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Place Brand Authenticity in Social Media Interaction: a Postmodern Perspective

La marque d’authenticité du lieu en interaction avec les médias sociaux : une perspective postmoderne
Bintang Handayani et Maximiliano E Korstanje


Cet essai a pour but de démystifier la perspective postmoderne sur l’interaction des médias sociaux dans le développement de la marque d’authenticité du lieu. La réflexion repose sur l’examen des différentes approches. Les résultats indiquent que (1) la marque d’authenticité du lieu apparait comme l’image issue d’une valeur partagée dans la sphère des médias sociaux, où le contrôle d’authenticité du lieu prend forme entre les mains du public : (2) le maintien de la marque du lieu peut seulement être établie par le producteur à travers la conservation d’une forme de valeur partagée, qui a été posée par le public dans la sphère des médias sociaux. Plus généralement, cette étude propose une façon d’examiner le développement des marques d’authenticité des lieux dans l’ère post-moderne et suggère des pistes pour de nouvelles études empiriques pour tester ce cadre de réflexion et ses perspectives.

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1Place brand authenticity can be conceptualised as the essential values of place attributes and place benefits (e.g. functionality or prestige) that emerge as a unique profile that differentiates it from others, but at the same time links its attributes as a holistic entity. Generally, while authenticity indicates the “truth” value as the core essence of the place brand (Gilmore and Pine, 2007; Olins, 2014), place brand is embedded with constructs of location which refer to country, city, region and destination (Hanna and Rowley, 2008; Baker and Cameron, 2008; Govers and Go, 2009; Kavaratzis, 2009; Chatzidakis et al., 2013; Hankinson, 2010; Caldwell and Freire; 2004; Herstein, 2011; Warnaby and Medway, 2013) and denote the story that plays a role in place brand authenticity (e.g. Campelo, 2015). This location particularly indicates the geographical area of social interaction and comprises setting, built environment and sense of place (Agnew, 1987; Lew, 1989; Warnaby and Medway, 2013). In this sense, place can be defined as a portion of space which is given meaning through human agency (Chatzidakis et al., 2013; Gary and Dominic, 2013) and is constructed through a place branding approach (Govers and Go, 2009; Ind and Mariussen, 2015).

2Authenticity in the context of place branding approach seems to be revolved on experience-based industry which alludes the superior positioning of tourism and hospitality attributes as market offerings (Anholt, 2007, 2011; Dinnie, 2008; Handayani and Rashid, 2015). In addition, other domains of studies indicate how experience consumption provides satisfaction and happiness to people’s lives (e.g. Gilovich & Kumar, 2015; Gilovich, Kumar, & Jampol, 2014). In this vein, visitation experience seems to be the vital variable that not only influence place branding but also indicates the significance on the type of issues i.e. information that is shared, that would emerge as discourse in social media interaction. More so, authenticity in the tourism context (e.g. Cohen, 1988; Lew, 1989; Wang, 1999; Grayson and Martinec, 2004; Terziyska and Rislki, 2012; Zhu, 2012) has been extensively researched with its intertwined relations from the postmodernist perspective (e.g. Bruner, 1994). Bruner proposed four types of authenticity, namely authenticity of verisimilitude, genuineness, being original, and authority. These types indicate why authenticity is essential for the place branding perspective.

3According to Schallehn et al. (2014), the antecedents of place brand authenticity are the unique identity that is consistently presented to the public in fulfilling the promises attached to place attributes and benefits, which lead to the actual functionality and prestige. Place brand authenticity antecedents produce trust in the place brand (e.g. Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Delgado-Ballester et al., 2003; Schallehn et al., 2014), attaching brand image to the place and eventually leading to place brand satisfaction (e.g. Govers and Go, 2009; Insch and Florek, 2010).

