the core characteristic of this notion and to relate it to our subject of study. More than just an impression (Herzog, 1973) we will see that brand image is all about brand associations in people minds (Keller, 1993). From that postulate we will examine the brand image through the perspective of the brand personality. This precision will also allow us to avoid the confusion that is often made between image and personality and furthermore to construct our conceptual framework. 2/ The brand image concept Although the concept of brand image has been a large topic for many researchers, there is no real consensus on the definition and what it covers or excludes. This concept remains extremely vague. Some argue that brand image is the equivalent of the brand personality (Mindak, 1961, Hendon and Williams, 1985), while others see the brand image as the “set of beliefs held about a particular brand” (Kotler, 1988). Brand image is directly related to the consumer’s perception of the brand. Indeed, according to Herzog (1973), brand image is the “sum total of impressions that consumers receive from many sources, all of which combine to form a coherent image”. In the end, it seems that brand image encompasses all characteristics and attributes from which consumers evaluate the brand and compare it to others; it encircles both affective and cognitive representations that can be associated to a brand or an organization (Thoening, Kapferer, 1994). The main objective for brand managers is providing a brand image that reflects the brand identity. When there is a discrepancy between both concepts, they have to set a new positioning strategy (Kapferer, 2007). From the previous literature review we have differentiated the identity and image of the brand. In our study what concerns us it the customer’s point of view, which is why for the sake of this customer-brand relationship equation we narrow our research to the brand image solely. The plethora of definitions invites
us to select the relevant axis of study and detail it so that a valuable and relevant framework can be developed. The human dimension that has been given to the brand in the recent studies has motivated us to understand the brand image as a human being through the concept of brand personality elaborated by Aaker in the 90s. 3/ Brand image as a human being: the brand personality concept Brand has become a more and more intangible concept through which customers pursue their real and ideal self and bond between each other. Brand is now more than ever about people. In the '80s, practitioners have widely used the concept of brand personality to communicate on their brands. Thus, Jacques Seguela recommended selling a brand like a person, by highlighting its physical facets, its personality traits and style. In the same time, marketing experts and academic researchers observed customersâ€™ brand evaluation process in order to see if customers used comparable criteria than those to evaluate people. Therefore, the brand personality concept remains ambiguous when defining the border between psychology and marketing. That brings us to the famous Aakerâ€™s (1997) definition of brand personality as "all human characteristics associated with a brand". From that, we can understand brand personality as a key element of the brand identity and image: brands can be positioned on the basis of human qualities (Aaker, 1997) and seen like people by customers. Indeed, brand personality is now a new positioning tool for marketers since consumers tend to perceive themselves as having the brandâ€™s personality traits and often prefer and choose brands that enhance their sense of themselves (Escalas and Bettman, 2003; Gao, Wheeler, and Shiv, 2009). Brands offer a lot of opportunities for consumers to express who they are and who they would like to be. That is why brands with distinctive and attractive personalities are especially well perceived for this purpose. Aaker (1997) proposed a conceptual framework about brand personality, which sums up the human qualities dimensions expressed by brands:
Figure 3.1: Brand personality framework (J.Aaker, Dimensions of Brand Personality, 1997).
These dimensions of brand personality by Aaker have now been widely accepted by experts and marketers: they help to differentiate brands, to develop emotional aspects, and improve the personal meaning that customers develop toward the brand. When we analyzed the brand identity and brand image we highlighted the duality these two concepts encompass. Brand personality also works as a twofold concept, the first being a company-level source from which certain dimensions and items originates, and second of a symbolic perspective that generates other dimensions and other items. Each dimension of the Aaker’s model encircles a variety of items that have been selected and organized on the basis of qualitative and quantitative researches. Moreover, it is important to recall that each item is an adjective traditionally used to describe human being.
Competence and sincerity are company-level sources (company’s moral values, the CEO and company employees.)
Sophistication and ruggedness are constructed through brand symbols (endorsers, brand users, brand name and logos.)
Excitement dimension comes from both company level and brand symbols. In our research on customer’s perception of the brand image we decided to narrow our
topic to the perception of the brand personality. In this perspective, it seems that the scale of items developed by Aaker makes perfect sense. That is why a careful and detailed analysis of it will be made in our methodology. 15
The brand personality concept has been widely studied since it facilitates academics to link brands and their customers through the same spectrum of dimensions. The same way we can assimilate personality traits to both customers and brands, we can stand that it is possible to attribute them to employees. For example, we can predict that employees of a company can convey competence and sincerity dimensions to the brand personality. Morevover, employees can generate excitement, since its origin comes from both the company and the brand itself. That perspective leads us to think that employees can convey dimensions exposed by Aaker.
5/ From brand personality to the personification metaphor It is now recognized that that “brand personality reflects how people feel about a brand, rather than what they think the brand is or does” (Keller, 1998). We can go deeper in this reflection and quote the common metaphor in the marketing literature that explains that the “brand is person” (Hanby, 1999). Nowadays, customers clearly tend to choose brands which personality fits with their own vision of themselves, even if it expresses what they would be more than what they really are. Via brands, customers portray their preferences, expectations, and by attributing human characteristics to brands, it has become even easier for customers to rely on them. Since the 80s, we can observe two ways of personifying brands. On the first hand, brands are more and more using personality traits and human characteristics to describe their products. Assimilating intangible adjectives to material objects for the purpose of differentiating their products from the competition and providing these tangible goods an individuality that is traditionally associated to human beings. On the second hand, marketers have tried to associate the customer's own personality with the brand and by this mean, creating a special bond between the brand and the customer on the same basis a relationship between two humans being could happen. Brands try to capture customers’ individuality and replicate them through the personality of the brand itself. From such new perspectives, marketers are for example inclined to personify brands through endorsers and fictional characters. Especially through advertising strategies we can observe the use of actual people representing the brand by having the close personality traits and physical aspects. They directly convey the brand image by embodying it in front of the
customer’s eyes. It has proven to give a more realistic vision of the brand personality traits and to enhance customer’s identification to the brand (Kelman 2006). The use of personification methods in marketing illustrates well the growing inclination people have to bond with brands because of their human aspect. Based on this phenomenon, this paper interrogates the role of employees as another way to personify a brand. Furthermore, we discuss how such mechanism can be translated in the customer’s mind into an emotional connexion to the brand and what can be the impacts on this relationship.
II/ FROM AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION WITH THE BRAND TO BRAND ATTITUDE From the previous literature review we have explained our choice to analyze the brand image as it corresponds to customer’s perception. Because we investigate the role of employees in customer-brand relationship, we selected the personality traits of the brand image. Moreover, we suggested that this personification of the brand through the employees would create an emotional bond between customers and the brand. The second fold of this paper is the analysis of customer’s reactions toward this phenomenon. For managerial implications it seemed relevant to understand the impacts the perception of employees might have on customers’ attitudes. The marketing field interrogates customer’s behavioural and attitudinal dynamics. From the literature we will give a precise definition of the attitude and differentiate it from behaviour in the first place to understand its relevance in our topic in a second time. Furthermore we will link this attitude to the perception of the brand image through the perspective of an attachment linking employees and consumers. 1/ Attitude and behaviour 1.1/ Definitions and differences Attitude and behaviour are two distinctive axis to observe consumers interaction with the brand image and yet these two concepts are hard to be divided (Richard L. Sandhusen).
1.1.1/What is behaviour? Analyses on customer’s behaviour rely on the observation of buying decision process (Richard L. Sandhusen, 2000). It encompasses the intentions of the customer underlying behind a purchase behaviour. Whereas, some authors have highlighted the functional dimensions of behaviours (Skinner, 1950s), others have found a symbolic interpretation of customer’s behaviour (Levy, 1959; Solomon, 1983; Elliott et Wattanasuwan, 1998; Reed, 2002). The literature about functional behaviour is rather poor. Yet, it may be emphasized that this behaviour reaches a pragmatic reflection, as stated by McGinnis and Ullman in their study of engineer design about functional features, “functional features explain what purpose the design objects achieve”. Similarly, a functional behaviour is the logic response to a clear need. The second school of thought argues that consumers’ behaviours are influenced by a self-actualization need. They behave in order to portray their real (or ideal) self-image. Customers are inclined to choose a brand because of the symbols it represents and the philosophy or vision it vehicules. They make a statement about who they are or what they are striving for. In fact, Grubb and Grathwohl (1967) have linked the behaviour to someone’s personality traits, arguing that these characteristics are a good predictor of behaviours. Their study confirmed the relationship between the self and behaviour through the symbolic dimensions of a brand or product. We understand here that behaviours can be the allegory of a need for “social recognition”. 1.1.2/What is attitude? On the other hand, marketers distinguish the consumer’s attitude. According to Thurstone (1946), the attitude is defined “as the degree of positive or negative affect associated with some psychological object”. This reaction can also be called feeling or affect (Allen L. Edwards, Techniques of Attitude Scale Construction, 1983). The affective dimension (Ajzen, 1991; Fishbein and Ajzen, 1972) translates well someone’s favorable or unfavorable feeling toward “objects, events, or other persons”. Specific to marketing studies, attitude can also refer to the customer orientation toward a product or a brand (Asseal, 1987). This orientation can be observed and measured in two ways (Park et al., 2010). The valence,
which is the degree of positive or negative evaluation of the object: how high is the positive or negative attitude toward this brand. And secondly, the attitude strength, which represents the force with which one, assesses the brand positively or negatively. That is to say, how powerful is the positive (or negative) evaluation toward an object. In their study of customer-brand affective relationship, M. Thomson, D. J. MacInnis and C. W. Park list the entire “psychological object” that practitioners and theoreticians have exposed and to which a customer can feel attached: - to objects (Hirschman, 1994 ; Sable, 1995) - to places (Rubinstein and Parmelee, 1992) - to pets and celebrities (Adams-Price and Greene, 1990 ; Alperstein, 1991) - to gifts (Mick and DeMoss, 1990) - to collections objects (Slater, 2000) - to residence halls (Hill and Stamey, 1990) - to brands (Schouten and McAlexander, 1995) - to other special objects (Ball and Tasaki, 1992, Kleine, Kleine and Allen, 1995 ; Price, Arnould and Curasi, 2000 ; Richins, 1994, 1994 ; Wallendorf and Arnould, 1988) Based on these findings, we can start arguing that an attitude can be formed toward employees of this brand. 1.1.3/Two related but different concepts Attitude and behaviour have been widely studied by academics: it has been very difficult to clearly identify the ins and outs specific to one another. Especially since attitude has proven to be a good predictor of the behaviour (Kraus, 1995; Olson and Zanna, 1993). Some authors have even identify and develop the concept of an attitude toward the behaviour that would measure how incline a consumer is to behave according its evaluation toward that behaviour (Ajzen, 1991). Indeed, consumers’ attitudes are a “lasting, general evaluation of people, objects, or issues” and behaviour is “a consumer’s actions with regard to an attitude object” (Solomon, Bamossy, Askegaard, and Hogg, 2010). The common point in studies about customers is the presence of an influential
variable. Cohen and Chakravarti (1990) have considered on their end the influence of motivations and predisposition of the consumer. Others have tried to understand behaviour and attitudinal responses according to one’s lifestyle and values (Kahle and al. 1986). Other speculations were made on the consumer’s sensitivity and involvement toward a brand or range of product (Laurent and Kapferer, 1985, 1992; Belk 1988). In this paper a focus is made on all the employees of a brand and more specifically the perception of them and the outcomes on customer’s perception of the brand. The “psychological construct” (Kraus, 1995; Olson and Zanna, 1993) and the permanence of the attitude explain its relevance in our study. Indeed, we want to investigate a change in customer’s perception of the brand through an emotional bond. Because of the intangible dimension of this link, it seems that attitude is a more relevant axis of analysis. On the other hand, the literature has proven that the behaviour is a purchase related concept (Richard L. Sandhusen). This denotes the necessity of a physical interaction between the customer and the brand whereas attitude can be formed without such interaction (Thomas, MacInnis and Park, 2005).
2/ Brand attitude Now that attitude and behaviour have been differentiated and the relevance of choosing the attitude in our paper explained, a deeper understanding of attitude is required. Indeed, the customer’s attitude encompasses a variety of dimensions and sub-concepts. Some being related to the brand cognition and others to affects values and beliefs (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1972; Olson and Zanna, 1993). The same way behaviour corresponds to a certain need or want from the customer, brand attitude finds its origin to someone’s necessities and expectations. In their study of customer-brand relationships mechanisms, Moulins and Roux (2008) establish that customer’s attitude is composed of three “attitudinal variables”: trust, identification and attachment. 2.1/ Brand trust The first determinant of brand attitude is the notion of brand trust, which a key element in the development of strong brand relationships in the long run.
