Building the corporate brand in a stream of collective sense-making activities : a practice perspective

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (monograph) | Defence date: 2011-03-04
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188 s.
Aalto University publication series. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 10/2011
This thesis takes a multidisciplinary, practice-based perspective on corporate branding as a strategic change initiative, so as to contribute to a better understanding of the intraorganizational dynamics and complexities of a corporate branding process. The study extends the emerging strategy-as-practice approach to the domain of corporate branding in order to explore how the organizational understanding of the ways in which the corporate brand is to be built and implemented emerges. The endeavour of corporate branding is viewed and analyzed as a social process, where the members of an organization interpret branding in and through interaction with others. Hence, the study builds on the theory of organizational sensemaking and the notion of collectively produced accounts in order to capture the continuously evolving and changing nature of a corporate branding project. The empirical study is conducted in a transnational, industrial company, which operates in a business-to-business environment, and the reciprocal sense-making and sense-giving activities between the corporate centre and middle management are explored. More specifically, the objective is to investigate how the entire corporate branding process is mediated by socio-culturally and socio-historically constructed change management practices. The empirical analysis identifies three trans-subjective practices of change management, the practices of steering, surveying, and simplifying, which exert their influence by governing the stream of sense-making and sense-giving activities, and by mediating the way the organizational account of corporate branding evolves. The empirical analysis also shows that the practices of steering, surveying and simplifying contribute to a recursive change management approach, both enabling but also constraining the building of the corporate brand. The contributions of the study are threefold. First, in the realm of corporate branding, the thesis investigates the behaviour of senior and middle management in building the corporate brand. As opposed to purely cognitive perspectives of branding, the thesis takes a sociological approach and focuses on the trans-individual practices of change management. Second, while much of the existing research on organizational sense-making has focused on the cognitive processes of individual top managers and other strategy practitioners from a psychological perspective, this research shifts the analytical focus on the social practices and the associated collective background understandings through which members of the organization make sense of the corporate brand -related strategic change. Third, it advances knowledge in the field of strategy-as-practice by focusing on intangible, embodied change management practices, such as practical understanding, know-how, emotions and motivations. Moreover, it attempts to illustrate the way the practice bundles interact.
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Moisander, Johanna, professor
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