Family Business as a “Brand”

A brand gives a target group a “brand promise” which is associated with reliable orientation and an assurance of quality. With family enterprises in particular, it is often the name of the family itself which becomes established as a distinctive brand over the years. At the beginning of 2008, this question was investigated in a collaborative study involving Prof. Dr. Peter Kruse and Dipl.-Psych. Andreas Greve of “Nextpractice”, bremen.

An investigation into the question of which properties are generally attributed to a company and how family enterprises are perceived as a brand in this context gave rise to the following result: regardless of whether family enterprise or publicly owned company, one third of those surveyed primarily attach importance to sustainability, ethical behaviour and the exercise of social responsibility. Family enterprises are perceived as being especially close to respondents’ personal ideals. Large- scale enterprises in family ownership are also fairly closely associated with these positive aspects. However, publicly-owned companies tend to be seen in a contrasting light: they do not correspond either to personal values or to images of the ideal employer/entrepreneur.

Though it is the publicly-owned companies (i . e . those companies which are not seen to be consistent with personal values) that are thought to be most capable of tackling “Globalisation as a challenge”, large-scale family enterprises are nonetheless rated as having a similar level of expertise as publicly-owned companies in this area. So large family enterprises in particular benefit from the fact that the term “family enterprise” nowadays has the quality of a brand – associated with stability, employee orientation and loyalty to a location. This particular investment of trust – together with a belief in the capacity to be able to operate internationally – can be a great competitive advantage.

A follow-up study in 2010 looked into the question of whether and to what extent these assessments remained stable during the financial crisis. Here, family enterprises were able to confirm their image as guarantors of entrepreneurial values. They continued to be regarded by the population at large as the type of company which is most likely to represent the “human face of business” (Christa Thoben)