A Discourse Approach to Brand Leadership Management

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines existing viewpoints on brand leadership management and presents discourse analysis as another efficient, coherent and sustainable approach to this concept. Importantly, existing works on brand leadership management are critiqued - opening up a gap in the literature. Consequently, a discursive brand leadership model that advocates the action of talk via corporate communications following the delivery of a brand promise is presented. It is hoped that this study would help in creating a greater understanding of brand leadership.

Keywords: brand leadership, brand promise, corporate communications, discourse theory, organizational leadership, social constructionism

1. Introduction

Theoretical literature on organization studies, has within the last two decades, witnessed an unprecedented rise in the volume of research contributing to organizational leadership. A number of recent works (see Douglas, 2012; Palrecha, 2012; Hur et al, 2011; Balthazard et al, 2009; Schippers et al, 2008; Johnson, 2009; Fleming and Waguespack, 2007; Avolio et al, 2009; Thompson and Vecchio, 2009; Tranter, 2009) which appear in some first class journals provide a good evidence in this regard. Central to organizational leadership concerns are issues relating to performance improvement, raising of product quality level, increased output, good return on investment - all which are to a large extent dependent on the ability to lead competitively through effective brand leadership management in the marketplace.

Unlike organizational leadership, which is consistently debated, brand leadership, though important and inextricably linked to organizational leadership, is yet to receive any form of attention in organization or leadership studies literature. As such there has been no form of cross-fertilization of ideas between the two disciplines. This may be so because brand leadership is conceived as being deeply rooted in the field of marketing - as opposed to organizational leadership, which is a discipline that is traditionally grounded in organization studies. However, the pursuit of brand leadership, while popularly conceived as a marketing discipline, can also be proficiently understood as an exercise in the management of discourse (Phillips et al, 2004) between business organizations and stakeholders. Contrary to existing marketing texts, this paper argues that brand leadership is not only achieved through consistent innovation, higher market share, international presence, ability to offer consumers a wide variety of choices and so on. Rather, it is birthed through a discourse system that compel business organizations to say and action what is said in all corporate communication texts. In essence, brand leadership, from a discourse point of view, highlights the repeated delivery and expression of brand promises through a variety of corporate communication activities, which are decoded and interpreted at all times by stakeholders.

This paper makes a conceptual analysis of how brand leadership is achieved through discourse analysis. In contrast to existing literature on branding that takes a cursory look at the processes through which brand leadership evolves, this study dives into brand leadership literature from a critical angle - and then opens up a gap based on the critique. The gap is then filled through the development of a discursive brand leadership model. Finally, the implications of the study for brand leadership literature is highlighted and discussed.

2. Brand Leadership Literature: A Critique

Knowledge on brand leadership, the variety of approaches deployed by firms to stay ahead of competition within markets, is typically grounded on two theoretical assumptions. The first advocates a built-in system that demands a systemic organizational construction of branding philosophy into all operational processes (Tilley, 1999). The second is a built-out system. It champions the development of brand leadership through consistent innovation, higher market share, international presence and the ability to offer consumers a wide variety of choices regardless of the peculiarity of cultural nuances that may exist within social institutions across the world. …