Brand Management in the Age of Digitalization

How to Manage Brand Related User Generated Content in Times of the Web 2.0

Seminararbeit, 2014

19 Seiten, Note: 1,3


Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Theoretical Background
2.1. Definition and Characteristics of the Web 2.0
2.2. Traditional Brand Management Process
2.3. Brand Management in Times of the Web 2.0

3. User Generated Branding
3.1. Definition of Brand Related UGC
3.2. Classification of Managerial Approaches towards Brand Related UGC
3.3. Description of and Recommendations for Managerial Approaches

4. Conclusion and Future Research


List of Figures

Figure 1 - New classification of managerial approaches towards brand related UGC

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Company, product, and brand names mentioned in this thesis may be brand names or registered trademarks of their respective owners. The use of these brand names and / or trademarks in this thesis does not justify the assumption that rights of third parties do not apply. All mentioned brand names and trademarks are subject without restrictions to country-specific protective provisions and the property rights of their registered owners.

1. Introduction

“It’s a lonely, scary time to be a brand manager” (Fournier and Avery 2011, p. 193). Fournier and Avery´s statement reflects that the brand management (BM) in times of the Web 2.0 has become a very complex and challenging undertaking. In this participatory online environment consumers are empowered to actively take part in the BM process instead of remaining passive receivers of the company´s brand messages. Millions of people create and publish their own brand messages, also called brand related user generated content (UGC), in form of for instance YouTube videos, Amazon product reviews, Facebook groups and blog entries. Due to technological advances and the characteristics of the Web 2.0, these contributions from brand fans or brand critics can disseminate quickly and achieve important reach. Consequently, user generated brand messages represent important additional brand touch points next to the company´s brand messages and may have a significant influence on the brand image (Burmann 2010, pp. 1 f.; Musser and O´Reilly 2006, pp. 3-6; Wunsch-Vincent and Vickery 2007, pp. 9-17). Being still in its initial development phase, little knowledge exists on how brand managers should try to maintain the control over the BM process and approach brand related UGC. Instead of maintaining rather passive or simply monitoring these user contribitions, the BM may also counteract or even stimulate them in order to attain brand goals (Arnhold 2010, pp. 49 f.; Burmann 2010, pp. 1-3; Gensler et al. 2013, pp. 242-244; Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching 2013, pp. 238 f.).

This paper´s objective is to explain and classify different managerial approaches towards brand related UGC in times of the Web 2.0. Another purpose is to help managerial decision making by giving general recommendations on how to deal with these user generated brand messages. The paper is organized as follows: First, the author introduces a definition and the relevant characteristics of the Web 2.0. The following chapter presents the traditional BM process and then explains how the Web 2.0 changed it. This theoretical background is followed by the introduction of the concepts of UGC and brand related UGC as well as its management in the third chapter. Based on the development of a new classification of managerial approaches towards brand related UGC, the author describes each approach and gives recommendations to brand managers. Finally, chapter four draws general conclusions and identifies promising areas for further research.

2. Theoretical Background

2.1. Definition and Characteristics of the Web 2.0

Being considered as an important driver for brand related UGC and hence the changes in traditional BM, the Web 2.0 and its main characteristics need to be defined briefly. Driven by large advancements in the digital technology and an increasing number of people having access to the Internet, Tim O´Reilly coined the term Web 2.0 in the year 2004. It describes the new way in which the Internet is made and used. In contrast to the previous static and one-dimensional communication from the provider to the consumer, the Web 2.0 is regarded as an interactive and participatory platform. Thanks to the easy-to-use technology and new Internet applications, consumers assume a “more pro-active, collaborative role in content creation, distribution and use” (Wunsch-Vincent and Vickery 2007, p. 15). In addition to the increased consumer participation, other Web 2.0 main characteristics relevant to brand related UGC are its ubiquity, openness and network-character. This implies that consumers and companies as well as their content can reach and be reached nearly everywhere at any time and that consumers and companies can organize in networks and collaborate in real-time on the Web 2.0 platforms (Musser and O´Reilly 2006; O´Reilly 2006; Walsh, Hass and Kilian 2011, pp. 4-16). Typical Web 2.0 platforms are blogs, feedback and review sites, social networks, brand communities, and content or file sharing sites (Burmann and Arnhold 2008, p. 40; Meffert, Burmann and Kirchgeorg 2012, pp. 669 f.; Wunsch-Vincent and Vickery 2007, pp. 31-39). In order to explain how the Web 2.0 changed the way brands are managed nowadays, the traditional BM process will be introduced in the next step.

