Co-branding with non-commercial branded communities: An alternative approach to brand rejuvenation through image improvement

Isabelle Daugaard Schröder

Student thesis: Master thesis


The vast majority, if not all brands will at a certain point in their life span stand face to face with the prospect of decline. In the attempt to prolong the life of the brand, managers can choose from a broad variety of contemporary measures of brand rejuvenation. Many of these measures have proven highly successful to many brands, and have rightfully earned their acknowledgement. However, a rapidly evolving consumer society, influenced by especially technological development, and characterized by new consumption patterns, is causing whole product industries to perish in a, to brands alarming rate. As such, many brands within these traditional industries are restructuring their product range to better fit the new type of demand. In the effort to establish their brand in its new element, some brand managers turn to the conventional approaches only to find them insufficient or unadoptable due to the nature of their brand. This seems to be the case for DR3, the case brand of this thesis. As a public service provider, commercial approaches to branding are out of the question, and DR3 is thus in need of a new approach to brand rejuvenation. With a focus on brand image improvement as the source of brand rejuvenation, this thesis evaluates three of the most acknowledged methods of brand development; brand extension, commercial sponsorship and co-branding, as well as co-creation, a central element of the emergent view of brands as dynamic processes. Based on the limitations of these conventional approaches as experienced by DR3, a new approach is suggested: co-branding with non-commercial branded communities. The research was centered on whether and how DR3 could enjoy relevant image transfer from co-branding with a relevant non-commercial branded community, and thereby improve its brand image as a means of successfully establishing the brand in its new multi-channel environment. Inspired by DR3’s recent extensive coverage of snowboarding events, as well as their ambitions of increasing their efforts toward this theme, the Danish snowboarding community was chosen as the case community. With a pragmatic approach to the adoption of research paradigms, the research was steered by a mix of social constructionism and critical realism, which enabled employment of both quantitative and qualitative research methods. An online survey was carried out in order to map and weigh associations of DR3, using quantitative methods. Further, a focus group interview with members of the Danish snowboarding community, active snowboarders as well as admirers, was conducted in order to uncover implicit associations, as well as to get their input on a practical approach to the co-branding venture. The findings revealed that a co-branding venture between DR3 and the Danish snowboarding community could potentially help DR3 close the gap between brand identity and brand image on three parameters: courage, authenticity and relevance, where the increased perception of relevance is only applicable to the Danish snowboarding community. Furthermore, the findings show that the community representatives chosen for collaboration, do not necessarily need to own high brand awareness, as their expert status is quickly recognized when linked to the snowboarding discipline. As opposed to traditional co-branding, where the most well-known partner brand will have the greatest effect on the co-brand image, the findings indicate that the characteristics of the co-brand are highly influenced by the image of snowboarding and especially the expert role of Lastly, the results of the research show that the co-branded product should be produced in collaboration with the opinion leaders of the community, not aimed at them. As such, the co-branding efforts should not aim at being appealing to the opinion leaders, but incorporate them in the production. The main purpose of this thesis is to act as a first step towards establishing co-branding with non-commercial branded communities as an alternative approach to brand rejuvenation through brand image improvement. Accordingly, it should be noted that the research results merely act as indicators, and should be tested before formal theory can be constructed. Nonetheless, the indications are expected to be solidified if tested. Thus, in terms of theoretical contribution, this thesis should be viewed as the first step towards closing a gap between theory and practice in the field of brand rejuvenation through brand image improvement. Following further research, it is expected that a number of brands with needs that cannot be met by conventional approaches can seek out this alternative approach in their brand rejuvenation endeavor.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages176