«of the AM’s Brand, Corporate Identity and Reputation SIG INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SESSIONS Sessions chairs The main function of a session chair is to ...»
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Re-branding the countryside as a luxury destination ‒ a case study of a cocreation process Lepistö, Tanja Lemmetyinen, Arja Suomi, Kati Purpose of the paper Several researchers have emphasised the importance of effective networking in the tourism business (Kendell, 1987; Buckley & Witt, 1989; Holder, 1992; Jamal & Getz, 1995;
Bramwell & Sharman, 1999; Buhalis, 2000; de Araujo & Bramwell, 2002; Lemmetyinen & Go, 2009; Lemmetyinen, 2010), with tourism destinations being constructed via multiple supplier activities crossing many business and sector boundaries (Pavlovich, 2003). Branding has been described as the most powerful marketing weapon available to contemporary destination marketers in today’s competitive globalised marketplace and is, on the practical level, used in various tourism business networks. A destination could be defined as a set of institutions and actors located in a physical or virtual space in which marketing-related transactions and activities take place: this definition challenges the traditional productionconsumption dichotomy (Saraniemi & Kylänen, 2011). Re-branding, in turn, although sometimes associated merely with changes in visible identity, in fact is about real change within the organisation and its values. The effectiveness of re-branding is connected to the acquisition of new knowledge, more favourable attitudes and more positive behaviour (Hankinson & Lomax, 2006). Although it may entail changes in name, logo, symbols, colour scheme, fonts and slogans, everything should be carefully aligned with a broader re-branding strategy (e.g. Melewar, Hussey & Srivoravilai 2005).
Destination branding is a relatively recent phenomenon in the academic literature on tourism, and remains narrowly defined in the minds of many practitioners (Blain, Levy & Ritchie, 2005). There is also a relative dearth of studies addressing the issues that actors in collective tourism-business networks encounter within a particular destination (Tinsley & Lynch, 2001).
Following an evolutionary shift in logic, brand construction and branding came to be seen as collaborative, value-co-creation activities in firms (Merz & Vargo, 2009) and destinations, involving all their stakeholders. However, despite the growing interest in service-dominant logic and value co-creation, there has been surprisingly little research on brand co-creation (Payne, Storbacka, Frow & Knox, 2009).
The objective of the current study is to deepen the analysis of value-creation processes in the tourism business (Lemmetyinen & Go, 2009; Lemmetyinen, 2010) and the travel industry (Fyrberg & Jüriado, 2009). The focus is on collaborative processes and the prerequisites for building a brand in a tourism business network. The discussion also covers the extent to which benefits related to branding motivate the network members to form an umbrella brand.
Using a multiple-case design (Yin 2003) the researchers conduct an empirical investigation of three cases in the Finnish province of Satakunta, which is representative of a cultural and industrial provincial area. The cases were considered to represent the process of co-creating a luxury brand, and the activities and roles of the actors involved. Moreover, each of the cases represents a different stage in the process of building a brand identity (see Lemmetyinen & Go, 2010).
Theoretical background Branding is a way of creating competitive advantage in the tourism business, and knowing one’s customer is one of the elementary questions in successful destination branding. Brand strategies encapsulate tangible and intangible features of places, and brands are believed to bring added value to countries, regions and cities, and their stakeholders (Go & Govers, 2010). A brand emerges as various ‘authors’, citizens, consumers, and actors involved in the cultural sector and marketing intermediaries (Holt, 2004; Quelch & Jocz, 2007) tell stories about the place.
The common characteristics of luxury in the branding context, despite the fragmentation in terms of definition, appear to emphasise beauty, rarity, quality and price, as well as inspirational endorsement of the product. People buy luxury products and services for two main reasons: for their own pleasure and as a symbol of success (Godey et.al., 2012), and to satisfy both psychological and functional needs (Vigneron et al., 2004). Beverland (2005) suggests six distinct components of a luxury brand, namely culture, marketing, endorsements, product integrity, history and value-driven emergence. Vigneron and Johnson (2004), in turn, ascribe five particular factors to such a brand: conspicuousness, uniqueness and quality, which relate to non-personal perceptions, and the hedonic and extended self, which relate to personal perceptions. Miller and Mills (2012) conclude that definitions of brand luxury typically emphasise at least some of the following six issues: individual meaning, social meaning, affordability, prestige, exclusivity and quality. Moreover, the categorisation of something as a luxury, or not, it is not straightforward and may depend on both the context and the people concerned (Vigneron & Johnson, 2004).