2.2. Traditional Brand Management Process

According to Esch´s (2011, pp. 18-24) customer-centered definition, a brand embraces all the associations consumers have with a product, a service or something similar and which can be managed professionally. The process of planning, coordinating and controlling all the brand-building activities is then understood as BM (Esch 2011, pp. 22-24). Even though various BM approaches exist, the identity-based concept is considered to be especially suitable for the handling of brand related UGC due to its comprehensive and advanced understanding (Burmann 2010, p. 1; Meffert 2010, p. 272). Contrary to previous BM concepts, in the identity-based approach the brand image as the outside-in perspective is expanded by the brand identity as an inside-out perspective.

The brand identity is understood as the brand´s self-reflection by internal stakeholders such as employees and managers. It is actively developed inside the company and constituted by the brand´s essential and thoroughly selected characteristics. These characteristics determine the brand promise, so all the benefits that are relevant for the consumer´s buying behavior. The brand communication plays an important role in conveying the brand identity to the consumer (Burmann, Halaszovich, and Hemmann 2012, pp. 28-31; Esch, Langner and Rempel 2005, pp. 105-109). Key objectives of the brand communication are the creation or improvement of the consumer´s brand awareness, favorable brand associations and attitudes, competitive differentiation, purchase and repurchase intent. In theory the brand identity should be congruent with the resulting brand image. The brand image is formed over a longer time period and is understood as the subjective consumer perception of all brand touch points. Not only the brand´s product and service offer, but also the consumer´s contact with the brand´s employees and all other contact points with the brand constitute such brand touch points (Meffert, Burmann and Kirchgeorg 2012, pp. 360 f. and 608 f.). The identity-based BM approach also stresses the importance of the consumer-brand relationship as the connecting element between the brand identity and brand image constructs. The consumer-brand relationship is defined as all subjectively assessed interactions between the brand and the consumer. As the result of all the BM activities, this relationship influences the consumer behavior and thus represents an important pre-economic target value (Meffert, Burmann and Kirchgeorg 2012, pp. 360 f.).

Whereas from this conventional perspective on BM the brand is owned and firmly controlled by the company, the Web 2.0 has brought several changes to the brand landscape (Burmann and Arnhold 2008; Gensler et al. 2013; Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching 2013, p. 238; Singh and Sonnenburg 2012).

2.3. Brand Management in Times of the Web 2.0

Hennig-Thurau et al.´s (2010, pp. 312 f.) comparison of marketing in the new online environment to “playing pinball” can also be transferred to the BM process (Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching 2013, pp. 237-239; Singh and Sonnenburg 2012, p. 13). In this analogy the company shoots a “ball”, as a metaphor for the brand and brand messages, into the online environment where its intended course is changed by other influences such as brand related UGC. The BM can only partially control the “ball´s” course and spreading by using “flippers”. With their pinball metaphor Hennig-Thurau et al. (2010, pp. 312 f.) illustrate how the new online environment made a company´s BM process less controllable and predictable, and more interactive. Instead of being passive receivers of the company´s brand messages, the customers are now cocreators of the BM process. Empowered through participatory platforms, non-marketers can easily create brand related UGC such as videos on file sharing sites and blog entries. These personal brand interpretations can transform into important brand touch points that tend to change often and may transmit the brand another meaning (Gensler et al. 2013, pp. 243 f.; Singh and Sonnenburg 2012, p. 4 f.). From Hennig-Thurau et al.´s (2013, p. 238) point of view the loss of control in the field of BM is critical and it is therefore necessary to “manage consumer reactions to brand-related pinballs in a way that is consistent with its goals”. Until the date little generalized knowledge exists about how brand managers can control and handle brand related UGC (Arnhold 2010, pp. 13-16; Burmann 2010, pp. 1-3; Gensler et al. 2013, p. 243). Consequently, different managerial approaches will be presented in the sections 3.2 and 3.3 after giving a detailed definition of brand related UGC in the next step.

