Co-creating brand meaning in the postmodern era: understanding consumer awareness of branding in the English higher education sector

Hardcastle, Kimberley Aimee (2020) Co-creating brand meaning in the postmodern era: understanding consumer awareness of branding in the English higher education sector. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Branding as a co-creative postmodern process has become increasingly significant for higher education (HE) institutes due to the marketisation of the HE sector. However, research exploring student consumer’s perceptions and actions in relation to the co-creative and experiential nature of postmodern brand meanings, consumer culture and identity is limited. In particular, insight into student-centred experiences with a university brand over time and across the consumption and enculturation journey is absent.

This thesis employs an interpretive consumer culture lens to explore the longitudinal consumer experiences with a HE brand in the postmodern environment. Using a three-stage approach, this thesis maps the student consumer’s undergraduate HE journey to explain the co-creation of brand meaning. The key stages are (1) pre-arrival, (2) arrival on campus and (3) the end of the student consumers first full year. Data collection at the pre-arrival stage (the first study) adopted a Netnographic approach; arrival on campus (the second study) used focus groups to understand the initial consumption stage; and the end of first year (the third study) employed semi-structured interviews to explore individual interpretative strategies and lived experiences. The evolution of the three stages allowed for different perceptions of the brand co-creation process to emerge across the longitudinal journey.

Adopting a longitudinal study design, which enabled student consumers to describe their mediated and lived experiences with the university brand, revealed how the socialisation and enculturation processes informed their co-creative strategies. The contributions to knowledge developed through interpretation of these findings include, an understanding of brand meaning and awareness in the HE environment emerging as a more complex and fragmented processes than previous studies had acknowledged. In particular, although there is some level of brand experience that existed prior to the student consumers arriving and enrolling, actual brand meaning is co-created iteratively within ongoing social interactions between student consumer, their peers, the university brand and the marketplace. The thesis recommendations provide practical theory-based suggestions vital to university brands understanding of how postmodern brand meaning and experience is co-created. Such as, by adopting a cultural approach, HE marketers can place greater emphasis on relationship management strategies unique to each stage of the journey and therefore benefit from the student consumer’s co-creative insights evolving at each stage.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: brand strategy, services, marketing, customer journey, contemporary consumer culture
Subjects: N500 Marketing
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2021 08:36
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2021 15:15

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