Nancy J. Sirianni, Arizona State University
Mary Jo Bitner, Arizona State University
Stephen W. Brown, Arizona State University
Naomi Mandel, Arizona State University

We examine how service brand positioning and brand equity are impacted by personal interactions between employees and consumers through branded customer service, which refers to the strategic alignment of consumers’ service experiences with brand promises.

In a series of experiments, we demonstrate that aligning employee behavior with the brand personality positively influences brand equity and we identify consumers’ perceptions of brand authenticity as the underlying explanation. Results indicate that employees’ brand-aligned behavior is most influential in shaping unfamiliar brands’ equity when these brands perform successfully, and conversely, most influential in shaping familiar brands’ equity when these brands fail consumers. We also find that the believability of employees’ brand-aligned performances is important to consumers.

Our results have implications for the recruitment of frontline staff that credibly fit with the brand personality, as well as the design of internal marketing programs that can help brand managers strategically position service brands from the inside out.


This article is published in Journal of Marketing, November 2013, pp. 108-123.