Application of core values in the brand building processes in two higher educational institutions


Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Universities are involved in furious marketing especially branding competitions in recent decades to attract stakeholders’ funding by distinguishing themselves from others. However, the current situation of borrowing branding concepts and practical strategies from the commercial field in higher education institutes (HEIs) have caused concerns. Some may fear that HEIs have not integrated or involved proper values such as social responsibility, ethical perceptions, in marketing themselves. Nevertheless, in current literature, there is sparse study on branding strategies with some certain values or philosophies in the higher educational (HE) context. Hence, due to the scarcity of this research topic in literature and the difficulty to get access to HEI leaders, this study has filled the research gaps to explore the value-laden brand building processes at two HEIs in Hong Kong. Rather than a quantitative research with prescribed variables, inductive qualitative research methodology was adopted. For the purpose of focusing on more efficient research conduction process and on the generation of effective research results in a limited time, a conceptual framework was used as an auxiliary tool (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 1981). In addition, purposeful sampling was adopted to collect information from the most relevant and information-rich sites and participants. Furthermore, one-to-one interview was the primary data collection method since it was the most direct or straightforward way to explore philosophy or values oriented answers from interviewees, using semi-structured interview questions to limit the interview within the boundaries of the research topic, but inspire the interviewees to express their values, attitude, opinions or beliefs. These interview data were analyzed in two stages, within-case and cross-case analyses, with the grounded theory coding method from coding, categorizing, theming to conceptualizing thematic patterns into a new theoretical understanding of this study. The findings showed that there was no consistent institutional wide core value and brand definition at the HEIs, but they were diversified at different hierarchical levels and functional departments. Hence, core value-based branding strategies were applied at different hierarchical levels and departments. All these efforts were driven by a common dominant internal force, that is, some university mission concerning research, teaching or community service. Besides, there were also some pressures to compete among the academics regarding the governmental funding and academic reputations In general, to achieve some university mission, brand as a strategic instrument, was built with diversified core value-based branding strategies at different hierarchical levels and different functional departments. Consequently, recommendations were given based on this new understanding of applications of core values in the brand building processes to literature, practices or universities, postgraduate students, and policy makers. It is highly appreciated that my supervisors, Dr. Yu, Wai Mui, Christina and Professor Lo, Sing Kai have been encouraging and inspiring me in this research journey. While my doctorate study just started three years ago, Professor Lo, a so well-experienced researcher and supervisor, first led me to the research area which was closely related to my previous academic and practical background, marketing and organizational management so that I could switch my role from a manager in a commercial company to a student very quickly and consequently immersed in and fell in love with the research journey till now. And one year later, Dr. Yu, Wai Mui, Christina was assigned as my supervisor by the institute, who is a great teacher and researcher with a problem based and instructional teaching approaches from an inclusive perspective embedded in the way of supervising this research process in which I could experience a joyful research life with freedom of choosing the research topic and everything but critical and constructive comments and guidance always appear in the key moments, either driving me back to the right track focusing on the topic or forth to the further steps during the research conducting processes. Many thanks go, also, to the interviewees, the leaders in the two universities, who have taken time out of their busy schedule to answer all my questions with frank information throughout the whole interview processes, which provides the key support for the formation of this thesis. Thanks also go to my critical friends who have supported, encouraged, and accompanied me over the past three years. They took time to listen to my ideas and generously shared their insights as well as recommended relevant updated academic articles and books to me. And these generous supportive friends have helped me in both of my academic and personal life. Furthermore, I wish to thank all of the other friends who have accompanied me in this research journey. I am very fortunate to have parents who love and support me with selflessness but only inspirations all the time. On the other hand, their honest, diligent and warm-hearted attitudes and behaviors driving their life and work have been being constantly injected to me in this research journey leading to my further character building and spiritual growing. Finally, thanks to God who is the only one being with me all the time even in the night time. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • YU, Wai Mui, Christina 姚偉梅, Supervisor
  • LO, Sing Kai 盧成皆, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Universities and colleges
  • Hong Kong
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 2013


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