Branding and Positioning Strategies
In Industrial and B2B Markets in the Middle East or Africa, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 1 Aug 2021
Author: Charles Blankson
Industrial Marketing Management
Call for Papers
Branding and Positioning Strategies in Industrial and B2B Markets in the Middle East or Africa (MEA)
Deadline for submission: August 1, 2021
Overview and Purpose
The aim of the special issue is to develop knowledge and generate new insights and applications of the concepts of branding and positioning relevant to managers and scholars in industrial/B2B or business markets in the Middle East and Africa (MEA). This special issue builds on and extends researches published in Industrial Marketing Management in positioning strategies in industrial and B2B markets (see IMM vol. 81, 2019), industrial marketing strategy and B2B management by SMEs (IMM vol. 40, issue 3, 2011), and corporate image and reputation (IMM vol. 39, issue 5, 2010).
Positioning strategy is defined as the firm’s marketing activities geared toward positively adjusting the mind of the consumer via various marketing communication and promotion approaches and other marketing mix tactics with the view of convincing the consumer to prefer the firm’s offerings relative to those of competitors. In a sense, positioning strategy aims to differentiate the firm and/or its offering(s) in the mind of the consumer. The literature reveals several positioning strategies that can be pursued by the marketer. A recent research conducted by Blankson, Ketron, and Coffie (2017) found that Shoprite in Ghana employed “top of the range,” “service,” “value for money,” “reliability,” “attractiveness,” and “the brand name” positioning strategies at the Accra Mall in Accra. As well, Coffie and Owusu-Frimpong (2014) found that “service reliability,” “social responsibility,” and “branding” positioning strategies were popular in the Ghanaian services industry.
Even with the strongest of brands, firms are challenged to generate sufficient competitive advantages in order to remain competitive and superior among their rivals (Clancy and Trout, 2002; Porter, 2008). To achieve such competitive superiority, Matthyssens, Vandenbempt, and Weyns (2009) posit that in addition to a firm’s appealing offering(s), the firm must possess a distinct and difficult-to-imitate position in the minds of consumers (i.e., reflecting favorable perceptions) which complements its offering(s) (i.e., product(s), service(s), or brand(s). Consequently, the firm enters the domain of positioning—the act of designing the firm’s offering(s) and brand image to occupy a distinct place in the minds of the target market.
A well-communicated image should help establish a brand’s position, insulate the brand from competition and ultimately enhance the brand’s market performance. The latter impact underscores the importance of managing the image over time (see Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis, 1986). As noted by Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis (1986), any offering (i.e., product, service, brand) can be positioned.
One of the important assets that firms carry is the intangible value represented by its brand’s/brands’ purpose(s) that are acknowledged by consumers as in the case of Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Coca Cola, Toyota, BMW, Honeywell, etc. These brands capitalize on creating opportunities for positioning and growth (Orton-Jones, 2015).
Keller (2003) defines a brand as a product that adds other dimensions that differentiate it from other products and services designed to satisfy the same need. Kapferer (1992) writes that a brand exists when there is a certain perceived risk, and that without that risk, a brand would simply be the name of a product. Thus, a brand makes life simpler and less risky and is a source of value for the consumer.
An important step in the creation of brand value is the shaping of consumers’ perceptions, which is enabled by the firm’s employment of positioning strategies (Park, Jaworski and MacInnis, 1986; Porter, 2001; Blankson, 2016). Webster (1991) states that positioning is an important strategic concept developed in consumer marketing but equally applicable for industrial products and services. The author also argues that the firm’s value proposition is the firm’s unique way of delivering value to consumers.
The employment of positioning strategies thus paves the way for preference for a firm’s brands over competitors’ brands. Positioning strategy, therefore, is the antecedent to brand management and is subsequently the foundation of a brand’s position in the marketplace (Blankson, 2016; Blankson and Kalafatis, 2007). In other words, the result of successful positioning strategy is a distinctive brand image (i.e., mental picture) of the brand in consumers’ minds (see Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis, 1986). Therein lies the synergy between branding and the concept of positioning.
Webster (1991) states that positioning is an important strategic concept developed in consumer marketing but equally applicable and relevant for industrial products and services. While marketing scholars understand that positioning strategy and brand management individually lead to enhanced firm performance (Hooley, Piercy and Nicoulaud, 2012), the two seemingly independent concepts (i.e., positioning and branding) have a closer relationship than many scholars acknowledge (Fuchs and Diamantopoulos, 2010; Blankson, 2016). A broader understanding of the streams of research on contemporary issues and challenges in branding, brand management, and positioning will help scholars in expanding their research scope, comprehension and appreciation of the domain of branding and positioning, and practitioners in finding further applications. These fundamental components of marketing strategy are relevant in both domestic and international markets (Blankson, Ketron, and Coffie, 2017; Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra, 1999). As noted earlier, an important step in the creation of brand value is the shaping of customers’ perceptions, which is enabled by the firm’s employment of positioning strategies (Park, Jaworski and MacInnis, 1986; Kalafatis, Tsogas, and Blankson, 2000; Porter, 2001). But, positioning decisions are too important to be determined at a tactical level, yet this is the reality across much of industrial marketing (Bennion, 1987; Kalafatis, Tsogas, and Blankson, 2000; Penttinen and Palmer, 2007).
Unfortunately, the sales-led culture of many industrial businesses leads them to overlook the implications of positioning for the whole business leaving both scholars and practitioners with insufficient evidence of positioning and its influence. Further, an investigation into positioning in the business to business domain should pave way for scholars to understand the role of the concept of positioning in industrial and B2B marketing management. In addition, scholars will have greater insight into how businesses position themselves in the marketplace.