According to McAllister (1995), trust in psychology and sociology is “the extent to which a person is confident, and willing to act on the basis of the words, actions, decisions of others”. This general conception of trust can be extended to marketing activities and applied to brands if we look at Keller and Aaker’s definition (1992) that states “trust is reported to be involved, as part of brand credibility, in brand extension acceptance”. Other authors go even further in the definition of brand trust and give it an undeniable power saying that this is “perhaps the single most powerful relationship marketing tool available to a company” (Berry, 1995). In other words, trust is defined through security and confidence feelings and it is directly related to positive or negative outcomes. When we review the literature on brand trust we understand that it is link to the interaction between the brand and the customer and their evaluation of “security” and “welfare” the brand can deliver (Elena Delgado-Ballester, 2003). The dimensions of confidence and reliability, intrinsic to the trust, are also argued by Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001). They state that trust results from the inclination to “rely on the ability of the brand to perform its stated function”. Here we understand the expectations of the customer underlying his/her trust toward the brand. As a consequence, brand trust appears as one of the strongest expectations from customers. 2.2/ Brand identification For many years, the brand identification concept based on social identity theory has been examined in the sociological and psychological areas. Yet lately academics have started to see it as an organizational behaviour and a human resources management approach. According to the social identity theory, “people articulate their sense of self and typically go beyond their personal identity to develop a social identity” (Sven Kuenzel, Sue Vaux Halliday, 2010). To answer “the need for social identity and self-definition” (Ashforth, B.E. and Mael F., 1989) customers identify themselves with the brands. As a determinant of brand attitude, brand identification exposes the self-perception characteristics. Moreover, identification will help them to “define themselves in relation to that group and in distinction from members of a rival social group” (Tajfel, H. and Turner, J.C., 1985). Here, we are trying to appreciate this subject from a marketing context where consumers identify and associate themselves with brands that reflect and reinforce their self-
identities, where customers look at the brand as an extension of the self. It is essential for marketing managers to understand the self-identity mechanism, the symbolic meaning of goods and services, and the central role played by brands in these dynamics. 2.3/ Brand attachment Finally, the third factor of brand attitude is the brand attachment. We will see in this part why attachment is the most relevant concept to measure employee role in the customers’ perception of a brand. 2.3.1/The psychological theory of attachment The psychological theory of attachment is behind the marketing concept of brand attachment. The initial works on this notion were conducted by Bowlby (1979, 1980) that studied the primary need of individuals to be strongly attached to the others base on the theory of the first child's attachment to his mother. According to him, the attachment is rooted in the past (personal, familial or cultural) and is based on nostalgia. This psychological dimension has been studied by Lacoeuilhe (1997,1999) when he pursues Aaker’s work (1994), and considers the brand attachment as a “psychological variable […] that expresses an affective psychological proximity closeness.” Heilbrunn (1995, 1996) has differentiated this attachment process in two approaches: the functional and the existential attachment. The former being related to utilitarian needs of the customer and the latter being associated with emotional and affective links the customer can establish with the brand. For existential purposes, the customers are likely to develop an attachment toward the brand and even a sentimental relationship (Aaker, 1994) build on a general feeling toward the brand and not interpretable with precise facts. This established link with the brand goes hand in hand with “mental representation” held in customers mind through its memories, thoughts and brand-self acknowledgment (Berman and Sperling 1994; Mikulincer and Shaver 2007). Indeed, nostalgia has been a greatly used topic for marketers to create the emotional bond and to break into customer’s lives. Through psychological processes, the brand attachment appealed to the public’s past and therefore become more symbolic than functional (Aaker, 1997). As we understand from the literature, customers can form a psychological reaction
toward a certain stimuli (in our paper the employees). The emotions and feelings that are transcribed in the form of an attachment will strengthen the relationship beyond a simple functionality purpose. 2.3.2/From the psychological definition to the brand attachment concept Park has defined the brand attachment “as a bond that can connect the brand with the customer’s self” (2010). Creating an emotional attachment between brand and customers is a key variable in today’s marketing world. The main objective for marketers is to obtain an ideal congruence between brand’s personality and consumer’s self and to persuade them that this connexion exists. Park, Thomson and MacInnis (2010) have identified three different emotions underlying this attachment: affection, passion and connection. We can argue that the higher these three are in the customer’s mind the stronger the attachment. Here we understand that the brand attachment is the development of an emotional bond (Collins and Read, 1990). In today’s business environment and growth of human capitalization of brands, creating a connection with the customer that goes beyond utilitarian needs is a great opportunity for marketers. In order to contribute to this new vision of marketing, Cristau (2001) suggested that the attachment could be measured according to the friendship and dependence between the brand and its customers. The purpose of our study is to express the employee variable as a new opportunity to develop this attachment reaction. We will see in the next chapter why brand attachment is the most relevant variable to observe the relationship between the different actors involved in the brand image process. 3/Brand attachment: an emotional mechanism The emotional bond that can arise between the brand and the customer via the employee is well represented by the attachment dimensions of the customer’s attitude. Although trust and identification are very interesting variables to understand the relationship between the customer and the brand, we selected the brand attachment. Understanding the true differences between these three concepts will help the reader understand the relevance of attachment in this study.
3.1/ Irrelevance of brand trust and brand identification
3.1.1. Irrelevance of brand trust Brand trust, as we have defined, is a marketing concept linked to the customer’s attitude toward the brand and yet directly related to the brand loyalty. Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001) raised and verified the hypothesis that trust is the result of both “purchase loyalty” and “attitudinal loyalty”. It has been established that the loyalty is the brand value perceived by the customer. In other words, its satisfaction toward the brand that can only be formed after using the brand, which is linked to purchase behaviour (Anber A.S. Mohammad, 2012). This was also confirmed by Moorman, Zaltman and Desgpande (1992) in their investigation of trust in market researches when they outlined the notions of “belief and behavioural intention” are part of the construction of trust. Moreover, customer’s trust is fed with “past experience” that provides proof of quality and generates a positive outcome (Delgado-Ballaster, Munuera-Alemàn, 2005). Consequently, we dismiss the trust for its behavioural finality that is not relevant in our study of an emotional bond between the customer and the brand. As we do not consider the products or services offered by the brand but the entity it represents, there is no purchase dimension in this paper and in turn need to explore the concept of trust.
3.1.2/ Irrelevance of brand identification When we identified customers’ attitude we decided to exclude another dimension to our hypothesis: the brand identification. Indeed, academics have highlighted the importance of psychology when observing the identification process. Since the very purpose of this paper is to contribute to marketing strategies development it seemed irrelevant to select this concept in our framework. The psychological approach of identification raises the notions of selfcongruence and group belonging (Ashforth, B.E. and Mael F, 1989), which accentuate the individuality of this process. This orientation is not the right one for us since we intend to analyze the perception of the brand and not the need of self-actualization through the brand. Moreover, people are inclined to choose a brand to belong to its community and portray its common traits (Esacalas and Bettman, 2003, 2005; Kapferer, 1995). It allows them
to be in adequacy with the surrounding environment in terms of values, norms and to fit the external expectations (Kelman, 1958). This influence of others is the starting point of brand identification. And when customers find themselves (or the idea of themselves they have) in a particular brand, they will build this psychological bond with it (Kuenzel and Halliday 2008; Underwood, Bond, and Baer 2001). In our study we decided to focus on the customer’s perception of the brand and its personification through the employee and not through a group of customers or via the intention to fit a “reflected customer”. That is why identification wasn’t the right axis for us.
3.2/ Brand attachment as the most relevant concept 3.2.1/ Brand attachment: an attitudinal concept to link employees and customers From the literature we have found that someone’s attachment can concern objects, brands, places, and most importantly persons (M. Thomson, D. J. MacInnis and C. W. Park, 2005). Whereas identification is linked to a self-actualization process, the attachment is truly the creation of a connection between the customer and the “psychological object”, here the employee. What interested us is the linkage that customer can create with the brand through its employees. And we argue that this human-to-human dimension of our subject will have a significant impact on the attachment. Indeed, the variety of emotions attachment raises (Plutchik, 1980; Izard, 1978; Mehrabian and Russel, 1974; Osgood, 1966) and because human interaction also encompasses a wide range of feelings, we argued that studying the brand attachment, as finality was relevant. People who attach great importance to a person are more likely to be committed, invested towards this person, and willing to make sacrifices for he/she (Bowlby, 1980). Similarly, the emotional attachment of consumers to a brand predicts their commitment toward it. Marketers can truly explore this commitment finality by increasing the chances of brand attachment. Marketing today has put a lot of effort into customer relationship management and into creating a brand community in order to add value to their brand (Schau, Muñiz Jr., Arnould, 2009). This relationship status and the will to convey a more human philosophy to the brand have wakened our interest.
3.2.2/ Brand attachment as the result of brand personification Cristau (2006) suggests the existence of an affective relationship to the brand when considered as a personified entity that would possess “a true identity within the meaning of Kapferer” (1995). In our research, the employees will represent this personification mechanism from which an affective response can be observed. They will stand as the stimulus that generates an emotional response on the customer’s side. Following our definition of brand personification in the first part of our paper, it can be argued that this personification of the brand by the employee is an effective leverage to provoke an emotional response in consumers’ minds: the brand attachment. Furthermore, people are not always aware of these marketing efforts to highlight the brand human traits even though they attach great importance to it (via its values, its decisions, its representatives, its appearance, its managerial choices, etc.). Thus, the role of the employee in the brand image delivery can be crucial to enhance this personification and humanization phenomenon. Because it is not entirely anticipated by employees, it is interesting to see how this new variable can influence customers that are more and more inclined to be absorbed by brands and contemplate them.
III/ THE EMPLOYEE PERCEPTION: UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BRAND IMAGE AND BRAND ATTITUDE The previous review of literature has helped us defining the concepts of our study. It has been established that the brand image refers to associations that the customer builds toward a brand. Because our study focuses on the image conveyed by the employees, we have highlighted the importance of the brand personality traits. Furthermore, we investigated customer’s reactions and according to academic findings we selected the concept of attitude and more specifically the brand attachment. In the following paragraphs, we will proceed to an analysis of the employee variable and explain how it can be an enhancement tool of the brand image.
1/ The employee perception: theoretical explanation 1.1/ The employee definition in our study The orientation we have given in this paper invites the reader to understand the importance of a new variable of the brand image, the employee. It is important for the continuation of this analysis to delineate the meaning of the employee variable. Historically, the employee refers to the Public Service environment. Thus, when Balzac wrote "the employees" in his novels, he evoqued above all the employees from these institutions. The distinction between workers and employees raises issues. Many authors, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, have highlighted the concern about the definition of manual labor. However, if we observe the situation in the nineteenth century we are forced to see the a wide variety of jobs like: storekeepers, foremen as well as employees performing manual labor were all classified into the broad term of employees. More recently, Delphine Gardey, a French historian and sociologist, offers a third explanation based on the workplace. According to her, employees are characterized by their workplace, in other words, their offices. This definition has the merit of being more flexible since it encompasses people actually working in manual activities and others performing more intellectual tasks. For the purpose of this study, we selected this definition, as it would allow us to expand it to the entirety of a company’s employees. Indeed, this research is considering the employee variable as a whole, from the sale forces to in-house people from each department of the firm. We approach here, the general idea of "worker" which best aggregates together all persons performing work within the same company. Our main idea is to measure consumers perceptions of the employees of a certain firm, no matter what are the references of the consumer. Its perception, as we mean it, will be based on multiple images stored in memory and from which a "model employee" emerges. In addition to these descriptive studies about the employees, authors are increasingly interested in its value within the company. In his research about “Intangible Assets” in a firm, Sveiby (1997) identifies the employee as part of the immaterial resources of a corporation that generates value through their skills and values. We understand that employees are part of the company’s human dimension also called “human capital” in Edvinson and Malone (1997) study. This new approach in management that considers the employee as a crucial resource
and competitive advantage (Miles and Mangold, 2004) supports the marketing purpose of our study that analyses the employee variable as a possible enhancement of brand image.
1.2/ Employee perception in the relationship between customer and the brand To pursue our paper, we must now narrow our research problem and discuss the employee perception as a reference notion in the relationship between consumers and brands. Employee perception refers here to the perception customers have on a brand’s employees. In other words and similarly to the process of brand perception, we are observing the way customers perceive the human capital of brands. How do brands engage relationships with their audience through their employees’ perception? Daniel Wentzel (2009) in his study of employee behaviour has highlighted the fact that customer do have a reaction when interacting with employees. In his paper, it is argued that when interacting with front-line personnel of a company, the public operates an update process that affects its brand perception. Based on his findings, we can argue that employees have the power to change customers’ brand perception. To go further in this idea, we can suppose that the perception of employees, and not only the interaction with them, will affect customers. When analyzing the “employee-customer interface”, authors have demonstrated that perception has its importance when building brand relationships (Swann, 1984). Others have even stated that the employee variable can be seen as a “driver [of the] brand personality” (Homburg and Bornemann, 2009), which confirms the potential of employees to enhance customer’s ability to react toward employees. In sum, it appears that the brand and its employees are part of the same continuum of perception by the consumer. A good perception of the work force will amorce and predict a good perception of the brand as a whole (Subramony, Beerh and Jonhson, 2004). In terms of studies, the findings are rather poor; hence the will to contribute actively to this field and continue what has been done.
