Driving Change: An Illustrative Case Study of BMWs Involvement in DriveNow

Lærke Kristensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The objective of this thesis is to uncover how initiatives of sharing can influence a corporate brand’s image and reputation. The thesis looks into the concept of the sharing economy as a driver of legitimacy creation for traditional companies, by investigating how consumers perceive sharing initiatives and how such initiatives influence their perception of a brand, specifically focusing on corporate social responsibility (CSR). A case study of BMWs involvement in the car sharing initiative DriveNow is used to shed light on how a such initiative influences consumers’ image associations of a corporate brand and whether it has the potential to enhance a company’s legitimacy. The interest in the consumers’ perception of DriveNow as a sharing economy initiative guides the investigation and explores how the consumers position DriveNow within the sharing economy, their motivations for using DriveNow and as a result what image associations they attribute to DriveNow and BMW. In order to answer the research question, a qualitative investigation of how BMWs involvement in DriveNow influences its brand image and reputation, and ultimately its legitimacy have been conducted. The study is encompassed of two focus groups and three in-depth interviews with users and non-users in which the researcher, based on brand image, CSR and sharing economy theories, examines how DriveNow influences the consumers’ perceptions BMW. The study finds that the consumers emphasize convenience over both community and consciousness, which leads to a revision of the categorization of sharing initiatives and a realization that initiatives of sharing first and foremost must provide added value in terms of functionality to be successful. Furthermore, the study reveals how DriveNow explicitly benefits from the consumers’ existent corporate image associations of BMW and are related to functional attributes, whereas the influence from DriveNow on BMW to the corporate brand is more implicit and related to the consumers’ perception of the company’s CSR involvement as well as the innovativeness of the company. A sharing initiative like DriveNow as communicative CSR and an enhancer of legitimacy is dependent on the initiatives employment of CSV principles and the company’s ability to allow the initiative to be communicative in its own right.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages127
SupervisorsSine Nørholm Just