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Theoretical Framework During the last decades festivals have emerged universally as a growing and vibrant sector of the tourism and leisure industries (Arcodia & Whitford, 2006, 2). Events and festivals have created worldwide branch of their own (Yeoman, et al., 2004), and have been considered a representative phenomenon of experience economy (e.g. Getz, 2012; Pine & Gilmore, 1999), and creative industries (e.g. Frey, 2003). Festivals represent special type of products (d’Astous et al., 2006) or services, which promote ‘celebration’. The features of the festival phenomenom rest on both cultural content and holistic experience, as well as on a sense of community delivered for wide range of audiences (e.g. Hirsch, 1972; Falassi 1987; c.f. also Frith, 1996). Consuming is strongly intertwined with its social context (Caves, 2000), where many attendees share the same interests (d’Astous et al., 2006).
Hence, as d’Astous et al. (ibid.) illustrate, festivals are typical events, which bring locals and tourists together, and provide variety of contents (cf. also Larson, 2009) as well as: “a space and time away from everyday life in which intense extraordinary experiences can be created and shared” (Morgan, 2008). At the same time, experience economy, the era of Web 2.0, and social media have impacted on the transformation from passive consumers into (co-) producers (or prosumers), particularly in the context of creative productions (Hausmann, 2012, 174; cf. also Kerr & May, 2011). As Getz (2012, 27) illustrates, consumers: “want to have more personalized experiences, participating themselves in experience creation”.
Getz and Andersson (2008) identify a festival, as project-based phenomenom bounded up with its time and place, occurring recurrently, and producing related essential services (cf.
Getz, 1989). Resulting from rather limited resources of festival organizations, and from their above mentioned project-based nature, festival organizations do not produce events alone: the production environment comprise various stakeholder groups with multifaceted and identifiable roles (Larson, 2002, 2009; Getz, Andersson & Larson, 2007; Getz et al., 2010).
The structure of the ownership and life cycle of festivals impacts on the roles of stakeholders and their positions (Getz et al., 2010) in the networked production environment. Accordingly, Moeran and Strangaard Pedersen (2011) consider the whole production system of festivals as a certain kind of cluster or ecosystem, but their nature is functionally unbounded, and simultaneously the role of audience is emphasised.
Thus, managing festival production as a system differs from other forms of planned events in creating several related meanings and interests about the production, in terms of economic and social properties (e.g., Getz et al,. 2010; Hede, 2007; Moeran & Strangaard Pedersen, 2011; see also Caves, 2000). Extant literature reports the changes in the roles of event managers: contemporary managers can be seen as experience designers and co-creators (Getz, 2012), working together with audience and stakeholders in the festival production.
Nevertheless, the literature does not take into account the impact of the above demonstrated nature of festivals, and the role of audiences in the processes of designing and building a brand. We argue that above discussed special characteristics: network of stakeholders and their roles in these procedures, as well as audiences, impact uniquely on to activities of each festival ecosystem, particularly with regard to brand building.
According to Roper and Fill (2012, 128) brand co-creation is about acknowledging that:
“consumers (or other stakeholders) by their actions and involvement contribute to creating the brand”. Indeed, scholars suggest that brand identity is co-created with customers and other stakeholders (see e.g. Payne et al., 2009), and brand co-creation is a beneficial way of creating value for a brand (e.g. Jones, 2005). Thus far, however, literature on brand cocreation has mainly been concentrated on (online) brand communities and has discussed brand co-creation of strong private brands (e.g., Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001; McAlexander et al., 2002; Mertz et. al., 2009; Payne et al., 2009; Vallaster & von Wallpach, 2013). However, studies related to brand co-creation on non-profit sectors has been limited with only some exceptions (e.g. Juntunen, Juntunen & Autere, 2002; Iglesias et al., 2013). Thus, examining brand co-creation in context beyond corporate sector, within cultural productions, is considered adding both theoretical and practical knowledge.
