Rethinking brand management?

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Mogens Bjerre
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An overview of the results from a comparative analysis of brand management (BM) frameworks in the literature. One conclusion discussed is that brands and brand management appear as being a “top management matter”. In the literature on the topic of BM this issue is, however, vague. Another conclusion described and discussed is that within practice we can see developments towards a broader scope and an increased emphasis on external perspectives. However, in the BM literature this is not the case. These phenomena constitute the foundation for establishing a frame with regard to the question: Is it justifiable to talk about “rethinking brand management?” K-forum bringer her Mogens bjerres artikel fra den den nye bog, "Senders and Receivers – New Perspectives on Market Communication". Jørn Helder & Simon Ulrik Kragh (eds.) 2002 Samfundslitteratur.

1. Introduction
The inspiration for the chapter stems from experience lecturing in brand
management (BM), and in particular from a perception that several appealing
propositions, concepts and frameworks have been developed in
the BM literature during the nineties. However, despite more or less identical
focus in these BM frameworks it appears problematic to integrate
them into one another as well as to implement them.
The meaning of the concept, brands and brand management, has
changed. This goes for theory as well as practice according to authors in
the field of marketing, strategy and communication. Hanby (1999) discusses
this change, and summarises “the new view” of brands in the following
way: “as holistic entities with many of the characteristics of living
beings” (1999). This view is apparent in most of today’s writing and research
about brand management, relationship marketing and communication,
see for example Kapferer (1997), Parker and Funkhouser (1997),
Fournier (1998) and Berry (1999).
Additionally, the stand taken in the literature is to acknowledge the
active role that consumers play in the formation of brand image. Thus
the distinction between the desired brand identity and the brand image
is stated as a result from the managed as well as the unmanaged parts of
the brand. BM is therefore changing from a planning-based approach to
an exchange-based approach in which the receivers are as important as
the sender. With this as the starting point and Hanby’s point that a
change has taken place, two questions are obvious: What should companies
do and what issues and phenomena should they be concerned with
according to the literature that deals with brand management?

2. Method
Based on the perception that the literature consists of a number of frameworks
that are difficult to integrate, the following question has governed
the comparative analysis of the literature: Do the frameworks in the literature
represent different basic views of brand management?
To be able to answer this question the process began by analysing a
selection of influential, well referred, frameworks in the BM literature.
Only an overview of the main findings from this analysis is presented in
this chapter .When comparing frameworks in the literature, two dimensions immediately
appeared to be core discriminators between the BM views or
perspectives, namely “point of departure” and “scope”.
In the analysis of the literature, other dimensions appeared, i.e. conception
of the firm including discussion of boundaries of the firm – i.e.
what should be managed as part of the BM process. A second dimension
was how organisations accumulate know-how and experience – i.e.
where and how do experiences accumulate within the organisation, and
what characterises this process. A third dimension was the conception of
the consumer – i.e. the consumer regarded as an active or passive player,
positive or critical etc. Additionally, in the analysis of the literature differences between
frameworks were observed, apparently depending on discipline of science
and field from which the author originally stems.
Here, the discussion is limited to the first two dimensions due to two
main reasons. Firstly, at this point of the analysis, they appear as being
core discriminators of frameworks in the literature. Secondly, these dimensions,
and consequently the difference between frameworks or
views, come to underline the relevance of rising the question – is the underlying
assumptions of BM changing?
The first dimension, “point of departure”, deals with the extent to
which brand management is presented as a business process that has its
basis in and is predominately governed by an inside-out or an outside-in
perspective. I.e. do company values, visions, resources, capabilities or
characteristics of business processes etc. set the “stage” when defining or
developing brand identity, or does knowledge about external constituencies
(such as consumers, vendors, resellers, competitors etc.) play this
role? The outside-in perspective seems to have been dominant in the sense
that it is necessary to position the brand with due respect to existing
players and to underline the differences between these. In this perspective
the brand may exist per se. The inside-out perspective seems to be under development.
It focuses on the interaction between the brand and the receiver and how the
brand may focus on serving the receivers matching the desired brand’s
identity. In this view the brand does not exist before the receiver has met
the brand. As for the second dimension, “scope”, it covers a continuum of activities,
actors and relationships that are described as being directly related
to the task of creating and nurturing a brand (a product brand or a corporate
brand). Scope may be narrow – focus on the actual product dimensions and
characteristics and the brand boundaries are likely to be defined by simple
frameworks such as the 4 P’s. A wide scope could include the corporate
level and might also include history – i.e. a path dependency perspective.

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