Positioning strategies of international and multicultural-oriented service brands

Charles Blankson
Department of Marketing & Logistics, College of Business Administration, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA, and

Stavros P. Kalafatis
School of Marketing, Kingston University Business School, Kingston University, Kingston upon Thames, UK
Abstract Purpose – This article aims to examine positioning strategies of international and multicultural-oriented service brands. Design/methodology/approach – Following review of the literature and pilot study, three main populations (executives and experts, companies’ marketing communications, and the target group of consumers) were examined. The methodology concerned triangulation research involving face-toface long interviews, secondary data, content analysis and mail survey. Findings – The paper highlights that while no single positioning strategy is significant across the four card brands (Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Diners Club), “the brand name” positioning strategy appears to be the most preferred among Visa, MasterCard and Amex and not Diners Club. The findings also show that “top of the range” positioning strategy is favored among Amex and Diners Club card brands. However, “country of origin” positioning strategy is incompatible within the study setting. Research limitations/implications – Apart from the low response rate from survey of the general public, another limitation of this study is the concentration on a single sector of the services industry. The latter poses difficulties for generalization across all service brands. Practical implications – Service managers now have an insight into the positioning activities of the plastic card brand sector. These serve as building blocks and benchmarks for appreciating and operationalizing the concept of positioning – a research issue that is missing in the extant literature. Originality/value – This study is a step forward in the operationalization of the concept of positioning. The research also provides diagnosis of the congruence between management’s presumed positioning strategies, firm’s actual positioning practices and target group’s perceptions of the positioning strategies. Without such knowledge, managers cannot expect to choose the best competitive options to defend or enhance their positions in the market place. Keywords Product positioning, Credit cards, Research methods, United Kingdom, Services, Financial services Paper type Research paper

An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this issue.

Introduction
The literature review shows that since one of the objectives of offerings’ long-term competitive advantage stems from positioning activities (Porter, 1996; Hooley et al., 2001; Hooley and Greenley, 2005), and the fact that firm’s communications strategies emanate from positioning strategies (Seggev, 1982; Rossiter and Percy, 1997; Alden et al., 1999; Fill, 1999), then ceterasis perabis, the basis of evaluating the effectiveness of the offerings’ positions in the market place and justification for advertising spend ought to be the assessment of the desired positioning strategies being pursued. Moreover, despite the acknowledged commercial importance of services as valuable assets and sources of differentiation in marketing strategy (O’Cass and Grace, 2004), and the fact that positioning of offerings (e.g. service
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brands) is an important dimension in the creation of competitive advantages (Porter, 1996; Hooley et al., 2001; Hooley and Greenley, 2005), review of the literature reveals that empirically derived research aimed at the examination of positioning strategies employed by service brands appears to have received little attention from marketing researchers. Essentially, it is the intention of this research to examine the positioning strategies of international and multiculturaloriented service brands. Positioning is concerned with the attempt to modify the tangible characteristics and the intangible perceptions of a marketable offering in relation to the competition (Arnott, 1992; Arnott and Easingwood, 1994). Review of the literature uncovers several comments and definitions of positioning. However, Arnott’s (1994) definition appears to be comprehensive in that although it is conceptual, it has strategic implications and capable of being operationalized. The author writes that positioning is concerned with management’s attempt to modify the tangible characteristics
The authors thank the two anonymous JSM reviewers for their insight, constructive criticisms, and suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript. They are also grateful for the suggestions and helpful directions from the Editor. Received: November 2005 Revised: March 2006 Accepted: June 2006

Journal of Services Marketing 21/6 (2007) 435– 450 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0887-6045] [DOI 10.1108/08876040710818921]

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Journal of Services Marketing Volume 21 · Number 6 · 2007 · 435 –450

and the intangible perceptions of a marketable offering in relation to the competition. He formally defines positioning that: “. . .it is the deliberate, proactive, iterative process of defining, measuring, modifying, and monitoring consumer perceptions of a marketable offering . . . ” According to the author, the application of positioning involves certain related activities. These include defining the dimensions of a particular perceptual space that adequately represents the target audience’s perceptions; measuring objects locations within that space and modifying actual characteristics of the object and perceptions of the target audience via a marketing communications strategy. In other words, the process of positioning can be described as iterative and requires deliberate and proactive involvement of the marketer. The author’s comments appear to be explained in terms of consumer and managerial/organizational perspectives. In addition, it appears to be emanating from three key issues, namely, consumers, companies, and competitors. Using service brands as an illustration, Arnott’s (1993) comments on positioning are adapted for this study and are taken further by examining how positioning strategies are actually employed by service brand managers in the plastic card industry. For the purposes of this paper, Worthington’s (1990, 1992, 1994) description of plastic cards (i.e. credit cards and charge cards) (see Appendix 1) is adapted.

Background to the study
Over the years, much has been written in the area of service positioning (see for example, Lovelock, 1983; Easingwood and Mahajan, 1989; Dibb and Simkin, 1991; Fisher, 1991; Arnott, 1992, 1993, 1994; Young, 1993; Arnott and Easingwood, 1994; Javalgi et al., 1995; Kara et al., 1996). However, due to the special characteristics of services compared to physical goods, not only are services difficult for consumers to compare with competing services (Donnelly et al., 1985 cited in Walker et al., 1996) but they pose challenges in their positioning (Fisher, 1991; Zeithaml and Bitner, 1996; Bitner, 1997) by marketing managers. This assertion is evidenced in the work of Assael (1985) who states that: “positioning a service is more difficult than positioning a product because of the need to communicate vague and intangible benefits” There is also concern and apprehension among managers due to the absence of empirically-derived positioning strategies capable of serving as benchmarks in the positioning of offerings (Piercy, 1991, de Chernatony, 1994; Piercy, 2005). Research undertaken by Darley and Smith (1993) supports the above contention and concludes that, in positioning, tangible product attributes provide more favorable consumer response than intangible attributes (with similar importance and value). The authors claim that when equivalent tangible and intangible attributes are available for advertising positioning purposes, the former can often be expected to be more effective in affecting consumers’ perceptions than the latter. This is because in the case of intangible attributes advertising (i.e. services), consumers have no objective perceptual criterion and therefore in most cases, advertisers rely on consumers’ emotions. The issue of tangible and intangible attributes advertising is also taken up by Cutler and Javalgi (1993) whose research reveals that, advertisements of services, overall, contain more emotional appeals than product advertisements. The authors’ research show that in order to embark on positioning 436