4In terms of place brand authenticity in the social media context, the literature suggests that the value story of place brands is that it has been shared through social media interaction, amplifying the authenticity. Value story in this sense is identified as the shared value. According to Porter and Kramer (2011), shared value generates greater innovation, growth and benefits for society. Shared value consists of benefits relative to the costs that are articulated in the vision and mission of a company. In this study context refers to a place; vision and mission most likely emerge as company identity attributes and consumer-company identification. Furthermore, Davis (2008) points out that company identity attributes focus on how companies associate themselves with consumer attributes by projecting their vision and mission. This vision and mission which emerge as the unique identity of its product offerings distinguish the company from its competitors (Melisende, 2007). On the other hand, consumer-company identification is about the tendency of consumer affiliation to a certain company’s objectives (Davis, 2008), which would develop a significant relationship between these two parties (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003). Both company identity attraction and consumer-company identification could be achieved through the application of corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles and programmes (Friedman, 1970; Carroll, 1979; Wood, 1991; Carroll, 1999; Moir, 2001).

5Presumably, a CSR programme would associate the company with a certain target market. Adapting this point of view, place identity attraction and visitor-place identification would be established through shared value, e.g. a CSR programme associated with a certain place (e.g. city, nation, region or destination). Specifically, Anholt (2007, 2014) suggests that for a place to earn a competitive identity, it should have bonded actively with global responsibility and involvement. In other words, the issues of humanity, gender gap and equality, preservation and reservation could be used as the core essence of shared values that eventually establish the competitive identity of a place as a brand or market offering. Arguably, this triggers public perception and may emerge as a discourse, becoming public opinion. The shape of the discourse alone can be powerful when it is talked about and shared by the public.

6The theory of word-of-mouth (WOM) in marketing communication (e.g. Gouldner, 1960; Gremler et al., 2001; Buttle, 1998; Allsop et al., 2007; Palka et al., 2009; Kozinets et al., 2010; Meiners et al., 2010; Berger and Schwartz, 2011; Chiosa, 2014) alludes to the value story about the place brand (e.g. city) that is being discussed in social media interaction, encouraging brand authenticity to grow into a place brand image (Jalilvand and Samiei, 2012). The brand image of a place is about the value story derived from shared values such as culture, identity and image. These shared values are projected by the dynamics of organisational identity, namely expressing, reflecting, mirroring and impressing (Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013).

7Empirical research into the impact of social media on identity based-brand management indicates positive incremental value which generates both financial and non-financial returns. In particular, the impact of social media in the context of the hotel industry indicates the growth of hard revenue for business (Buhalis and Mamalakis, 2015). The literature also indicates that social and functional attributes are fundamental elements for online brand characteristics as antecedents of WOM (Lovett et al., 2013; Litvin et al., 2008). Previous studies also indicate that user-generated information and travel experts as opinion makers in social media interaction are considered as co-creators of destination brands (Oliveira and Panyik, 2015). As a result, social media involvement in identity based-brand management is important and becomes mainstream.

8According to de Chernatony et al. (2011), identity based-brand management consists of two components: brand identity and brand image. These focuses on the perceived interior and exterior views of the internal and external public. Generally, while brand trust, brand identity and brand image may be derived from brand authenticity, brand authenticity formation is established by brand individuality, brand consistency and brand continuity (Schallehn et al., 2014). Technically, according to Schallehn et al. (2014) brand individuality denotes the unique way in which the brand fulfils its promise consistently (the consistent behaviour of the brand) and continuously delivers that promise over the past and present time. However, would utilising social media as part of e-marketing sustain the brand authenticity of identity based-brand management?

9Another issue in regard to place brand authenticity with social media as mainstream is that social interaction through the Internet, was believed to become not only more popular and applicable but also would bring equal power to relevant communicants (e.g. members of the public in general) and would amplify user-generated content control. According to Blackshaw and Nazzaro (2006), social media content represents a mixture of opinion, fact, or rumour about people’s experience on a daily basis. In this sense, the content of social media indicates the feedback shared by people as a result of experiencing things. In line with Blackshaw and Nazzaro (2006), Xiang and Gretzel (2010) suggest that online reviews on travel experience in social media context revolves around the facts of the attractions and destination, details of how to get there, and the uniqueness of the experience. Specific study into the impact of social media on destination branding denotes that consumer-generated video posted on social media accounts is not in line with the destination brand as a destination marketer-generated video, albeit consumer-generated video has a minor positive impact on a destination brand (Lim et al., 2012). Consequently, brand identity, which is believed to be the only element of power that the producer has in terms of developing identity based-brand management, would be diminished. In this case, how would the producer develop place brand identity? How would this phenomenon of social media interaction influence the development of identity based-brand management? From this perspective, it seems that social media interaction is an indication of the postmodern era. Consequently, it is deemed appropriate to examine the intertwined relation of postmodern types of social media (in this sense involving communication theory) with place brand authentic. Therefore, this study aims to demystify the postmodern perspective of social media interaction in developing place brand authenticity.

