Brand Orientation - Development of brands as strategic resources and protection against trademark degneration

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The aim of this study was to examine how an organisation’s approach to brands can, in the building up of a brand competence, prevent trademark degeneration and develop and protect brands as strategic resources. A line of argument is put forward for adopting a new corporate approach (mind-set) to brands. The starting-point is the concept of trademark degeneration (genericness), which is both the key and the gate to a range of fundamental questions related to brands.

Trademark degeneration means that a brand loses its distinctiveness, becoming instead a general term forming part of the language. Something happens in the process where values and meanings are created. Words such as dynamite, windsurfer, vespa, insulin and gramophone are examples of successful brands which have eventually degenerated (varies between countries). When a brand degenerates, it ceases to be the exclusive legal property of a certain company. Within the marketing and strategy theory, views are diverging and sometimes even conflicting as to whether the phenomenon of degeneration is a sign of success or a problem. I argue that it is a strategic problem. Ultimately it is a question of what the company wants to achieve by means of their brands, i.e. their aims and objectives. The mind-set prevailing within an organisation with regard to brands influences the preconditions for developing sustainable strategic resources in the form of brands.

The case studies deal with Tetra Pak (Tetra Brik), Nestlé (Nescafé), DuPont (Teflon) and Pharmacia & Upjohn (Nicorette). The investigation of these companies’ brand processes, brand strategies and trademark protection reveals that there is, or at least has been, "an intent to own the category". This mind-set within the organisations is an expression of their attempts to dominate their respective product categories by means of brands which are perceived in generic terms. This type of "categorising brands" has a twofold function; as brands and as generic terms. "Categorising brands" run the risk of becoming generic, and various strategies to prevent degeneration are identified based on the case studies. The most effective strategy is to develop a core value-based brand identity, giving the brands an emotional value as well as a symbolic meaning. This requires both brand competence and a brand oriented mind-set.

Brand competence is defined as the ability to create, develop and protect brands as strategic resources. Brand orientation is a mind-set that focuses the processes of the organisation on brands. The key brands of the company become a strategic platform.

A conceptual framework for the brand oriented company is introduced, bringing together, among other things, the concepts of brand equity and brand identity. The model reflects the semiotic process on which brand development is built. The integration of different legal, semantic and semiotic foundations creates bridges between marketing and resource based strategy theory.
Translated title of the contributionBrand Orientation - Development of brands as strategic resources and protection against trademark degneration
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Business Administration
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1997 Oct 3
Print ISBNs91-7966-439-3
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1997-10-03
Time: 11:00
Place: Carolinasalen, LUND

External reviewer(s)

Name: Lindqvist, Lars-Johan
Title: Prof.
Affiliation: the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Wasa, Finland


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration


  • brand competence
  • resource-based strategy
  • trademark protection
  • genericness
  • trademark degeneration
  • brand identity
  • Brand strategy
  • brand orientation
  • management
  • Företagsledning
  • Management of enterprises


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