strategies, there was a high proportion of advertisements which use emotion to improve the tangibility of services. According to the authors, other tactics used to increase tangibility of services were personalised headlines and the symbolic representation of the service. Ellis and Mosher (1993) claim that due to the issue of tangibility and intangibility: “. . .professional service firms are faced with considerations that are unique as compared to product marketers . . . ” Ellis and Mosher’s (1993) research, which involved accounting firms in the USA recommended that, in order to cope with the issue of positioning in services, a comprehensive positioning framework that influences each of the four characteristics of services (i.e. intangibility, inseparability, perishability and heterogeneity) through the application of the appropriate marketing tactics is imperative. Operationalizing the tangibilization of services has however been found to be problematic and not adequately taken on board by service managers (see Grove et al., 2002; Mittal, 2002). For instance, Mittal (2002) writes that in spite of creative approaches including: physical representation; performance documentation; performance episode; service consumption documentation; and service consumption episode (see also, George and Berry, 1981; Legg and Baker, 1987; Mittal, 1999) put forward in the academic services literature, it is hard to come by service brands that have embraced these approaches. Taking Mittal’s (2002) writing and Grove et al.’s (2002) research into account, we assert that the lack of interest and/or inaction on the part of services marketers to tangibilize their offerings may have to do with, first, the lack of documented empirically based normative guidelines/approaches and second, the absence of empirically based positioning strategies capable of being operationalized by service marketers (Blankson and Kalafatis, 2001, 2004). As noted earlier, it is important to mention that despite the suggestions for service managers to tangibilize their offerings in their marketing communications (Berry and Parasuraman, 1991; Day, 1992), a recent research undertaken by Grove et al. (2002) found that service communications lacked in tactics to tangibilize their offerings and that they have also overlooked an opportunity to establish integrated marketing communications. As asserted by Mittal (2002), in spite of the efficacy of approaches to tangibilize services put forward in the literature (Berry and Clark, 1986; Stafford, 1996, cited in Mittal, 2002), it is surprising to find that approaches seen in practice often fail to capture and communicate the core service benefit or at times, even make it worse (see Mittal, 2002). Several commentators however have claimed that despite the inherent differences between physical goods and services (Zeithaml and Bitner, 1996; Bitner, 1997), there are overlaps between services and physical goods (Baker, 1981; Levitt, 1981; Middleton, 1983) which means that there is no compelling reason to adopt different positioning strategies in services (see, Wyckham et al., 1975; Buttle, 1986). Against this background, writers including Shostack (1987), Arnott and Easingwood (1994), Bateson (1995) and Zeithaml and Bitner (1996) contend that competitive strategies can be followed if positioning decisions take into account issues related to the complexity and variability of the service(s) on offer. In other words, the contextual specifics of services must be taken into consideration when assessing/evaluating the employment of positioning strategies. Moreover, it is asserted that in view of the growing demand for accountability and justification for dollar advertising spend, it would be

Positioning strategies of service brands Charles Blankson and Stavros P. Kalafatis

Journal of Services Marketing Volume 21 · Number 6 · 2007 · 435 –450

incumbent on marketing managers and advertising executives to justify whether their positioning strategies actually appear in marketing communications (Rossiter and Percy, 1997); and whether the employment of positioning strategies have affected/impacted consumers’ perceptions. Following observation in the study setting, Visa, MasterCard, American Express (Amex) and Diners Club card brands (see Appendix 1) were conveniently chosen because not only are these card brands international and multicultural oriented but they appear to belong to two deferring spectrums in terms of their operation, branding and primary target audiences. Specifically, while Visa and MasterCard brands pursue the middle class and mass market, Amex and Diners Club card brands primarily aim their marketing and positioning efforts at the middle class and upper class markets. It is thus asserted that such research setting provided opportunity to study activities of service brands positioning in varied and competitive environment. The rationale for this study is that increases in personal income and wealth, trends towards globalization and development in information technology around the world have paved the way for increased global competition that in turn, has resulted in considerable innovation within the plastic card sector (Worthington, 1996) both nationally and globally. Therefore, as competition between existing organizations increases and new competitors enter the sector due to deregulation in the financial services industry (Leonard and Spence, 1991), coupled with the challenges in the positioning of service brands (Blankson and Kalafatis, 1999; de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2001), the whole subject of positioning in services industry is an important and timely research task.

Research aim and objectives
The basic aim of this research is to examine positioning strategies of international and multicultural-oriented service brands using the UK plastic card industry as a study setting. More specifically, the objectives of this study are to: . Determine the positioning strategies presumed to be pursued by executives and experts (presumed practice). . Determine the positioning strategies employed in card brands’ marketing communications (actual practice). . Determine the target group’s perceptions of positioning strategies (perceived practice).

importance of soliciting executives’ and experts’ opinions and perceptions about complex marketing knowledge. Moreover, using experts in business related research has been recognised by scholars as a valid way of obtaining consensus and developing a holistic appreciation of the relevant issues (Winkler, 1981). The formal definition of this population is marketing directors, marketing managers and product directors, in the case of executives. As for experts, this included advertising executives, senior research directors of plastic card and credit institutions, managers and partners in plastic card consultancy firms and academics with working experience and research interest in the UK plastic card industry. A combination of directories obtained from Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS), Credit Card Research Group (CCRG), The Scottish Electronic & Technology Group (SETG: a consortium involved in the organization of conferences in the plastic card sector), plastic card organizations’ annual reports and academic publications provided the sample frame for this population. The total number of executives and experts contacted was 48 and 33, respectively. Out of these, 40 executives and 23 experts were interviewed. Interviews with executives/experts were embarked upon on two fronts. First, face-to-face interviews involved open-ended questions and elicited executives’/experts’ statements describing their organizational positioning strategies. The interviews lasted between 45 minutes and one hour. Notes were taken supported by audio tape recording. Second, as part of the face-to-face interviews, they were presented with the eight adopted positioning strategies (see Table I) and requested to rate each of the strategies on a scale of 1-7, where 1 represented very irrelevant and 7 very relevant. We decided to adopt the typology of positioning strategies because not only is it generic (i.e. appropriate for services and goods) but it is consumer-generated. Three main reasons underpin our decision: 1 the call for consumer based positioning strategies by Hooley and Saunders (1993), Dibb et al. (1997) and Fill (1999); 2 criticisms levelled against extant conceptually driven and managerial oriented typologies of positioning strategies by Kalafatis et al. (1997, 2000); and Table I Typology of positioning strategies
Dimensions Items/statements Upper class, top of the range, status, prestigious, posh (five items) Impressive service, personal attention, consider people as important, friendly (four items) Reasonable price, value for money, affordability (three items) Durability, warranty, safety, reliability (four items) Good aesthetics, attractive, cool, elegant (four items) Patriotism, country of origin (two items) The name of the offering, leaders in the market, extra features, choice, wide range (five items) Discriminatory, selective, high principles (three items)