10The structure of this study is as follows. The introduction of the problem statement development is followed by an outline of the methods of study. Next, the structure reviews of the literature on social media interaction and communication paradigm; social media interaction from the postmodern perspective; and antecedents, effects and a causal model of place brands are explored. Then a discussion of place brand authenticity and how it is constructed by/within the social media is presented. In conclusion, implications of the study, its limitation and recommendations for future study are discussed.

1. Tourism in Postmodernity

11Many voices have exerted a radical criticism on the rise and advance of postmoderism (Bauman, 1998; Sennett, 2011). As David Harvey (1989) puts it, the condition of postmodernity is given by the acceleration of movement which leads to a stage of fragmentation. Since the means of productions were decentralized since the oil embargo in 1972, West has appealed to the segmentation of the market, as a valid form to keep their industries working. In times of posmodernity what is important is not production, but the signs, allegories and narratives which engage consumers with commodities (Lash & Urry, 1993). In this platform, the senses play an interesting role by commoditizing the otherness according to the selfish desires. Therefore, ethics should be seriously taken into consideration for policy makers in the formation of organic images of tourist destinations (MacCannell, 1992). Basically, what is very important to discuss is to what extent, the tourist-gaze, following John Urry’s term, alludes to reinforce a much deeper cultural matrix that precedes the productive system. In this vein, Urry argues convincingly that “gazing” represents a valid indidactor of capitalist system expansion. At some extent, Westerners have developed a culture based on ocular centrism, which makes from gazing external object not only an instrument of visual control, but a scientific platform to explain the world. Social scientists even fieldworkers are accustomed to validate their hypothesis watching others and their behaviour. It is not accident that the legitimacy of nation-state, adjoined to medical gaze, paved the ways for the rise and acceleration of tourist-gaze. At time we visit beautiful destinations, natives are controlled by our gaze, transmitting something what we are looking for, but subject to our previous cognitive maps (Urry, 2002).

12As the previous argument given, sociology has historically questioned the role of gazing other as a mechanism towards alienation, a residual practice came to present from times of colonialism (Korstanje, 2012); however, at a closer look, some new recent studies are enthusiastic respecting to gazing as a fertile ground to tourism research. Social fieldworkers can do good ethnografies only surfing through the plots of films (Tzanelli 2004; Buchmann, Moore & Fischer, 2010) or even, marketers can do the same discussing to what extents these plots are induced to tourism consumption (Beeton, 2010). Korstanje & Tarlow (2013), Korstanje and Olsen (2012) have explored the connection of ethnocentrism and movies, focusing on the way plots mark the others from silences instead of the ideological message. Basically, movies tell a story to the audience, which endorses a typical explanation on how things should be thought. Since this ideological message has an explicit core, less has been said on the encrypted message, which though covered, resonates further on society. While many tourists are in quest of authenticity, they are unable to understand what they look for.

13Last but not least, Dean Maccannell discussed critically the figure of authenticity not only as an impossibility, but a guiding force, which is the Totem by other means. Starting from the premise that aborigines organize their societies according to a centralized power, a sacred icon where all frustrations are sublimated (Totem), the same happens in urban secularized society with tourism. Oppressed and exploited by capital owners, workers far from coordinating efforts to struggle against them, alludes to leisure consumption in order to revitalize the day-to-day frustrations. Touring exhibits the contrasting needs of escaping (from the rules) at the time, the cultural mainstream values of society are accepted. For Maccannell’s viewpoint, tourism is the totem by other means. However, some risks surface since while touring the voice of others is subordinated not only to what consumers need but to a meta-narrative which validates the interests of status quo. This is the reason why tourism reproduces staged authenticity as a mediator between sightseers and their institutions. While tourists pay sums of money to witness what should be defined as “authentic”, the needs of fabricating such an experience result in the opposite, staged authenticity (Maccannell 1973; 1976; 1984; 1988; 1992; 2001; 2009; 2011; 2012).