We rely on Vargo and Lusch’s (2004) definition of co-creation, which highlights the customer perspective in service development and considers the customer a co-creator of value. The role of the network is significant, albeit implicit in service-dominant logic, and interaction is a central concept. Value creation is a process involving the integration and transformation of resources, and requires interaction and networking (Vargo & Lusch, 2008).
According to Vargo and Lusch (2004), value co-creation comprises two components: cocreation and co-production. They argue that value can only be “created with and determined by the user in the consumption process and through use or what is referred to as value-inuse”: it occurs in direct interaction between the offerer and the customer, or is mediated by a good. The co-production component involves participation in the creation of the core offering via shared inventiveness, co-design, or the shared production of related goods. Other partners in the value network in addition to the customer and the offerer may be involved in coproduction (Vargo & Lusch, 2004). Co-creation facilitates both the re-building of customer experiences that meet the needs and expectations of customers better than before, and the definition and resolution of possible problems. As value shifts more and more towards experiences, there is need for dialogue, transparency and interaction (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004).
Methodology The objective of the study is to investigate collaborative value-creation processes and to identify the necessary prerequisites for building a brand in a tourism business network. In order to achieve this aim we examine value creation as an outcome of coordinated cooperation. More specifically, we address the following three research questions. 1) What are the necessary prerequisites for building a brand in a tourism business network? 2) What kinds of value-creation processes can be identified? 3) What kinds of branding benefits motivate the network participants to form an umbrella brand?
A review of the literature on co-creation and brand-related theories constitutes the conceptual framework of the study. The authors conducted a multiple case study (Yin, 2003) by means of participant observation (Tedlock, 2000) and narrative interviews (Riessman, 2004). The process of building a brand identity was monitored in the three case organisations: 1) A.
Ahlstrom (service business) offering accommodation and cultural services; 2) Grankulla Country Spa & Resort offering wellbeing services; and 3) Vuojoki mansion with its cultural services, accommodation and conference venue. Secondary data were gathered from web sites and information letters to support the analysis, and also to allow identification of the factors that motivated the members of the networks to start and continue their cooperation.
The conceptual framework of the study guided the data analysis. The first stage comprised an analysis of the factors that motivated the actors in the case networks to collaborate with others in the branding process. The existing processes, practices and examples related to cocreation in the case networks were identified in the second stage, which enabled the researchers to map out the roles of different stakeholders and to highlight the benefits.
Findings The focus of the study was on the motives that lead network participants to collaborate with each other. The findings are in line with those reported in Fyrbeg and Jüriado (2009), namely that value co-creation requires the maintenance of balance, a clear agenda and strength in the network. In addition, the following prerequisites for brand co-creation in a destination network were identified: reaching a common goal and mind-set, establishing a clear role and purpose for each network actor, knowing the customer and segmentation, fully utilizing existing resources, and understanding what kind of actors are needed to build the desirable brand image in the minds of customers. Network members found the co-operation beneficial when it supported the network actors and allowed the utilization of the resources of other network actors when feasible and cost-effective.
Theoretical implications The academic literature is clearly in need of research in the area of co-creation, customer experience and branding (Payne et. al., 2009). Earlier brand-related studies in the tourism sector also underline the fact that knowing the customer is one of the basic prerequisites of successful destination branding. This study sheds light on the motivations of network actors to engage in brand co-creation. The benefits to be gained from co-creation and networking appear to relate, in particular, to a decreasing need to acquire new resources in-house and the chance to ensure a positive customer experience.
Practical implications Managers should be aware that working closely with stakeholders is crucial in brand cocreation. It would be beneficial to engage customers and all relevant stakeholders in the process. The literature on brand co-creation has typically focused on strong corporate brands (e.g. Hatch & Schultz 2010; Vallaster & Von Wallpach 2013). Therefore, further examination within SMEs and start-ups should be beneficial both theoretically and practically (see also Mäläskä, Saraniemi & Tähtinen 2011; Juntunen 2012), in the tourism sector and beyond.
Limitations The limitations of the study concern the representativeness of the sample and the context.
The three cases comprise the empirical investigation representing the (cultural) tourism industry. Therefore, learning from these cases may not be directly relevant to other industry sectors. Industry stakeholders in the field could nevertheless benefit from the identified best practices.
Originality The paper is based on three real case networks and thus provides managers with examples related to managing a networked rebrand co-creation process. This study builds on earlier work focusing on brand co-creation in networks (Fyrberg & Jüriado, 2009) and the valuecreation process in the tourism business (Lemmetyinen & Go, 2009; Lemmetyinen, 2010).
The specific focus is on rebranding in tourism-destination networks.
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