Research methodology
Population, sample frame and sampling method Three main populations were examined in this study in order to determine the positioning strategies and positioning efforts/ activities in the plastic card industry. These are: 1 executives and experts; 2 companies’ marketing communications; and 3 members of the general public (i.e. the target group of consumers). Executives and experts Executives of the selected plastic card brands and individuals considered as experts within the UK plastic card service industry were considered to represent the most appropriate sources of such information. Our rationale for seeking information from executives and experts is in line with Dalebout and Wierenga’s (1997) suggestions on the 437

1. Top of the range 2. Service 3. Value for money 4. Reliability 5. Attractiveness 6. Country of origin 7. The brand name 8. Selectivity

Sources: Based on Blankson and Kalafatis (2001, 2004)

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3

our assertion that the absence of consumer-derived empirically based typologies of positioning strategies may have caused the apparent difficulties in management’s effort to apply the concept of positioning (Piercy, 1991, de Chernatony, 1994; Piercy, 2005) and the apprehension about the concept of positioning exhibited by researchers (see Pollay, 1985; Arnott, 1993; Rigger, 1995).

Executives rated the strategies based on their own organizations while experts rated the strategies based on two card brands that they were most familiar with. The results of this exercise are presented in the “Discussion” and in Appendix 2 (Tables AIAXII). The sampling method was one of convenience and availability. It is worthy to note that while Visa and MasterCard (Credit card sector) are card schemes that are managed and operated by executives from banks and financial institutions, this is not the case for Amex and Diners Club (Charge card sector). The charge card sector does not operate under schemes. In other words, Amex and Diners Club manage their own card brands. Therefore in order to ensure uniformity in responses, data from the charge card sector were obtained from four executives, each, from Amex and Diners Club. The remainder is made up of experts (see Appendix 3). Companies’ marketing communications Concerning companies’ marketing communications, for the purposes of this research, all types of pictorial and worded advertisements (ads) of the selected plastic card brands appearing in the following media: television, newspapers and brochures, pamphlets, leaflets and outdoor, i.e. advertisements from billboards, railway stations, underground stations, bus shelters, bus sides, taxi sides, and companies’ premises windows were collected and then content analyzed. The latter procedure followed good practices suggested in the literature (Holsti, 1969; Kirk and Miller, 1986; Weber, 1990; Fay and Currier, 1994; FrankfortNachmias and Nachmias, 1996). More specifically, the frequency coding procedure, where 1 point is recorded on the appearance of each copy point of positioning strategy was utilized (Fay and Currier, 1994). Three types of reliability (stability, accuracy and reproducibility) and validity tests were employed and we are satisfied as to the reliability and validity of the detection of themes, i.e. copy points, and the coding scheme employed (Weber, 1990; Fay and Currier, 1994). Given the diversity of the communications media, a number of different sample frames were utilized. . Television ads. Following consultation with experts, the CTC – The Register Limited (a London-based organization which is a specialist in the recording of TV ads) and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Company were approached, who ultimately provided the data for a fee. . Newspaper ads. Archives from two specialist libraries, i.e. The British Library – Newspaper Library, Collindale, London – and the Kingston University Library were consulted. . Brochures, pamphlets, and leaflets. Following discussions with experts, executives and publicity managers of the chosen cards, it became apparent that suitable sampling frames for this communication were not available. Consequently, data collection involved actual collection of data, by the authors, from companies’ premises and in communication with marketing and product directors of the companies. To this end, several sets of internal company-developed sales promotions materials, posters and brochures carrying advertisements were obtained. 438

As for outdoors, in order to capture outdoor ads, the authors intentionally carried a camera and randomly took photographs of ads while they travelled on buses, taxis, trains, underground trains and during planned tours and sight seeing in the London area. These were collected at different times and locations during the week and at the weekend. In all, the total number of advertisements collected for content analysis was 319. The lack of appropriate sampling frame led us to adopt a convenience, non-probability sampling method for companies’ marketing communications. Members of the general public Members of the general public (target group of consumers) comprised all individuals who use plastic cards and are of preferably high literate background (see Spector, 1992; Oppenheim, 1992 for justification of this decision). The sample frame was the list of members of the United Kingdom Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) (see also, Hankinson and Cowking, 1997). Our sample selection is in line with Singhapakdi et al. (1995) who chose members of the American Marketing Association (AMA) to represent the general public. Moreover, within the context of positioning research, we draw support for the choice of our sample from Fletcher and Bowers (1991) who claimed that in positioning research, the important requirement is to conduct the research among people who already use the product or who are likely to use it. Additional support for the choice of this sample to represent consumers can be found in The Journal of Marketing’s “manuscript acceptance criteria” which states that:
. . . carefully chosen sample groups are preferred to haphazardly chosen subjects who have little knowledge of or relevance to the subject being studied . . . (Journal of Marketing, 1997).

In all, 1,000 CIM members were sent questionnaires. Following a second reminder of non-respondents, 357 questionnaires were received yielding an effective 35 per cent response rate. The choice of the sample was based on probability sample design and was drawn by CIM using a simple random sampling method (see also Hankinson and Cowking, 1997). Measurements As noted earlier, in view of the criticisms levelled against extant typologies of positioning strategies (Kalafatis et al., 1997, 2000), it was decided to adopt a newly developed and validated generic consumer derived typology of positioning strategies (see Blankson and Kalafatis, 2001, 2004). The latter served as the measurement for the examination/ detection of the employment of positioning strategies and is in line with Blankson (2004). The typology comprises eight factors that collectively are measured as summated scales of 30 items (see Table I). Excluding the qualitative part of the research (i.e. face-toface interviews), data were analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and was aimed at the assessment of measurement accuracy and examination of response patterns of positioning strategies of each card under examination. Justification for employing such an analytical approach on a dependent variable of binomial nature (in the case of communications) can be found in Cochran (1950) and Hsu and Feldt (1969). A 5 per cent level of significance has been adopted throughout. Good ness of fit tests (the null hypothesis being that replies followed a uniform distribution) was applied. Furthermore, the latter approach has successfully been employed in a

Positioning strategies of service brands Charles Blankson and Stavros P. Kalafatis

Journal of Services Marketing Volume 21 · Number 6 · 2007 · 435 –450

variety of studies addressing the issue of response rates in mail surveys (see for example Childers et al., 1980; Hornik, 1982; Hawes et al., 1987; Jobber, 1989). In cases where significant differences were detected, Scheffe’s multiple comparison tests were performed to data from experts/executives and the target group, while pairwise comparisons of the highest frequency with lower frequencies (until significant differences were detected) were performed for data related to communications.

