Investigating Channel Push Branding : The Case of Konftel

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet

Author: Mattias Björkman; [2011]

Keywords: Brand; branding; equity; channel; push; pull;


The role of branding in building distribution relationships has attained increased attention in the marketing literature lately and several studies have shown that branding is an effective tool for building stronger relationships between manufacturers and their distribution partners. Unfortunately these findings fail to explain how channel push strategies work independently of consumer pull strategies when it comes to building strong manufacturer brands. On one hand, it is asserted that close interaction between brand representatives and distribution channel members is a prerequisite for success, while it on the other hand is asserted that direct communication to end users is just as important. In terms of managerial implications this has often led to vague recommendations in crafting a "perfect blend" between push and pull strategies.These recommendations constitute a status quo, where marketing managers in manufacturing firms have been placed in between two strategies without clear recommendations on how they work independently of each other. This status quo is a problem in both academic research and managerial practice since distribution channel relationships are seen as an increasingly important source of competitive advantage. As a result, the theoretical foundation of a blended strategy might be reprioritized in advantage for better relationships with distribution channel members, which in effect make push efforts the prioritized channel for manufacturer brand management.This master thesis gives all its attention to channel push branding and provides essential insights into how a brand is built in the minds of distributors, resellers and end-users, through a channel-push strategy. A single case study design is used, investigating a telecom-brand focused solely on a channel push strategy. The investigation concerns the brand identity as well as interviews with distributors, resellers and end-users. The studied brand is analyzed through Aaker's (2002) conceptualization of consumer based brand equity, consisting of brand awareness, brand associations, perceived quality and brand loyalty. Although an equity model is used, the goal is not to assess brand value, rather to investigate how brand equity is built through a strict channel push strategy.Although this case illustrates both challenges and limitations, I strongly argue against the assertion that strict push strategies are something of the past. The studied brand is filled with relevant associations and functional attributes and has only suffered minor diversities between different intermediaries and regions. However, this case also shows that channel push branding is a complex procedure that requires careful and specific considerations. Main areas which should be considered are; limitations in awareness creation, difficulties in building brand associations, dependence of interpersonal relations and the activity of the end-user-brand relationship. My main contribution with this case study is a rich description of the underlying phenomena which constitute these considerations. Distribution channel relationships are an increasingly important source of competitive advantage, and I believe that this case provides a new perspective on channel push branding, both to practitioners and to researchers. 

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