Academic journal article Management Dynamics

The Impact of Brand Identity on the Perceived Brand Image of a Merged Higher Education Institution: Part One

Academic journal article Management Dynamics

The Impact of Brand Identity on the Perceived Brand Image of a Merged Higher Education Institution: Part One

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article, the first of a series of two, reports on the findings of a conceptual model which empirically tested the impact of selected independent variables (reputation, relevance, personality, performance and relationship) on a moderating variable (brand identity) and, in turn, the influence thereof on brand image as the dependent variable.

Stakeholders of a recently merged Higher Education Institution, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, were surveyed using a newly developed research instrument. The empirical results revealed that the independent variables reputation, personality, performance and relationship exerted a significant positive influence on the moderating variable brand identity. The items used to measure the variable relevance did not demonstrate acceptable levels of discriminant and construct validity and could not be subjected to further testing.

INTRODUCTION

In the most recent past, South Africa has been engaged in the fundamental transformation and restructuring of its Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The main thrust of this transformation/restructuring is to integrate HEIs into a coherent and coordinated system that will promote social equity by enabling the advancement of the historically disadvantaged groups of the South African society.

The restructuring of HEIs in the vast Eastern Cape Province of South Africa was manifested, inter alia, by the incorporation of the Port Elizabeth branch of Vista University into the University of Port Elizabeth as a first phase and, as the final phase, the merger between the University of Port Elizabeth and the Port Elizabeth Technikon. A new comprehensive university, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), emerged from this merger and came into existence on 1 January 2005.

Each of these institutions had its own unique brand identity, brand image and brand name. With reference to the newly established NMMU, the question can be raised whether its new brand identity impacts on the perceived brand image of the NMMU among all stakeholders who have an interest in the institution. Key stakeholders of the NMMU include students; academic, administrative and technical staff; parents of students; alumni; the national and provincial governments; and the local business community at large.

This article reports on the empirical findings of respondents on the impact of brand identity on the perceived brand image of the NMMU.

Based on an analysis of secondary sources, two theoretical models were constructed. Figure 1 presents a comprehensive theoretical model depicting certain brand identity and brand image relationships.

From Figure 1, it is evident that marketing communication strategists are responsible for the creation of the brand identity (via various channels of communication), leading to the brand image which needs to be established among various receiver groups (such as students and other stakeholders). Also shown in Figure 1 is a potential (theoretical) "brand gap", which may have been caused by brand identity and brand image variables. The variables that impact on brand identity and brand image require an in-depth investigation in the context of the NMMU. It is important to note that, as shown in Figure 1, brand identity precedes brand image (Kapferer, 2004: 98). The purpose of this study is to analyse the brand identity variables and their impact on perceived brand image, leading to the assessment of stakeholder perceptions of the brand image of the NMMU.

OPERATIONALISATION OF VARIABLES

Brand identity

For the purpose of this study, brand identity is seen as the visual and verbal expression of a brand. The brand identity supports, expresses, communicates, synthesises and visualises the brand (Wheeler, 2003: 4). Brand identity is described by Coop (2005:36) in terms of the psycho logical and emotional associations that the brand aspires to maintain in the minds of consumers. …

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