Family Firms Brand Importance: The Role of Family Identification with the Firm


Family Firms Brand Importance: The Role of Family Identification with the Firm


Objectives. Studying branding strategies of family firms is critical to understand how they communicate at the intersection of two idiosyncratic systems, the family and the business. When looking at family firm brands, research has mainly adopted an internal perspective, exploring how family firms strategically manage their brands (Botero et al., 2013; Micelotta and Raynard, 2011). These studies have shown that branding strategies that communicate the family nature of the firm positively relate to firm performance (Zellweger et al., 2012b) and that viewing the family “as a corporate brand” leads to higher rates of sales growth. A relatively less explored area of research considers the role of external audiences (e.g., media, consumers and other stakeholders) in determining the importance of family firm brands, and how this can ultimately impact company performance. Obtaining an external perspective on family firm brands and on the importance provided to them by external stakeholders – in our case, journalists – is particularly important because it allows us to further understand how they can affect consumers’ choices in turn favoring firms to gain competitive advantages. Although we know that the behavioral intentions of consumers ground their roots in their perception of the brands (Aaker et al., 2010), we believe that it is relevant to complement this knowledge with a more detailed consideration of the brand awareness, its embeddedness in a rich and distinctive discourses, and its connections with different discourse topics.

In this paper, we thus rely on a recent conceptualization of brand importance (Fronzetti Colladon, 2018) – that is, the degree of importance provided to a brand by external stakeholders given by the prevalence, diversity and connectivity of the brand associations they make when talking about the brand – to assess and investigate the relevance that family firm brands have in online news. While scholar already considered media coverage as a factor affecting individuals choices and preferences (e.g., Liu and Lopez, 2016), there is evidence that just looking at how frequently a brand name is mentioned is not sufficient to fully capture the magnitude of its potential impact (Fronzetti Colladon, 2020). Indeed, media visibility can certainly increase brand awareness, i.e., its recognition and recall (Keller, 1993). However, we should also take into account the brand image that is in consumers’ mind and is affected by the brand associations conveyed by news articles. In particular, to evaluate brand importance, we complement the concept of coverage/visibility, with the two other constructs of brand diversity and connectivity. Diversity looks at the richness and uniqueness of brand association, following previous evidence of a positive impact on brand strength (Grohs et al., 2016). Indeed, a brand name could appear frequently, but in a very narrow discourse. Lastly, connectivity points to the brand name “brokerage power”, i.e. its ability to potentially connect different words and/or discourse topics (Fronzetti Colladon, 2018).

In our paper we aim to offer a new angle on the management of family firm brands by exploring whether brand importance relates to family firm performance, in terms of revenues. Moreover, whereas adopting an external perspective is important to advance marketing and branding research in family business, we cannot ignore the nature of the firms we are studying. Specifically, we contend that the relationship between brand importance and revenues might be contingent to a very peculiar characteristics that is distinctive of family firms – namely, the identification of the family with the firm (e.g., Chrisman et al., 2005; Zellweger et al., 2010). Therefore, we investigate whether the relation between brand importance and revenues changes depending on family firm identity.

#brand importance #family firm #identity #SBS