Brand new: A case of brand-led business start-up
Objectives: The literature on brand-led new business ventures is extremely scant (Merrilees, 2007). Typically entrepreneurs have a product or service concept that drives their enterprise development initiative. Corporate branding follows business establishment rather than leads it. This paper tells the story of an enterprise development that radically deviates from this conventional approach. It profiles a thriving New Zealand business that had its genesis in a corporate brand concept. The paper’s objective is to present this company’s unique corporate brand development approach and show how it provides a template for SME startup that could contribute greatly to their chances of long-term success. Prior Work: The concept of brand-led startup is largely absent from the SME startup literature. This business startup case study is unique and represents the only known empirical study of its sort. Approach: This study involved semi-structured interviews with internal and external stakeholder groups (e.g., business founders, customers and suppliers) of a highly successful brand-oriented New Zealand company in order to produce a comprehensive profile of its founders’ brand development strategy. The qualitative data from these interviews were used to develop a conceptual model of his development strategy This model was then contrasted with the most widely used models of business start-up and corporate branding referred to in the entrepreneurship literature. From this analysis implications of the emergent model for SME start-up were identified. Results: This paper presents Icebreaker’s corporate branding model which, while sharing features with Urde’s (2003) model, is distinguished in ways that have significant relevance for those starting SMEs. It positions ideology rather than market opportunity at the heart of the brand development process and shows how brand development can integrate all aspects of enterprise creation. In so doing it proposes a fundamental shift in thinking which enterprise development thinking. Implications: The model, by positioning a corporate branding ideology rather than market opportunity at the heart of entrepreneurship, represents a new way of thinking about enterprise development that encourages an integrated approach and gives new businesses advantages over their established competitors. Value: Firstly, this paper challenges conventional views of business start-up by revealing a distinctive business development model. In so doing, it makes a valuable contribution to both the corporate branding and SME startup literatures. Secondly, the model it presents promises to be a valuable template for guiding new businesses development in a way that leads to robust and competitive corporate brands.