Discussion
In order to simplify presentation of the results and for brevity due to limitations of journal space, it was decided to present only the summarized results. The full ANOVA results for the four card brands examined are placed in Appendix 2.

card follows mass marketing. Our assertion is encapsulated in a statement made by an executive that: “. . .we are geared towards the mass market . . . ” while another commented that: “. . .we aim to be financially profitable and secure market share as we are in the mature market . . . ”. This is based on the premise that while “Service” denotes the generic purpose of this card; “The brand name” indicates its clear differentiation/ identification by the market as a whole; “Value for money” and “Reliability” underline the card’s effort to be perceived as affordable, yet dependable to all segments. This is evidenced in the following comments made by an executive, “. . .I think a lot of people understand what the Visa Card is . . . ” “. . .the strength and our belief of our brand are so strong . . . ”. “. . .Visa Card is the market leader. . .it is a mature product in a mature market . . . ” Marketing communications Overall, i.e. across all media, “Service” and “The brand name” appear to be emphasized. In addition, it is worth noting that of the three media, TV is seen to be associated with multiple positioning strategies (see Table II). Furthermore, “The brand name” appears in all three media while “Service” appears in two media. As it is expected of a financial service company, “Service” denotes an issue of dutybound to customers, while “The brand name” projects aspects of differentiation about the card. These findings are considered to be consistent with comments made by the executives/experts interviewed and help to emphasise earlier conclusions. Target group’s perceptions “Reliability” and “The brand name” are the two dominant strategies perceived by the target group to be pursued by Visa Card (see Table II). The above two positioning strategies appear to underline aspects of dependability and exclusiveness/competitiveness perceived by the target group.

Visa Card
Positioning strategies Data from each of the populations were subjected to ANOVA with null hypotheses of no significant differences in the mean values associated with each of the eight strategies. For clarity of interpretation, a detailed explanation of the statistical tests applied and interpreted of the results is presented in this section and is implicit, i.e. not repeated, in the subsequent sections. A summary of the results is provided in Table II. For each of the columns, separate ANOVA tests were carried out and the relevant statistics are presented in the bottom cell of each column (e.g. for Executives’/Experts’ views ANOVA indicates rejection of the null hypothesis). In cases where the null hypothesis is rejected (i.e. evidence of significant differences between the positioning strategies), the data are subjected to multiple comparison tests. An “ *” is used to indicate those strategies which are in the subset associated with the highest values. Executives’ and experts’ views The results indicate significant differences (sig.¼0.000) with four strategies, i.e. “Service”, “Value for money”, “Reliability” and “The brand name” (see “ *”s), considered to be dominant in the positioning of Visa Card. Examination of the four positioning strategies appears to confirm that this Table II Positioning strategies: Visa card

MasterCard
Positioning strategies The results from ANOVA and subsequent multiple comparison tests are presented in Table III.

Positioning strategies Top of the range Service Value for money Reliability Attractive Country of origin The brand name Selectivity F-ratio df sig.

Executives’/experts’ views £ £ £

Other £

Populations Communications Print TV £ £ £ £

Overall £

Target group’s perceptions

£

£ 15.130 7,296 0.000

£ 10.556 7,248 0.000

£ 12.070 7,112 0.000

£ 17.406 7,464 0.006

£ 13.445 7,464 0.000

£ 45.571 7,701 0.000

Notes: “Other” refers to Brochures, Pamphlets, Leaflets, and Outdoors. Outdoors in this study denotes ads from billboards, bus shelters, bus sides, taxi sides, underground stations and promotional displays in organizations’ windows. The latter is implicit and it is not repeated for the rest of the card brands. An “ £ ” is used to indicate those strategies which are in the subset associated with the highest values

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Journal of Services Marketing Volume 21 · Number 6 · 2007 · 435 –450

Table III Positioning strategies: Mastercard
Populations Communications Print TV

Positioning strategies Top of the range Service Value for money Reliability Attractive Country of origin The brand name Selectivity F-ratio df sig.

Executives’/experts’ views £ £ £ £ £ £ £ 5.964 7,216 0.000

Other £

Overall £

Target group’s perceptions

£ £ £ £ 5.367 7,136 0.000 £ n/a £ £ 3.377 7,40 0.006 £ £ 6.032 7,200 0.000 £ 43.446 7,772 0.000

Notes: “Other” refers to Brochures, Pamphlets, Leaflets, and Outdoors. Outdoors in this study denotes ads from billboards, bus shelters, bus sides, taxi sides, underground stations and promotional displays in organizations’ windows. The latter is implicit and it is not repeated for the rest of the card brands. An “ £ ” is used to indicate those strategies which are in the subset associated with the highest values. n/a implies analysis not possible because only one strategy employed (see Appendix 2)

Executives’ and experts’ views From Table III, the analysis indicates that, with the exception of “Country of origin”, executives and experts consider all the other strategies as reflected in MasterCard’s positioning. This is considered to reflect MasterCard’s attempt to capture mass market (see also, Visa Card) and is viewed as consistent with the card’s universal acceptance and its relative market share. These are reflected in a statement made by an executive that: “. . .our aim on the positioning of MasterCard is to make it more acceptable internationally and in line with the Visa Card . . . ”. The latter is evidenced in comments made by another executive who noted that: “. . .we have actually linked our MasterCard and Visa Card brands and positioned them at the mass market . . . ”. Communications The results indicate some overall consistency with “The brand name” being the strategy pursued in all media and is similar to Visa Card. “Attractive” also appears to dominate two media (and overall). Explanation for “Service” and “The brand name” can be found in the debate concerning Visa Card. While the overall emphasis of “Service” appears to be through other media, this highlights the intensity of the latter strategy in “below the line” (i.e. brochures, pamphlets and leaflets) media (see Table III). As for “Attractive”, this underlines the appealing and likeable characteristics about MasterCard’s service and which is in support of remarks made by executives/experts interviewed. Target group’s perceptions Three strategies, i.e. “Value for money”, “Reliability”, and “The brand name” are perceived by the target group to be the dominant positioning strategies pursued by MasterCard (see Table III). The rationale behind perceptions related to “Value for money” and “Reliability” is considered to reflect the card’s effort to be perceived as providing affordable, yet dependable service. The latter is expected due to the card’s mass-market appeal. Furthermore, “The brand name” shows MasterCard’s differentiation characteristics. We believe that the foregoing is expected, due partly to the familiarity of the brand name and 440

the fact that consumers perceive MasterCard to be competitive, second only to Visa Card.