1.3/ Link between brand personality and employee personality To exploit the idea of employee perception, we had to identify how we could measure it for a sample of consumers. The methodology will be explained in the next section of this paper. But before that, it is essential to establish the key element that links the brand
personality with employee personality that we discuss in this chapter. We will see that these two marketing concepts are very similar and measurable by the same way. Following James A. Bayton’s theory (1961), “people tend to humanize companies, to attribute personality characteristics to them, to see them much as they do humans, in terms of being mature, liberal, friendly, etc.”. Following him, a lot of researchers have investigated how consumers build their brand personality impressions (Aaker et al. 2004; Johar et al. 2005), but academic studies about how employees affect brand personalities have been limited. Aaker (1997) suggests "personality traits come to be associated with a brand in a direct way by the people associated with the brand”. More recently, studies have shown that personality traits come to be related with a brand in a direct way by the company’s employees (Matta and Folkes 2005). Under what has been proven in the literature, we can state here one of our hypothesis: H1: There is a relative congruency between the brand personality and the perception of the employees (Employee personality).
2/ The employee: an important component of the brand image 2.1/ The new role of employees Companies have never been in the greater need to rely on all human resources available in their environment to “generate success” (Perez and Pietrac, 2003), especially during the economic and financial crisis that is occurring. The modern business environment is characterized by the growth of the service industry; the expansion of this sector originates and is driven by the combination and desire of both quality and innovation. As a consequence, companies rely more and more on each of their partners, including their employees, to deliver their brand message. This implies a true membership process from employees and a long-term commitment to a shared vision and belief because it brings sense to their actions. Recent studies have shown that employees are now a very valuable asset for the company (Sveiby, 1997) and their contributions in terms of “capabilities, knowledge, skills and life experience” (Aldisent, 2002) is positively correlated to the firm’s success. Employees’
recognition has become the new phenomenon highly valuable for communication strategies. Consequently, we can argue that employees have undertaken a new role for companies, from the inside to the outside. Rather than selling a product (or service), firms highlight the human value or â€œcapitalâ€? that is behind all of this. Our study of the employee is at the frontier of marketing researches and human resources investigations. In order for the reader to understand the point of view of this paper we will expose the literature that has been made on employees from a Human Resources point of view on the first hand and then, from a marketing approach. According to the Human Resources literature review With the increase of employee visibility, Human Resources have become an increasingly studied topic and the HR literature has gained in contribution. What arises from this phenomenon is the change of value of work. Indeed, work has become a more important dimension in the everyday life and we can observe an accumulation of communication strategies about it. The company has become a place to live and to evolve. Human Resources departments are actively trying to build a home feeling within the workplace. In many firms, measures have been taken to solicit employees to express themselves and new policies involving emancipation of workers have been implemented (companiesâ€™ parties, seminars, weekends, a designed workplace environment, etc.). One of the most striking examples is the Facebook case where specific accommodations have been installed in the offices in order to put employees at ease (sports rooms, relaxing place, etc.). These practices have proven to be very valuable for employees and to stimulate their creativity and therefore in the case of this company, their competencies. More than just a place where people come and go every morning and every evening, the workplace has reinvented itself into an environment that promotes self-realization and where individuals are incited to create a community (Perez and Pietrac, 2003). In addition, work hours have become more and more flexible than they used to be. In France, which traditionally gives a lot of importance to hierarchy and structured environment, companies are more and more shifting toward the US model that is less rigid and where managers and subordinates are collaborating on a more horizontal way. In the 80s the workplace was mostly
characterized by a democratization of the open-space. This phenomenon disappeared a little but lately a new system in between open-space and closed offices has emerged. According to companies it allows teams to be working more closely and to “bond” and yet to give them the needed privacy at work to be concentrated and effective. This new philosophy and the measures described above have been implemented in order to develop a favorable work environment where individuals would feel respected. Some studies have demonstrated that it increases the chances for employees to feel bonded to the company and to be willing to engage in long-term relationship with it (Des Isnards A., 2008). Based on the HR theories and the living examples that were exposed before, the marketing field has developed new approach to highlight the increased role and importance of the employee. Communication strategies are now focusing on the “human capital” to create a new relationship between the customer and the brand. According to the Marketing literature review The significant rise of the employee variable has lead marketers to investigate the ins and outs of the workforce enhancement in their strategies. Academics are also investigating this new perspective and studies have emphasized the crucial value of employees when creating strong relationships with the company’s “stakeholders”, as they are the primary mirrors of the brand image (AshaBinu Raj, Dr. P. Jyothi, 2011). Company’s employees have now their full part in the brand development process. Of course, for certain firms the product is still the primary focus of marketers. Mostly companies that produce innovative, long-established or premium products and services: Apple, Chanel, and Blackberry to name a few. Yet, the new position of employees has placed them in the center of customer-brand relationship. Consequently, marketing experts are now more in contact with HR practitioners in order to develop sustainable and coherent “strategies” for the benefit of both employees and the brand image (Perez and Pietrac, 2003). The over-exposition of companies and brands in addition to the development and democratization of social networks has led employees to become real ambassadors of their brands. HR measures to attract new employees and marketing strategies that are broadcasting human values to promote their products have incited employees to bond with their brand more
than ever. They are now becoming real supporters of its values and visions and conveying it to its environment. Some researchers named this phenomenon “la marque-maillot” in French. The most reliable translation would be the “brand outfit” that employees are inclined to wear as they embody the philosophy of the brand. The consequences of this are multiple and very interesting for marketers to investigate in order to understand the underlying processes. In the managerial implications part we will discuss how practitioners can act on it and the limits of such practices. According to the marketing literature about this topic, the employee-ambassador phenomenon is a very new concept that can be attributed to both HR issues: cohesion between employees, hiring strategies, community enhancement and so on; as well as marketing matters: advertising campaign, consolidation of brand image and equity, etc. Comforting the second fold, we can argue that the employee can be a new way to attract customers when he/she is in total alignment with his/her brand: similar attitudes, lifestyle, and appearance. As a consequence, the brand takes a whole new level and branding strategies are now two-fold, traditional marketing approach directed toward the external environment and entended strategies applied within the company. From this observation has emerged the concept of internal branding. The growing importance of employees in the mass public opinion has risen attention of marketers that are now more careful about what message employees can convey outside of the company and the consequences on the customers. Internal Branding is the set of activities that are implemented to solicit the employee to interiorize and adhere to the brand’s values and to embody its image (Florian Siems and Manuela Lackus, 2009). Information broadcasted by employees is rigorously overseen in order to avoid possible scandal or misleading messages. Marketers ask employees to collaborate to their strategies, in advertising for example when they explicitly or implicitly asked employees to represent the community they work in. With the importance of social media, internal branding has found a new ground to be exercised. Managers are more inclined to create a great working atmosphere that employees will talk about on the Internet and elsewhere and therefore participate in the reputation of the firm. Nowadays, brands are part of the everyday life landscape and people are more and more connecting with the brand they are working for.
From a marketing point of view, we have argued that customers are seduced by brands that are similar to them and thanks to which they can reflect their self to others; and consequently managers should integrate this in their strategies. With the findings from literature about employees we can argue that employees are a relevant and valuable way to do so.
2.2/ From the new role of employee to the external behavioural branding concept In a landscape where media pressure is very high, the consumer is becoming increasingly selective. Because of unrealized brand promise delivery they constantly question the traditional advertising methods. The brand promise is the communication of both experiences and benefits associated with the brand to the customer. It is the promise that makes a company different from its competitors toward their audience. Consequently, customers are now privileging their community and are giving word-of-mouth communication a great importance (Bughin, Doogan, Vetvik and Ole Jorgen, 2010). In response to the disenchantment of customers toward their campaign, marketers have been inclined to review their communication strategies and more broadly to rethink customer-brand relationship. The previous findings on employee literature have helped understand why the employee is a significant agent in spreading the brand. With right policies built from the inside, companies are able to develop healthy and beneficial relationships with their employees that will reflect outside and enhance the “customer-firm relationship” (Punjaisri, Wilson, Evanschitzky, 2008). From this modernized perspective, new strategies have emerged in order to improve the brand’s message and its delivery. Through many methods, consumers face a new dynamic where the employees are featured and the company’s human values reflected. To match this new demand from companies, advertising agencies are now specializing in what can be called the HR Marketing as a new solution for both internal and external perspectives. This focus confirms the increasing value of the employee variable in a company’s various operations. This linkage between HR practices and marketing approach has led to the emergence of behavioural branding. Because nowadays product quality and relevant mass media advertising is not sufficient for the brand to be successful, practitioners are now taking into account the behaviour of employees in their communication strategies (Stefanie Zeng, 2010). “How to turn
your collaborators into your brand ambassador” seems to be the new problematic of companies today. Here below are some examples of behavioural branding strategies that highlight the employee as a brand ambassador phenomenon:
Advertising campaigns featuring the employees: the recourse of employees as actors in advertising enable companies to associate production costs savings and support the creation of authentic and a trustworthy relationship with customers. The employee becomes an active player in the image of his company. Cases illustrating this are more and more numerous. The Société Générale, in 2009, portrayed its employees in a TV commercial in order to get closer to the customers. Abolishing in the same time, the cold and distant vision of banks today and regaining their trust. The same year, EDF developed a similar campaign to promote their actions toward sustainable energy development that would enhance the feeling of community between employees and customers as they act toward the same goal together.
Special events with the employees: some companies seek to bring to the forefront their employees through events relayed by the press and other medias. Their role as ambassadors is therefore fully portrayed. In between 2005 and 2010, companies have started to produce movie clip portraying their employees singing on a specific song that would represent the brand’s message. These lip dubs created the buzz on the Internet and even political parties began to create their own.
Official ambassadors programs: these programs aimed to recruit external people to become ambassadors of a brand. For example, since January 2010, l’Oréal has created the REVEAL game for students in order to join the community without being entirely part of the workforce but conveying the brand. These techniques are twofold, on the one hand, the firm aims at promoting themselves in order to attract future employees (employer branding) whilst on the other hand they enhance the community feeling among customers. There are also internal employee-anabassador programs: we can observe new jobs emerging such as “Campus manager”. Academics have found that these new communication strategies can greatly impact
the message of the brand. Some have even argued that the success of mass communication is correlated to “consistent employee behaviour” (Henkel, Tomczak, Heitmann, Herrmann, 34
2007). Through the management of what is called behavioural branding, companies have greater chances to achieve their brand promise delivery. Behavioural branding is a very modern and therefore new concept in the marketing field and there is a lack of investigation in the literature. Yet, we can still argue based on the few findings that the employee variable is now at the center of marketing concerns. It has become the new way to create successful relationships between the brand and the customers. 2.3/ Impacts of behavioural branding on customers Based on the literature findings, we argue that behavioural branding acts like a stimulus in the perception of consumers and has a significant impact on brand image. Thanks to the literature we have exposed the central value of the employee variable and linked it to the brand image. In other words, the “development of employee brands” (Miles and Mangold, 2004), which is the interiorization of organization’s values and visions and the transmission to the public, has become an increased strategy for companies to create competitive advantages. This behavioural branding seems to be a real mean of seduction for brands in the development and reinforcement of their image. The development of employee brand image is driven by the extent to which employees internalize the brand identity and are motivated to vehicle it to customers. In our paper we want to investigate how the employee variable has an impact on the customer through the perception this person has on employees. In turn, we wanted to measure the impact of employee participation in external events on customer’s minds and if this affective response has an impact on brand personality. H2: There is a significant and positive affective response to employee participation (behavioural branding) in external events H3: There is a positive before/after effect of the scenarios on the brand personality
3/ The employee perception as a driver of brand attitude 3.1/ The link between employee perception and brand attitude All these explanations lead us to our main concern: consumer perception of the brand image through the employee perception, and the impact this new perception can have on consumers’ attitudes. Here we establish a link between the brand attitude and the concept of employee perception. As a reminder, we have defined attitude through its emotional dimension: “attitude shows the individual's favorability to objects, events, or other persons" (Ajzen, 1991; Fishben and Ajzen, 1972). As it can be read in the marketing scientific sources, there are several reactions that can be observed when we talk about attitude. Below are cited the main examples related to marketing issues:
Attitude toward advertisement: “a predisposition to respond in a favourable or unfavourable manner to particular advertising stimulus during a particular exposure situation” (Mackenzie, Lutz and Belch, 1986).
