Written by: Birgit Löhndorf
Department of Marketing, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria Written by: Adamantios Diamantopoulos
Department of Business Administration, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Prior research acknowledges employees' crucial role in building strong service brands, yet empirical research on how to turn employees into brand champions remains scarce and has been largely approached from an internal branding perspective. Drawing on social identity and social exchange theories, this study takes a broader organizational perspective to link internal branding outcomes (employee-brand fit, brand knowledge, and belief in the brand) and employees' perceptions of organizational support to a range of employee brand-building behaviors, with organizational identification as the key mediating mechanism. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of employee data from a major retail bank reveal organizational identification as a strong motivational force for employees to become brand champions, largely mediating the effects of internal branding outcomes. When organizational identification is low, perceived organizational support (as a quality indicator of employees' exchange-based relationship with the organization) constitutes an alternative, external motivator of on-the-job brand building behaviors; when organizational identification is high, perceived organizational support boosts employees' voluntary participation in brand development and positive word-of-mouth. These findings highlight the managerial relevance of the employee-organization relationship for turning employees into brand champions and show how organizational identification can be stimulated by means of internal branding. service brands
perceived organizational support
employee brand-building behaviors
Strong brands are vital to the success of service companies because they act as “surrogates when the company offers no fabric to touch, no trousers to try on, no watermelons or apples to scrutinize, no automobile to test-drive” (Berry 2000, p. 128). Strong brands help reduce consumers’ perceived risk and increase their trust in buying intangible services that are difficult to evaluate in advance (Zeithaml, Bitner, and Gremler 2013). In building a strong service brand, the organization’s employees are particularly critical because when the source of customer value creation shifts from (physical) products to services, frontline staff are responsible for delivering on promises and predominantly shape customer brand perceptions (Berry 2000). Moreover, all employees of an organization potentially can support and influence their organization’s brand-building efforts, whether as internal service providers to coworkers (George 1990) or organizational representatives to friends, family, and (potential) customers (Gilly and Wolfinbarger 1998). Hence, service companies must turn their employees into “brand champions,” that is, motivate them to help build and strengthen the brand image of their organization (Morhart, Herzog, and Tomczak 2009). Empirical research on how companies can induce such motivations is, however, relatively scarce and important research gaps are still to be filled.
According to organizational behavior literature, employee behavior depends largely on the psychological relationship employees maintain with their organization (Van Knippenberg, Van Dick, and Tavares 2007). Here, two theoretical perspectives have been receiving increasing attention: social identity (e.g., Ashforth and Mael 1989; Hogg and Terry 2000) and social exchange (e.g., Eisenberger, Hutchinson, and Sowa 1986; Rousseau and Parks 1993). Based on social identity processes, employees’ organizational identification (OI) has been found to be a powerful predictor of various behaviors, such as performance, turnover intentions, and organizational citizenship behaviors (Riketta...
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