American Express Card (Amex)
Positioning strategies Data for each of the three populations were tested via ANOVA and a summary of the results is presented in Table IV. Executives’ and experts’ views From Table IV, one finds that in a similar way to MasterCard, executives and experts indicated a wide range of strategies being pursued by Amex. More specifically, six out of the eight strategies, i.e. “Top of the range”, “Service”, “Reliability”, “Attractive”, “The brand name” and “Selectivity”, were presumed to be pursued. Although it is unexpected that an exclusive card such as Amex follows six positioning strategies (i.e. diffused approach followed by a clearly defined card), in reality, the six strategies appear to be consistent with the card’s effort to be seen as the “top of the range”, dependable and well-known card. For example, “Top of the range”, “Attractive” and “Selectivity” positioning strategies have connotations of exclusivity. As was stated by an expert, “. . .Amex is profitable and at the upper end of the customer market and not for the mass market . . . ” Another expert commented that: “. . .Amex is a symbol of luxury and wealth. . .Amex is highly profitable and has respect from customers for their integrity . . . ”. Communications The results indicate considerable diversity in strategies pursued in media. Five main strategies are pursued in “Other”. Four are in TV while only one strategy, i.e. “The brand name”, is represented in print. In overall terms, “The brand name” appears to dominate communication (see Table IV). Considering overall communications, “The brand name” appears to indicate effort of well-established association of the card. In addition, it shows Amex as a brand name with an exclusive position with aspects of differentiation and competitiveness and as discussed earlier, is commensurate

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Journal of Services Marketing Volume 21 · Number 6 · 2007 · 435 –450

Table IV Positioning strategies: Amex
Populations Communications Print TV £ £ £

Positioning strategies Top of the range Service Value for money Reliability Attractive Country of origin The brand name Selectivity F-ratio df sig.

Executives’/experts’ views £ £ £ £ £ £ 12.006 7,144 0.000

Other £ £ £

Overall

Target group’s perceptions £

£ £ 4.857 7,32 0.001

£ 240.430 8,1015 0.000 £ 7.601 7,64 0.000

£ 171.510 8,1127 0.000

£ 64.567 7,779 0.000

Notes: “Other” refers to Brochures, Pamphlets, Leaflets, and Outdoors. Outdoors in this study denotes ads from billboards, bus shelters, bus sides, taxi sides, underground stations and promotional displays in organizations’ windows. The latter is implicit and it is not repeated for the rest of the card brands. An “ £ ” is used to indicate those strategies which are in the subset associated with the highest values

with the comments made in “Executives’ and experts’ view above. Target group’s perceptions Two strategies, i.e. “Top of the range” and “The brand name”, appear to dominate the target group’s perceptions of positioning activities of Amex. These results clearly are in line with the above debate and, once more, enforce the concept of exclusivity associated with this card.

Diners club
Positioning strategies Data collected from each population were subjected to ANOVA tests and a summary of the results is presented in Table V. Table V Positioning strategies: Diners Club card

Executives’ and experts’ views Table V reveals that two strategies, i.e. “Top of the range” and “Service”, are presumed by this population as dominant in the positioning of Diners Club Card. As is expected of a financial service company, “Service” positioning strategy is followed by Diners Club Card. Furthermore, with regard to “Top of the range” strategy, we can conclude that although the growth of this card is not impressive, the card is still viewed as exclusive. This stems from the fact that Diners Club Card was the first card in the UK and at the time was aimed at the executive target audience and those with high income (Worthington, 1990, 1992). Communication There seems to be some variation in the strategies appearing in the media. Nevertheless, “Top of the range”, “The brand name” and “Selectivity” are present in both overall and in two

Positioning strategies Top of the range Service Value for money Reliability Attractive Country of origin The Brand Name Selectivity F-ratio df sig.

Executives’/experts’ views £ £

Other £ £

Populations Communications Print TV £

Overall £

Target group’s perceptions £ £ £ £

£ £ 2.286 7,121 0.032 £ 3.429 7,8 0.053 N/a

£ £ £ 5.714 7,24 0.001 £ £ 7.143 7 0.000

£ £ 30.011 7,609 0.000

Notes: “Other” refers to Brochures, Pamphlets, Leaflets, and Outdoors. Outdoors in this study denotes ads from billboards, bus shelters, bus sides, taxi sides, underground stations and promotional displays in organizations’ windows. The latter is implicit and it is not repeated for the rest of the card brands. An “ £ ” is used to indicate those strategies which are in the subset associated with the highest values; n/a implies analysis not possible because only one strategy employed

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of the three media (see Table V). Following from the “Executives’ and experts’” views above, the pursuit of the four positioning strategies seems to be in accord with the explanation given above and consequently, we will not repeat it here. Target group’s perceptions From Table V, it is clear that there is evidence of multiple strategies with six of the eight appearing to be dominant. We conclude that it appears that the target group’s perception of six positioning strategies appear to emphasise the fact that, Diners Club Card is a “mass market” card brand. This revelation however seem to be incompatible with the views of executives/experts and what is employed in the media.

Conclusions, theoretical contributions and managerial implications
The purpose of the present research was to examine positioning strategies of international and multicultural oriented service brands. This study adds to the body of knowledge on the subject of international and multicultural oriented service brand positioning through empirical study. The findings have identified the positioning strategies employed by Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Diners Club card brands in the UK and, in the process, have determined the strategies: . presumed by executives/experts to be practiced; . actually practiced as exemplified in marketing communications; and . as perceived by the target group of consumers (see Tables II-V and Appendix 2). In view of the scant empirically based studies on service brand positioning, we believe that these findings are important for researchers interested in service brands and especially the plastic card industry. Our assertion is based on the view that since a defensible market position is considered to be one of the key components of marketing’s credibility or justification for marketing budgets and advertising spend (Rossiter and Percy, 1997; Hooley et al., 2001; Hooley and Greenley, 2005), without a proper diagnosis of the congruence between management’s presumed positioning strategies, firm’s actual positioning practices as seen in their marketing communications and target group’s perceptions of the positioning strategies, managers cannot expect to choose the best competitive options to defend or enhance their brand positions in the market place (Hooley and Greenley, 2005). A simple summary of the overall positioning strategies, i.e. overlapping, among the three populations employed by the four card brands is presented in Table VI. Table VI Summary of positioning strategies employed by service brands
Overall positioning strategies employed, i.e. overlapping, by executives/experts, marketing communications and target group Reliability and the brand name The brand name Top of the range and the brand name Top of the range and service