3. User Generated Branding

3.1. Definition of Brand Related UGC

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, UGC has three central characteristics. First, the content has to be published online and be accessible publicly or to a selected group of people such as a community. Second, it needs to show some creative effort and third, it should be created in a non-professional environment (Wunsch-Vincent and Vickery 2007, p. 18). As stated by Burmann and Arnhold (2008, pp. 39 f.), part of the UGC are brand messages generated by users.

In order to be considered brand related, the created message can refer to brand activities and the brand personality of either corporate, product or service brands (Burmann and Arnhold 2008, p. 39). This subset of UGC is called “brand related UGC” by Burmann and Arnhold (2008, p. 40) or also “user-generated brand content” by Singh and Sonnenburg (2012, p. 4). Since this subset shares the three main characteristics of UGC, the term “brand related UGC” is utilized for this paper. In accordance to the first UGC principle, brand related UGC needs to be published online through the Web 2.0 platforms. Even though these platforms are considered to be the main distribution channel for brand related UGC, a further dissemination through traditional media as for instance television (TV) and newspapers is not excluded (Burmann and Arnhold 2008 p. 40; Meffert, Burmann and Kirchgeorg 2012, pp. 669 f.). Equally to the second UGC principle, brand related UGC demands a creative effort which implies an adaptation of existing brand related content or the construction of a new one. Hence, instead of copying and distributing the original brand content such as sharing the brand´s original advertising on a social network site, the customization and publication of this original advertising on a social network site would be defined as brand related UGC. The third UGC characteristic implies that a user, in contrast to the company´s marketer, freely creates and distributes a personal brand interpretation. The user hereby is understood as an individual or a group outside the branding routine and does not necessarily be a customer of the brand. Moreover equally to UGC, brand related UGC may appear in various content types such as text, image, photograph, music, audio, video, film or even artistic work (Burmann and Arnhold 2008, p. 39; Wunsch-Vincent and Vickery 2007, pp. 34 f.). Summed up, brand related UGC is defined as a “voluntary creation and public distribution of personal brand meaning undertaken by non-marketers outside the branding routines” (Burmann and Arnhold 2008, p. 40).

Burmann and Arnhold (2008 pp. 154-156) further specify this definition by distinguishing between non-sponsored and sponsored brand related UGC. Whereas non-sponsored brand related UGC is understood as the natural brand related UGC which occurs without any company interference or sponsorship, sponsored brand related UGC is stimulated by the BM. Even though brand related UGC is highly related to other areas of research which provide helpful insights for the subject of study such as word of mouth (WOM) and online brand communities, it should not be equated to them. A brand community represents an interactive network of people with a common interest and is considered to be one of the places where brand related UGC occurs (Muñiz and O´Guinn 2001, p. 412). WOM is defined as an informal consumer-to-consumer communication containing personal product and brand related messages and therefore represents a dissemination channel whereas brand related UGC refers to the created content (Arnhold 2010, p. 127; Kozinets et al. 2010, p. 72).