14However, though Maccannell never clarified whether he signalled to tourism as a force towards alienation or not, interesting intersections with gazing as well as the philosophy of authenticity remains unchecked. This research goes in that direction to fulfil the gap. Korstanje and George (2014) have exerted a radical critique on the adoption of authenticity in the academy, reminding that scholars should rethink the roots of authenticity beyond the current paradigms where they are working today. This means that the question of authenticity dates back some many centuries ago in fields of philosophy. Ancient philosophers developed a negative connotation respecting to authenticity simply because they believed once a person is obsessed with “authenticity” madness emerges. Most likely, Marxists during XIXth and XXth centuries used the term to explain all material asymmetries produced by capitalism. Instead of focusing on authenticity in objective terms, Marxism demonized authenticity as a prolongation of false consciousness which was conducive to the power of ideology. Of course, far from any speculation, what this point of entry suggests is that modern tourism exploits the “need of being there”, which engages with the current gears of mobility. Without this lemma, neither globalization nor gazing would exist. Another derived problem consists in what in some cultures is considered or validated as authentic can be shrugged off in others. Yves Michaud (2013) in his recent book, Le Nuevau Luxe alerts on the possibilities new luxuries open the doors to pathological forms of consumption. He understands “authenticity” as an attempt to gain a “unique experience” during holidays, or in tours which place to subject in isolation respecting to the rest who did not have the luck of experiencing the same situation. Since the logic of luxury and consumption was substantially changed, we need a new lens to understand these emergent forms of luxuries. The opportunity to feel a solipsist sensation which can be provided by tourism, or any other “experiential luxury” affects social ties.

2. Methods of Study

15Cooper (1998) alludes to the uses of a literature review as seeking to describe, summarise, evaluate, clarify and/or integrate the content of a database which reports original types of scholarship, e.g. empirical, theoretical, critical/analytic or methodological. In this sense, a review of the literature indicates an investigation of certain issue(s) that relies on these types scholarship for integrating, summarising, evaluating and/or clarifying the issue(s) in the past, present, and predicting the future. Evans and Kowanko (2000) point out that a literature review as a method is considered research in its own right. Furthermore, reviews may apply different approaches, namely systematic or structure reviews. According to Mulrow and Oxman (in Evans and Kowanko, 2000) systematic reviews cover the review question(s), critical appraisal, data extraction and analysis. On the other hand, structure reviews summarise a conceptually broader area than limited literature and recommendations (Stevens and Milne, 1998).

16This study employs the structure reviews approach for examining the research questions. Therefore, it does not seek the specific database articles required by the systematic review approach. Relevant interdisciplinary scholarly articles are appropriate for critical appraisal on research questions. In other words, structure reviews aimed to seek relevant interdisciplinary scholarly articles that allude study variables i.e. place brand authenticity, social media, and postmodern perspectives. In this vein, this study aims to summarise a conceptually broader area that revolves on place brand authenticity, social media interaction perspectives, and the philosophical perspectives of postmodern. The research design of this structure review relies on interdisciplinary scholarly publications i.e. includes articles, books, conference papers and any other type of scholarly publications which are relevant, contextual, and is in line to be adapted. Technically, the methodology entails: selecting databases from which retrieve papers for analysis, identifying keywords, classifying topics and methodology, and identifying the study context. The examination revolves on topics i.e. social media interaction from the lens of communication paradigm and theories, followed by discussion of looking at the developed propositions social media in the postmodern perspective and explicate them further by highlighting the antecedents, effects, and causal model of place brand authenticity. Finally, the vital points that have been identified based on this structure reviews are discussed. The discussion is based on fundamental perspectives on how place brand authenticity is constructed by/within social media: a postmodern perspective. Accordingly, the structure review is as follows.

3. Social Media Interaction and Communication Paradigm

17The intertwined relationship of people’s interaction via social media (or non-medium) with the post experience-based consumption is the issue of pursuing happiness and prestige as a meaningful outcome to people’s lives. Regardless of whether these outcomes are positive or negative, post experience-based consumption that is shared with others would add a greater level of meaning. This is due to the fact that people cannot communicate, as Watzlawick suggests in his communication theory. What is more, the literature acknowledges that experience-based consumption generates happiness and greater satisfaction (Gilovich et al., 2014). In this sense, it can be said that nowadays tourists seek experiences (Cooper, 2011). Without forgetting the hedonic fact of shared values of authenticity in the social media sphere, experiential consumption is seen as one of the ways for pursuing greater happiness and advancing social well-being.

