Brand building in software SMEs:
an empirical study
Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Espoo, Finland
Department of Marketing, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, and
Department of Marketing, Turku School of Economics and Business Administration, Turku, Finland
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to increase the knowledge of brand building in software SMEs.
Design/methodology/approach – The empirical method used is a multi-case study. Data were collected from 20 companies in the software industry
through in-depth interviews. The data were analyzed using systematic coding and categorization of qualitative evidence.
Findings – The study identiﬁed ﬁve special characteristics of brand building in software SMEs, relating to goals and perceived beneﬁts of brand
building; resources in brand building; external and internal cooperation in brand building; means and communication in brand building; and the process
of product brand building and its connection to software product development.
Research limitations/implications – The scientiﬁc contribution of this empirical study relates to two aspects of brand management: branding in
software business and branding in SMEs. A vast amount of literature exists on “brands”, “software business” and “SMEs”, but there is very little on
“branding in software business” or “branding in SMEs”. Unarguably, there are two signiﬁcant knowledge gaps in the literature, and they relate to
branding in software and SME industries. Both theoretical and managerial knowledge is needed. This study corresponds to this need by increasing the
knowledge of brand building in software SMEs with an empirical study. The present study is characterized by the general limitations of a case study. The
results lack statistical reliability, they apply primarily in the case companies examined, and no direct generalizations should be made without further
Practical implications – Directors of SMEs often think that branding is just for big companies, but small companies with limited resources can brand
their products and services as well. However, the means of branding are often different. The present study encourages SMEs to systematically think of
the potential advantages of branding for their business, and develop creative, targeted, and affordable approaches for brand building.
Originality/value – The present empirical study makes an original contribution to the literature by increasing the knowledge of branding in the
context of both SMEs and software business.
Keywords Brands, Brand management, Small to medium-sized enterprises, Computer software, Communication technologies
Paper type Research paper
An executive summary for managers and executive
readers can be found at the end of this article.
Building strong brands has become an important issue for
many organizations since it yields a number of marketing
advantages and increases companies’ competitive strength
(Hoefﬂer and Keller, 2002). Brand management faces several
challenges and opportunities (Schocker et al., 1994):
globalization and greater openness of markets;
the impact of technological change;
the increased power of distributors; and
the evolution of channels.
In addition, different interest groups like investors set also
high expectations for the development of brand equity. The
purpose of this empirical study is to increase the knowledge of
brand management in software SMEs.
The discourse of brand management has its roots in the
large-scale consumer goods sector (de Chernatony et al.,
2003), but very little knowledge can be found on brand
building in the software business or SMEs. This is surprising
considering the important role of both SMEs and the software
industry. The literature refers to the meaning of creating
brand equity along the new product development process
(e.g. Ambler and Styles, 1997), but not in the context of
SMEs or the software business. One reason behind this might
be that the logic of software product development and
operations in those organizations have traditionally been
dominated by technology and engineering, and the marketing
approach has been sidelined.
Our aim is not to delimit the analysis to line/product
branding or corporate branding only. Thus, we are not
making a “black and white distinction” between software
product branding and software corporate branding. This is
because in software SMEs the two levels of branding are often
inseparable. Thus, we can form a richer description by
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Journal of Product & Brand Management
17/2 (2008) 92 –107
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421]