Card brand Visa MasterCard Amex Diners Club

Table VI indicates that no single positioning strategy is significant across the four card brands studied. However, “The brand name” strategy appears to be popular amongst three out of the four card brands (i.e. Visa, MasterCard and Amex). The latter portrays branding activities among the three card brands. This finding, which is in line with Grove et al. (2002), emphasizes that branding related strategies and tactics are crucial in the positioning of service brands (see also Park et al., 1986; de Chernatony, 1994). A further look at Table VI confirms that “Top of the range” is important in the charge card sector (see Appendix 2). Such result is consistent with charge card sector’s positioning activities that reside in the middle class and upper class markets. This is viewed as promoting desire for actualization of internal needs through the use of luxury service. Overall, with the exception of “Country of origin”, all other positioning strategies (see Appendix 2) are employed, but only to a degree. In the case of marketing communications – the channel of the application of positioning strategies, there appears to be an integrated effort, albeit patchy, in the pursuit of all the three forms of communication (other, print and TV) by the four card brands (see Tables II-V). A further examination of Tables II-V reveals that in many cases, congruence between executives’/experts’ presumptions, marketing communications effort and target group’s perception are weak. Such findings show ambiguities in the positioning deliberations in the study setting. The latter, however, may be akin to the well-documented challenges encountered in the positioning of service brands (see for example, Zeithaml and Bitner, 1996; Blankson and Kalafatis, 1999; de Chernatony, 1999; de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2001; O’Cass and Grace, 2004) and service marketers inaction regarding the tangibilization of their offerings (see Grove et al., 2002; Mittal, 2002). With regard to theoretical contributions, in response to the call by authors such as Pollay (1985), Arnott (1992) and Rigger (1995) regarding the need to further develop and refine the concept of positioning, this paper has attempted to examine the varying descriptions attributed to the concept and as a result has clarified the concept by suggesting a working definition of the concept (see Arnott, 1993). In addition, responding to the comments made by Yip (1997) that some of the positioning approaches in the literature are incomplete and therefore confusing and Ellis and Mosher’s (1993) suggestions for studies into the operationalization of positioning strategies, this research has tested a newly developed consumer generated typology of positioning strategies in the services industry. Furthermore, this study answers calls made by Porter (1985), Arnott and Easingwood (1994) and Rigger (1995) concerning the need for comprehensive empirical research in the field of strategic positioning in services industries. We believe that to some degree, this research has reacted to Hooley et al.’s (2001) request for methods to assess brands’ competitive positions and their implementation. As for managerial implications, we postulate that this research serves as an insight for marketing managers, brand managers and advertising executives who are involved with service brands and specifically in the plastic card industry. This study has attempted to respond to claims made by Johar and Sirgy (1989) that the proliferation of positioning models necessitates some attempt to guide marketing managers and marketing researchers as to how and when to use what positioning strategies. It is suggested that in view of the 442

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challenging market environment, managers should proactively emphasise the positioning strategies that they presume they are following in their marketing communications while ensuring that their efforts are consistent with perceptions of their target markets. This will curtail the ambiguity exhibited in the target group’s perceptions (see Tables II-V). For managers and advertising executives, due to the absence of guidelines and the resultant apprehension and difficulties encountered in the application of the concept of positioning (Pollay, 1985; Piercy, 1991; de Chernatony, 1994; Piercy, 2005), the present study provides them with descriptions of the basic “building blocks” (working definition, consumer derived typology and methodological approaches for assessing congruence in positioning activities) and benchmarks (see Tables II-VI) needed for the employment of positioning strategies. Managers and advertising executives who manage offerings/ brands in the middle class and mass markets may appreciate and adapt the findings put forward for Visa and MasterCard. On the other hand, those involved in the middle class and upper class markets should benchmark the strategies shown to be pursued by Amex and Diners Club. They may employ these strategies within the context of creating a mental image for the target audience through implied and tangible benefits of their service brands. More specifically, managers and advertising executives may use the strategies in above-the-line advertising tactics (e.g. television, print, radio, billboards and internet), below-the-line advertising tactics (pamphlets, leaflets, brochures, and point of sales) and public relations within the context of impacting target audiences’ perceptions and buying behaviours. Thus managers may pursue these strategies in marketing communications that reflect in one way or another the location, situations, castings, lighting, ´ style, decor, tone and words and phrases used in each commercial on television and radio and print advertisements or promotion (Rossiter and Percy, 1997; Fill, 1999).

in the qualitative descriptions of executives’/experts’ statements. We also acknowledge that this study deals with the aggregate behaviours of a selected number of service brands and more specifically, the plastic card sector. Thus the findings may be difficult for generalizations across all services brands. However, it is important to mention that due to the varied nature of services, the remit of this study has been to study positioning strategies/activities in a specific sector of the services industry, i.e. the plastic card sector, which has international and multicultural orientation. For future research directions, it may be worth exploring the adaptation of the present study in the context of a case study. A logical extension of this research may be its application in other industry sectors. In addition, in view of the international and multicultural underpinnings of the card brands, a replication and comparison in other countries is called for. The latter should be extended to compare two or more culturally diverse Western settings such as UK, USA, and Canada and Eastern countries including China, Japan and Middle East and African economies (e.g. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria).

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Inevitably, this study suffers from some limitations in that while this research’s results may be reflective of observation of positioning strategies in the UK service brand industry, it is fair to acknowledge that it is descriptive and reveals results, which must be considered as a preamble to a robust study aimed at providing normative guidelines/approaches for service marketers. Furthermore, while it is beyond the scope of this study, it may be ideal to embark on a longitudinal study with the aim of studying over time, the positioning strategies pursued by the card brands. Such data will provide rich information about the positioning activities over time and subsequently will enhance suggestions for normative guidelines. We acknowledge the weaknesses in the selection of the members of the Chartered Institute of Marketing to represent the general public. This sample portrays a highly educated section of the general public and consequently may be problematic for generalization. Notwithstanding, the rationale for selecting this sample has been influenced by Spector’s (1992) and Oppenheim’s (1992) suggestions for using consumers from literate background in complex attitude measurement studies. Apart from the low response rate from survey of the general public, another limitation of this research is the subjective analysis from in-depth face-to-face interviews with executives/ experts and the subsequent inductive reasoning that resulted

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Further reading
Ray, M.L. (1992), Advertising and Communication Management, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliff, NJ.

