2.1.6 Corporate brand image
It is imperative to understand the most important brand functions in B2B environments. McKinsey and MCM have performed an empirical survey of more than 750 deciders in 18 representative German business markets. Despite of the German impact the approach and general implications can be applied on international level. Apparently risk reduction is the most important brand function (45%), closely followed by information efficiency (41%). Image benefit will close the group with a minor 14% (Kotler & Pfoertsch, 2006:46-47). See figure 10.
Figure 10 Importance of brand functions in B2B versus B2C.
Brands reduce risk involved in the buying process and increase information efficiency for the purchase of (very) complex and capital intensive products. Image benefits become important as soon as the purchase involves publicly visible products and services. Initiating on the company level, image has been defined as "perceptions of an organization reflected in the associations held in consumer memory" (Keller 1993). The history of corporate image definition reveals convergence on a gestalt meaning, but one that omits corporate attributes and focuses exclusively on perceiver images (Ster et al., 2001) starts to appear – the transactional process. In this meaning, the process is developed between the brand stimulus and the consumer perceiver. Thus, it is hoped that any consumer starts its purchase process by evaluating the image of something or by remembering the old ones (mainly the positive ones). Therefore, corporate image, in the service marketing literature, was early identified as an important factor in the overall evaluation of the service and the company (Andreassen and Lindestad 1997; Grönroos 1984). Moreover, it is also one of the most important tools for diverging among competitors.
Customer satisfaction has a positive influence on corporate image. Based on the transaction driven nature of satisfaction experience, several writers claim that corporate image is a function of the cumulative effect of customer (dis)satisfaction (Fornell 1992, Johnson and Fornell 1991). It suggested that when more the customer is satisfied, more this affective aspect will create a positive corporate image in the customer cognitive system. In fact, corporate image is established and developed in the consumers' mind through communication and experience (Andreassen and Lindestad, 1997). As a practical terms, it could mean that a determinate degree satisfaction (e.g. with a fast attendance) could generate a positive corporate image.
The cross-sectional nature of national customer satisfaction data means that pre-purchase expectations are collected post purchase, or at the same time that satisfaction is measured. What is really being collected is a customer's perception of the company's or brand's corporate image. Moreover, this corporate image will have been affected by the customer's more recent consumption experiences, or customer satisfaction. The effect of satisfaction on corporate image reflects both the degree to which customers' purchase and consumption experiences enhance a product's or service provider's corporate image and the consistency of customers' experiences over time.