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2.3 Brand Co-creation

2.3.2 Contemporary debates in brand co-creation


61 points connecting consumer to consumer and between stakeholders and the brand (Ind 2014).

The internet changed the typical mode of development and delivery of a brand and its messages. Organisations such as Apple, Google and Facebook pushed forward technology and created digital platforms to provide an ecosystem of digital

connectivity (Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2013). These all fostered a co-creative environment. Consumers have embraced this new ability for rapid, easy interaction enabling them to have influence at different parts of the branding process, on their terms.

Recent advances in communication technologies have radically altered the flow of ideas and information, by decentralising it from brand owners and creating an open flow of conversation. Continuing technological advances are likely to facilitate further opportunities for brand co-creation. As the digital environment moves forwards from the ‘static’ (1.0) platforms, through to the ‘interactive’ (2.0) and to the ‘collaborative’

(3.0), and with advances in the likes of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), cloud based mobile technology and web 4.0, then the opportunities for innovative brand co-creation experiences are apparent (Ramaswamy 2019).

The internet has had such a profound impact on media branding that many media brands are still coming to terms with how to operate in this new consumer

empowered, digitally savvy world (Cova and White 2010; Hutton and Fosdick 2011;

Quinton 2013). With web 2.0, 3.0 and on to 4.0 (Evans 2011) consumers and users have at their fingertips information, opinion, and access to both other people and media brands in an unprecedented way:


‘’Arguably the most significant impact of digitalization from the consumer

perspective has been the level of interaction possible between consumers and businesses and with other consumers as a result of adopting the internet‘’

(Quinton and Simkin 2017, p. 463).

Innovations in technology are a starting point for understanding the increase in media brand co-creation, as not only are technological advances enabling and facilitating new ways of engagement but they are changing the perspective of how consumers see themselves in the collaboration around media brands (Fisher and Smith 2011).

When this technological innovation was combined with the social drivers (led initially by younger age groups) to engage in an online environment, removing the barriers of geographic and social mobility (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010) this led to a new type of consumer. Consumers now want to interact with firms and thereby co-create value.

The term ‘hommo connectus’, attempts to define this new breed of consumer.

“Homo Connectus is always on, seeking to know what’s going on and what’s in, catching up on the latest news and updates. They are versatile,

chameleonic, tech-savvy, information junkies, juggling several tasks at the same time, so their attention is fragmented’’ (Llamas and Belk 2012, p.5).

They expect to interact and actively participate, if they desire, with other people and with media brands (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001; Dessart, Veloutsou and Morgan- Thomas 2015).

The emergence of brand co-creation has been fuelled by and conversely feeds the move towards a much more participatory culture in which people want to get involved and contribute to brands, businesses and society at large (Gulbrandsen and Just 2011). Brand identification (Carr and Hayes 2017), which refers to an individual’s perception of being part of a group of persons around a specific brand, can be

attributed in part to consumers wanting to be involved in co-creating brands. Building

63 on from social identity theory (Tajfel 1974), brand identification can help individuals define and categorise themselves by identifying themselves with the attributes that they believe exemplify the brand (Dutton, Dukerich and Harquail 1994). This self- categorisation can guide an individual’s attitude, behaviour and decisions around a media brand (Akerlof and Kranton 2000; Kuenzel and Vaux Halliday 2008). There are multiple ways in which by interacting with a media brand, particularly over social media (Muntinga, Moorman and Smit 2011), an individual presents aspects of themselves. This includes: making brand-related statements and posting messages visible to others in their network (Smith, Fischer and Yongjian 2012); interacting with media brands via social media (Rybalko and Seltzer 2010); conversing and debating with others in online brand communities (Muñiz and O’Guinn; Kozinets 2001);

following and liking brands on Twitter (Kwon and Sung 2011) and Facebook; and interacting with brand-generated content (Naylor, Lamberton and West, 2012).

During these interactions they also present messages and views about a media brand which in doing so can influence the brand meaning for themselves and others.

