Faculty Perception Of Branding
: A Multi-case Qualitative Study

  • James Pringle

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


This research explores through the lens of branding practices at universities how professionals in public sector spaces respond to the influence of corporate marketing practices. Specifically, this research addressed the question of how faculty perceive branding activities in higher education and their role in branding activities at the university. It also sought to understand the impact and influence of institutional attributes such as heritage and location on faculty perception of branding. The research was conducted at three Universities in Ontario Canada, which were selected based on differences in heritage and location. Marketing, organizational studies and higher education studies literature were combined highlighting the differences between product and service based marketing and the interplay between organizational identity, image and culture. My research revealed ambiguous and complex responses from faculty and highlighted the unique values and beliefs inherent in academic culture. While most faculty members appreciated the need for branding under current economic conditions, many perceived branding as representing the unwelcome encroachment of business ideology within the university which had the potential of eroding the university’s contribution to the public good. They also perceived branding as leading to changes in both the structure and culture of the university. Many faculty expressed concern that branding tended toward a claim to be everything to everyone resulting in significant gaps in authenticity; in other words between brand representations and actual practices. The findings raise questions about the applicability of existing theories of branding to higher education institutions and an academic service brand model is proposed that captures the complexity of academic responses to branding. The management implications arising from this thesis reveal that faculty members see branding as a complex balancing act combining multiple attributes and one that requires transparent communication, the cultivation of trust, accessible brand leadership and authenticity.
Date of Award10 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRajani Naidoo (Supervisor)


  • Branding
  • Higher Education
  • Faculty
  • Canada
  • Marketization

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