Expanding the Boundaries of Brand Communities: The Case of Fairtrade Towns

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JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Nov 2017
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Purpose – This paper seeks to further our understanding of brand communities, and their role in brand co-creation, through empirical and theoretical contributions derived from researching the marketing dynamics operating within a successful but atypical form of brand community, Fairtrade Towns.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper reflects a pragmatic application of Grounded Theory that captured qualitative data from key “insiders”, with a particular emphasis on Fairtrade Town steering group members and their role as “prosumers”. Data was gathered via ethnographic involvement within one town and semi-structured interviews with participants in others.
Findings – Fairtrade Towns, as brand communities, demonstrate elements of co-creation that go beyond the dominant theories and models within the marketing literature. They operate in, and relate to, real places rather than the online environments that dominate the literature on this subject. Unusually, the interactions between brand marketers and consumers are not the primary source of co-creation in Fairtrade Towns. Instead, factors usually identified as merely secondary providers of additional brand knowledge become key initiators and sources of co-creation and active “citizen marketer” engagement.
Originality – This study demonstrates how brand co-creation can operate in physical geographical communities in ways that are formal without being managed by conventional brand managers. It conceptualises Fairtrade Towns as a nested and “glocalized” brand and demonstrates how steering group members facilitate the process of co-creation as prosumers. It empirically demonstrates how Fairtrade Towns have evolved to become unusually complex brand communities in terms of the variety of stakeholders and the multiplicity of brands involved, and the governance of the localized brand co-creation process.

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