This changing nature of consumer involvement has redefined how media brands are managed and has begun to transform the creation of media brands. This

participatory culture has only been amplified and fostered further by the internet (Ind and Schmidt 2019). Stakeholder involvement and their impact on a firms

performance has a long history in traditional management theory (Freeman 1984;

Clarkson 1995; Jones 1995; Bryson 2001) and relatively recently Stakeholder Theory has been expanded upon in the branding domain, with an argument for more overt inclusion within the Service Dominant Logic concept by placing the myriad of actors as a central aspect of branding (Hillebrand et al. 2016). Stakeholder Theory

64 highlights the importance of managing relationships with multiple stakeholders, that is:

“any groups or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives” (Freeman 1984, p.16).

Corporate branding literature introduces a similar thought to branding research by stressing the importance of multiple stakeholders for corporate brands (Balmer and Gray 2003; Chun and Davies 2006).

The third key driver of change has come about due to the increasing recognition by media organisations that sustainable competitive advantage is increasingly difficult to achieve in an ever dynamic and changing marketplace (Johnson, Whittington,

Scholes, Angwin, and Regnér 2013; West, Ford and Ibrahim 2015). Media organisations have recognised this and have begun to look at ways in which

competitive advantage can be achieved and maintained. Media brand have for some time been recognised as a source of competitive advantage (Chan-Olmsted 2006), and the dynamic capability of brand management (Teece, Pisano and Shuen 1997;

Oliver 2014) is needed for media organisations to recreate and adapt themselves as markets change. In doing so media organisations have begun to look at how they can learn and identify new opportunities for the management of their brands. A shift towards a greater openness is one way in which brand management is learning to maintain competitiveness (Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2013). It was argued, in the early work by Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2000; 2004) that co-creation was in fact the source to achieving organisational success as:

‘’high quality interactions that enable an individual customer to co-create unique experiences with the company are the key to unlocking new sources of competitive advantage’’ (2004, p.7).

65 This has been partly fuelled by the online ecosystem that has so empowered

customers enabling them to receive and interact with uncontrolled brand messages in a way that were not possible before; media brands are therefore having to fight smarter to gain interest and trust amongst these ‘liberated’ customers. Enablers of brand co-creation

It is key to note that participation does not absolve the company’s influence over a brand as media managers will be still responsible for direction setting and making choices to facilitate the success of a media brand, but they will now, it is argued (Ind 2014), have to be more adaptive in their approach. As a consequence of co-creation it is argued that overall control of a media brand is now not deemed possible and an alternative management approach is needed. The typical organisational culture, structures and practices cannot remain (Ind and Schmidt 2019).

To successfully engage in brand co-creation as a strategic initiative, media

organisations must evolve their mindset from one that situates brand management as a firm centric approach to one that embraces an open forum perspective (Prahalad and Ramasawamy 2004). This may prove difficult for many media organisations where the traditional firm-centric approach is deep rooted and is prevalent across all employee attitudes, processes and organisational structure. Ind et al. 2017 advocate that the:

‘’strategic view of co-creation can only prosper if senior management firmly and explicitly provides support and resources’’ (p. 6)

from which a co-creation environment is then fostered throughout the media organisation. Yet brand co-creation cannot succeed if it is limited to a top down initiative (Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2013), it needs to be embraced and normalised by

66 employees, customers and other stakeholders. For brand co-creation to thrive it is evident that media organisations need to put in place the right environment. This will involve a shift in thinking amongst managers and employees, whereby a co-creation mind-set become the norm. It is argued (Markovic 2019) that media organisations will need to have in place a set of standards which they adhere to, and which are

reciprocated by all involved parties, if brand co-creation is to be successful. These moral standards include trustworthiness between parties; a respectful brand co- creation process which does not undermine human rights; a responsibility by all parties that they own their actions; that fairness is embedded within the approach so all parties are treated equitably; that harm is avoided and a caring philosophy is advocated; and that all stakeholders act as good citizens not only to each other but to society and the environment (Stanislawski 2011; Markovic 2019).

These moral guidelines need to be encompassed in the key building blocks of effective brand co-creation which according to Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004), are Dialog, Access, Risk-benefits assessment and Transparency (DART). The challenge for many media organisations will be to initially embrace the co-creation ethos before any of these building blocks can be put in place. Ultimately media managers will need to evolve and develop their leadership styles, to not only recognise the need for an open environment but have the skills to set the agenda and facilitate the change required for a participatory organisation (Iglesias et al.

2013). This will require embedding an organisational culture that is positively receptive to active stakeholder engagement, that is not only open but which has a focus on people and is concerned with building trust (Ind and Schmidt 2019).

