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Title: The consumer negotiation of brand meaning in online brand communities
Author: Han, Jung-Min
ISNI:       0000 0004 5360 6161
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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There has been much enthusiasm over the power of online brand communities (OBCs). Ensuring that OBCs achieve their potential, however, is a challenge. Adopting the view that an OBC is a social entity at its core, this study examines consumers’ perceptions of OBCs and how consumers manage the continuous tension between social-related and brand-related aspects of OBCs through brand-related and non-brand-related social practices. The researcher took a symbolic interactionist approach and qualitative data were collected using ethnography and in-depth interviews from OBC participants in South Korea. The study was divided into two phases: the exploratory phase and the main study. In the first stage the researcher inspected OBCs and focused on understanding the social context by investigating four OBCs in the fashion and digital camera categories. Evidence of an OBC as a virtual third place (VTP) in the consumer’s mind was revealed. A typology was developed and social practices were revealed and defined. In the main study the researcher developed the framework of brand meaning negotiation and revealed how consumers symbolically interact and negotiate brand meaning through social practices. The tension between social-related and the brand-related aspects during this process was illustrated. The key contributions of this research are as follows. Firstly, the study reveals that an OBC has a strong VTP quality, whereby consumers hate to leave. Second, the study extends our understanding of an OBC by categorising consumers’ different perceptions of OBCs according to their attachment to the brand, the OBC and other participants. Third, the study reveals underlying social practices within OBCs that show the characteristics of a collectivistic culture. The study also fills the research gap by examining the brand meaning negotiation process and suggesting a framework that shows how underlying practices link brand and social-related aspects of an OBC together, which was formerly a “black box”. Lastly, it demonstrates that social bonds, regardless of their importance for making an OBC thrive, can be a double-edged sword and should be balanced carefully with brand-related practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Online brand community ; Korea ; Symbolic interactionism ; Practice theory ; Virtual third place