Family firm branding: A bibliometric analysis and research agenda


Family firm branding: A bibliometric analysis and research agenda


Objectives. This paper aims to provide a systematization of the extant literature on family firm branding through a bibliometric analysis; moreover, it tries to offer a research agenda. In particular, through bibliometric analysis, we attempt to identify the most important research lines existing in family firm branding literature and the main theoretical frameworks underlying such stream of research.

Indeed, in recent years we have witnessed massive interest from scholars toward family firm branding (Astrachan et al., 2018), as also demonstrated by the increasing number of documents published on this topic, especially in the last 10 years. The reasons underlying this growing interest are essentially three: a) the huge importance of family firms in the world economy (Lude and Prügl, 2018), enough to be described as its “backbone” (Beck, 2016: 225); b) the fundamental importance of the family firm’s brand as strategic resource turning the idiosyncratic nature of the firm into a competitive advantage, with an additional differentiation and leverage (Astrachan et al., 2018); c) the ambiguity behind the reasons why some firms decide to promote their family nature, while others prefer to act as “non-family firm”, despite of the great importance of family firm branding (Lude and Prügl, 2018).

Notwithstanding this growth in interest in family branding, significant gaps still exist, as identified by several scholars. In our opinion, the most significant gap that has mainly contributed to our decision to focus on this subject is the one identified by Astrachan and colleagues (2018): currently, it is not still clear what family branding is. In fact, the phenomenon of family branding has been studied from numerous angles, without ever producing a true systematization and, thus, creating an extremely fragmented field of research. Moreover, the last review on family branding is the one published by Sageder et colleagues (2015), which has three current weaknesses: first of all, it considers papers published only until 2015, so it is slightly outdated; then it only looks at two aspects of family branding: i.e. image and reputation; and finally, it is a qualitative study, which as such can suffer of a certain degree of subjectivity.

Therefore, drawing on the aforementioned elements, our research is meant to provide an answer to the following research questions: 1) What are the theoretical frameworks on which family brand literature is currently based? 2) What are the main topics attracting major interest within family brand literature?

According to our research questions, we propose a quantitative and updated review of the literature, building our study on bibliometric analysis, as it “introduces quantitative rigor into the subjective evaluation of the literature” (Zupic and Carter, 2015: 431). In particular, to reach our research goals, we performed a double bibliometric co-citation analysis: an external and an internal analysis, to answer to the first and the second question, respectively.

To perform the bibliometric analysis, we decided to consider the three dimensions of family brand, as previously identified by Astrachan and colleagues (2018): i.e. image, identity, and reputation. Then, we explored the Web of Science (WoS) of Clarivate Analytics® and collected 66 papers on family branding. We operated a double bibliometric co-citation analysis on this dataset; and specifically, with the employment of the internal analysis we have identified the main topics characterizing family branding literature, while with the employment of the external one we have identified the theoretical roots at the origin of this stream of research.

The contribution of our study is twofold. First, we tried to systematize the existing research on family branding in a quantitative way (i.e., through the bibliometric analysis), also trying to minimize the biases. Secondly, also by embracing the latest contributions on the topic, we considered the three main components of family firm brand: image, identity, and reputation. Additionally, we identified the theoretical roots of family firm branding, categorizing them in 3 clusters, while also grouped in 5 clusters the main topics of the literature. Finally, in view of the findings of our analysis, we provided a research agenda that could address scholars in future research.

#Bibliometric analysis #family branding #family firm #family identity #family image #family reputation