Appendix 1. Notes on two sectors of plastic card industry
.

.

Credit cards. There are two major credit card schemes operating in the UK; Visa and MasterCard. The two card schemes are international and multicultural in orientation and are operated locally by individual banks and financial institutions. It is important to note that in order to ensure uniformity in responses, data for Visa and MasterCard reflect the sample of executives from banks and financial institutions involved in this study in addition to experts (see Appendix 3). Charge cards. These cards are often referred to as travel and entertainment cards (T and E Cards) and unlike credit cards, essentially, do not provide any extended credit facility. Two main cards operate in the UK. American Express (Amex) and Diners Club are by nature of operation, international and multicultural. Unlike credit cards, charge cards are sole card of the companies, i.e. do not operate under schemes. Responses emanate from four executives from each card brand and the remainder is made up of experts.

Adapted from Worthington (1990, 1992, 1994).

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Appendix 2. Results of ANOVA tests on executives’ and experts’ presumptions, companies’ communications, and target group’s perceptions of positioning strategies for Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Diners Club card brands
Table AI Executives’ and experts’ presumed positioning strategies (ANOVA): Visa card
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Means 2.78 3.76 3.81 3.86 5.07 5.15 5.18 6.05 SD 2.01 1.80 1.88 1.94 1.42 1.65 1.65 0.83 Positioning strategies Country of origin Attractive Top of the range Selectivity Reliability Value for money Service The brand name 1 £ £ £ £ Subset for alpha 5 0.05 2 £ £ £ £ £ £ 3

£ £ £ £

Notes: £ indicates the results of the multiple comparison test groupings. This is implicit for the remaining card brands; F-ratio ¼ 15.130; df ¼ 7,296; sig. ¼ 0.000

Table AII Positioning strategies identified from companies communications: Visa card
Other Positioning strategies Top of the range Service Value for money Reliability Attractive Country of origin The brand name Selectivity Total number of ads examined No. 14 32 17 25 20 8 29 17 64 % 22 50 26 39 31 12 45 26 68 No. 0 8 7 5 2 1 15 2 24 Print Copy points from media TVa % No. 0 33 29 21 8 4 62 8 25 10 8 5 8 7 0 10 5 12 Overall No. 24 48 29 38 29 9 54 24 100 17.406 7 0.000 The brand name, Service

% 83 67 42 67 58 0 83 42 12

Results of ANOVA tests and identified positioning strategies F-ratio 10.556 df 70.000 sig. Service, The brand name

12.070 7 0.000 The brand name

4.564 7 0.000 Top of the range, The brand name, Service, Reliability, Attractive

Notes: a Barclaycard Visa; Percentages have been rounded off; Other: Brochures, Pamphlets, and Out-door; Print: Newspaper

Table AIII Target group’s perceptions of positioning strategies (ANOVA): Visa card
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Means 2.55 2.94 3.17 3.67 3.77 4.25 4.66 4.94 SD 1.15 0.93 1.06 1.12 1.29 1.42 1.31 0.96 Positioning strategies Country of origin Top of the range Attractive Selectivity Service Value for money Reliability The brand name 1 £ £ £ 2 Subsets for alpha 5 0.05 3 4 5

£ £ £

£ £ £

£ £

£ £

Notes: F-ratio ¼ 45.517; df ¼ 7,701; sig. ¼ 0.000

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Table AIV Executives’ and experts’ presumed positioning strategies (ANOVA): Mastercard
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Subsets for alpha 5 0.05 Means 3.10 3.67 3.75 3.85 4.53 4.89 5.00 5.17 SD 2.02 1.98 1.69 1.48 1.45 1.61 1.38 1.21 Positioning strategies Country of origin Selectivity Top of the range Attractive Service Value for money Reliability The brand name 1 £ £ £ £ £ 2 £ £ £ £ £ £ £

Notes: F-ratio ¼ 5.964; df ¼ 7,216; sig. ¼ 0.000

Table AV Positioning strategies from companies’ communications: Mastercard
Other Positioning strategies Top of the range Service Value for money Reliability Attractive Country of origin The brand name Selectivity Total number of ads examined No. 5 18 10 7 14 12 14 9 30 % 17 60 33 23 47 40 47 30 77 No. 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 Copy points from media Print TV % No. 0 0 0 0 0 0 67 0 8 1 3 0 3 6 2 4 3 10 Overall No. 6 21 10 10 20 14 20 12 43 6.032 7 0.000 Service, Attractive, The brand name

% 10 10 0 30 60 20 40 30 23

Results of ANOVA tests and identified positioning strategies 5.367 F-ratio df 7 sig. 0.000 Service, Attractive, The brand name

The brand name

3.377 7 0.006 Attractive, The brand name

Notes: Percentages have been rounded off; Other: Brochures, Pamphlets, Photos; Print: Newspaper

Table AVI Target group’s perceptions of positioning strategies (ANOVA): Mastercard
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Means 2.62 3.14 3.35 3.73 3.84 4.14 4.51 4.70 SD 1.23 1.07 1.00 0.95 1.05 0.76 1.02 1.24 Positioning strategies Country of origin Top of the range Attractive Selectivity Service The brand name Reliability Value for money 1 £ £ 2 £ £ Subsets for alpha 5 0.05 3 4 5

£ £ £

£ £ £

£ £ £

Notes: F-ratio ¼ 43.446; df ¼ 7,772; sig. ¼ 0.000

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Table VII Executives’ and experts’ presumed positioning strategies (ANOVA): Amex card
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Means 3.10 3.31 4.68 4.78 5.05 5.89 6.10 6.15 SD 1.62 2.02 1.70 1.68 1.43 0.80 0.73 1.42 Positioning strategies Value for money Country of origin Selectivity Reliability Attractive Service The brand name Top of the range 1 £ £ £ £ Subsets for alpha 5 0.05 2 £ £ £ £ 3