18As in any other interaction, social media interaction requires at least two parties (as the sender and receiver) who need to share something (the message, e.g. data and/or information, values, beliefs, etc.), considering an online medium or face to face, the expected effect (e.g. cognitive, affective and behavioural) and feedback (e.g. positive or negative response towards the shared data or information). Hovland et al.’s (1953) theory of “who says what to whom and with what effect?” implicitly highlights three important aspects in order for communication to be effective and efficient: (1) expertise and trustworthiness of the source (sender; a person who initiates the communication). This means a producer as the sender/source with expertise or trustworthiness would have a higher chance of influencing other(s). On the other hand (2) fear appeals, and the order of arguments in the content (the message/idea, e.g. data and/or information, values, beliefs, etc.) are believed to persuade the public. In this sense, the message/idea that uses fear appeals, and the order of arguments may emerge not only as a reason for strengthening the public’s cognitive but also amplifying their affective and behavioural attitudes. (3) Audience characteristics (e.g. personality, susceptibility to influence) are considered a crucial element in communication, for measuring its effect and feedback.

19The framework tradition in communication theory alludes to the role of communication (1) as interpersonal influence; (2) as information processing; (3) as artful public address; (4) as the creation and enactment of social reality; (5) as reflective of unjust discourse; (6) as the experience of self and others through dialogue (Griffin, 2006). To date, these six traditions indicate human communication which in this era of information communication technology is well known as the function of interaction via social media. Presumably, these six traditions are essentially applicable as a tool for examining place brand authenticity in relation to the existence of social media as an inevitable part of Marketing 2.0 (Borges, 2009). Marketing 2.0 refers to the use of social media as allowing user-generated information for brand identity construction (e.g. Yannopoulou et al., 2013; Trusov et al., 2009; Parise and Guinan, 2008; Klue, 2008). Explicitly, this signifies the existence of communication flow and pattern in modern and postmodern contexts.

20In particular, the intertwining of the variables of social media, authenticity, and tourism in the contemporary literature relies on the fact that it not only generates a dichotomy on perceiving social interaction among travellers but also influences the methodology of communication paradigm. Molz (2014) points out that social media bring a narrative of authenticity that is based on innovative practices and changes the conceptions of tourism, reformulating the meaning of hospitality and authenticity. For example, the effect of social networks developed through social media interaction reformulates the platform of togetherness and self-orientation which produces hospitality. In other words, global networks connect people who subsequently generate cultural exchange. Would this paradigm still be applicable to communication interaction from the postmodern perspective?

21In terms of the link between the traditional perspective of communication theory and contemporary Marketing 2.0 is the interaction of members of the public and producers through social media as a medium; this indicates the modern era (Borges, 2009). Unlike this, Marketing 2.0 indicating modern and postmodern attitudes signify that the interaction of members of the public, considered as consumers or followers, has more power in influencing and/or shaping the elements of brand authenticity that is perceived valuable to be shared. What is more, the place brand authenticity that is shared indicates that with or without the involvement of the producer, social media interaction takes place. Consequently, this communication and contemporary Marketing 2.0 refer to social media interaction denote the existence of a particularly uncontrolled effect and feedback. In other words, the producer as the initiator shaping brand identity in Communication 2.0 of social media may still be able to control the brand identity (which refers to the message or idea to be shared by the public) through the social media sphere. This can be traced from the fact that social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, are used by producers as a medium for promoting the profile of their business (Vries et al., 2012). For instance, the official accounts of certain businesses can be found on Facebook or Twitter. What is more, video commercials of certain businesses can be found easily on YouTube.