In defining a brand we rely on Iglesias et al.’s (2013, 671) view suggesting that brands are:
“organic entities because they are built together with various stakeholders – and many parts
of this process are beyond the control of the organisation”. We also acknowledge that:
“brands are clusters of functional and emotional values, resulting in promises about unique and welcomed experiences (de Chernatony 2006, xi). In extant branding literature, involvement of multiple stakeholders are acknowledged in brand co-creation (e.g. Merz et al., 2009), however typically studies have been limited to examining the co-creational interaction between customers and firms only (e.g. Payne et al., 2009) with only some exceptions (Jones, 2005). Thus, this study covers perceptions of multiple stakeholder groups, because we acknowledge that brands “belong to and are created in concert with groups of communities” (Brown, Kozinets & Sherry, 2003, 31). However, festivals’ aspiration appears to be orchestrating these groups according to particular design: own dramaturgy, choreography and architecture (Björner & Berg, 2012).
Methodology The paper bases on qualitative case study methodology (Yin, 2008). The primary data consists of semi-structured and theme interviews (N=17) with representatives of three Finnish festivals organized in the city of Pori and two companies representing key market positions in the context of media and retailing in Finland. The companies have long histories of collaborative activities, for example sponsoring, in the leisure field. Additionally, in the spirit of case study, complimentary data was gathered (Yin, 2008) from social media, marketing materials, web-sites as well as research diaries written during the research period 2009‒2013.
Hence, the methodological focus lies on cross-case patterns (Eisenhardt, 1989, 540) using multiple sources of evidence (Yin, 2008). The data analysis follows interpretative logic (Silverman, 2006). In this study Patton’s (2002) three-step model was applied. The approach of analysis follows abductive manner as we go back and forth between theoretical and empirical world (Dubois & Gadde, 2002). The results of this study were organized according to emerging themes and the research questions. In addition, a comparative analysis between the festivals has been conducted.
The findings and main conclusions Recent branding literature suggests that brands cannot be fully managed as they are cocreated with stakeholders (e.g., Payne et al., 2009). However, much can be done: as a theoretical contribution this study demonstrates how festivals might be seen as platforms for orchestrating brand co-creation to certain aspired directions. In these processes, festivals as communal environment are being designed according to their own mission, as the role of festivals is to lead the whole experience design by managing the interactions between the stakeholders. Therefore, the festival might be seen as mobilizer (Mouzas & Naudé, 2007) in these processes, whereas the stakeholders are seen as crucial contributors in brand building (e.g. Roper & Fill 2012; Iglesias et al. 2013) of festivals.
As a practical managerial implication, this study suggests that festival managers should acknowledge, that it is not possible to fully manage a festival brand, as festival brands are to a great degree beyond festival organisations’ own control. Thus, working closely with stakeholders cannot be overestimated (see also Mossberg & Getz, 2006). Accordingly, in the process of brand building, festival managers should be intensely familiar with their festival product and acknowledge into what direction it should be navigated in future. Competitive advantage of a festival is related to its ability to continuously renew itself. However, the renewing a festival following its particular design is challenging because the festival production is conducted within networks, and stakeholders in the networks have values and missions of their own.
Limitations, originality Despite the fact that the research data in this study is rather limited as it covers three festivals in one city in Finland, the originality of presented findings is remarkable from theoretical viewpoint. Festivals as project-based but recurring creative productions, with the sense of arts consumption (see e.g. Caves, 2000), have provided us with a complex and multifaceted research setting. This setting combines features of modern organizations, such as temporality, virtuality and project-focus (Abfalter et al., 2012).This networked phenomenom has created fruitful foundation for research findings related to brand co-creation as experiences and co-creational interaction is emphasied. Therefore, the originality of the study lies on the research context which is “dramatically different from image building for brands in the private industry” (Mossberg & Getz, 2006, 313).
Keywords:Festivals, brands, brand co-creation, network management, design
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