Thus, very relevant to the current study in that

 

 

 

 

Thus, this thesis will be analysing strategic
marketing through branding and social media within a local SME, with a
particular emphasis on Gozo Cottage.

Branding and the use of social media nowadays
have vital influence within a company’s marketing strategy. However, as seen
above, within small and medium enterprises, branding and the proper use of
social media as a marketing tool provide serious challenges to the company’s
directors and shareholders since most often SMEs are quite limited in their
financial resources and human resources.

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2.5     Conclusion

 

Finally a very important gap which I have
identified is the manner in which SMEs may make use of branding and social
media to surpass the physical borders and handicaps that they experience in
remote regions such as Malta and moreover in regions such as Gozo which suffers
from double insularity.

 

Moreover, another important gap is the fact
that there is basically no study which analysis the type of media and branding
which SMEs set up locally are making use of. This is very relevant to the
current study in that

 

One main gap is quite understandably the lack
of studies which focus on the manner in which local (Maltese) SME’s are making
use of branding and social media. This is quite an important gap given the fact
that as analysed above SMEs have a central role in the Maltese economy.

 

Through my current literature I have
encountered what may be referred to as gaps. My study will thus focus on these
areas so that SMEs may make use of the current study for future reference.

2.4.2   Gaps in Current Literature

 

Indeed, Wu et al. 2010
retain that through networking which has been made possible by social media and
platforms, consumers around the world are now in a position to share their
values which in turn leads to a positive impact on trust. This will lead to the
obvious result of enhanced brand popularity and generating increased sales.

 

Social
commerce is a new stream in e-commerce, which encourages the social interaction
of consumers through social media.

As with the case of having a strong brand, Lu et al. (2010) comment that through social
interaction consumers also increase the level of trust in a particular brand,
thus leading to more sales. This is why it is important that SMEs ensure that
their business model is adapted to social commerce (Liang Turban 2011). Indeed, Hajli (2013) is of the
opinion that:

 

Various authors such
as Bagozzi & Dholakia
(2002) and Ridings
& Gefen (2004) discuss in great detail the way in which such online
communities may attract customers. Moreover, others like Ridings & Gefen
(2004) see this as an opportunity to SMEs to establish an efficient customer
relationship management system and thus improve their own performance.

 

The co-relation of branding and social media
may thus be easily identifiable especially with the development experienced in
marketing strategies through the creation of online communities.

2.4     SME’s Marketing Strategy
using Branding and Social Media

 

According to
her, social media may be effective in that it permits Strabucks to interact
with its own customers mostly by listening to their feedback. The attention
given by a company to this feedback results in building a much closer relationship
with its customers.

 

A very
interesting fact is that Starbucks has a small social media team composed of only
six people (ENGAGEMENTdb, 2009) The model above clearly depicts the way in
which Professor Clarke continue to analyse the way in which Starbucks is using social
media as an essential component of its marketing mix. She argues that the model itself puts a lot of importance on the
individual attention to be afforded to customers which in turn will result in
customer loyalty.

 

 

 

 

? 32K YouTube subscribers

? 160K Pinterest followers

? 2.86 million Google+ followers

? 2.98 million Instagram fans

? 6.56 million Twitter followers

? 37.32 million Facebook likes

Professor Moira Clarke from Henley Business School makes specific
reference to the social media marketing model used by Starbucks. This is quiet
understandable since Starbucks has a very impressive presence on social media:

 

This model is of great importance since it clearly depicts the fact that
social media marketing, in real terms may be too complex to be effectively
taken care of and developed by just one person within a company. Indeed, Felix
R et al emphasise the importance of a holistic view wherein collaboration
across all the departments is achieved is fundamental to ensure that the fours
aspects of social media marketing are given full attention.

 

on a strategic level, social media marketing covers
an organization’s decisions about social media marketing scope (ranging from
defenders to explorers), culture (ranging from conservatism to modernism),
structure (ranging from hierarchies to networks), and governance (ranging from
autocracy to anarchy).

Indeed, the model above clearly depicts the
fact that:

 

 

The model developed by Felix R et al (2016) may be said to be the
first of its kind in that it acknowledges the fact that social media marketing
is cross-functional and interdisciplinary.
Thus, the holistic view taken by the authors includes within social media
marketing other issues such as culture, scope, structure and governance. This
indicates how much social media marketing is complex and requires attention.

