The relative influence of functional versus imagery beliefs on brand sensitivity in B2B professional services
Existing studies offer limited explanations regarding the determinants of business-to-business (B2B) brand sensitivity: the degree to which brand stimuli are actively considered during buyer deliberations. This research addresses this gap by comparing the relative influence of organizational buyers' functional versus imagery beliefs on brand outcomes in B2B professional service settings. Specifically, it compares the influence of buyers' perceived operational competence and prestige sensitivity on brand preference and brand sensitivity. Further, it evaluates the effect of brand sensitivity on brand importance and customer engagement, two particularly relevant outcomes in the B2B professional services setting. A qualitative pilot study was conducted to gain insight into the salient drivers of brand preference and brand sensitivity. Then, a survey of 324 CEOs and owner-managers of small and medium-sized firms was carried out to test the hypothesized model. The results confirm the importance of imagery beliefs in organizational buying decisions, but not at the expense of operational competence, a more fundamental functional belief.