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Brand equity is typically measured on several dimensions. These include, first, brand loyalty or the ability of the brand to differentiate itself (variety) so as to attract and retain a high percentage of dedicated customers. Second, name awareness is likely to attract more people to a place than if the location is obscure and unheard of. Third, perceived quality places the brand in a certain way in the customer’s mind (specificity), which persuades him or her of its superior strength in comparison to rival brands. Brand strength, in turn, is nurtured by attribute associations, which are understood to determine the direction of “added value” (Riezebos 1994). Companies render goods and services with an aura of spectacle, beauty or authenticity by drawing on the context specificity of places, such as their landscape, heritage, climate, local competences and technologies. In this way their immaterial, symbolic cultural signifiers are imbued with economic value: surviving buildings, relics, memories and place associations are preserved and presented as tourist attractions and promising investment objects. As a consequence, such centers no longer function solely as places of consumption but are, in turn, consumed (Urry 1995). The commodification of places exemplifies an extreme of the “density principle” or the degree to which the mobilization of resources occurs in a particular situation – “e.g.
Methodology Our aim in this research is to explore how the building of an umbrella place brand based on trustworthy relationships helped to satisfy the full range of a community’s needs, including living, working, conducting business and welcoming visitors. We distinguish three analytical perspectives on questions of marketing management, the “outside-in”, the “inside-out”, and the inside-in”. The “first two shed light on the dynamism stemming from the interfacing of heritage and open-world narratives enacted by stakeholders in a variety of roles, often with conflicting interests and agendas.
We conducted a case study in a rural area in Finland and observed the process of building a brand identity. The informants represent different business sectors. As part of the community they are more or less consciously building a joint brand identity. Qualitative methodology in the form of interviews was used for collecting the empirical data, the aim being to define the critical phases in the process. The analysis is based on multiple, “outside-in”, “inside-out” and “inside-in” perspectives, the aim being specifically to determine whether the impact of cultural heritage could be characterized as a relevant association in branding (rural) communities.
Findings A multilevel reflexive analysis of how the cultural heritage of a place could add value to its brand equity helps communities to set a common vision for the brand-building process. The preliminary analysis from each of the perspectives shows that as regards the outside-in view the potential visitors do not see a joint brand promise that covers all the service providers in the area. The service offerings have not been developed into product and service concepts targeted at potential visitors, such as culture tourists and families. From the inside-out perspective it is evident that only a few of the service providers are committed to keeping the joint brand promise with their respective stakeholder networks. Finally, from the inside-in perspective it seems that the values of the brand should be strengthened and supported by the appropriate brand architecture.
Discussion Early-awareness models are inadequate because they respond to attacks and opportunities with rather static, narrow and generalized assessments. Given the growing emphasis on interaction and collaborative learning about place branding across conventional, professional, and territorial boundaries, it is relevant to enter into a dialogic discourse. This would facilitate examination of the underlying assumptions and the arrival at different interpretations of how a given place is being branded and led. The perspective in this study is multilayered, and focuses in particular on 1) interaction with informants (vs. inside-in), 2) interpretation of stakeholders’ views (vs. inside-out), and 3) critical interpretation of the ‘outsiders’ = students, press (vs. outside-in). Alvesson and Sköldberg add a fourth layer addressing the notions of self-criticism and selectivity. This stands in contrast to the corporate-brand narrative theorized in the unilateral consumer culture granting marketers cultural authority, which simultaneously undermines its transparency, authenticity and distinctiveness consequent to its intrinsic contradictions. Hakala, Lemmetyinen and Kantola (2013), for example, analyzed Finland’s image as a nation-branding tool from the “outsidein” perspective. On the other hand, the “inside- out” and “inside-in” perspectives concentrate on the question of whether brand strategies either independently within an organization or in a network configuration based on a logic embedded in electronic systems provide a structure for linking global supply chains to specialized regional economic clusters. They also focus on the extent to which such an organizational design will create a competitive space of global proportions that allows flexibility, responsiveness and capability, rendering an independent organizational scenario hardly sustainable. Such fundamental restructuring shapes a whole new order of business. It also raises questions concerning process functions with reference to managerial roles and styles, decision models, and determining the organization’s key set of core competences. Typically, big internal restructuring operations are followed by refocused outsourcing strategies, coupled with internationalization strategies and new forms of interrelationships in the hierarchy between mission and objective setting, and inputs from stakeholders with regard to operating procedures and corporate culture. From an external analytical perspective, the restructuring of internal processes in large organizations increasingly implies that vendors are reinventing themselves as brand-management corporations. An outsourcing strategy permits the development and conveyance of images and sensory experiences aimed at shifting the attention of consumers from the material space of goods and products to the projection of continuously alternating images. Furthermore, an experiential marketing strategy serves as a substitute for the former and allows corporations to operate flexibly under a standard umbrella brand with the aid of alternating themes (e.g., trust, quality of life, and transparency). Such immaterial adaptations can be incorporated much faster and more flawlessly than would be the case in adapting physical products (Harvey 1989; Lash & Urry 1994) to changes in the market environment., Given their intangible rather than tangible attributes, media publicity and word of mouth are key instruments with which to market products within this place-branding framework.
