The Nature of Brand Authenticity: A Case Study of SOUNDBOKS from a Multiple-Stakeholder Perspective

Mads Hauge Lindum & Patrick Walther Thomsen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Within the postmodern era, several scholars have identified a quest for authenticity among consumers due to an apparent shallowness of the material culture in a commercial society, where consumers become a pawn in a big capitalistic game. Also, brand authenticity is found to have a significant influence on the choice of brands among postmodern consumers. Within a postmodern context, it is thus vital for brands to adapt to this quest for authenticity in order to stay relevant and compelling to the consumers. Current literature has studied the subject of brand authenticity from either an outside-in perspective or an inside-out perspective. However, research suggests that postmodern branding is influenced by a wide variety of stakeholders, which enact and co-create brand meaning within the brand’s stakeholder ecosystem. Thus, in order to fully understand the nature of brand authenticity and its underlying dimensions, the phenomenon must be understood from a multiple-stakeholder perspective. As a result, the thesis at hand seeks to shed light upon this knowledge gap based on the following research question:

How can we understand the nature of brand authenticity from a postmodern perspective and which dimensions are the main drivers of authenticity from a multiple-stakeholder perspective?

The present thesis takes a social constructionist stance, thus study the research question from an inductive and qualitative approach. With a point of departure in a case study of SOUNDBOKS, this thesis collected empirical data from three independent sources: 1) internal stakeholders, 2) external stakeholders, and 3) a netnographic study of both brand-generated and consumer-generated social media posts. The data from both internal and external stakeholders were collected through semistructured interviews with a total of 13 respondents (seven internally, and six externally) to gain a thorough understanding about their perception of brand authenticity in terms of the SOUNDBOKS brand. Furthermore, data in the netnographic study were collected and studied in order to understand the actual behaviour and interactions between the stakeholders. Through a thematic analysis, ten global themes, and 27 underlying organising themes were identified based on an open coding approach. These were used as supporting findings regarding the nature of brand authenticity, and the underlying dimensions, in the case of SOUNDBOKS. The study suggests that the nature of brand authenticity within postmodernism is understood as a co-creational and iterative process, where the link between the stakeholder’s self-identity and the brand is socially negotiated and reflected. Based on the findings the mediation of brand authenticity is two-fold; hence 1) brand authenticity is ‘negotiated’, or 2) brand authenticity is ‘mirrored’. It is thus suggested that the nature of brand authenticity is considered to be a negotiation between multiple stakeholders with individual identities and subjective perceptions. These multiple stakeholders further reflect, i.e. ‘mirror’, their self-identities in the brand through self-relevant and authentic information, hence embracing authenticity as an existential concept. In this context, the key dimensions which are negotiated and mirrored among the multiple stakeholders are further found to be; ‘the personality of the brand, ‘the culture of the brand’ and ‘the purpose of the brand’. The thesis at hand thus present implications for both theory and practice, as it provides new knowledge regarding the nature of authenticity in a postmodern context. Moreover, the identified dimensions mediating the degree of authenticity in a postmodern brand, help brand managers to understand how to become more authentic, from a multiple-stakeholder perspective. Thus, the study provides insights into the concept of brand authenticity, and how it can help create strong brands within the postmodern era. The present thesis should thus be seen as an inspirational, yet insightful, study, which lays the foundation for further research within the field of brand authenticity.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages127
SupervisorsRichard Jones