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A Qualitative Approach to Understanding Brand Image in an International Context: Insights from Croatia and Serbia

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Matthew GortonORCiD


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Purpose – The paper aims to demonstrate the utility of qualitative research for: understanding differences in brand image across markets; the critical assessment of marketing theory; informing revisions to quantitative scales and metrics used in international branding research. This is accomplished via research on a particular case (socialist era brands in Croatia and Serbia).Design/methodology/approach – A total of 12 focus groups, cutting across two countries (Croatia and Serbia) and three age groups (18-21, 35-45, pensioners), were conducted. The contemporary brand images of labels from the socialist era were compared against competing products (launched in the post-socialist period by local manufacturers and those from transnational companies).Findings – Analysis revealed significant differences in the image of the socialist era brands between their home and foreign markets. Variations are linked to a cultural context of newly (re)emerging states with high ethnocentrism, animosity and uneasy political relationships. Transnational brands, however, appear immune to much consumer ethnocentrism.Research limitations/implications – Firms from the region face significant barriers to creating standardised brand images across the successor states of the Socijalisticka Federativna Republika Jugoslavija. While strong in their home markets, the socialist era brands are rarely suitable platforms for international market entry in the region. The dangers of conflating “Western” with foreign in international branding research are documented.Originality/value – The case illustrates the role qualitative research can play in understanding variations in perceived brand image across international markets. It evaluates the utility of Kapferer’s approach to brand identity. The concept of origin hierarchies is introduced and the inadequacies of international marketing research that relies on a simple domestic versus foreign dichotomy are documented.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brecic R, Filipovic J, Gorton M, Ognjanov G, Stojanovic Z, White J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Marketing Review

Year: 2013

Volume: 30

Issue: 4

Pages: 275-296

ISSN (print): 0265-1335

ISSN (electronic): 1758-6763

Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1108/IMR-02-2012-0024


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