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2.3 Brand Co-creation

2.3.3 Academic focus on media brand co-creation

The media industry provides a rich and interesting landscape in which to further knowledge around brand co-creation, as creative output (the bedrock of the media industry) is increasingly involving a greater array of stakeholders (Banks and Deuze 2009; Deuze 2009; Napoli 2011; Malmelin and Villi 2017). As audiences and other stakeholders become more involved in content ideas, production and distribution, their role in the management of media brands needs to be better understood (Rohn 2018).

“While being increasingly acknowledged in the fields of marketing and consumer research, research in media branding currently lags behind in applying these insights.” (Ots and Hartmann 2015, pg. 225)

The networks of creativity, involving audiences and multiple partners, are expanding in size and complexity (Deuze 2011) and with these changes major challenges are now being faced by media brand managers as they have an array of stakeholders wanting to engage in co-creation. Ironically, although reliant on creative content, historically media companies have been reluctant to open themselves up to consumers and instead have viewed them with caution (Domingo, Quandt and Heinonen 2008; Singer, Domingo, Heinonen, Hermida, Paulussen, Quandt, Reich and Vujnovic 2011; Wikström 2014). Consumers have been considered either a source of content production (making videos, making advertisements etc) (Berthon, Pitt and Campbell 2008) or as commentators of existing content, not yet as equal participants in a process of brand co-creation (Domingo et al. 2008). As has already been discussed earlier in this chapter, the traditional role of producer-consumer has disappeared, and what that means within the media industry is still not fully

understood. Napoli (2011) argues that co-creation redefines what audiences mean to

79 media organisations, and media brand management needs to change amid this influential evolution of consumers. The importance of this topic and a need for an ongoing research focus is twofold. Firstly, the influence this has on media brand management models and operations is acute as they will need to evolve so that media organisations stay in touch with and attentive to their audiences. This will enable the value generated as a result of co-creation to be fully harnessed (Jenkins, Ford and Green 2013). Secondly, co-creation also has an impact on working

practices and the equality of workers (Hesmondhalgh 2015; Malmelin and Villi 2017) with questions being raised as to the contributing labour of audiences in co-creation and the reputation and security of professional media employees. Critical insights question the involvement of audiences in areas such as television (Van Es 2016) and in journalism (Villi and Jung 2015; Krebs and Lischka 2017). Media brand managers are reliant on media management scholars to explain the changing consumer and stakeholder dynamics and to provide them with understanding as to how to adapt media brand practices which allow media brands to thrive in this changing media environment. Recent evidence suggests that greater academic attention is being directed to media brand co-creation (Malmelin and Villi 2017) with some, yet still limited, academic understanding (Wikström 2014; Chan-Olmsted and Shay 2015;

Bange et al. 2020) of how and why users are negotiating and co-constructing their own meanings around brands and to what that may mean to media brand managers.

However, research to date is largely of a conceptual nature with a focus on case studies. Empirical research across media organisations with consideration from the brand management perspective is still lacking. Examples from across the media industry are indicating a more participatory environment. For example, audience involvement, specifically in the on-going communication and interaction with each

80 other via Tweets and memes, has been largely attributed to the success of

LoveIsland, the surprise breakout TV winner in summer 2017 (Summit 2017). And in UK radio, BBC Radio 1 and Radio Xtra opened up their studios to audiences, giving listeners and the radio stations opportunity to create together new radio content, in their ‘Access all Areas’ initiative (BBC 2014). From the academic perspective

examples can be seen in a few case studies which focus on the participatory nature of audiences with media brands. These include: the use of social media to engage consumers in conversation and expression of opinion about the brand

(Christodoulides 2009); involvement of audiences in creative processes such as in the shaping of plots (Aris and Bughin 2009); consideration of an independent music company involving audiences in the creation, production and marketing of music (Wikström 2014); and active participation in the creation of branded content and the direction of the format and content within magazines (Malmelin and Villi 2017; Bange et al. 2020)..

Brand co-creation as a term has begun to filter into media management research (Wikström 2014; Malmelin and Villi 2017), yet work has mainly been of a descriptive nature, lacking theoretical consideration.

A key insight that has emerged from existing research is that brand meaning is no longer based just on the consumption of media content and the communication messages around it, but rather the users views and opinions of a brand may be co- created through the multiple “touch-points”, where they can interact and experience the brand and negotiate the meaning themselves and with others (Bange et al.

2020). Currently, brand co-creation examples and influence on brand management practices are more prevalent from outside the media industry (Ind and Schmidt 2019)

81 with a number of case studies (Yin 2009) on organisations such as Apple store and its app developers; Lego and its LabView interface and Adult fans of Lego (AFOL);

Local Motors custom car company; Starbucks( Sawhney, Veron and Prandelli 2005;

Chesbrough 2006; Nambisan and Nambisan 2008; Lafley and Charan 2008; Libert, Wind and Fenley 2015; Kazadi, Lievens and Mahr 2016). This highlights the

opportunities present in exploring the media industry in greater depth. How brand management responds must be considered as it is increasingly evident that consumers are increasingly influencing the creation of media brand associations (Chan-Olmsted 2011; Napoli 2011). Many media organisations are still not aware or fully committed to co-creating their brands, with current research indicating that this reflects uncertainty about co-creation and how to build a commercial case for it (Ind and Schmidt 2019). Although brand co-creation has received some academic interest in media management research there is incompleteness of this knowledge which is not surprising in a field where branding itself as a concept is a relative newcomer. It is evident therefore that the discourse of co-creation within branding has led to a rich field of inquiry (Ind, Iglesias and Markovic 2017; Beverland 2018) yet still requiring more knowledge.

To conclude, brand co-creation and its impact on the brand management of brand identity in the media industry is an evolving research area which needs advancing (Rohn 2018). Extending knowledge within the dynamic media industry around the strategic imperative of brand management and how co-creation is impacting upon that will provide additional insight that is currently lacking (Chan-Olmsted and Shay 2015). Although current literature adds to our knowledge, it also highlights the gaps in understanding this evolving media brand discourse. In addition, there is limited empirical work done in the area of media brand co-creation, with research currently

82 being mainly conceptual in nature (Ind et al. 2017). Current research suggests that many media organisations are uncertain how to operate within this new remit and can be caught off guard by the speed and ferocity of the stakeholder voice. However it is widely supported (Fisher and Smith 2011) that while conventional branding models focus on locking in on brand essence that is singular, easily repeatable, and then integrated consistently across communication channels, a media brand would be able to be more things for more people if a different model were used that allows a media brand to be more flexible. Although this viewpoint appears at odds with the need for consistent differentiation of a brand, it could be argued that a media brand could do this without losing its own identity, if the structure of developing, creating and managing a media brand is built correctly.