Managing online user generated brand risk: an exploratory case study of selected South African cellular service provider brands
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The development of web-based technology has resulted in changing communication models which allows for a shift in the power of voice away from the brand to that of its stakeholders. Consumers have increasingly become creators and disseminators of branded content. This is known as user-generated content (UGC). While collaborative networking can assist in building a brand’s reputation, expressive networking can destroy it just as easily. Thus, brand managers are faced with numerous challenges since they no longer retain control over the brand and the conversations affecting it. However, brand managers are ill-prepared for this because it is not clear what brand management looks like when goals of share growth and dominance are replaced by concerns for brand protection, and brand strategies are aimed at brand defence instead of promotion. This exploratory qualitative study utilised a grounded theory approach to determine how brand managers of selected South African cellular service provider brands respond to the online brand reputation risks posed by UGC. Preliminary findings indicate that brand managers need to ensure that online reputation management of UGC forms part of the integrated digital communication strategy of the brand. In addition, UGC should be managed pro-actively as a strategic business tool with the emphasis on generating income and building the brand, and not only as an operational communication tool. A number of management recommendations are made, and possibilities for further research identified.
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