Attitude toward brand: “a predisposition to respond in a favorable or unfavorable manner to a particular brand after the advertising stimulus has been shown to the individual” (Phelps and Hoy, 1996). Accordingly and in response to our topic, we argue that there can be an attitude
toward the employees. In most researches, the customer is exposed to the stimulus. In our study we will not take into account the exposure with an employee. Instead we want to enlarge our subject of study to all the employees of a company. 3.2/ Employees as potential brand attachment drivers This paper aims to demonstrate the existence of an emotional bond between a customer and an employee creating a change in the customer attachment toward this brand. Indeed, employees today are positioning themselves as new brand image agent, and therefore they might act as new drivers of the brand attachment. We can illustrate our idea by the example of Allstream Company, which “used” its employee variable as a competitive advantage in order to build this emotional attachment.
Allstream has decided to profoundly involve their employees in their new brand strategies and ask them to become "brand champions". As real ambassadors, employees â€œwere engaged at each phase of the brand development, and were provided with specific understanding as to our objectives and the implications of our new brand and promiseâ€? and have participated to the brand success in terms of brand image. This is obviously one out of many examples showing that the employee can be considered as an additional stimulus in the brand attachment process. That brings us to the next hypotheses of our research, which cxill measure if employee participation to brand image development has an impact on brand attachment. H4: There is a positive before/after effect of the scenarios on the Brand Attachment.
3.3/ Final importance of the perception of employees To complete our study we will investigate whether the behavioural branding of employees changes the degree of importance customers allocate to the employee variable. The idea is to determine what are the most important criteria in customerâ€™s mind when perceiving a brand and to measure if there is an evolution when employees are placed at the front of the stage. This will permit us to confirm our framework and to draw implications concerning the variable management. H5: There is a significative change in the degree of importance given to employees after the scenarios.
METHODOLOGY In this part we will introduce and explain our research methodology. From a reminder of the research problem and the underlying questions we will expose what we have investigated during the qualitative and quantitative part of our study and how we managed to resolve it. The validity of our construct will be detailed in the following paragraphs, charts and questionnaires will be provided in the annexes.
I/ REMINDER OF THE RESEARCH QUESTION 1/ Research problem The purpose of this study is to explore the possibility of an attitude toward the employee from the customer point of view. The literature review has provided us with a plethora of definitions and a precise view on our concepts. Concerning the brand we have differentiated its identity and image; the former refers to the message thought and delivered by the company whereas the latter encompasses the perception of this message by the customers. Our lectures and interest in marketing problematic has raised the question of the employee. Because nowadays companies are inclined to add a â€œhumanâ€? value to their brands it led us to think that employees may have an influence on the consumersâ€™ perception of the brand. The inherent human quality of an employee justifies the orientation toward the perception of the brand personality. In other words, we suggest that an employee can portray the brand via its personification thanks the prism of brand personality traits. The third step is our research is to observe the reaction of the customer after such phenomenon. The emotional bond originating from the employee perception led us to think that the brand attachment would be relevant to analyze. Does the customer's perception of employee influence the brand image and enhance the brand attachment ?
2/ Research questions One underlying topic of this study is the brand personality thanks to which we analyzed the brand image perception. We wanted in addition to understand how employees are perceived and what would be the link between the two perceptions. Is there a gap between the brand image and its employeeâ€™s perception? And what can be the consequences? Is the perception of the employee related to a physical interaction? The third part was to understand customersâ€™ reaction toward this new stimulus. Because we wanted to highlight an emotional bond between customers and employees we decided to question the outcome of this relationship on the brand attachment. Is the brand attachment enhanced or created through the perception of employees? The present paper will investigate the literature in order to provide answers to a subject that seems to be more and more important in the marketing field. It will then develop the implications for managers and accordingly suggest and propose recommendations to practitioners. 3/ Conceptual model This review has allowed us to elaborate a conceptual framework that connects all these concepts and exposes our research problem.
Figure 3.1: Conceptual framework of our study
In order to evaluate this relationship we have decided to gather responses from consumers concerning their affect and perception of both the brand image and the employee of this brand.
II/ METHODOLOGY This chapter will detail and justify the design of our study: the type of research and its characteristics, brands selection and their relevance in our study. Then, we will expose the data collection process and explain the selection of our sample and what measurements tools we decided to use in the study. At every stage of the methodology, we will make sure to cover the validity of our design and the relevance of our choices. 1/ Study design In order to test our 5 hypotheses and consequently answer our main research question, we have developed a specific methodology. A complete and detailed explanation of this approach will be given in the next paragraphs. 2.1/An exploratory research design The issue raised by this paper is the perception of the employees and its influence on customerâ€™s brand attitude. The observation of such a new variable, the brand employee, is what seemed to be very interesting because of its modernity and also relevance in todayâ€™s conception of marketing. Yet, the lack of literature and findings concerning the employeecustomer relationship has leaded us to develop an exploratory research design. Indeed, as its name suggests, an exploratory research aims to explore issues or problems where little is known in the earlier publication. This kind of research usually starts by observing and reviewing secondary data such as the literature on the subject, and available data results from previous studies. In this case, we investigated the literature and in addition to our interests we were able to collect the secondary findings and build the conceptual framework that links the entire concept. Abstract notions were translated into measurable variable and hypotheses were made to determine which variable influence the other and the degree of its impact.
Although we are interest by the impact of the employee perception on customerâ€™s attitude and therefore the causal-effect relation between the two concepts, the implications resulting from causal studies and the modernity of this paper induced us to choose exploratory methods. Moreover, exploratory studies benefit researchers from high degree of flexibility in their methods. Usually it involves qualitative design but for the reasons we will develop in the following paragraphs we decided to undertake a quantitative methodology that would not hurt the validity of the exploration. Moreover, our topic is at the crossroads of social sciences and marketing, which implies to match the exploratory and intangible aspect of the former one with validity issues and scientific approach of marketing research. Carson and al. (2001) in their investigation of qualitative studies have highlighted this duality and the benefits that arise from constructing scientific research about social matter as it expand the marketing scope. The chosen method will be combined by a deductive procedure. Deduction is the elaboration of a conceptual framework based on existing findings through empirical study and literature review (abstract conceptualization) from which important concepts are highlighted and be linked to one another in the framework generating hypotheses that will be tested in order to create new observation. Thanks to the literature review we have been able to transform these abstract notions into observable variables that are supposedly interacting with each other. And thanks to a relevant method of hypotheses testing we will be able to establish the validity (or not) of these relationships. We chose a structure method in order to obtain constructive results that would permit us to generate managerial implications and to contribute to marketing development. In addition, our subject presents a duality in terms of final objective. On the one hand, we are studying the consumerâ€™s response to their perception of employees, which refers to traditional consumer oriented marketing research, and on the other hand, we aimed at improving marketing strategies and its management. In order to test our research questions and to obtain results for our main research problem it was important to focus the data collection to a specific population and to select a reasonable amount of appropriate brands to run our testing of hypotheses.
2.2/ Country selection First of all, it was clear for us that we needed to restrain our research to one country. Indeed the exploratory approach of this paper needs to be balanced by a structured and concise context as we intend to get reliable and accurate results. The country selection is very important in marketing studies as it has been observed that consumersâ€™ attitude and behaviour change from one culture to another (Goldberg and Gamaletsos, 1970, Akira, 1970, MacCracken, 1986, Lysonski, Durvasula and Zotos, 1996, Kacen and Lee, 2002, Oyserman and Lee, 2008). That is why we decided to narrow our research to only one country and to select France as it would be more feasible for us to observe French customers. In the same perspective, we decided to broadcast our questionnaires only in French so we could avoid the language barrier and also attract a wider sample in terms of generation and educational background. 2.3/ Brands selection From there, our brands choice was oriented toward brands located in this country. That was our first criteria, which would also ensure the brand awareness among the interviewed consumers. In addition and aligned with our topic, we wanted to select well-known brands by French people with a different positioning concerning our two main concepts: brand image and employee brand image. The idea behind this paper is to expose a change in the customerâ€™s attitude when perceiving the employee of a brand whether or not there is an interaction between them. Therefore, we selected DECATHLON and SONY, two famous brands among the French population but having unlike branding strategies and with different distribution model. DECATHLON DECATHLON is a French retailer that manufactures and sells sport equipment and apparels. The company belongs to Oxylane Group based in Lille, France. It produces clothes and accessories under their own labels: Quechua, Domyos, Inesis... and also distributes private labels: Adidas, Nike, Salmon... that in all represents more than 130 brands. The group is 42
implemented everywhere in France with 230 stores and an online retail website. In addition DECATHLON also provides a range of associated services: workshop, sports insurance, consumer credit, gift card, customized sports products, sports events. The brand DECATHLON has a very wide scope yet it is a well established brand in people’s mind and where some retailers have a difficulty to distinguish themselves, DECATHLON has succeeded to become a brand on its own. This is due to a strong brand image positioning. As Stéphane Roche, International marketing and communications director, says in the interview from the Marketing Magazine (2002), the idea is “putting people at the heart of the company”. Even if they have a price and technical positioning which targets more people involved in sport, they definitely try to propose products and services to everyone. As Stéphane Roche said, there is “a real attachment and a true loyalty to the DECATHLON stores”. This attachment is partly explained by the sense of service. In 2001, DECATHLON was already elected the brand with vendors the most welcoming, and this across all sectors of distribution combined. Thus, the brand and its marketers attempt to impose "The DECAT’s spirit”. What does that mean? The idea is to deliver a message of happiness via sport and to market “the fulfillment of people by the sport”. There is a real vocation of humanism in DECATHLON’s messages. And this strategic positioning is also visible internally through the employees’ management. From the very beginning, for instance, the company has introduced employee participation in the ownership. In the corporate values we can observe on the website, the brotherhood dimension is integrated in all brands of DECATHLON. The DECATHLON brand image is simple and reliable for all groups of people. Its transparency is associated with strong brand values and a real consideration for both customers and employees happiness.
SONY SONY is a Japanese company created in 1946 and is today one of the largest and most famous electronic brand in the world. The brand’s product range is very wide: music, electronic devices, mobile phones, video games... The company has always pursued innovation and thanks to Akio Morita, the co-founder who was a very talented marketer, the SONY brand became in the 90s a “household name” around the globe. With its edgy products, the brand has become part of the mainstream culture and to ensure the future of this success, the company has always undertaken management change and reorganization to fit the growth of the brand and the external demand. In the U.S. the project “Being SONY” was developed towards employees and customers in order to gather them under the same understanding of the brand. In consideration of this, the company organized a very special event for its employees in 1996 for the brand’s 50th anniversary. Every employee from the Tokyo area and their families were invited to Tokyo Disneyland for the occasion. Thanks to its positioning, SONY is considered as a young and egdy brand accessible to everyone for all kind of purposes due to the large range of products. Recently the brand has experienced a series of bad events. In 2008, the group decides to fire over 8,000 employees by the year 2010 and to cut down the RandD budget in order to face the financial crisis. The brand tries to restructure its activities in order to remain competitive but faces a serious security data problem within its PlayStation Network followed by the natural disaster in Fukushima, a fire in one of its logistic hubs in London and floods in Thailand paralyzing one of the group’s factories. Meanwhile, the high technology industry continues to grow and innovate with the advent of Smartphones and Android technology, the 3G environment, social media... In comparison to other companies and brands, SONY falls behind in the competition and its image is overtaken by the new products on the market. Nowadays there are around 168,000 employees throughout the world and the company is very concern toward its employees and according to their website SONY is highly involved toward CSR and the reward of its employees. Yet, there measures have not been widely communicated to the mass public and the population has little knowledge about the brand.