22Unlike Communication 2.0 of social media interaction, which signifies modern human interaction through the Internet, postmodern communication denotes the existence of social interaction via the Internet and not only poses an equal position for distributing information/ideas between producer and receiver but, more importantly, highlights the fact that the content of brand identity (of product offerings or services) is not in the hands of the producer. Producers may develop profiles of product offerings/services, but their maintenance and growth are established in the wider world. The Internet as a medium plays a role as a bridge for members of certain public groups to communicate the perceived shared value,” initially developed by the producer. As the unique characteristics of the Internet allow people to access any information, the producer as the initiator distributing the profile of the brand identity and its attributed associations (which emerge as shared values) is made possible by social media interaction. This kind of interaction is essentially a form of WOM, in which in contemporary communication theory is used for persuading people’s cognitive, affective and behavioural tendencies (e.g. the study of Gremler et al., 2001; Cheung and Thadani, 2010). Related study that links WOM with marketing in online communities indicates that communication networks offer four strategies (evaluation, embracing, endorsement and explanation) and suggests that communal WOM does not increase messages; rather, marketing messages and meanings are systematically altered (Kozinets et al., 2010). In other words, the possibility of the producer controlling the message in the modern era may be plausible.

23This communication interaction through social media in the postmodern era indicates the difficulty for producers to control the message for maintaining brand identity. As a result, brand identity, which may emerge as brand authenticity, and eventually emerges as the essence of place brand image formation, is uncontrollable. For this reason, it is important to scrutinise social media from the postmodern perspective.

4. Social Media Interaction from the Postmodern Perspective

24Unlike the modernist viewpoint, which is a product of the enlightenment derived from what Rene Descartes points out as “I think, therefore I am”, postmodernism is a reaction to the phenomenon of certainty to explain reality (Hicks, 2004). In this sense, reality is not based on human understanding but rather is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. Consequently, postmodernism focuses on the relative truths of each person (Baudrillard, 1983a; 1983b). Understanding and interpretation is everything, relying on concrete experience over abstract principles, and knowing always the outcome of one’s own experience. The post in postmodernism denotes denial of the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody (Hicks, 2004). In this sense, the relationship between social media interaction and brand authenticity examined under postmodernism focuses on how the message, the information/idea of shared values that is considered as the essence of place brand identity, is maintained. What is more, this leads to the postmodern place branding standpoints which denote the cultural complexity of place brands through the consumption a lived experience.

25Gretzel (2015) indicates social media as the second wave of technological development of Web 2.0, which may disrupt marketing strategies in tourism business. Further, it is believed that this second wave supports a massive shift in perceptions of credibility of information and brought about a tremendous increase in availability of non-marketers based travel information. In this sense, social media plays a role as an arena for travellers (and/or with the producer) to interact and to share the information. This would lead to the user-generator content.

26The two parties, i.e. communicant and communicator who in traditional communication theory in general and the theory of marketing communication in particular denote the existence of producer and receiver, have shifted to become the interaction of members of the relevant public. Equal control over the message is more closely related to authenticity as the core essence of the story value being shared and interpreted by the public (as end users, and no longer by the producer). For instance, the original TED talks brand authenticity appears to be exclusive as it can only be experienced by high-class people with the budget and time to experience it. However, ever since TED talks events have been distributed by recorded video, accessible through YouTube or other websites, brand authenticity as a form of shared value has now emerged as a postmodern phenomenon. Its brand authenticity grows as the “talk” (e.g. the story value) content of TED talk is further shared in the public sphere through social media interaction, such as a tweet or re-tweet or posting on Facebook, etc. Indeed, this policy for the public to access the talk for free (after the event), and for those who attended the event to relive it, enriches the brand authenticity which now emerges as the core essence that gives TED talk a brand image as a leading international event discussing technology, entertainment and design (TED). Although it seems that the official TED Twitter accounts also tweets the latest talk via recorded video, the TED brand image is no longer shaped by the producer. TED brand authenticity denotes its unique identity, its consistency and continuity for spreading “worth” issues to the public free of charge, charging only the segmented target market to back up its business. Hence, its brand authenticity has grown enormously. From this perspective, the main question now is how to sustain this brand authenticity which has emerged and represents the brand image? Details of this issue are outlined in the discussion section.