Theoretical Implications Discourses are not intended to be theoretically watertight boxes. Instead, their permeability allows for more imaginativeness about the way they flow into each other. Our study findings contribute to the theoretical discussion on leadership in the research domain of place branding. The evidence gathered also enhances understanding of how the process of building a brand identity is connected to the community’s attachment to the cultural heritage of a place. Our justification for using a multi-authored discourse approach is that it offers a more holistic view of marketing. In terms of managerial implications, the impact of Web 2.0 technologies and the diffusion of social media are relevant because they lead to dynamic interactions among possibly geographically distant stakeholders, thereby enabling technology-mediated interactions of global proportions.
Limitations Frequently mentioned limitations of a case study include the issues of reliability, validity, and generalizability. We discuss these issues thoroughly in the full paper (cf. Gobo, 2004).
Originality/Value This study allows for the positioning of brands as a component of a social system designed to overcome provocations and present opportunities that leverage the potential of people as citizens, consumers, workers, artists and co-producers of brands.
Key wordsvalue propositions, community, rural, place branding
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Ambient rubbish: Examining the attitudinal impact of incidental exposure to branded litter Grimes, Anthony Roper, Stuart Stafford, Tom Purpose Roper and Parker (2013) found that when consumers encountered a brand in a litter context (i.e. surrounded by, or associated with, litter) formed a less positive attitude towards that brand than consumers who encountered it in a non-litter context (i.e. in the absence of accompanying litter). Those seeing the brand in a litter context also emphasised negative brand personality items, indicated that they were less likely to try the brand and were prepared to pay less for it than those who saw it in a non-litter context. In sum, these findings support the conclusion that being consciously seen in a litter context is bad for the brand.
This work is interesting in that the overwhelming majority of the literature on brand exposure is uniformly positive and there is insufficient consideration of the potential negative impact of uncontrollable factors on brands (Roper and Parker, 2006).
However, the question arises as to whether similar results might be expected when respondents are incidentally exposed to brands as litter, and focal attention to the littered brand pack is neither extensive nor emphasised. This situation is perhaps reflective of the way many individuals process brand litter in natural environments. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to examine the impact of repeated, mere exposure to brand litter on attitudes towards the brand it depicts.
Theoretical background There is evidence from both psychology and marketing research that incidental exposure to a brand stimulus can improve attitudes to the brand. In particular, the mere exposure effect (Zajonc, 1968) is a robust psychological phenomenon that indicates unreinforced, repeated exposure to a stimulus leads to positive affective response when that stimulus is subsequently encountered. As such, it has been proposed as a useful framework within which to understand, explain and shape the effects of marketing communication at extremely low levels of attention (see Bornstein & Craver-Lemley, 2004; Grimes, 2008). Within the psychology literature, the mere exposure effect (hereafter, MEE) has been the subject of over 300 experimental demonstrations, usually with respect to unfamiliar and neutral stimuli (e.g.
kimura figures and irregular polygons) that are presented fleetingly and in isolation (for reviews see Bornstein, 1989; Bornstein & Craver-Lemley, 2004). In the marketing literature, such demonstrations have been extended to products, brand names and brand logos, which are encountered in isolation or incidentally as part of a wider scene (e.g. Janiszewski, 1993;
Shapiro, 1999; Vanhuele, 1995). Furthermore, marketing studies of the MEE have demonstrated that the enhancement of attitude extends beyond mere liking of the stimulus to factors such as brand liking, brand choice, and inclusion in a consideration set (e.g.
Janiszewski, 1993; Lee, 2002; Shapiro, 1999).
There is thus little dispute that mere exposure to unfamiliar and affectively neutral stimuli leads to more positive evaluations of these stimuli when they are subsequently encountered.