We decided to choose these two brands because of their very specific brand image positioning and actions toward the employees. Indeed, on the one hand we chose DECATHLON for its powerful brand image and the fact that its employees are highly identifiable by French people. On the other hand, SONY was chosen because of the lack of employee knowledge customers have. The second argument was their retail difference. Whereas DECATHLON has a lot of stores and consequently sales forces with whom consumers can interact; there is no SONY store in France, only one showroom in Paris. The idea behind this choice of brand was to expand the previous research that has been made about customer-employee relationship. We wanted to test if employees have an impact on the public even though they have no direct interaction with them and in addition to explore if brands with a neutral employee image should consider enhancing it to increase customerâ€™s brand attachment. With this research our intention was to contribute to the literature about marketing and employee branding. 2/ Data collection Usually, exploratory researches do not use quantitative methods and questionnaires but because of our resources, the questionnaire seemed to be a more efficient way to gather a wide range of opinions and obtain results. The literature search made in the first part of this paper in addition to a quantitative survey for statistical purpose appeared to create the right combination to increase validity and reality of answers to our research problem. For the data collection process, we decided to conduct mainly a quantitative study. This decision was taken for several reasons. From a logistics point of view, quantitative research is easier to manage for us. Proceeding into qualitative research implies having a great knowledge and experience on how to conduct the interviews and/or focus groups in order to gather valid answers without any bias. Moreover, quantitative research allows gathering a consequent sample of respondents, which increase the validity of the statistical results. And thanks to the literature about marketing scales to measure our concepts it seemed possible to construct a relevant questionnaire. 45
Because qualitative studies have their relevance in exploratory research we decided to integrate open questions in our questionnaires. The answers generated from these questions will be discussed in the analysis part as well as the statistical results. The presence of such questions was for us the opportunity to gather intuitive perception from a wide range of respondents. In a qualitative research the same questions would have been raised in interviews and/or focus group but because of our resources the results would have been very homogeneous. Our literature review has revealed that most studies about consumers rely on the traditional marketing mix and questionnaires are built in a way that doesn’t translate directly the purpose of the study. Because our subject is exploratory and few research has been made about the relationship between customers and employees we needed to elaborate a context where respondents would create a perception toward the employee in a subtle way. For that reason we decided to construct our questionnaire around scenarios that would put employees into action. This quasi-experimentation process aimed at detecting a before-after reaction in consumers’ mind. A full description of the measurement tools will be given in the next section. Concerning the communication of our questionnaire, we decided to broadcast the quantitative study on the Internet as it is today’s fastest and biggest network that includes a wide range of people and therefore profiles. For validity purpose we wanted to reach a maximum of respondents and gather different opinions which were only possible through the Internet. Doing a qualitative study would have restrained us to select participants from our entourage and this would have raised bias issues for two reasons: our impartiality and objectivity could have been at stake and secondly we would have interrogated marketing students which is not reflective of the mass public. 2.1/ The sampling design 2.1.1/ French consumers as a relevant sampling As we explained before, our research concerns French consumers and their perception of employees and the impact it might have on their attachment toward the brand. France was
chosen for practical reasons but also to avoid additional variables, such as culture background, in our research, which would invalidate the results. Once we decided to narrow our respondents sample to only French consumer we did not select specific consumer profile. The idea was to gather perceptions from different generations as their divergence in opinion (Shah and Mittal, 1997, Bodier, 1999) might lead to interesting findings for marketers. For the same reasons we thought it was more interesting to investigate if age, gender and the activity of the respondents influence the relationship between them and the employee and the brand. 2.1.2/ The Snowball sampling technique In order to obtain the more representative sampling possible, we chose to proceed by asking every respondent to communicate our survey link to 3 contacts (email address) of his own at the end of each questionnaire. This is a snowball sampling: â€œa sampling procedure may be defined as snowball sampling when the researcher accesses informants through contact information that is provided by other informants. This process is, by necessity, repetitive: informants refer the researcher to other informants, who are contacted by the researcher and then refer her or him to yet other informants, and so onâ€? (C.Noy, 2008). Based on this definition and on its theory, the homogeneity of the sample will be made naturally. To achieve a successful snowball sampling technique, we set a databe via the means at our disposal: Internet, personal and professional networks, alumni directory IESEG, current students etc.). 2.2/ The measurement instruments As we said, the survey of our study has been constructed from two different kinds of sources. First, we had to use some qualitative questions to obtain more specific responses about the two brands images, strengths and weaknesses. Then, we used academic scales to measure participantâ€™s perception and attachment to the brand. All of these measurement instruments were conducted under a quasi-experimentation method: the scenarios. This chapter is the detailed explanation of our measurement process. 2.2.1/ The qualitative research questions In addition to quantitative questions we thought it would be interesting to raise open questions to the respondents. For the reasons we developed before we did not proceed to 47
qualitative investigation. This type of study is generally used as foundation for the quantitative part and it allows researchers to explore and precise their investigation, a pruning work somehow (Keller). The questions we chose were directly related to the brands and the perception of it and its employees. It was important to provide straightforward sentences so that the responses would be coherent among the population of respondents. We decided to use associations’ mechanisms and to simply ask people to write down adjectives that were coming in their mind concerning the brands and the employees. In order not to push these mechanisms we did not force the answer, people were allowed not to write if they didn’t. 2.2.2/ The quantitative research scales As we have explained before, the purpose of this study is to explore new perspectives for the development of the brand image... But rather than concentrating on qualitative research, we wanted to increase the reliability and to gather a maximum of opinions in order to provide consistent results for future researchers. For each quantitative scale we have exploited, a likert-scale from 1 to 5 or a one to 1 to 7 were used to measure the respondents’ degree of agreement about the different items. The brand personality scale One purpose of our study is to determine the customer perception of the brand through the employee variable. The inherent human dimension of this paper conducted us to choose the brand personality scale. Moreover, we intend to question the similarities existing between the brand and its employees in order to identify if a matching would impact customer’s attachment. This is why we chose the same items for both the chosen brands and the employee related questions. According to the Marketing Scales Handbook (1999), the brand personality measure was based on the Aaker’s scientific scale including 42 items structured as we have seen in the literature review in 5 big dimensions.
Figure 2.1: Brand personality scale (Aaker, J., Dimensions of brand personality, 1997).
17 adjectives were selected in terms of their relevance for our research problem as we decided to remove items that were irrelevant in our study. As we did not want to have a long list of items, we decided to pick the one in accordance to the chosen brands and that could be applied to employees too. In turns, we selected items from each of the Big Five factors model described above.
Sincerity: down-to-earth, sincere, honest, original, cheerful, sentimental, and friendly.
Excitement: trendy, daring, unique, imaginative, and contemporary.
Competence: reliable, intelligent, corporate, leader, and confident.
Ruggedness: none. Using this scale necessitated a careful and precise translation. It turns out that some
words when translated were too similar and for others it wasn’t possible to accurately translate them, which helped us narrowing the list of items to the ones cited below. In addition, we evicted the sophistication and ruggedness dimensions as they did not match the chosen brands and it would have confused the respondents.
The affective response scale To demonstrate that customers are influenced by their perception of the employees we decided to provoke a reaction toward a situation involving them and consequently to measure the “affective response” of customers. The corresponding scale was found in the Marketing Handbook too and was constructed to reflect the “emotional reaction to some stimulus”. Initially the scale was used to prove a response toward TV programs. From the literature review and our findings, we found validity to use it toward the employees is more precisely toward a situation where employees are put into situation. We also had to carefully translate the items in french which conducted us to evict “Please” as there is no similar word in french and we did not want to betray the scale since the validity of construct would then be jeopardized.
Table 2.1: The affective response scale
The attachment scale The last scale we used is surely the most important one as it directly refers to our main research question: the brand attachment. Several studies have investigated the attachment and tried to construct a valid scale. The most commonly used by marketing researchers are the scale of Cristau and Lacoeuilhe. Based on the work of Fournier, who was the first to provide solid foundations, the scales purpose is to detect the attachment felt by customers toward a brand. The recent work of Cristau and Lacoeuilhe have completed and modernized this list of items. According to Cristau the attachment is linked to a “psychological relationship” that binds an individual with a brand. The scale can therefore measure the “strong and lasting relationship” of a customer and a brand. Moreover, the authors suggest in the definition of attachment that it is related to friendship and dependence notions that are actually the roots of her scale. J. Lacoeuilhe and S.
Belaid (2007), have found that the two-dimensionality C. Cristau scale has also been explained by a formulation of items that would create a situation where negative feeling (dependence) would be opposed to positve ones (friendship). This scale was therefore perfect to answer our questions while at the same time revealing the possible downsides of such relationship. In turns, the two dimensions are expressed in the statement of the scale. To measure the degree of agreement of the respondents we decided to use a 5 points Likert scale as recommended by the author herself.
Friendship dimension : J’ai en quelque sorte de l’affection pour cette marque. J’éprouve un sentiment de cordialité vis-à-vis de cette marque. Cette marque est un peu mon amie.
Dependence dimension : Je serais dépité(e) si je ne pouvais trouver cette marque quand j’en ai besoin. Je serais désespéré(e) si cette marque était retirée du marché. Cela me peinerait d’avoir à renoncer à acheter cette marque. Table 2.2 : The attachment scale
To investigate how employees are affecting the attachment, we also decided to use it twice: before and after the scenarios and to compare the results. Customer profile To finish our questionnaires we asked questions concerning the respondent’s profile in order for us to analyze if it can influence the brand perception and attachment. These questions were based on traditional profiling questions that we found in the literature and that were therefore valid. The introduction carefully specified that responses would be anonymous and therefore it was possible to ask questions about the age, occupation and gender of the participant. In addition, we wanted to investigate the position of employees in the public’s mind. Whether or 51
not, customers are actually taking the employees into account. To do so we construct, based on solid findings, a question asking the degree of importance of criterias like the price, the employees, recommendations made by peers, etc. This interrogation is represented by our last hypothesis, which proves that the brand attachment is also influenced by the profile: 2.2.3/ The scenarios Scenarios were chosen to create a before/after effect and evaluate the attitude responses of the consumers. The purpose was to create an interaction between the customers and the employee. Our study concerns any employee of a brand however it seemed to us that two main types of employees exist: the sale force that interacts directly with the customers and the back office employees who work for the brand but are not necessarily visible to the public. Although they have the same purpose: offering a good or service to the consumer and satisfying their needs and wants they do not interfere the same way. For that reason it was necessary to identify how their differences could impact the perception of the consumer in different ways. Moreover, it would give us responses without bias. The questionnaire clearly specified which type of employee we were referring to and this way no confusion could hurt the respondentsâ€™ reactions. For the validity of the questionnaires we did research and found in the literature and business review how such situation would be described and we also ask for opinions to improve it and to check if they were precise and well structured. We decided to illustrate two situations where the role of companyâ€™s employees would be highlighted, one scenario for each of the two chosen brands. The purpose was to describe rather similar activities yet it has to be different since the same respondents would answer the two questionnaires and it would have biased their reactions. In addition, to encourage sincere and spontaneous reactions we decided not to alert the participants about the real purpose of this study. Moreover, it seemed relevant to chose scenario that would reflect the brand, otherwise the respondents could have guessed the underlying purpose and plus we wanted to understand if similarities between employees and the brand could enhance the brand attachment.
In both scenarios, employees were involved in marketing activities. For DECATHLON, it was smart to represent a sport related event where each of the brand’s employees would have an enhanced and central role and an increased visibility. For SONY, we decided to recreate the context of participative marketing where a new product would be chosen and modeled by all the employees. This participative approach is more and more common in the business landscape. Because marketers have highlighted the want from individuals to have a voice and to express their opinions about brands, companies started to ask customers and employees to actually collaborate with marketing teams. 2.2.4/ The “halo” effect We decided to separate our quantitative research in 3 different questionnaires for a validity reason called the halo effect, which could affect the validity of our study. The halo effect is a cognitive bias that affects people's perceptions or brands. In the psychology field, it has been empirically demonstrated by the social psychologists Edward Thorndike (1920) and by Solomon Asch (1946) that : “a characteristic considered positive about a person or a community tends to make more positive characteristics of this other person, even without knowing them (and vice versa for a negative feature). This effect could for example have a role in phenomena such as racism.” This effect can be found in many of fields but we are obviously concerned by the marketing one. According to their researches, this effect is also relevant for brands and customers’ perceptions. 3/ Data analysis Data mining and statistics are the basis of marketing researches for businesses. They can use these techniques to explain and predict phenomena that affect their positioning and profitability (risks, consumption, loyalty, etc.). That's why we wanted to deepen our research into a real statistical and econometric analysis. To proceed to statistical testing we used the software SAS Enterprise Guide. This software help practitioners need to forecast and analyze issues and it allowed us to run all the tests needed to prove the existence of a relationship between our variables (K.Coussement, N.Demoulin, K.Charry, 2011). In addition, SAS is internationally renowned for its reliability and effectiveness, which increased the validity of our results and brings extra relevance to our paper.
The chart below summarizes our study design:
Type of study
Data collection methods Qualitative open-questions Quantitative questionnaires •
Brand personality scale
Affective response scale
Attachment scale Likert scale in 5 points Dichotomique scale (yes/no)
Data collection process
Internet: Professional and personal networks, IESEG Alumni yearbook, Viadeo and Linkedin, Social media, IESEG Students
French consumers : 1890 invitations Number of respondents : 394 (divided in three questionnaires) Number of finished questionnaires : 316
Description of the final
Gender : 56% male and 44% female
SCP : -
47% senior managers and higher intellectual profesions
Data analysis method
18-24 yo : 38%
25-34 yo : 20%
35-54 yo : 32%
Excel + Statistical software SAS Table 3.1 : Study design of the paper
RESULTS Research hypothesis
Statistical hypothesis and decision rule
H1: There is a relative congruency between the brand personality and
H0: µ(BP_BRAND) = µ(EP_ BRAND) H1: µ(BP_ BRAND) ≠ µ(EP_ BRAND) p-value<0,05
the perception of the employees (Employee personality).
H2: There is a significant and positive affective response to Employee participation in external events (Brand Image reinforcement events). H2a: The affective response is higher for DECATHLON. H2b: The affective response is lower for SONY.
H3: There is a positive before/after effect of the scenarios on the Brand Personality (Proof that Employee participation has an impact on Brand Personality). H3a: The effect is more significant for DECATHLON. H3b: The effect is less significant for SONY. H4: There is a positive before/after effect of the scenarios on the Brand Attachment (Proof that Employee participation has an impact on Brand Personality). H4a: The effect is more significant for DECATHLON. H4b: The effect is less significant for SONY. H5: There is a significative change in the degree of importance given to employees after the scenarios.