2.3.3   Models relating to Social Media

 

In fact, the advances related to internet have increase
interconnectivity to new dimensions wherein individuals from different parts of
the world are now in a position to interact simultaneously. Molly McLure & Samer (2005)
also make reference to this recent development and emergence of online
communities and web networks of consumers who share information on social
media. As Füller et al. (2009)
continue to argue, this also provides SMEs and customers the opportunity to
collaborate. This is the reason why Lu & Hsiao (2010) feel that Online communities
and social networking sites (SNSs) are nowadays a very important tool for
social interaction and sharing information. Various authors such as Fue et al. (2009) and Mueller et al. (2011) in fact concur that
e-commerce through social media is nowadays gaining central importance for
consumers worldwide. This is the reason why Do-Hyung et al. (2007) are of the opinion
that in today’s day and age marketing is largely dependent upon customer
involvement through social media.

 

Another significant issue within social media is that those individuals
who are members of these platforms can co-relate interdependently. Indeed, as Füller et al. (2009) aptly comment, consumers nowadays are in a position to create content
and offer advice to each other through the use of social media.

 

Social media is definitely a very important tool in
today’s world which has greatly aided SMEs in their marketing campaigns. Indeed, it is said
that with the rise of social media and
online communities, individuals can easily share and access information
(Chen et al. 2011a). Such social platforms include Facebook and
Wikipedia wherein individuals may easily access information and share their own
experiences. Thus, social media nowadays provides a clear opportunity for SMEs
to become known and more attractive universally (Chen et al. 2011b).

 

Social media is often employed as a tool to affect
consumers’ trust. By increasing their trust, social media can affect consumers’
intention to purchase a particular product and/or service from a determined
company (M. Nick Hajli Birkbeck,
University of London International Journal of Market Research Vol. 5 6
Issue 3)

 

connection between brands and consumers, while
offering a personal channel and currency for user centered networking and
social interaction. (2011)

Chi defines
social media marketing as a:

2.3.2   Effectiveness of Social Media

 

Results show that positioning the
brand post on top of the brand fan page enhances brand post popularity.

 

Social media outlets constitute excellent
vehicles for fostering relationships with customers. One specific way to do
this is to create brand fan pages on social networking sites.

Social media is assuming an ever
more central role during recent years. Indeed, the Journal of
Interactive Marketing (Volume 26
Issue 2, May 2012 Pages 83-91) specifically states
that:

 

The
general availability of the internet has given individuals the opportunity to
use social media, from email to Twitter and Facebook, and to interact without
the need for physical meetings. (2011)

Gruzd et al. further add that:

The
advancements in the internet in recent years have made new systems available to
business: social media such as online communities being a good example. (2010)

Indeed,
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are nowadays a very strong
marketing tool for SMEs. As Lu et al aptly comment:

 

“Web 2.0 has evolved from simple information
retrieval to interactivity, interoperability, and collaboration”

Similarly, Campbell et al. (2011) opine
that:

 

is much more to
do with what people are doing with the technology than the technology itself,
for rather than merely retrieving information, users are now creating and
consuming it, and hence adding value to the websites that permit them to do so.

Moreover, Kaplan
and Haenlein (2010) further add that Web 2.0:

 

social media is a broad term that describes
software tools that create user generated content that can be shared.

Meanwhile Sinclaire and Vogus (2011) state
that:

 

a group of Internet based applications that
build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and allow
the creation and exchange of user generated content.” 

Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) describe social media as:

2.3     Social Media

 

Kapferer thus argues that a holistic
perspective of the brand has to be kept in mind and it is only in this manner –
by satisfying all the six constitutive elements – that a strong brand may be
developed.

Physique
Personality
Culture
Relationship
Reflection
Self-image

Kapferer argues that all brands need
an identity. The prism developed by him provides what he refers to as six
unique elements which are needed in order to affect the brand in a way which
will create a perception and image in the consumers’ minds. Kapferer
idenitifies these six elements as follows:–

 

(Kapferer, 2012: 153)

 

Kapferer’s also makes reference to four essential
components so as to provide customers with the attributes and values they are
looking for.

 

These steps
depend on six building blocks which build upon each other so that one may be in
a position to reach the highest end of the pyramid and develop a strong and
successful brand.

Steps
meaning the 6 of them  

4.     
forging brand relationships with the potential
consumers so that an active participation is achieved.