One well-known example for a brand related UGC is the YouTube video “United breaks guitars” from July 2009. This video shows how the guitar of the Canadian musician Dave Carroll was broken because of an improper baggage handling during a flight with United Airlines in 2008. As the guitar was not replaced or compensated, such as United Airlines employees promised him, he wrote a song about the incident and published it with a video on the video sharing site YouTube. After already achieving a significant reach on Web 2.0 platforms, the video´s audience was increased through the further dissemination in traditional media. The damage for the United Airlines brand is estimated to be considerably high resulting even in a stock price fall (Carrol n.d.; Meffert, Burmann and Kirchgeorg 2012, pp. 669 f.; Sons of Maxwell 2009). Similar effects of UGC on the stock market are also approved by Tirunillai and Tellis´s (2012, p. 213) research. The United Airlines example shows that user contributions which are contrarian or incongruous to the brand promise can harm the brand. Besides expressions of customer complaint, brand related UGC might also be driven by the opportunity to exchange with other customers such as in a brand community. Furthermore, some users want to show their fan dedication or might desire to experience a certain brand as for instance through the participation in a brand contest (Arnhold 2010, p. 43; Burmann 2010, p. 2; Singh and Sonnenburg 2012, p. 22). One exemplary fan dedication is the creation of a social network fan page for Nutella, an Italian brand for hazelnut spread, where brand admirers share personal recipes and photos which represent their brand fascination (Amo Y Amare la Nutella 2014). By supporting Nutella´s brand promise these user contributions probably have a beneficial influence on the brand image.

As proven by the United Airlines example, the influence of brand related UGC on the brand can be fairly high and dilute or change its meaning. For this reason, an appropriate handling of the content is crucial. The following section consequently presents different approaches a company´s brand BM may adapt towards brand related UGC.

3.2. Classification of Managerial Approaches towards Brand Related UGC

Burmann and Arnhold´s (2008) definition for handling brand related UGC builds upon the prior used definitions of this paper. They use the term “user generated branding” (UGB) to describe the “[...] strategic and operative management of brand related user generated content (UGC) to achieve brand goals” (Burmann and Arnhold 2008, p. 66). As already mentioned, little knowledge exists on how brand managers should handle brand related UGC. Based upon the definitions of non-sponsored and sponsored brand related UGC, Burmann (2010, p. 2) only distinguishes between two key managerial approaches. The non-sponsored UGB implies the monitoring of the unprompted user brand messages in order to gain insights which can be implemented into the BM process. In contrast to this relatively passive approach, the sponsored UGB is understood as an active stimulation and facilitation of user contributions. Since Burmann´s (2010, p. 2) distinction of managerial approaches is very general and does not embrace all the options a company´s BM has, the author of this paper proposes a new more detailed classification.

Having analyzed different brand examples including KitKat, Jones Soda and Heinz Tomato Ketchup and by incorporating research insights from the related field of interactive marketing and brand communities, two additional managerial approaches towards brand related UGC were identified. Thus Burmann´s (2010, p. 2) sponsored UGB will be included in the new classification and is named “sponsoring”. Burmann´s non-sponsored UGB will be renamed to the “monitoring” approach because of the inclusion of the managerial approach “brand crises management” in which user contributions are not actively stimulated either. The “brand crises management” approach is adapted from Loewenfeld, Perrey and Schröder´s (2007, pp. 308-311) threefold strategy for the management of brand communities. The authors describe the corresponding strategy as rather passive since the management only responds to negative brand related UGC. For the sake of completeness, a “passive” approach will also be included in the new classification. This managerial approach implies no company action with regard to brand related UGC and is adapted from Schögel, Herhausen and Walter´s (2008, pp. 345 f.) so called “traditional strategy” in the field of interactive marketing. Companies pursuing this strategy maintain the traditional BM process and do not interact with consumers. The following figure shows the developed new typology including the four managerial approaches towards brand related UGC proposed by the author of this paper.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: New classification of managerial approaches towards brand related UGC

Source: Own illustration adapted from Burmann (2010, p. 2), Loewenfeld, Perrey and Schröder (2007, pp. 308-311) and Schögel, Herhausen and Walter (2008, pp. 345 f.).