H0 : µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) = µ(AR_ BRAND) H1: µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) ≠ µ(AR_ BRAND) p-value<0,05 H0 : µ(AR_ BRAND1) = µ(AR_ BRAND2) H1: µ(AR_ BRAND1) ≠ µ(AR_ BRAND2) p-value<0,05 H0: µ(BP_BRAND) = µ(BP_BRAND_AFTER) H1: µ(BP_BRAND) ≠ µ(BP_BRAND_AFTER) p-value<0,05 H0 : µ(AR_ BRAND1) = µ(AR_ BRAND2) H1: µ(AR_ BRAND1) ≠ µ(AR_ BRAND2) p-value<0,05 H0 : µ(BA_BRAND) = µ(BA_BRAND_AFTER) H1: µ(BA_BRAND) ≠ µ(BA_BRAND_AFTER) p-value<0,05 H0 : µ(AR_ BRAND1) = µ(AR_ BRAND2) H1: µ(AR_ BRAND1) ≠ µ(AR_ BRAND2) p-value<0,05 H0: µ(IE_SONY) = µ(IE_S_AFTER) H1: µ(IE_SONY) ≠ µ(IE_S_AFTER) p-value<0,05
1/ Congruence between employee personality and brand personality The first purpose of our quantitative study was to measure the congruence between the employee personality and the brand personality as seen by customers. In addition to hypothesis concerning the impact of employees on brand personality and brand attachment, resolving this first hypothesis would permit us to understand the process through which customers adapt their perception of the brand and their attachment. Here, we want to determine if a congruity between the two personality concepts is a possible factor for the development of an emotional bond between the customer and the brand. Measuring the congruity of two scales amounts to compute the difference of their respective means. To do so, a prior factorial analysis is necessary so that the compared means are significantly relevant and robust. For this hypothesis we analyzed the responses from the Brand Image questionnaire (for the Brand scale) and from the Scenario questionnaire (for the Employee scale) for both DECATHLON and SONY.
1 .1/ SONY Employee Personality scale SONY First of all, we had to determinate the relevant items of each dimensions used of the personality scale created by Aaker and used in our questionnaires. We ran a factorial analysis that provided us with a rotated factor pattern for each items. This pattern indicates us how relevant is an item to its corresponding dimension. In other words, if all the items are represented by more or less the same coefficient for their respective factors then these items are significantly relevant. Conversely, if one item presents a significantly different coefficient then it should be eliminated.The chart below summarizes the rotated patterns and the items that were eliminated (highlighted in colors) (Annexe 1.1).
To confirm this selection of items, we needed to run Cronbach’s alpha tests for each dimensions. The purpose here is to prove the robustness of each dimensions. If the alpha is >0.7 then we can conclude that the factor is robust. For example, here is the result for the COMPETENCE dimension :
Because the standardized alpha is higher than 0,7, the dimension is valid. Similarily, we accepted the following dimensions to be robust. -
COMPETENCE EXCITEMENT (Annexe 1.1) SINCERITY (Annexe 1.1)
Now that items have been selected and dimensions certified, we were able to construct the final and valid scale thanks to the query builder tool. Finally, we were able to calculate the mean of this scale : 4.31389. Brand Personality scale SONY: We proceeded the exact same way for the Brand Personality scale of SONY and thanks to the factorial analysis (Annexe 1.2), we were able to compute the mean of this scale : 4.08562. The final results are presented in this chart : Scale – SONY Employee Personality scale Brand Personality scale
Mean of the scale 4.31389 4.08562
1.2/ DECATHLON The same tests were ran to build valid and robust scales for the brand DECATHLON. The results of the Cronbach tests allowed us to create the final scales for both the brand perosnality and the employee personality and to finally calculate their means. The results are presented in the chart below (Annexe 1.3). Scale – DECATHLON Employee Personality scale Brand Personality scale
Mean of the scale 4.75861 3.52283
1.3/ Hypothesis and conclusion H1: There is a relative congruence between the Brand Personality and the perception of the employees (Employee Personality) H1a: The Brand Personality and Employees Personality are more congruent for DECATHLON. H1b: The Brand Personality and Employees Personality are less congruent for SONY. The previous factorial analysis allowed us to construct valid scales and to calculate their means. We can now proceed to a T-test analysis to measure if the Brand Personality scale and the Employee Personality scale are significantly different. SONY
DECATHLON • •
H0: µ(BP_SONY) = µ(EP_SONY)
H1: µ(BP_SONY) ≠ µ(EP_SONY) With H0 = µ(BP_SONY) = 4.08562
H0: µ(BP_DECATHLON) = µ(EP_DECATHLON)
H1: µ(BP_DECATHLON) ≠ µ(EP_DECATHLON) With H0 = µ(BP_DECATHLON) = 3.52283
Both p-value are less than 0,05 therefore we reject H0, there is for both SONY and DECATHLON a significant difference between the overall perceived personality of the brand and the one of the employees. Because the differences are significant we can now calculate them: Brands
Brand Personality scale
Employee Personality scale
To conlude, we reject H1, there is no significant congruence bewteen the brand personality and the perception of its employees. However, when we compute the difference we observe that for both brands, respondents have a higher perception of the employees (cf. chart above). Moreover, we found that for the congruence is less for DECATHLON. In addition to the quantitative analysis, we asked the participants if they thought that employees were in line to their brands in a qualitative question. We then computed the mean to confirm the results above.
SONY • •
H0: µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) = µ(EP_QUALI_S)
H1: µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) ≠ µ(EP_QUALI_S) Where H0 = 2.5.
DECATHLON • H0: µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) = µ(EP_QUALI_D) • H1: µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) ≠ µ(EP_QUALI_D) Where H0 = 2.5.
The p-value is less than 0.05 for both brands, so we reject H0: there is a significant difference. In the two cases, the respondents perceive the employees as in line with their brands. Qualitative studies have shown that participants think employees are in line with their brand, which invalidates our quantitative results. In turns, it seems that the Brand Personality scale used for the perception of employees might not be ideal and that it would be helpful for future research and investigation on this subject to construct a valid and robust scale about the employee personality perception. 2/ Customer’s reaction toward the employee To measure the possible influence of employees of customer we decided to confront him/her to scenarios involving the employees and to measure their affective response. 2.1/ DECATHLON Our scale only has one dimension so no factorial analysis was needed. However, in order to be sure of its reliability we ran a Cronbach test (Annexe 2.1). Because the scale was found to be robust, we could compute its mean: µ(AR_DECATHLON)= 2.98609. 2.2/ SONY We proceeded the same way for the brand SONY and calculated its mean (Annexe 2.2): µ(AR_SONY) = 2.97724.
2.3/ Hypothesis testing and conclusion H2: There is a significant and positive affective response to Employee participation in external events (Brand Image reinforcement events). H2a: The affective response is higher for DECATHLON. H2b: The affective response is lower for SONY. In order to measure whether there was a significant affective response we decided to run a T-test between the mean of the affective response scale and the medium of the 5 points Likert scale that was used.
• H0 : µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) = µ(AR_DECATHLON) • H1: µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) ≠ µ(AR_DECATHLON) With H0 = µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) = 2.5
• H0 : µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) = µ(AR_DECATHLON) • H1: µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) ≠ µ(AR_DECATHLON) With H0 = µ(LIKERT_MEDIUM) = 2.5
Since the p-value is less than 0.05 (Annexe 2.3), we H0 rejected and accept H2, there is a significant response to the scenarios for the brand DECATHLON. Furthermore, we can now state that there is a positive affective response. Thanks to these results we can now answer our two sub-hypothesis. For this, we ran a t-test to measure whether the difference between the means of each brand’s affective responses was significant. • •
H0: µ(AR_DECATHLON) = µ(AR_SONY) H1: µ(AR_DECATHLON) ≠ µ(AR_SONY)
The p-value higher than 0.05 (Annexe 2.4) so H2a and H2b are accepted, there is no significant difference and the reactions are very similar for the two scenarios. The results show that participants had a positive reaction to both scenarios. This means that employees’ participation in brand enhancement event was beneficial to the eyes of customers even though their feeling and perception about the brand and the coherence between the employees and their respective brands is not significantly similar.
3/ Influence of the employees on brand personality and brand attachment: the before/after effect
In the following hypothesis we tested the impact of the scenario on the brand personality and the brand attachment. In other words, we measured the impact of the employee on the the brand perception and the customer’s attachment using a before/after effect. These tests required to run factorial analysis that were explained above as well as the use of the query builder to calculate their means. The final step was to compare these means with T-test measurements. As explained in the methodology, we wanted to eliminate the “halo effect” and we decided to divide our questionnaires into two sequences: one questioning the brand perception (and brand attachment) before a scenario involving employees and one after. The responses were coming from the same sample that was tested twice resulting in dependant samples. This process is called a “repeated measure” and requires a test that takes into account this repetition and dependency: paired t-test. 3.1/ Effect on the brand personality 3.1.1/ SONY The brand personality scale that we computed earlier refers to the BEFORE one. The same factorial analysis and Cronbach tests were run to generate the AFTER scale (Annexe 3.1). The results are presented in the chart blow. Brand Personality scale for SONY
3.1.2/ DECATHLON Similarily, here are the final results for the brand DECATHLON (Annexe 3.2): Brand Personality scale for DECATHLON
3.1.3/ Hypothesis testing and conclusion H3: There is a positive before/after effect of the scenarios on the brand personality. H3a: The effect is more significant for DECATHLON. H3b: The effect is less significant for SONY. Now that we have obtained the means for each scale (before and after the scenarios), we can proceed to a comparison between the brand personality before employees interaction and the brand personality after. As explained before, we proceeded to a paired t-test for both SONY and DECATHLON. SONY
• H0: µ(BP_SONY) = µ(BP_S_AFTER) • H1: µ(BP_SONY) ≠ µ(BP_S_AFTER) Where H0 = µ(BP_SONY) = 4.08562
• H0 : µ(BP_DECATHLON) = µ(BP_D_AFTER) • H1: µ(BP_DECATHLON) ≠ µ(BP_D_AFTER) Where H0 = µ(BP_DECATHLON) = 3.52283
In the two tests, the p-value was less than 0,05 (Annexe 3.3), so we rejected H0. There is a significant difference between the Brand Personality perceived before and after the scenarios. Because these scenarios involved the employees, the results demonstrate that their participation have an effect on customer’s perception. More precisely, we can conclude that their reaction is positive since there is a significant increase in the means of the two computed scales. According to this test, there is a significant difference between the two means. Therefore, we computed the actual variations and represented them in the chart below: Brand Personality scales BEFORE AFTER Difference
SONY 4.08562 4.78083 -0.69521
DECATHLON 3.52283 4.75861 -1.23578
In conclusion, we accept H3: the scenario had an impact on customer’s perception of the brand image and more precisely, a positive effect since the overall perception increased after the scenarios. Because scenarios involved employees of the brand we can conclude that they influence the perceived brand personality. 3.2/ Effect on the brand attachment H4: There is a positive before/after effect of the scenarios on the Brand Attachment. H4a: The effect is more significant for DECATHLON. H4b: The effect is less significant for SONY.
The same procedure was used to measure the impact of the scenarios on the brand attchment. First of all, we computed the means of the AFTER Brand Attachment scales for SONY and DECATHLON. Then, thanks to a T-test analysis we were able to determine whether the difference was significant (Annexe 3.4). SONY
• H0: µ(BA_SONY) = µ(BA_S_AFTER) • H1: µ(BA_SONY) ≠ µ(BA_S_AFTER) Where H0 = µ(BA_SONY) = 2.19863
• H0 : µ(BA_DECATHLON) = µ(BA_D_AFTER) • H1: µ(BA_DECATHLON) ≠ µ(BA_D_AFTER) Where H0 = µ(BA_DECATHLON) = 2.59932
Both p-values were higher than 0,05 therefore we reject H4. We cannot conclude that there is a significant difference. If we look at the numbers we can suppose that there is a change in the overall attachment but unfortunately and probaly because of the size and charateristics of ours samples we cannot state without risk that it is the case. Above are presented the results for this hypothesis. Brand Attachment scale SONY
We will discuss the limitation that caused the unvalidity of this hypothesis in the followinf section. The fact that we cannot draw valid and realistic conclusion about the effect of scenarios on the attachment will still allow us to develop on the managerial necessity that arisen from this. 4/ Importance given to the employees In this last part of our hypothesis testing, we are investigating the degree of importance given to employees before and after the scenarios. The purpose is to identify if customers give more credit to employees after interacting with them through the events described in the scenarios. In addition, we decided to compare the other criteria of a brand: price, estheticism, country of production and so on. The first step was to compute the mean for each of the brand assets. Then, in order to obtain valid results we compared the means before with the means after thanks to a T-test analysis.
