The purpose of this article is to examine how brands are built in small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to develop a conceptual model of SME brand-building. The research design is based on an a priori conceptual framework that helped direct the fieldwork, data analysis and findings. A series of semi-structured interviews was conducted among 35 owner/managers from 30 firms. The results indicate that SME brands are built in a non-traditional manner and contrary to large firm brand building, with minimum brand planning and limited resources. SME brand-owner/managers and employees engage in brand exploration phases where they experiment in a spirit of trial and error based on risk-taking, commitment, creativity and willingness to learn. Based on these results, the article develops a model of the five phases of SME brand-building. The five-phase model represents an actionable framework for managers in an SME context. The model also presents scholars with a theoretical foundation upon which to construct further theory development.
- SME brand-building