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Brand orientation is a strategic approach observed in business that positions the brand at the centre of organisational processes and has been shown to improve marketing and financial performance. Two fundamental issues in the brand orientation literature are identified and explored in the context of SME’s. Namely (1) the assumption of the ‘presence or absence’ of brand orientation in some conceptualisations and (2) the circular relationship between being brand orientated and the characteristics of extant frameworks of brand orientation. A case study approach followed by abductive analysis was employed to investigate what characterises SME brand orientation enactment in ten small-sized wineries. The key finding of the research is the importance of a deliberate approach when orientating an organisation and its practices around the brand. This approach has been made explicit from the fundamental assumptions of brand orientation theory and is illustrated through three brand practices observed in SMEs: resource investment, communication and brand planning. It is argued that viewing brand orientation through a lens of deliberateness is critical to properly understand how a brand oriented strategy is enacted in organisations. It is also evident that despite the constraints discussed in the literature, SMEs can and do deliberately enact brand orientation.
The findings of this investigation have demonstrated that the degree to which SMEs are enacting brand orientation can be gauged by the deliberateness with which they pursue branding practices. The importance of being deliberate is evident in the literature, but the explicit consideration of deliberateness as a conduit between theory and strategic implementation has not been acknowledged until now. There are a number of scholars who have noted the need for a deliberate approach. For instance, in his seminal work Urde (1999, p. 123) argued ‘‘…the need for a deliberate approach to brands as strategic resources’’. Based on her qualitative examination of the charity sector Hankinson (2001, p. 235) found that ‘‘managing the brand actively and deliberately was a crucial step in co-ordinating brand activity for the charity and engaging others in the process’’ (Hankinson 2001, p. 235). More recently Gromark and Melin (2011, p. 395) stated ‘‘we want to emphasise that brand orientation requires a deliberate approach, since many organisations have an adhoc approach to brand building’’. These authors, along with the findings of this study, position deliberateness at the very foundation of brand orientation. An ‘‘adhoc approach to branding’’ does not lend itself to the organisation-wide coordination around a single brand identity required in enacting brand orientation. More authors still (e.g. Baumgarth 2010; Hankinson 2011) have been observed to hold an assumption of a deliberate strategy formation process (Mintzberg and Waters 1985) within the body of literature on brand orientation, without discussing the relevance of this assumption.