The left axis of the figure shows the management activity level ranging from low to high. These different activity levels are represented by the steps´ height and the four corresponding managerial approaches towards brand related UGC: passive, monitoring, brand crises management and sponsoring. The presentation in form of steps also stresses the idea that from step two onwards the following steps also include the prior activities. This means that companies which only manage brand crises also need to monitor the brand related UGC and that companies which sponsor the user contributions are supposed to address brand crises as well. Except for the “passive” handling which includes no actions, the other three approaches enlist different company actions. The following section will now describe and discuss these actions in more detail and additionally gives recommendations to brand managers.

3.3. Description of and Recommendations for Managerial Approaches

Companies having a passive approach towards brand related UGC ignore the existence of new brand communication vehicles in the Web 2.0 and continue with their former marketing strategy in traditional media. According to Schögel, Herhausen and Walter (2008, pp. 345 f.), this approach is often chosen by companies which are afraid of new uncontrollable brand touch points and may lack the sufficient experience with the new communication methods. Nevertheless, consumers already have many options to create brand related content on websites which are not owned by the company as for instance the mentioned unofficial Nutella social network group. Singh and Sonnenburg (2012, pp. 4 and 19) claim that the management´s passivity results in a higher loss of control over the brand since there is no opportunity left to communicate and respond to the users.

Many authors state that companies should at least monitor the brand related UGC. Arnhold (2010, pp. 131-136), Loewenfeld, Perrey and Schröder (2007, p. 310) and Burmann (2010, p. 2) argue that by moving on to this second stage of the new typology, brand managers can gain valuable customer insights such as the consumers´ attitude towards the brand, their needs, general trends, and upcoming crises. These won market research insights can then be incorporated into the marketing activities. From Singh and Sonnenburg´s (2012, pp. 17 f.) point of view the monitoring of the brand related UGC also helps to control and improve the company´s BM process since these user contributions can be understood as a response to it. Thus, the brand manager can analyze the fit between the communicated brand identity and the resulting brand image from the identity-based BM concept. Active monitoring of brand related UGC is also necessary in order to take advantage of positive messages such as publishing them on the corporate website and in order to intervene in case of negative trends (Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching 2013, p. 238; Loewenfeld, Perrey and Schröder 2007, p. 309).

Not meeting the brand promise or acting in an unethical way in times of the Web 2.0 is punished faster and more consequently and may achieve a higher reach (Meffert, Burmann and Kirchgeorg 2012, p. 669). Therefore, from Gensler et al.´s (2013, p. 246) and Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching´s (2013, p. 238) point of view the company´s appropriate and fast reaction to such negative developments is critical in order to minimize the brand damage. Nevertheless, it remains rather unclear when a negative brand development can be categorized as a crisis and at which point of time a reaction is necessary (Gensler et al. 2013, p. 249). Some companies such as the multinational company Nestlé S.A. handle brand crises with an authoritarian approach. Nestlé S.A. tried to minimize the erosion of KitKat´s brand image by deleting user posts and videos which criticized the brand for its use of palm oil. However, instead of minimizing the brand crisis with this strategy, it rather escalated and led to a serious brand crisis (Ionescu-Somers and Enders 2012). As this example shows and Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching (2013, p. 229) state, such a rigid administration of brand related UGC will probably further damage the brand image instead of solving the crisis. Correspondingly, it is recommended to adapt to the interactive and collaborative environment in the Web 2.0 and try to address a brand crisis by communicating with the users and engaging in discussions (Loewenfeld, Perrey and Schröder 2007, pp. 309 f.). Following the steps of the new typology, brand managers could increase their activity level by not only monitoring the brand related UGC and responding to negative trends, but by actively stimulating the user engagement.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 19 Seiten


Brand Management in the Age of Digitalization
How to Manage Brand Related User Generated Content in Times of the Web 2.0
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
516 KB
manage, brand, related, user, generated, content, times
Arbeit zitieren
Eva Niesing (Autor), 2014, Brand Management in the Age of Digitalization, München, GRIN Verlag,


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