Directing Customer Social Identity Through Influencer Marketing and Brand Co-creation Activities
Sylvie DellaBruna and Beata Edlund’s thesis sheds light on a critical aspect of contemporary marketing practices: How companies create and steer social identities which their customers can identify with. Compared with most previous research, it portrays marketing in a more proactive role.
Instead of attending to and playing with existing social identities that match a company’s target audience, the students unpack the process by which the renowned brand NA-KD uses influencer marketing and brand-cocreation to create new social identities together with their customers. In that way, they manage to contribute to increasingly relevant discussions in marketing theory
Today, it takes more than traditional advertisements, enticing prices, or celebrity endorsements for companies to engage with customers. Customers want to be active rather than passive participants in the firm’s branding and marketing activities. Due to this change in the marketing environment, companies have started using social media influencers and brand co-creation activities to form a brand personality and a social identity in which customers can mold their self-concepts. The marketing trend sparked our interest and became the prime focus of our bachelor thesis.
We investigated how the Swedish, fast-fashion company NA-KD utilizes influencer marketing and brand co-creation activities to drive the social identities of their customers.Combining these methods, creates a unique strategy which is essential for companies to understand as customers seek more partnership roles with their favorite brands. During our exploratory, single case study, we interviewed key employees at NA-KD working within marketing, collaborations, and content creation. The interviews enabled us to discover how NA-KD established relationships with their customers and how the company enabled self-brand connection; the complete absorption of brand values into one’s self-concept.
The findings showed that NA-KD was able to direct the social identities of its customers, meaning, their actions influenced the way in which their customers viewed themselves in society. This was achieved through influencer marketing and brand co-creation, the two key engagement methods used in their overall strategy. We created a conceptual model that represents the process of how brands can manage social identity direction and form producer-consumer relationships. This process includes influencer marketing, brand co-creation, and brand experience, led by methods of CRM and circle mapping to allow for self-brand connections and continued firm growth to occur.
The main takeaway from this research is that companies need to actively produce opportunities for brand co-creation and recognize when it is happening organically, such as voluntary feedback given by a customer on social media, and utilize that. Furthermore, when companies form relationships through brand co-creation activities, they need to manage and continually foster the relationships. In conclusion, customers will feel valued and will, therefore, voluntarily seek to add value to their endeared company.