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"Network Brand Management: Study of competencies of place branding ski destinations", Moilanen, T.J.M. (2008), PhD dissertation, Helsinki School of Economics, Finland

ABSTRACT

Several industries have turned to a network form of organization to coordinate complex products or services in uncertain and competitive environments, and the network form of organization also appears to be becoming more common in the field of branding. Examples of brands formed by a network of independent firms include One-World and Star Alliance brands in the airline industry, Verbier and Chamonix ski destination brands in tourism industry and the Santa Foods brand in food production. Many of these networks are adopting branding techniques in an attempt to create competitive advantage, and thus aspire to create and manage a brand which is not a brand of a single product or a company, but a brand of the network itself. I use the term Network Brand to refer to this type of brand.

One area in which Network Brands appear to be common is place marketing. Countries, cities and tourism destinations are increasingly competing in an attempt to attract tourists, new residents, businesses and investments into their areas. Many places are adopting branding techniques in an attempt to differentiate their identities and to emphasize the uniqueness of their offerings. This is accomplished by practices adopted largely from the models developed for branding simple physical goods by a single firm. These models may be ill-suited to branding tourism destination products, which are developed through complex networks of multiple service companies.

If we accept the proposition that brands form pivotal resources for generating and sustaining competitive advantage (for instance Aaker 1989, 1991; Grönroos 2001; Keller 1993, 1998; Kotler 1999, 2003; Morgan et al., 2002; Morgan et al., 2003), it follows that brand management is the process and focal point of using those resources and translating them into superior market performance. Therefore, brand management constitutes a central organizational competence that must be understood and developed further.

This study examines brand management competence requirements in intentionally-created business networks. The study started with the empirical notion that Network Brands exist in everyday managerial practice, but the concept is largely unknown in the academic literature on brand management, thus suggesting a need for conceptual examination and elaboration. The broad purpose of this research is to introduce and elaborate upon the concept of a Network Brand, and to identify and analyze management competencies required to develop and sustain successful Network Brands in the context of ski destination branding.

The core bodies of literature employed in this study are the strategic management literature, brand management literature, the resource based view, competence/capability perspectives, and the business networks literature. As the empirical research is located in the context of tourism destinations, these core bodies of literature are complemented with perspectives from tourism management and service marketing.

On the basis of empirical observation and an extensive literature review, a conceptual model of Network Brand Management Competencies was developed. Nine case studies of ski destinations that have created the best brands in their markets were studied in US, Australia and Finland. Theme-interview based data were content analyzed. Thirty-four abilities, grouped to twelve core competencies were identified. These competencies are suggested as the core competencies that are required to develop successful Network Brands of ski destinations.

Although all case ski destinations operate in similar settings, the conceptual understanding of a brand and approach to brand management as well as organizational form of Network Brand management varied significantly among the case destinations. These different approaches influence the composite of competencies required for managing a Network Brand in the context of ski destinations. On this basis a classification framework was developed, and the twelve competencies were classified either as Generic Brand Management, Network Management, Relational Management or Network-Relational Management Competencies. Furthermore, a contingency model was developed, linking together organizational forms, approaches to brand management and competencies required. Finally, a Conceptual Framework of Network Brand Management Competencies was developed.

This study is one of the first attempts to combine the networks and brand management literature; by identifying a managerial context in which the core phenomena of these fields of academic interest are overlapping, a door might open to the utilization and elaboration of the knowledge developed in these fields. The research makes a direct managerial contribution to the field of tourism destination branding, a field in which Network Brands are proliferating. The introduction and theoretical articulation of the Network Brand construct, comparison of it with earlier branding constructs, may provide ideas for managers working in the field of destination branding. Rich and detailed descriptions of nine case destinations which have been highly successful in developing ski destinations brands in their respective markets, and the identified twelve key competencies may guide managers to develop the brands of their destinations. More specifically, managers may take advantage of the classification framework and the contingency theory in order to identify competencies that might be relevant in a similar contextual setting.

KEYWORDS: place branding, networks, brand management, competencies, capabilities, tourism



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