4.1/ Means of criterias before and after the scenarios Here below are the means for each of the criteria of importance : SONY Prix Qualité Esthétisme Valeurs de la marque Moyen de distribution L'employé Pays de fabrication Publicité Recommandations de votre entourage.
BEFORE AFTER 5.41781 5.51648 6.25342 6.16484 5.5137 5.6044 4.56849 4.47253 4.16438 4.16486 3.65753 4.25275 3.93151 4.18681 3.94521 4.45055 5.08904 5.30769
DECATHLON Prix Qualité Esthétisme Valeurs de la marque Moyen de distribution L'employé Pays de fabrication Publicité Recommandations de votre entourage.
BEFORE AFTER 5.89655 5.92035 5.76552 6.0177 4.92414 5.30973 4.70345 4.83186 4.76552 4.54867 4.95172 4.9292 4.2069 4.44248 3.84138 4.11504 4.69655 4.9292
4.2/ Hypothesis testing and conclusion H5: There is a significative change in the degree of importance given to employees after the scenarios. SONY
• H0: µ(IE_SONY) = µ(IE_S_AFTER) • H1: µ(IE_SONY) ≠ µ(IE_S_AFTER) Where H0 = µ(IE_SONY) = 3.65753
• H0: µ(IE_DECATHLON) = µ(IE_D_AFTER) • H1: µ(IE_DECATHLON) ≠ µ(IE_D_AFTER) Where H0 = µ(IE_DECATHLON) = 4.95172
In the case on SONY the p-value was less than 0.05 (Annexe 4.1) so we can conclude that there is a sgignificant difference and moreover we can state that the degree of importance toward the employees has increased after the scenario. In addition with the results of
hypothesis 2, it is clear that the presence of employees in the scenario had a positive impact on the customer’s perception of the brand and their evaluation of the employees. For DECATHLON, however, the difference was not significant (Annexe 4.1). Although we can see a slight decrease in the degree of importance we cannot confirm it. In turns, H5 is partially accepted thanks to the brand SONY. In addition to these results we also ranked the chosen criterias before and after to investigate the impact of scenarios on all the brands assets. As we can observe in the chart below, quality and price are the most important criteria in customer’s mind. Yet, we can see the increase of employees importance for the brand SONY. Brand Criteria Prix Qualité Esthétisme Valeurs de la marque Moyen de distribution
SONY DECATHLON RANK BEFORE RANK AFTER RANK BEFORE RANK AFTER 3 3 1 1 1 2 2 2 4 5 5 6 6 9 5
2 1 3 5 6
Pays de fabrication Publicité Recommandations de votre entourage.
DISCUSSION The hypothesis testing revealed several insights concerning the customer-brand relationship driven by the employee variable. First of all, we found that the perceived brand personality is not congruent with the perceived employee personality and this for the two chosen brands. This result comes from the fact that the same scale was used when it is likely that a more appropriate one is needed to measure the perception of employees. Our second question was to measure if the behavioural branding of all employees generated an affective response from the customer. The tests revealed that customers do have an affective response. More precisely, respondents were more enthousiastic to the scenario involving the brand SONY. Based on this finding we can argue two things. First, that the physical interaction is not a necessity. Indeed, whereas DECATHLON has sales-forces employees and SONY doesnâ€™t, respondents did react to both scenarios. That reinforces the idea that employees (from all levels) have an impact on the customers. Secondly, the scenario for SONY was less obvious at its employee image is not very developed; yet, the response was on the overall more positive than for DECATHLON. We can argue here that behavioural branding can better create an affective response when the initial perception is neutral (or negative). Thirdly, we investigated the before/after effect of the scenarios on both the brand personality and the attachment. The results show that respondents have updated their overall brand perception after the employee participation. It reveals that the role of employee influences how the brand is perceived. Interestingly, we observed a negative impact for the brand DECATHLON and a positive one for SONY. The second one was choosen for the absence of true employee cognition and the neutrality of the brand image and once again we can state that developing the employee brand image does have a significant and positive impact. On the contrary, organizing events to promote the employee image when the brand image is already well estavlished can devaluate the customerâ€™s perception.
Concerning the brand attachment, we were not able to describe a significant change. Yet, it seemed that there was a slight increase for SONY and a decrease for DECATHLON. This is probably due to the scale used that might have been inappropriate. We will discuss the limits in the next section and investigate another possible finality to investigate in the further researches. Finally, the last hypothesis raised an important conclusion to our study. The participation of employees leads to an increase of its importance in the customer’s perception of the brand. Even though criterias such as the price or quality are still important, the employees have their one part to play in the brand perception. In today’s business landscape brands have become a great deal for both companies to be successful but also for the public to rely on brands for quality and psychological purposes. In other words, people focus more and more on brands and fewer on material assets in a longterm process: « Products die but brands can live forever » (Young, 2011). This phenomenon has led us to investigate brands relationships with their customers under a new perspective: the employee perception. Thanks to our results, we can now go further in our study and present some managerial implications.
I/ MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS 1/ The employee: a link between marketing and HR fields 1.1/ Today’s brand strategies implications The literature review and the results have demonstrated the need for new strategic development. Today, individuals are aiming for stronger meaning in their private life and also on a professional level. Maurice Levy has analyzed the situation and identified four concerns: “the search for meaning, the sharp increase of knowledge and education, and finally, the communication of a society in which economic and social dimensions have replaced political orientations”. In parallel, the condition and position of employees has arisen in companies decisions. These findings emphasized the need for companies to work on their brand image since it is now as important to cultivate its employee image as to manage successful product launch, and achieving the two is the key to economic success.
Therefore, the implication that will be discussed in this part will be twofold: Human Resources and Marketing consequences and new challenges will be examined to understand how companies can align the two domains to create competitive advantage. 1.1.1/ HR strategies With the increase of employee significance in companiesâ€™ success, Human Resources Management need to elaborate new strategies that will give the deserved credit to its employees. Outside of all that relates to the administrative operations, these departments must rethink the place of the employee and adjust the measures being taken for their benefit in order to strengthen this human capital. In the recommendations part, we will see how more importance can be given to the welfare of the employee and their individual development. For example: coaching, training, days of the employee, seminars, etc. 1.1.2/ Marketing strategies Traditionally, marketing has been considered as a mix of four main variables, the 4Ps: product, place, price, promotion (McCarthy, 1964). From a theoretical point of view as well as an operational approach, the marketing mix was and still is the main tool for marketers to sell their products (or services). This perspective allows clear and measurable processes for marketers to make decisions and implement them. The change in the current business landscape: new customer needs, the importance of attachment in the brand-customers relationship and the powerful position of employees has arisen the necessity of new marketing approaches where not only tangible criteria are discussed. More precisely, brands should now be built around the employee perception. On another hand, we shall consider the implications on communication strategies. As part of marketing strategies and directly oriented toward the external environment they are a crucial point of interest in this paper. Often referred as the advertising campaigns, communication decisions embody more than print media and TV spots. With the emergence of social responsibility issues and the customer need of belonging to a brand community, changes in communication strategies are required. In turns, it seems that customers are inclined to be willing more from brands and to attach greater importance to brand strategies and the communication methods. Most of the customers have raised a sort of brand education
that prevents them from “falling into the trap”. Most of the customers are now more aware of communication and marketing practices and feel they deserve trustworthy relationships. This shift toward the human capital valorisation and the media coverage of marketing strategies downsides are now significant issues for companies. And consequently, it seemed interesting to us to develop recommendations that are taking these changes into account. 1.2/ The loyalty and the purchasing finality Marketing strategies aim at selling something to its audience and consequently to create customers’ reaction toward a specific stimulus and anticipate their purchase decision since in the end the profit is always the ultimate goal. Before, the stimulus was most of the time the product sold and/or the promotion made on it. But now, it is the brand itself and its meanings that are conveyed by the company. In the literature review we have identified the mechanisms of brand attitude on the first hand and the customers’ behaviour on the other. For the purpose of our paper, we have selected the brand attitude and measured a significant and positive affective response and a slight change in the attachment. Together they constitute the brand attitude, which has a great importance as it can predict consumers’ behaviour. In line with the self-expansion theory (Aaron et al. 2005) customers that are attached to a brand will “invest” in it. In other words, they will be more inclined to maintain the relationship and to pay a premium price (Thomson, MacInnis and Park, 2005). Here we understand the marketing implications arising from the brand attachment. Because loyalty originates from this mechanism, marketers should not forget to understand how affective attachment works and how it can be generated. This development about customers’ loyalty invites us to consider the impact of our findings on purchase decisions. Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001) have proven the positive correlation between the affect and the purchase loyalty. In our hypothesis testing we have found that creating an interaction between the customers and employees generate a positive affective response. In turns, practitionners should investigate this virtuous circle.
1.3/ People: another brand dynamic As we have stated before, the traditional approach to marketing is based on the 4Ps theory developed by MacCarthy in 1964 and translated into practices by Bennet in 1997. In contrast or better said in complement, these studies, including ours, have highlighted a new variable that has a growing importance in marketing strategies. This phenomenon and our study allow us to argue for a new vision concerning the marketing mix and to highlight the emergence of a more human conceptual dimension: the fifth P. This new managerial perspective broadens the field of possibilities and challenges marketers and their branding strategies. To be more specific, we suggest that this fifth variable refers to the “People” dimension of the brand. By "People" we mean all characteristics that can be associated to the employees of the brand: skills, manners, physical appearance, lifestyle, attitude, behaviour etc. The managerial outcomes of such statement are various and critical to understand the necessity of integrating this new variable. Certainly this new perspective implies new marketing approaches on both internal and external levels as it ecompasses the employee variable. In the following section we will fully analyze the ins and outs of this new idea and we will try to establish frameworks aligned with our recommendations for marketers to understand the “People” variable. 2/ Employees-customers interaction context The tests that were run in this paper aim to question the importance of physical interaction in the customer-employees relationship. We found out that the affective response and the updated brand personality was higher for the brand SONY. This brand was chosen for its neutral or even the absence of brand image and employee cognition. Consequently, we can argue that customers are not only influence by front-line employees; the whole workforce can stimulate them and enhance their perception of the brand. In addition, results revealed a decrease in customer’s perception and attachment for DECATHLON. In this case we decided to enhance the fit between employees and their brand. The implication here is that companies with strong messages should be careful when communicating about their employees. Indeed, it can be overwhelming for the public and devaluate their attitude. Therefore, it is very important for brand to first understand their position and level of brand cognition before undertaking behavioural branding strategies 70
II/ RECOMMENDATIONS The purpose of our study is to make a statement concerning the changes in marketing practices and to invite practitioners to think about the constant evolutions in brand image and brand perception strategies. That is why we intend to address recommendations that emerge from our findings. 1/ Cultivating employees from the inside: to another idea of the brand image Todayâ€™s economical and cultural landscape has highlighted the essential need for companies to renew their strategies and in particular to modernize their human resources management as it can enhance the brand image. In this part we suggest the idea that companies have to be well managed and structured from the inside to gain success outside. 1.1/ Adapting employment strategies to the brand image. 1.1.1/ The need for global consistency The first move seems to be the employment strategies undertaken by companies. Consistency in the brand image delivery is the utmost goal for companies and being consistent starts from the inside. Speaking about the homogeneity between the employee brand image and the brand image and try to sketch the consequences, inevitably leads to questions about the relationship purpose itself: consumer expectations and how to meet them. For decades, product oriented marketing has dominated and structured strategic decisions taken by the brands. But today this perspective has to be reviewed. Customers are now expecting more from brands, they want to know that companies are engaging trustworthy relationships with them and that they correspond to their values from inside their corporation. We can suggest that there is a consistency expectation from the customerâ€™s side. 1.1.2/ A consistent employer branding development To match with customerâ€™s new expectations, companies have to perpetrate their consistency within their employment decisions. In addition, they should realize that employees are their first customers and should therefore be treated as such. The company
choice is no longer solely affected by objectives and tangible criterias, individuals base their choices on more personal and introspective aspects such as a company’s work atmosphere, its image and the affection dimension that the company conveys (Perez and Pietrac, 2003). In turn, HR departments have to adapt to the fact that possible candidates for a job are inclined to choose them on those affective and psychological beliefs. The “King-candidate” concept This new approach is even more necessary when a company is hiring young candidates. Of course it depends of the job they are applying for but still, it seems that the new generation is more and more concerned by the “extra” factors of the company. Their education allows them to think rationally but their environment and peers do have an impact on their choice. Since 2005, the demographic changes have placed these young graduated students at the center of HR strategies, especially in Europe where they have now a real power on the labour market. The crisis does not seem to have hurt their career expectations and thanks to the education system that prevail professional experiences during the university path, they represent a very active workforce on the business landscape. It has become a new challenge for firms since the candidates needs are now different. In addition, the media coverage about company’s employment strategies and crisis has made it even more difficult for employers to convey one unique and utopic message to candidates. The idea here is that managing the brand image has a direct impact on these potential candidates. We will see below how the employer branding must therefore be fully consistent with the brand identity. Consistency with the brand image We referred to these strategies as “employer branding”. Employer branding is “an extension of relationship marketing principles” (Christopher, Payne and Ballantyne 1991, Kotler 1992, Morgan and Hunt 1994), which are business strategies across all the stakeholders through closer relationships, especially toward potential employees. In other words, brands apply marketing principles to human resources management. 72
The noun itself suggests the concept of the brand that underlies behind this HR orientation. It reveals the challenge for firms to build as strong employer brands as customer brand, sustainable and motivating. This company image as a recruiter must reflect the same overall image of the brand. Again, we are dealing with the idea of harmony between the image perceived by possible employees and the one seen by customers. From an institutional point of view, the brand has become a corporate vision that conveys the company’s (responsibility, financial liability and role in the community). The commercial aspect remains between the brand and its customers but other partners are now in line. With its employees companies build an employer status through which they want to attract new individuals (Pascale Weil, sociologist). All these various relationships and reflection of the brand must be consistent and in adequation. To obtain such constancy it is advised for companies to internally work on their message and build a strong and reliable image from within the company’s environment. 1.1.3/ A management based on an internal branding Until recently, the external image was the main concern of businesses. However, the number of examples of crisis and tension in work environment has considerably increased. Stress, difficulties in employee retention and recent cases like the France Telecom one have alerted companies’ top management about the risks of poor management of their internal image. To prevent such events and to improve the office place, HR departments are asked to work with marketing teams in order to find a way to communicate positively about the work atmosphere and the company’s added value for employees. Branding the company’s internal image will increase the chances to attract candidates and more important to catch the right ones. To be effective, the commitment made by the company in its message must be portrayed in daily and tangible actions, which will give a real meaning and duration to the relationship of trust between employees and their employers. That's why marketers and managers need to dwell upon internal branding issues: how to foster employees’ interiorization of the brand values and enhance their feeling of belonging?