Despite the pivotal role played by positioning in consumer/B2C markets, positioning is not well understood and clearly requires further stream of studies (Bennion, 1987; Kalafatis, Tsogas, and Blankson, 2000; Penttinen and Palmer, 2007) to develop understanding in terms of theoretical development and managerial guidelines in industrial/B2B markets. As concluded by Kalafatis, Tsogas, and Blankson (2000), although there is clear indication of the relevance of positioning within the business domain, there is urgent need for research dealing with the topic. This is critical in that the image-led positioning strategies that are prevalent in consumer goods marketing do not translate well to the industrial marketing context. Notwithstanding this, what matters is that current and prospective customers see the merits in a firm’s positioning and that the firm links other brand strategies to the positioning strategies in order to deliver the “promise” implied by the positioning decision in a particular market (Hutt and Speh, 2007).
Although the Middle East and Africa (MEA) compare unfavorably with the rest of the world in terms of academic business research canon, researches in branding and positioning of firms in MEA continue to receive attention and interest (see Domzal and Unger, 1987; Melewar, Turnbull and Balabanis, 2000; Korkmaz and Messner, 2008; Adokou and Kyere-Diabour, 2017; Odoom, Narteh, and Boateng, 2017; Bonsu and Godefroit-Winkel, 2016; Coffie, 2016, Hinson, Madichie, and Ibrahim, 2012; Narteh et al., 2012). Still, these efforts are meager relative to North America, Europe, and Asia regions. Industrial and B2B opportunities in sectors such as telecommunications, construction, mining, manufacturing and services abound in MEA. With a growing middle class and expatriate populations, MEA is an attractive marketplace with enormous research potential.
Furthermore, it is critical to increase research in branding and positioning in view of the increasing collaboration between businesses in the Middle East and Africa and the subsequent growth and expansion of businesses – local and foreign (see Narteh et al., 2012; Blankson, Ketron, and Coffie, 2017) and competition among firms.
To that end, this Special Issue seeks manuscripts that draw on multiple methodologies including qualitative, quantitative, modelling, case study, or triangulation of methods. All manuscripts should have clear relevance to the Middle East or African marketplaces. As well, conceptual papers that focus on branding, brand management, brand positioning, product positioning, and positioning issues and links with firm market activities in the Middle East or Africa are welcome.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
Positioning or branding decision making approaches and/or employment of positioning strategies in MEA (i.e., Middle East or Africa).
Linking firm positioning or branding strategies/activities and relationship with target audiences’ perceptions in MEA.
Firm value propositions and positioning or branding strategies and outcomes in MEA.
Application of positioning or branding strategies and impact on firm performance in MEA.
Congruence between suppliers’ positioning or branding strategies, firms’ positioning/branding strategies and target audiences’ decision making (e.g., why target audiences buy) in MEA.
Evaluation of firm positioning initiatives and/or re-positioning and outcomes in MEA.
Relationship between market orientation and positioning or branding in MEA.
Firms’ characteristics and positioning or branding strategies in MEA.
Measuring – development and validation of scale measuring positioning or branding strategies in MEA.
Determinants and outcomes of positioning or branding capabilities in industrial/B2B in MEA.
Branding and positioning interface in industrial/B2B markets in MEA.
Case studies of how firms engage in branding, create brands or acquire positioning capabilities in industrial/B2B markets in MEA.
Employment of positioning strategies or branding strategies in SME within industrial/B2B markets in MEA.
How and why firms develop or adapt, or change their branding or positioning capabilities in MEA.
Marketing practices outcome following the employment of branding strategies or positioning strategies in MEA.
Positioning or branding activities of firms in the context of cross-cultural environment (e.g., Chinese firms in MEA; Indian firms in MEA; Western firms in MEA etc.).
Firm branding or positioning activities in the context of a cross-national Middle East or African environments (e.g., a comparison of Saudi Arabia and UAE; UAE and Oman; South Africa and Kenya; Zambia and Tanzania; Cameroon and Gabon; Ghana and Nigeria; Egypt and Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia; Senegal and Ivory Coast; Liberia and Sierra Leone; Uganda and Zimbabwe etc.).
Issues about firm ethical and/or CSR pursuits and branding or positioning strategies in MEA.
Other topics are also welcome as long as they relate with branding or positioning in industrial/B2B markets in MEA (i.e., Middle East or Africa). Papers submitted to Industrial Marketing Management should be explicit about the contribution to industrial/B2B marketing or business markets.
Manuscript Preparation and Submission
To submit a paper please visit the IMM editorial site at https://www.evise.com/profile/#/IMM/register. Please login, register as an author, and submit the paper as the site will instruct you. Submissions are now open until August 1, 2021. When you get to the step in the process that asks you for the type of paper, select SI: Branding and Positioning Strategies in MEA. All papers will be reviewed through the standard double-blind peer review process of IMM. In preparation of their manuscripts, authors are asked to follow the Author Guidelines closely. A guide for authors, sample articles and other relevant information for submitting papers are available at:
All queries about the special issue should be sent to the Guest Editors (see below).
Charles Blankson, Department of Marketing, Logistics and Operations Management, The G. Brint Ryan College of Business, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA, Charles.Blankson@unt.edu
Chris I. Enyinda, Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, College of Business Administration, Ajman University, Ajman, UAE, firstname.lastname@example.org
Akinola Fadahunsi, Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean, College of Business Administration, Ajman University, Ajman, UAE, email@example.com
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