67 Integral to facilitating brand co-creation is an infrastructure that will allow and

encourage connection and dialogue between an enterprise and its stakeholders.

Ramaswamy (2013) articulates that the main components required for co-creation are ‘engagement platforms, experience areas and capability ecosystems’. Utilising engagement platforms to leverage resources in and outside of the organisation to actively and effectively participate in co-creation are being seen to transform

business practices (Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2013). This is evident in organisations who have utilised a range of platforms to allow, encourage and promote the co- creation activities of its users to help strengthen and transform their brands (Hatch and Schultz 2008; Robertson and Breen 2013).Organisations will have to design, build and manage engagement platforms within a greater interactive ecosystem. This may require brand managers being up skilled and equipping others with the skills and tools required to be effective co-creators (Fuller et al. 2009; Ind et al. 2013).

As the internet has provided an ecosystem for the sharing of ideas in both a way that allows access for all and at a speed that has profoundly accelerated interactions, it is logical that organisations are beginning to utilise digital platforms to connect with individuals (Payne et al. 2009; Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2016). This will allow connections across multiple devices and channels, providing an environment for greater participation and brand value creation (Ramaswamy and Gouillart 2010).

Technological advances are only likely to accelerate the capabilities that media organisations can embrace to facilitate brand co-creation. The challenge will be to know how to embed these in a way that enhances the experience for both

organisations and their stakeholders.

68 However engagement platforms can also leverage the ‘non digital space’, and if properly connected into an overall ecosystem can include face to face meetings, physical stores, and community spaces.


“platforms of brand engagements are central brand value co-created

mechanisms through which a wide variety of interactions can occur, and they can be organised anywhere in the brand value creation system’’ (Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2016, p.96).

An engagement platform pulls together people, interfaces and processes in a way that will allow human interaction to create value. It will involve structure and planning for the introduction of brand co-creation opportunities in a systematic way. By doing so this will allow a media organisation to identify, implement and support these active interactions. To implement specific brand co-creation encounters relies on an

innovative design process within the media brand management system (Payne et al.


The role of both the customer and the organisation may vary along this engagement platform. Consideration to the type of interaction and experience may need to differ depending upon the relationship between the stakeholder and the media brand (Payne et al. 2009). Imperative to this will then involve managers identifying, mapping and creating a range of appropriate encounters along this participation interface.

Brand co-creation involves human initiative and interaction, therefore an eco-system that facilitates and encourages this is required. Within this environment individualised experiences will need to be enabled and supported which create value for both the media organisation and the individual. This will require a structured programme of

69 activity, meaning considerable input and influence will still be required by media brand managers, yet in a consultative and collaborative way (Iglesias and Bonet 2010). In order to enable effective brand co-creation for all stakeholders, a unified process of media brand management will be required (De Chernatony 2010) to design and manage the brand co-creation experience (Payne et al. 2009). Absolute control will not allow participation to flourish, yet a planned creation of a participatory environment will. Brand managers will still have a huge influence on the media brand but they will need to adapt their management approach (Ind 2014)

It will be necessary that provision is provided for consumers to gather and process information and knowledge, which they will require to make informed decisions, yet should also enable individual experiences, as experiences are increasingly important to encourage participation (Payne et al. 2009). In addition the ability for participants to play and be playful within their interactions help stimulate creative thinking that, it is argued, is crucial for effective brand co-creation (Ind and Coates 2013). Media brand managers will also need to ensure reciprocity between themselves and participants ensuring feedback is given on contributions and a full loop of communication exists between all involved in media brand co-creation.

Underpinning this will be the quality of media brand co-creation experiences, based on an infrastructure that provides the ability to create a variety of experiences between media organisations and customers. These will need to be properly managed within a trusted interactive environment (Ind et al. 2013).

Ind et al. (2017) identified that the role of brand co-creation for organisations varies, ranging from being more tactical in nature (which is what they found the majority of activity to be) through to being classed as a strategic initiative. Brand co-creation

70 therefore occurs on a continuum, ranging at one end around totally tactical initiatives, through to the other end of the spectrum where brand co-creation can have a

strategic relevance. Depending on where they are on this continuum will influence how media organisations approach brand co-creation. It is argued that media

organisations have no choice in embracing brand co-creation (Ind and Schimdt 2019) as it will simply happen as this is the way in which brands are now created. Yet

media organisations do have a conscious choice as to the structure they put in place, the tools they implement and the effort they put into media brand co-creation

(Wikström 2014; Ind and Schimdt 2019). To realise the full potential of media brand co-creation requires a planned approach with processes and frameworks that are fully managed and committed to.

