Examining the drivers of employee brand
understanding: a longitudinal study
Escuela de Ciencias Econ
omicas y Empresariales, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City, Mexico, and
School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Purpose –The purpose of this study is to extend previous research by using a longitudinal design to examine the differential contribution of brand
understanding (BU) drivers at various moments in the early tenure of service employees. Employee BU is a prerequisite of brand promise delivery
among service employees. Previous studies, using cross-sectional samples, established that brand-oriented recruitment, training and leadership are
signiﬁcant BU drivers.
Design/methodology/approach –A three-wave survey was collected from a 105-member panel of recent hires at a restaurant cha in that
displayed a strong brand culture and adopted internal brand management (IBM) practices. Structural equation models with carry over effects were
estimated to measure the impact of BU drivers on Day 1, as well as at four and seven months of tenure. In addition, a latent growth model of BU
was estimated using random coefﬁcients modeling.
Findings –Results show a signiﬁcant positive effect of IBM practices on BU at each point in time; however, despite this, by the seven mont h
milestone, BU is still not fully developed.
Research limitations/implications –As with most organizational longitudinal studies, there was sample attrition because of the high turnover
that characterizes the restaurant industry. This attrition is not believed to be correlated with the variables measured in the study.
Practical implications –Managers seeking a differentiated customer experience should not assume new hires attain a good understanding of the
service brand even after the ﬁrst seven months of tenure. Hence, brand training and leadership should extend well beyond this time frame.
Originality/value –This study is the ﬁrst, as per the authors’understanding, to use a longitudinal design to model BU as a dynamic variable
because it beﬁts the learning trajectories of new employees.
Keywords Service employees, Internal brand management, Longitudinal design, Employee brand understanding
Paper type Research paper
In today’s hyper-competitive environment, fueled by informed
consumers, a strong brand is one of the few effective sources of
differentiation in service industries (O’Neill and Carlbäck, 2011;
Becerra et al.,2013;Sevel et al.,2018). To this end, marketers
have sought to inﬂuence what brands mean to customers through
strategic brand management. While traditional advertising and
other promotional initiatives aid in this process, interactions
between employees and customers for service brands (i.e.
personal service encounters) are also signiﬁcantly inﬂuential in
shaping customer brand perceptions (Sirianni et al.,2013).
However, unlike traditional brand management tools, the
inﬂuence of personal service encounters on customer perceptions
is difﬁcult to control given that the frontline employee brand
promise delivery is variable (Foster et al.,2010;Baker et al.,
2014). The service literature emphasizes the importance for
management to ensure employees have the training, resources
and personal attitudes that enable them to fulﬁll the promises that
the company makes to consumers through external marketing
(Berry and Lampo, 2004;Sirianniet al.,2013).
In pursuit of this goal, the literature on internal brand
management (IBM) has identiﬁed several practices that service
companies should adopt to ensure that their employees have the
knowledge and attitudes that will enable them to champion the
brand (Jacobs, 2003;Burmann and Zeplin, 2005;De
Chernatony et al., 2006;Chong, 2007). IBM research has
examined antecedents such as brand-oriented recruitment,
training, communication, leadership and brand-values ﬁt
(Vallaster and De Chernatony, 2005;Burmann et al., 2009;
King and Grace, 2009;Punjaisri and Wilson, 2011;Bakeret al.,
2014;Löhndorf and Diamantopoulos, 2014;Xiong and King,
2015;Tuominen et al.,2016), as well as employee outcomes
such as brand knowledge, brand commitment, brand
identiﬁcation, brand motivation and various forms of brand
citizenship behavior (Burmann et al., 2009;Kimpakorn and
Tocquer, 2009;Punjaisri and Wilson, 2011;Xiong and King,
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on
Emerald Insight at: www.emeraldinsight.com/1061-0421.htm
Journal of Product & Brand Management
28/7 (2019) 893–907
© Emerald Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421]
The support of Juan Pablo García, Cristina Macaya and Asociaci
Mexicana de Cultura, A.C. is gratefully acknowledged.
Received 4 September 2018
Revised 23 January 2019
30 March 2019
Accepted 5 April 2019