In this interview with Camersic-infos, André Serge Bikai, holder of a Master's degree in ICS, talks about the Effects of brand image on the acquisition of products and services in banking institutions in Cameroon.
Who are you ?
I am a brand manager, corporate communication and marketing strategist, statistical analyst, project developper, and legal counsellor who seeks to render enterprises more performant through the continous conceptualization of innovating practices in an evolving and fragmented market context. This led me to become a researcher in the science of information and communication as so many domains have contributed to the performance of enterprise however, as Alex Mucheilli stated in his systemic and constructivist view of the organization, « organizations seek for solutions from the science of information and communication, but don’t have the position of the science of information and communication concerning the phenomenon ».
My passion for understanding social phenomena and different ways of analysis also led me on the path of law studies. Disciplines are interconnected its important to be able to understand their contributions to the constitution of a scientific object. This enables the observation of the object in its complexity that is overlappings, interactions, discontinuities, continuities, gaps and not just the observation of the object as an isolated element.
Make an overview of your research
The topic of my research is « the effects of brand image on the acquisition of products and services in banking institutions in Cameroon ». Its first all important to understand that this the premises or starting block of a more profound study which aims at understand what brand image is in its complexity, its process of construction, valorization and scenarization. In other words we designate the analysis of the notion in all its manifestations.
The problem raised by this research is the insufficient or inexistant valorization of brand image by the banking institutions. The central question which guided this research is what does the public consider to be the brand image ? From here declined two secondary questions : what are the modalities that permits its social construction ? How does the brand image influence the construction of relations brand-consumer ?
The approach used is that of systemic constructivism in the sense of Alex Mucheilli while the theory mobilized is lodged within that of social representations more specifically the nuclear theory of social representation conceived by Jean Claude Abric but with the influence of other who theorized in the same domain notably Serge Moscovici and Sandra Jochevlovitch.
The objective of the research is to investigate the cause effect relationship between brand image and the acquisition processes. The cause effect relationship here isn’t perceived as linear relationship of causality but a total circular causality.
The interests of this research can be seen at 2 levels. At the theoretical level it aims at contributing to the autonomy of corporate communication by building a frame for an academic base curricula and thus reinforcing its specialization corpus. As communication appears to be a discipline stripped off of its autonomy and at the service of managerial sciences. Here the term is used to point at the reification of communication in organizations.
Practically, it aims at producing value. This value is seen through the contribution of performance and consequentially the creation of jobs within the domain. The more enterprises are competitive and develop themselves it creates the demand for specialized agents to accompany the enterprise in the sustainability of its activities in time and space. It is therefore, in the scope of going beyond what we will term here the « communication epidemic » which designates on the one hand blind transposition of theories and practices. On the other hand it coins the evolution of communication practices within the rigid wall of ready-made schemes.
We therefore advocate in this research for research based process which can clearly define methodological principles for the construction of corresponding logics between problems in their onthological sense and solutions-practices-processes which reflect the institutional positioning to meet the specific expectation of the targets and cultural referents.
Brand image is a notion that has benefited from exponential theorizations but a clear observation of the contributions from various disciplines has stripped it off its communicational and informational status due to the migration of mechanical views embedded in the marketing discipline as well as the psychological orientations uplifting cognitive and personification ideologies.
The major aspects of our research was to point out some obscure zones and also to bring the term as close as possible to its ethymological roots (IKON being the verbal expression of an almost invisible thing).
We initially started by making evident a gap, or what foucault terms discountinuities between theory and practices regarding the notion. Theoretically brand image points perception of consumers concerning an enterprise its product or services. Practically, it designates marketing attributions, associations with embedded meaning constructed by the organization.
Taking a keen look at the theoretical perspective brand image is seen as a purely mental or cognitive activity taking place in the mind of the consumer. To this we argue that image is first of all a form a discourse, brand image is therefore the brand discourse but a very particular one which entails a profound understanding of its phenomenological appearance.
A glance at the practical level demonstrates that marketers build associations that believe can capture the minds of their consumers which are lodged within seductive discursive constructs. However, anchoring on the epistemological roots of the science of information and communication, the communicational and informational product can’t be reified in the sociological sense that is imposing itself from the exterior and by constrain due to the fact that it is a cultural product.
In order to reduce the gap and based on our field work the brand image derived from the systemic and constructivist approach rendered account firstly of subjection or domination, direct or interiorized which characterizes manifestations of symbolic violence, habitus, and social reproduction. Secondly it also permitted to render account of emerging values, culture, structure, motivation, system of power as a collective process of creation of significance, of relations and identity.
From here the following proposition and deductions where made:
- Brand image forms a constructed whole on to which other processes from the interior and exterior converge (brand image as brand strategy and brand culture);
- Within the brand image system is constructed common reality, a communication of the subject by the subject modified by expectation of reciprocity;
- Within the brand image system is witnessed the bipolar crystallization or bilateralization of poles of production and reception;
- Brand image is a process of configuration and transfiguration in other it designates the way the different actors, publics, institutions, media construct sense and signification around and enterprise its products and services and how the sense and signification act on behaviours and attitudes to influence acquisition behaviour (Brand Image as process and function).
- Within the brand image system is constructed a common reality, a communication by the subject for the subject modified by expectations of reciprocity within a frame of constant reinvention and evolution.
This led to the deduction seen in our modelization and place reserved for our theoretical contribution that BIeff ∞ Px, and that the level of convergence and acquisitions are a function of Px, as Px conditions their emergence. This indicates a direct link between BIeff, the level of convergence and acquisition of products and services. Where BIeff = brand image effects and Px = level of proximity.
The acquisition act as a discourse informing on engagement can be seen as an expression of the level of convergence.
What are the main lessons that emerge from your research?
Firstly, through the rich theoretical corpus which is made evident, methodologically scholars should strive to understand scientific objects in their complexity, this means seeking to understand the specific contributions, overlapping and limits of each discipline concerning that object. This begins with reconstituting a historical frame of the phenomenological manifestation, its surface of appearence, and of circulation.
Here we designate logics and schemes that permit an object to exist at a certain period to disappear and reappear or even take up other forms.
Next these contributions should be able to produce value, that is at the same time contributing to the valorization of the discipline its by its inevitable importance within an academic base curriculum and next permit the openings at the professional level.
In our case we placed the bounderies between corporate communication and managerial science, and layed the premises for a theoretical frame work for brand image as a domain of corporate communication. This frame work began with its modelization, mathematical inductions which permit to measure the processes whether efficient or not, and a valorization process/approach as practical guide within organizations.
What difficulties have you encountered?
The main difficulties found in this research was the obtaining of information. Banking institutions evolve under bank secrecy acts which makes access to information extremely difficult. The banking context itself which is highly saturated and extremely competitive explains equally some sort of obstruction or balkanization in the transmission of information to the exterior.
After defending your dissertation, what are your ambitions?
My ambitions are to vulgarise my system of thought by participating to the elaboration of lectures in the domain, as well as permitting as many of our enterprises to access the methodological principles elaborated in the research to permit them to become more efficient and consequentially participating to development of our national economy. Lastly, I aim at extending the research to contribute to sustainable development in Cameroon. First by the identification of activities proper to our context, then the conceptualization of cooperation models of communication to ensure financing of the different activities, the adhesion of decentralizaed communities and implication of the state to create a real movement for sustainable development and eradication of poverty.
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