HCBE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship


Ramdas Chandra

Committee Member

Maria Petrescu

Committee Member

John Gironda


Branding and brand equity, both as theoretical constructs and as a critical part of applied marketing, have received considerable attention in the academic and practitioner literature. Brand equity, generally considered to be the differential in positive brand image and loyalty enjoyed by one brand as compared to that of a lesser known brand, is often attributed to the activities the firm undertakes to promote the brand and communicate its value or benefits. Branding activities, and the resulting brand equity, have been successfully employed by both consumer and industrial firms and those activities may range from those as conventional as television advertising to as esoteric as extreme sports sponsorships. However, brand equity among higher education providers, one of the nation’s largest and most impactful industries, has received far less attention than either consumer or industrial goods and services. Further, the branding activities in which higher education institutions engage, including those associated with business and economic development in their communities, has been neglected in the academic literature. Thus, this investigation seeks to determine the impact those economic development activities have on brand equity as it is perceived by selected stakeholders. Specifically, this research asks if economic development activities, such as incubators, faculty consulting, and entrepreneurial education influences the perceived brand equity of the institution, and if so, in what manner. Of specific interest are the brand equity dimensions of loyalty and image, and if the perceptions of these dimensions differ among types of university stakeholders. As with other brand equity research, brand image and loyalty may vary from segment to segment. This investigation is concerned with three types of stakeholders important to most, if not all, universities; economic development professionals, employers, and alumni. These segments are important in addressing the question of the influence economic development activities have on brand image in the higher education domain as each has the potential to have a profound impact on the success of the institution and its graduates. Employing a qualitative semi-structured interview methodology, to be followed by a two-round Delphi Study, the aim of this research is to address the gap in the literature regarding brand equity in the university domain. The interviews were conducted with sixteen participants representing the three segments. The participants were selected for their expertise in the relevant segment. The resulting interviews were transcribed and then coded to reveal relevant themes and to address the research questions. Subsequent to the interviews, a two-round Delphi study was conducted with the same participants with the aim of reaching expert consensus on the research issues. The research revealed that that four themes dominated the interviews. Functional themes are those that are tangible and applied; integration themes are those that cause the institution to become part of the community; presence themes suggest that simply by its presence in the community, absent of any overt or tangible activity, the university’s brand is impacted and finally, promotion themes suggest that the economic development activities under study have an influence on the brand equity on the institution. The study also discovered that there are differences between how the three segments perceived the activities in that, in most cases, each of the three tended to favor those activities that most closely align with their organizational and personal best interests. A somewhat surprising, and potentially important finding, was the role of students and faculty in the brand image of the university. Student internships were determined to be the most highly rated economic development activity with respect to perceived brand equity, and faculty participation in the community was also highly rated. In both cases, the value of these activities were perceived by the participants as being more important than other more expensive and complex activities such as incubators in the context of building brand equity. Given the lack of existing research in the relationships between business and economic development activities in which universities engage and the brand equity of the university, future research may benefit from continuing to explore this understudied domain in greater detail. As business schools become increasingly interested in experiential education, such as internships and corporate projects, both academic research and applied practice may benefit from a deeper understanding of how these practical and cost effective methods of building a university’s brand benefit the institution, its stakeholders and local communities.

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