Success of a brand co-creation environment can be assessed based on a number of factors including: the creative engagement of individuals; how intentional were the engagements; the integration with other businesses processes; and how the

interactive experiences translate into value for the parties involved (Ind et al. 2013;

Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2013). Brand co-creation perspectives

The majority of brand co-creation research has studied the concept from the consumer perspective (Ind et al. 2017). Earlier research focused on defining and conceptualising customers role in brand co-creation (Merz et al. 2009; Cova and Dalli 2009; Füller 2010; Pongsakornrungsilp and Schroeder 2011; Healy and McDonagh 2013 ); customer motivations for engaging in cocreation (Nambisan and Baron 2007;

Schau, Muñiz and Arnould 2009; Fuller, Muhlbacher, Matzler and Jawecki 2009; Ind et al. 2013; Gryd-Jones and Kornum 2013; Caru and Cova 2015; Ind 2015); the customer experience (Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2000; 2003; 2004; Payne et al.

71 2009); and the skills needed for co-creation (Schau, Muniz and Arnould 2009; Kazadi et al. 2016). Co-creation is often studied in the context of an online brand community (Essamri, McKechnie and Winklhofer 2019) where members’ motives, interactions and collaborations are studied.

There is also recognition amongst the academic community that other stakeholders are increasingly becoming involved in co-creating the brand (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010; Iglesias, Landgraf, Ind, Markovic, and Koporcic 2020). Advertising and communication agencies have been playing a key role in brand creation for some time (Veloutsou and Panigyrakis 2001). Other partners such as retailers and suppliers are also deemed as actively playing roles in brand co-creation (Törmälä and Saraniemi 2017). A further group of stakeholders can be seen in those linked in some way to the brand, such as endorsers (Dwivedi, Johnson and McDonald 2015) and other brands (Delgado-Ballester and Hernández-Espallardo 2008; Thomas 2015) .What the press and the media say about the brand are all taken into account when consumers evaluate brands (Gendel-Guterman and Levy 2017). Employees as stakeholders who influence the brand are well recognised amongst academics

(Hatch and Schultz 2003). They deliver the brand promise in their internal interactions with other staff and departments, and their external interface with customers (King and Grace 2008; Balmer et al. 2006). A company can achieve superior brand performance if its employees live up to the unique and distinguishing brand promise at each and every customer touch point. However employee

involvement can also have negative repercussions on a brand as how they

internalise and translate the brand values may differ to the actual brand promise (Ind 2001; Balmer et al. 2006). In extreme scenarios employees can act against the

72 company, sabotaging the brand causing reputational damage and altering the brand meaning (Wallace and De Chernatony 2007).

The management perspective on brand co-creation has gained recent momentum (Ramaswamsy and Ozcan 2016; Ind et al. 2017) as academics recognise the

opportunities to advance knowledge as the brand management community continue to grabble with its advancement. The aspect of how to manage brand co-creation, or how best to facilitate it, is explored by a range of academics from a product

innovation perspectives to those with a more brand orientated focus.

Payne et al. (2009) focus on brand experiences and recommend a system to design and co-create these experiences. Ramaswamy and Gouillart (2010) take a process design perspective to innovation, focusing on building an ecosystem which embraces technological advancements to facilitate co-creation. Ramaswamy continues to evolve this thinking in future work (Ramaswamy and Ozcan 2016). Hatch and Schultz (2010) take forward the initial work by Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004) and offer a framework for brand co-creation based on the co-creation building blocks of dialogue, access, transparency and risk. Iglesias et al. (2013) take the findings from an online community and advocate that for brand co-creation to be fruitful then trust, support and reciprocity are fundamental criteria between participants and the organisation.

Ind (2014) builds on this work and recommends that networks of participation are created both internally with employees and externally with consumers. Frow et al.

(2015) come from a product and strategic innovation perspective to evolve the work of Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004) and Ramaswamy and Gouillart (2010) by providing a detailed co-creation design framework incorporating different dimensions of co-creation depending upon the co-creation motive. The research by Essamri et