£ £ £ £ £ £

Note: F-ratio ¼ 12.006; df ¼ 7,144; sig. ¼ 0.000

Table AVIII Positioning strategies identified from companies’ communications: Amex card
Other Positioning strategies No. % No. 3 103 12 3 3 4 126 64 135 Top of the range 3 19 Service 5 31 Value for money 1 6 Reliability 4 25 Attractive 1 6 Country of origin 0 0 The brand name 5 31 Selectivity 3 19 Total number of ads examined 16 10 Results of ANOVA tests and identified positioning strategies 4.857 F-ratio df 7 sig. 0.001 Service, The brand name, Reliability, Top of the range, Selectivity Copy points from media Print TV % No. 2 76 9 2 2 3 93 47 83 9 6 2 7 5 0 4 9 12 Overall No. 15 114 15 14 9 4 135 76 163 171.510 8 0.000 The brand name

% 75 50 17 58 42 0 33 75 8

240.430 8 0.000 The brand name

7.601 70.000 Top of the range, Selectivity, Reliability, Service

Notes: Percentages have been rounded off; Other: Brochures, Pamphlets, Photos; Print: Newspaper

Table AIX Target group’s perceptions of positioning strategies (ANOVA): Amex card
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Means 2.25 2.94 3.85 4.02 4.51 4.51 4.82 5.23 SD 1.26 1.25 0.98 1.30 1.40 1.25 0.93 1.33 Positioning strategies Country of origin Value for money Selectivity Attractive Service Reliability The Brand Name Top of the range 1 £ £ £ £ Subset for alpha 5 0.05 2 3 4

£ £ £

£ £ £

£ £

Notes: F-ratio ¼ 64.567; df ¼ 7,779; sig. ¼ 0.000

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Positioning strategies of service brands Charles Blankson and Stavros P. Kalafatis

Journal of Services Marketing Volume 21 · Number 6 · 2007 · 435 –450

Table AX Executives’ and experts’ presumed positioning strategies (ANOVA): Diners Club Card
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Subset for alpha 5 0.05 Means 2.50 3.00 3.00 3.17 3.68 3.81 4.18 4.50 SD 1.93 1.59 1.54 1.59 1.92 2.00 1.90 1.78 Positioning strategies Country of origin Value for money Attractive The brand name Selectivity Reliability Service Top of the range 1 £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ 2

Notes: F-ratio ¼ 2.286; df ¼ 7,121; sig. ¼ 0.032

Table AXI Positioning strategies from companies communications: Diners Club Card
Other Positioning strategies No. % No. 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 5 Top of the range 2 100 Service 2 100 Value for money 0 0 Reliability 0 0 Attractive 1 50 Country of origin 0 0 The brand name 0 0 Selectivity 2 100 Total number of ads examined 2 28 Results of ANOVA tests and identified positioning strategies F-ratio 3.429 df 7 sig. 0.053 Top of the range, Service, Selectivity, Attractive Print Copy points from media TV % No. % 0 0 0 0 0 0 40 0 14 4 1 0 1 3 0 4 3 4 100 25 0 25 75 0 100 75 57 Overall No. 6 3 0 1 4 0 6 5 11

The brand name

5.714 7 0.001 Top of the range, The brand name, Attractive, Selectivity

7.143 7 0.000 Top of the range, The brand name, Selectivity

Notes: Percentages have been rounded off; Other: Brochures, Pamphlets, Photos; Print: Newspaper

Table AXII Target group’s perceptions of positioning strategies (ANOVA): Diners Club Card
Means for groups in homogeneous subsets Means 2.06 2.79 3.55 3.66 3.94 3.95 3.97 4.78 SD 1.12 1.26 1.43 1.18 1.44 1.29 1.20 1.59 Positioning strategies Country of origin Value for money Attractive Selectivity Service Reliability The brand name Top of the range 1 £ £ Subset for alpha 5 0.05 2 £ £ 3

£ £ £ £ £ £

Notes: F-ratio ¼ 30.011; df ¼ 7,609; sig. ¼ 0.000

449

Positioning strategies of service brands Charles Blankson and Stavros P. Kalafatis

Journal of Services Marketing Volume 21 · Number 6 · 2007 · 435 –450
. . . .

Appendix 3. List of organizations whose executives were interviewed
Visa . Abbey National . Alliance & Leicester Group . Barclays Bank . Barclaycard . General Motors (Vauxhall) . HSBC Bank . National Girobank . National Westminster Bank (Natwest) . The Royal Bank of Scotland . The Bank of Scotland . Halifax Building Society . Robert Fleming (through Save & Prosper Group) . TSB Bank . Ulster Bank . Visa International . Cooperative Bank Visa Centre . National & Provincial Building Society 2 MasterCard . Barclays Bank . Barclaycard . Clydesdale Bank . Lloyds Bank . HSBC Bank . Natwest . National Girobank . Robert Fleming (through Save & Prosper Group) . The Royal Bank of Scotland . TSB Bank . Cooperative Bank plc 3 American Express (Amex) 4 Diners Club List of institutions whose experts were interviewed: . Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS). . Credit Card Research Group (CCRG). . Retail Credit Group (RCG). . British Bankers Association (BBA). . Barclaycard Group. . G.E. Capital. . Association of British Insurers. . Visa International. . Chartered Institute of Bankers. . Association of British Credit Unions Ltd. 1

. . . .

Credit Insurance Association. Credit Protection Association. Consumer Credit Trade Association. Consumer Credit Association. Banking Insurance & Finance Union. The Scottish Electronics Technology Group (SETG). Staffordshire University. University of Stirling.

About the authors
Charles Blankson (PhD, Kingston University, UK) is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Associate Director of the New Product Development Scholars Program in the Department of Marketing & Logistics at the College of Business Administration, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA. Charles has teaching experience in the UK at Dunstable College, City University Business School, Roehampton Institute and Kingston University among others. More recently, he held tenure-track faculty positions at Grand Valley State University and Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus. His research interests include positioning and brand management, services marketing, small business marketing and international/multicultural marketing. He has published articles in the Journal of Advertising Research, Industrial Marketing Management, the Journal of Marketing Management, the Journal of Product & Brand Management, the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, the Journal of Strategic Marketing, the Service Industries Journal, and others. Charles is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: BlanksoC@unt.edu Stavros P. Kalafatis is Professor of Business Marketing at Kingston Business School, Kingston University. He obtained his doctorate form the University College of North Wales where he held a post before moving to Kingston University. Although his research is located within the broad domain of business marketing (specifically, channel design and management, relationship marketing, information exchange, organisational buying behaviour), segmentation, positioning and value creation are also areas of interest. His work has been published in a number of academic journals, including Industrial Marketing Management, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing, International Journal of Market Research, Journal of Advertising Research and Journal of Marketing Management.

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