3.     
eliciting positive and accessible brand
responses;       and

2.     
creating the appropriate brand so that it is
associated with positive, unique and favourable perceptions;

1.     
establishing a proper brand identity wherein
proper awareness of the brand itself is created;

Keller argues
that the four steps represented by his pyramid depict the four questions that
customers will necessarily ask – at times without them even knowing – about a
particular brand. The steps are quiet understandable and reachable:

 

This factor is extremely important for SMEs
that are new in the market. Indeed, start-ups often find themselves with having
a restricted number of clients and therefore even the feedback collated by them
is scarce, sporadic and often incomplete. This is why within this ambit, Dibb et al  emphasise the fact that marketing has to be a process of creating an image for a product
in the minds of the target customers (2013). In order to achieve this, the
brand needs to be conveyed in line with Keller’s Brand
Equity Model or as also known the Customer-Based Brand Equity (CBBE) Model.
This model developed by Keller highlights four essential steps to be
accomplished so as to build a strong brand.

 

Although marketing
and branding should work in symbiosis, various authors such as Ahonen M. (2008) comment that a lot
of SMEs neglect the importance of branding. Marketing is the channel or
channels through which a company actively promotes the product or service that
it provides. However, as Burnett (2008) states, every marketing campaign which
aims at being effective has not only to get the short term result of increasing
sales but also that of sub-consciously inducing customers to get to know and
trust a brand. This will lead to repeat sales which indeed are the key to every
businesses’ success.

2.2.5   Models relating to Branding

 

This might not
always be easy within small companies since as Opoku et al (2007) highlight in
their studies, the lack of financial resources which normally characterises
SMEs leads the same companies to abandon any real branding exercise. It follows
that as Berthon et al. (2008) aptly comment, within SMEs branding has to take
place with reduced budgets and therefore crucial decisions as to those brand
management principles to be adopted are of the essence.

 

This is the case
even though nowadays the importance of branding also within SMEs has been
recognised and established also by various authors such as Abimbola (2001) and
Wong & Merrilees (2005). However, as Boyle (2003) opines, in the case of
SMEs, businesses need to take an innovative unconventional approach if they are
to succeed in having a strong brand.

 

Furthermore,
although business is largely conduced and characterized by SMEs, Krake (2005)
and other authors such as Berthon et al (2008) highlight the fact that the
concept of branding lacks an SME perspective. Krake (2005) also laments as to
the little attention afforded to brand management by SMEs. However, other
authors such as Kollmann & Suckow (2007) emphasise the fact that branding
is an essential exercise also for SMEs especially nowadays in where due to
globalisation SMEs are experiencing an ever more competitive environment.

 

Branding, especially corporate branding, is
often a radically new concept for people in small and medium sized enterprises
(SMEs) (2004).

However, the
current thesis represents what may be considered to be an ‘innovative’ concept
within branding since as Merrilees (2007) points out, branding is mostly
associated with large companies. Indeed, as Inskip aptly opines:

 

“Brands are symbols around which social
actors, including firms, suppliers, supplementary organizations, the public,
and customers construct identities. Branding is a critical issue in the SME
sector because brands allow actors, such as organizations, to say things about
themselves in ways that every-day language cannot convey.

Opoku et al.
(2007, p. 362) argue that:

2.2.4   Effectiveness of Branding for SMEs

 

Another huge advantage identified by Burnett is that companies
which can boast of a strong brand are the introduction of new products. Indeed,
the study Core Concepts of Marketing by the same author concludes that a strong
brand permits companies to expand on their offer to customers and to explore
other markets since customers who have already experienced the brand would be
prone to try new products from the same company.

 

Thus, also in line with Burnett’s (2008) views, a
strong brand will also permit a company to offer a competing product at a
better price. Loyalty of repeat customers and the demand from new customers
will permit a company having a strong brand to keep a good price since
customers will not easily switch to another similar product from an unknown
brand. This will result in year-end profits and a good market share coupled
with prestige for companies with a strong brand.

 

Abimbola T (2001) argues that
a strong brand will lead and aid customers in choosing a particular product
instead of a competing one. Thus, according to the same author companies which
have over the years established a strong brand which is well-established on a
particular market will benefit from a good reputation within that market. Abimbola
T (2001) argue that although globalisation has brought many changes especially
with regards to pricing policy, the same study concludes that it is an
established fact that customers tend to trust those brands which they know well
and tend to purchase from brands which they know.

 

A strong brand,
what is very often also referred to as a superbrand is indeed one of the most
important single intangible asset for a company. Indeed, Chernatony et al.,
(2011) opine that a strong brand is equivalent to at least twenty per cent
(20%) of a company’s intangible value. The same authors continue to argue that
this factor is very important since on its own a brand makes a particular
product recognizable with the customers. They believe that this will eventually
lead the same company to be able to reap economic results from premium pricing
and savings from hefty and aggressive marketing campaigns. Moreover, according
to the same Chernatony et al., (2011) loyalty to the company – both by the end
consumers and also by the employees themselves tends to increase. Therefore, they
conclude that a brand is the added value for a company which will provide a
competitive advantage to the same company over its competitors.