The techniques through which this can be realized are called internal branding. Earlier, we have seen that employer branding is the mechanisms that promote the company’s environment and beliefs toward potential employees. In complement, internal branding strategies are dedicated toward the actual employees and focuses on retaining them by creating, on the long-term, the right management practices and a fulfilling work environment. Through cohesion enhancement and “shaping” practices in addition to right employment strategies, internal branding will “ensure employee’s delivery of the brand promise” (Punjaisri, Wilson and Evanschitzky, 2008). Managing employees to improve the brand promise delivery is a risky task. Indeed, employees present a duality in the sense that they act as both the first customer of the brand and their representation. Therefore, managers have to be careful when implementing internal branding processes that will in a way “control” employee’s behaviour. Such orientation should be done transparently and with a sense of respect and equality between managers and subsidiaries. In addition, the means of communication have greatly evolved and are now much faster and prominent, which implies a tight attention to employees’ actions and attitudes. There are multiple advantages coming from internal branding solutions. It reinforces the overall image of the brand, which in turn will strengthen the corporate culture. The latter refers to the company’s atmosphere and shared values. It is very important to develop this perspective as it comforts actual employees about the company’s philosophy and valorizes them in their belonging to this environment. They become proud of working for an institution that invests in them and favors their self-realization. Because they feel good about it, they are more inclined to convey the right brand image this time outside of the company and to contribute to its success. It is important to highlight once again the necessity of harmony between the message employees receive and the one they are entitled to deliver. A discrepancy could lead to dissatisfaction from both sides. Internal branding should be done in parallel with the external branding. Companies must be consistent in the development of these two complementary processes. In other words: the role of teams of marketing and recruitment has changed. Instead of conducting their activities on their side, they should work together to reach their goals that are positively
correlated. This is a new collaboration, a new approach of RH and marketing: fewer frontiers, more dynamics. 1.2/ Involve employees in communication strategies: the participative marketing In order to praise individualsâ€™ commitment in their work and place the employee as a strategic communication driver, alined management and communication decisions are essential to firms. Employees receive the brand identity message and they will be committed to positively deliver it only if they are invited to participate and if this participation makes sense to them. Here, marketers should see the opportunity to engage a new kind of relationship with the customer: a meeting between the brand and the public thanks to the employees. The employee is therefore presented as a new way of differentiation for brands (as a competitive advantage) such as the packaging and the design. Involving the entirety of the workforce in the brand elaboration and communication is a new opportunity for companies to create an emotional bond with the audience and to stand out on the market. 2/ Creating a competitive advantage through the employee: to another idea of perception All these HR perspectives occasioned by our study invite us to discuss the outs of strategic business decisions that marketers must take. The framework developed in this paper, suggest that brands must pay greater attention to the employee variable and consider it now as a new marketing "tool" that can lead to a real competitive advantage. In this section we will propose our marketing recommendations, and express a different idea of employee-marketers relationship. The employee is the opportunity for companies to create strong brands on both the inside and the outside. This wealth will increase the chances for firms to innovate and be successful. In addition, the harmony that will arise will permit a sustainable development and consequently longevity in the business landscape. When companies are in a â€œgood shapeâ€?, they stimulate every level of stakeholders and generate attractiveness. It will greatly attract potential talents and consequently valuable competencies that will favorate innovative and profitable growth. This will greatly impact the external brand image and consequently,
competitors will be inclined to replicate this brand image success on their side. This virtuous circle will install a long-lasting win-win situation between the company and its stakeholders.
3/ Development of an â€œoperational frameworkâ€? To formalize our study and make a more concrete recommendation, we have created a conceptual framework that illustrates the virtuous circle emerging from employee branding strategies.
Table 3.1: Operational framework to creat strong brands through the employee.
III/ LIMITS An exploratory research to read with caution The first limitation of our study was clear for us from the beginning: an exploratory study is difficult to conduct in a limited time of work and with a small sampling. More precisely, we have encountered the following constraints: •
Lack of scientific sources for our research questions
Many differences in experts’ analysis because of the closeness that exists between the concepts. Consequently, it was difficult to make a detailed framework, as we had to remove some interesting concepts.
Risk of proposing a too strong assumption for an exploratory research about employees management and marketers responsibilities
This is why this paper has to be read with prudence. More than proposing a fully detailed and operational framework, we wanted to highlight the marketing and social evolution that the business world encounters. Moreover, the use of the term “employee variable” and the manipulative dimension of brands that can arise in our paragraphs have to be read carefully and without the assumption that employees can be “used” and customers “fooled”. In fact, we encourage more brands to implement a real coherence throughout their strategies and to do so with right and respectuous intentions towards the employee. Participants’ background. The majority of respondents were educated and confronted to the marketing strategies explanation and investigation and consequently the scenarios might not have been seen as realistic and plausible. Moreover, this does not reflect a representative sample of the whole French population.
A long-term process difficult to evaluate Our study is exposed at a specific t-time, but for more relevance and realism, it should be done repeatidly to truly evaluate the process of perception that is most of the time related to memorization and long-lasting interaction. The perception is measured indeed through its link with the memory, and therefore over time, so the employee perception and the brand image interiorization are processes evolving over a long time to be memorialized. In addition, it could be interesting to measure the respondentsâ€™ reactions at t+1 time so that they could interiorized the scenarios and provide the researchers with more valid and reliable responses. . The importance of employees: the downfall of creating pressure around this new variable Our study evaluates the growing importance that the employee takes in building and strengthening the brand image. However, if we consider that the employee is a pillar of the brand, what is going on in case of desertion or dismissal? In fact, employees who leave a company may cause many damages in terms of brand image. Companies have an responsability to conduct their dismissals and employee conflicts in a reasoned and transparent way, especially in the case of employees-ambassadors profiles for which consumers can create a real attachment. The scales choices and their relevancy The results of hypothesis were not as strong as we hoped and did not allow us to draw clear and obvious conclusions. Indeed, the diffrences observed, even though theyr were statistically significant were not showing a truly big gap between our concepts. This problem is likely related to the scales that we choose. Even though they were all matching our research questions and were validated by academics, it seems that an update is needed when considering the employee-customer relationship.
IV/ FUTURE RESEARCH In order to address our topic of study differently, we propose here many other research investigations that will be a good manner to contribute to our problematic. 1/ Other mediation mechanisms First of all, we will see that there are plenty of other related ways of looking at our main research problem: Product and brand category influences First, differentiating the type of product could improve the analysis. The employee brand image can apply effectively for certain types of products but probably not for others. For example, a brand-product oriented companies, such as some luxury brands, have perhaps no competitive advantage to invest in the â€œbrand humanitizationâ€? to boost his marketing. The consumer profile influences Following the same idea, we know that each consumers react differently to this type of marketing approach and their perception is not always impacted at the same degree by employees. This is true individually, but also as "group profiles" and therefore, it can be interesting to conduct profile studies such as: CSP, age, gender, education background, sensitivity to marketing, places etc. One another further discussion could also be the parallel between the employee profile and the consumer one, under specific criteria such as appearance, lifestyle, status etc. We have in fact talked a lot about what we meant by the employees perception, but showing that the consumer tends to look like the employee of his favorite brand could be a very interesting option.
2/ Further investigation about the employee Extend the study to CEO and emblematic figure of a brand For decades, CEOs such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson â€œare brandsâ€?, with their success and failure being associated to the brand they represent. CEOs retain public attention and they provoke also the emotional attachment for consumers (Stone D. and Bailey S., 2009). For example, the story of self-made men that became great leaders can be a marketing tool to improve their image and to be referred as exemplarity. Communication agencies' role in building this new perception of brand image A whole new business area has emerged from this perception shift: advertising agencies have specialized into these new marketing strategies and are now offering services for companies in need of brand image renewal through corporate messages and employees enhancement. The communication field is now broader than ever with an increase of firms that have taken this business opportunity. The purpose is to surpass the traditional marketing message that only communicates about utilitarian needs of the customer but to provide a promise of brand experience and a belonging to a community. It should be interesting to investigate their role and influence on the audience perception. 3/ Scales development 3.1/ Employee perception scale development In a more scientific approach, our study could be the introduction the scales development. Indeed, we have highlighted the weakness of using the brand personality scale for the employee personality perception. In turn, it would be interesting to develop a valid scale of employee perception. Thus, brands could assess their position and develop their brand image awareness through the employee. 3.2/ Attitude toward the employee scale Another scale that could be developed is a scale measuring consumer attitudes toward the employee. With this scientific scale, brands could measure the effectiveness of having or
not committed employees in the brand image reinforcement processes and make strategic decisions. 4/ Impacts on customer behaviour Obviously, our paper invites researchers to study the behavioural implication that arisen from the attitude toward the employee. That is to say the consumers intention to buy or not the product or services of the brand according to their attitude toward the employee Indeed, it will be interesting to measure to what extent a positive attitude toward a brand and a positive employee perception generate concrete behavioural decisions.
CONCLUSION We realized, throughout our work, that this subject of study was difficult to discern. Indeed, the phenomenon studied is still relatively new and therefore there was a lack in the literature. Nevertheless, our research has highlighted a number of critical points. First, we have responded to our main issue by highlighting the link between brand image and employee perception. In fact, we now know that consumers have an affective response toxard the employees. Then, we were able to understand that investigating the role of employees in the brand image delivery does not necessarily mean that one should investigate sales-force interation with customers. We were able to draw managerial implication concerning both Human Resources Management and Marketing strategies. Consequently, it allowed us to provide recommendations to these both fields and to build an operational framework that would enhance the brand perception through the employee. Because of the limitations an exploratory research generates, we have suggested how our study could be complemented and further developed. To conclude, it should be stated that marketers are now facing new expectations from their employees and audiences. A true identification of these needs should be done in order to create a long-lasting cohesion between these stakeholders and to finally enable companies to enter the brand image virtuous circle.
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ANNEXES Questionnaires Questionnaire â€“ Brand image
Questionnaire – DECATHLON
Questionnaire â€“ SONY
Results Annexe 1.1: Employee Personality scale SONY
Annexe 1.2: Brand Personality scale SONY
Annexe 1.3: Employee Personality scale DECATHLON
Brand Personality scale DECATHLON
Annexe 2.1: Affective response DECATHLON
Annexe 2.2: Affective response SONY
Annexe 2.3: Affective response H2
Annexe 2.4: Affective response H2a and H2b
Annexe 3.1: Brand Personality scale SONY – After scenario
Annexe 3.2: Brand Personality scale DECATHLON – After scenario
Annexe 3.3: Brand Personality scale Before/After: H3
Annexe 3.4: Brand Attachment scale Before/After: H4 Brand Attachment scale SONY – After scenario
Brand Attachment scale SONY – Before scenario
Brand Attachment scale DECATHLON – After scenario
Brand Attachment scale DECATHLON – Before scenario
Annexe 4.1: Importance of employees: H5
Published on May 31, 2012