2.2.3   Branding

 

·        
can become a valuable asset as it
functions as a legal device.

·        
can communicate overtly (e.g., Rentokil) or subconsciously; and

·        
allows brands to become part of
everyday life by enabling consumers to specify, reject or recommend brands;

Kapferer (2000) observes that the
brand’s name is often revealing of the brand’s intentions. Moreover, Ries and Trout (1980) argue
that the brand name is a significant tool to identify a product and helps to
portray the product in a way as to project it better that competing products
thus positioning it highly in the consumer’s minds. On the same lines, Susannah Hart (1998)
identifies what according to her are key attributes of a brand name:

 

Any word, device (design, sound, shape or color), or
combination of these used to distinguish a seller’s good and services (2009)

A brand name is
therefore as Kerin et al opine:

2.2.2   Brand Name

 

A distinguishing name and/ or symbol
(such as logo, trademark, or package design) intended to identify the goods or
services of either one seller or a group of sellers, and to differentiate those
goods or services from those of competitors.

Meanwhile
Aaker (1991), defined a brand as

 

Cluster of functional and emotional
values that enables organizations to make a promise about a unique and welcomed
experience. (2011)

Chernatony,
McDonald, & Wallace, refer to a brand as a:

 

Brand is
said to be about building emotional relationship and its results from
favourable perceptions, associations, and satisfaction with the brand
experience at every touch points (2010)

Branding involves a whole process wherein distinctive
and durable perceptions are created in the minds of consumers. As
Fauziah Sh. Ahmad & Baharun opine:

 

Indeed, the
same authors argue that branding is a multidimensional platform which
may be employed to emphasise the company’s performance as opposed to that of
its competitors. Suhaini Binti Mat Daud
et al (2013) continue to argue
that branding has to take a dual approach based on the rational and
emotional connection to the consumers and the way in which their behaviour and
purchasing patterns will be affected.

 

Although branding is very often linked to
logos, tagline or even an advertising campaign, Suhaini
Binti Mat Daud et al (2013)
aptly point out that this is a very limited and narrow interpretation of the
branding.

2.2     Branding

 

One has to
identify how SMEs nowadays may use branding and social media within their
marketing campaign since as various authors such as  Salman Sheikh 2014 remark, SMEs very often do
not possess the required tools, including financial and human resources, to
embark upon a fully fledged traditional marketing campaign.

 

Small
and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a focal point in shaping enterprise
policy in the European
Union (EU). The European
Commission considers SMEs and
entrepreneurship as key to ensuring economic growth, innovation, job
creation, and social integration in the EU.

SMEs, that is
Small and Medium Enterprises are those enterprises wherein less than 250
employees are employed. The European Union identifies SMEs as the backbone of Europe’s
economy. This is quite understandably since it has been established by Eurostat
that around 99 % of all enterprises within the EU are actually SMEs which
provide employment to millions of persons within the EU Member States. Eurostat
(http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Statistics_on_small_and_medium-sized_enterprises)
states in fact that:

 

In order to fully
comprehend the importance of branding and marketing for SMEs, one necessarily
has to identify the importance of SMEs within the EU’s economy. This is also
the case of the Maltese economy where the country’s economy- even according to
official statistics issued annually by the National Statistics Office- show the
heavy dependence of our economy on SMEs.

2.1     Small and Medium
Enterprises (SMEs)

 

A customer – led company recognises that its only true assets are
satisfied customers. Without satisfied customers the balance sheet’s assets are
merely scrap. (2002)

This study will therefore be
focusing on how SMEs like Gozo Cottage view branding and the use of social
media for their marketing strategy within a super competitive market and a
globalised world. SMEs are nowadays able to reach the whole world through the
use of internet. However, it is of the essence that SMEs such as Gozo Cottage
focus on their customers’ needs since as Doyle holds:

 

Thus, SMEs have to identify the
shift from selling to marketing.

Selling tries to get the customer to want what the company has, marketing
on the other hand, tries to get the company to produce what the customer wants. (1960)

This is a very interesting exercise due to the
fact that various marketing strategies may be
employed by SMEs so as to reach and affect consumer behaviour. This is due to
the fact that as Levitt opines:

 

Gozo Cottage is an SME operating in the island
region of Gozo which is most often considered to be a peripherical zone
suffering from double insularity. The current study will be focusing upon
branding and social media as tools for marketing within SMEs and will take into
consideration the issues affecting SMEs like Gozo Cottage which are operating
in remote regions.

 

Chapter 2: Literature Review