27Furthermore, while it seems that brand authenticity is uncontrollable, the information/idea of shared values discussed in social media interaction is being developed as a result of consenting members of the relevant public. In other words, social media interaction has given power and a path for the public to shape brand authenticity. The term public in this sense refers to a group of people who have a special bond/relationship with the entity through direct or indirect experience. While direct experience indicates the group of people who are consumers of the brand, indirect experience denotes those who have a relationship with the brand through his/her significant others; familiarity with the existence of the brand comes from hearsay. The public in the era of postmodernism thus play a crucial role in shaping brand authenticity, which emerges as the brand image of product offerings. In short, it is sufficient to infer that the brand authenticity initially developed by the producer is now in the hands of certain members of the public.

5. Antecedents, Effects, and Causal Model of Place Brand Authenticity

28Place brand authenticity antecedents refer to the unique identity that is consistently presented to its publics in fulfilling the promises attached to a place’s attributes and benefits, leading to actual functionality and/or prestige. In order for place brand authenticity to be assessed, its antecedents can be derived from elements of the “truth”, namely (1) uniqueness of its individuality; (2) its consistency; and (3) continuity in fulfilling the brand promises aspired to in its profile (e.g. about place attributes and place benefits). Consistently, place brand authenticity antecedents would emerge as the place satisfaction that Insch and Florek (2010), Zenker and Martin (2011) and Zenker et al. (2013) developed.

29Place satisfaction covers place brand trust, place brand identity, and place brand image. Place brand trust is derived from perceived quality and the expectations of its residents (Insch and Florek, 2010) and outsiders, e.g. tourists, investors, foreign students, etc. (Zenker, 2009), as explored in the literature of the city branding (e.g. Zenker and Seigis, 2012; Zenker et al., 2013; Braun et al., 2013); place brand identity, however, could be developed by the producer in the modern era, linked with social media, but this is difficult in the era of postmodernism. However, as brand identity is a crucial phase of branding, the inclusion of place brand identity can be considered relevant as places brand authenticity formation is initially developed by the producer. On the other hand, the brand image of a place signifies the existence of outsiders’ perception of it. Outsiders, according to Zenker (2009), are those people with a relevant relationship with the place (e.g. tourist, investor, foreign student or temporary resident).

30As an adaptation of contemporary brand image theory (Keller, 1993), the brand image of a place is most likely derived from the place’s functionality and relevant attributes, that grow as a set of associations and are embedded in the place’s overall profile. Related studies combine brand image with the place branding realm, particularly in the context of branding the highlights that contribute to the nation brand image (e.g. the study of Kemming and Sandikci, 2007; Fanning, 2011; Handayani and Rashid, 2013, 2015). In this sense, WOM about the brand image of a place is predicted to affect sales, which in this context refers to the number of visitors to a certain place (Chevalier and Mayzlin, 2006). Thus far, the components that make up the framework of place brand authenticity can be illustrated as follows.

Figure 1. Place brand authenticity framework

Figure 1. Place brand authenticity framework

6. Discussion: Place brand authenticity and how it is constructed by/within social media: a postmodern perspective

31As outlined in the introductory section, the questions that need to be explored are as follows. How can the producer develop brand identity in the context of postmodernism? How does the phenomenon of social media interaction influence the development of identity based-brand management? These questions arise because brand identity is seen as the only element over which the producer has control in developing identity based-brand management, in the context of postmodernism is diminished.

32In order to scrutinise this issue, the literature indicates that user-generated construction of brand identity as a new phenomenon is derived from three emergent themes, namely: (1) access to the private sphere; (2) the human dimension and meaningful interpersonal discourse; and (3) authenticity (Yannopoulou et al., 2013). In the context of place brand authenticity and postmodernism, social media interaction still indicates that the combined variables of meaningful interpersonal discourse can be accessed in the private sphere and embedded with authenticity as a core element of the place brand story (the shared value) that shapes the brand image of a place. As Erragcha and Romdhane (2014) point out, the social media interaction that signifies customer empowerment (Cova and Pace, 2006), which in this study context refers to conversation among members of the public about the brand’s shared values (e.g. culture, identity and image) via social media interaction that would emerge as place brand authenticity, can be seen as the role which consumers in web 2.0 bring to the marketing approach.

33The function of communication that points out the six uses may also shape the kind of brand authenticity as the essence of (1) place brand trust; (2) place brand identity; (3) place brand image. In this sense, the type of posting on social media not only shapes the kinds of communication function but, more importantly, denotes ideology (the shared values) that mark the existence of postmodernism. As for the unit analysis implications of this phenomenon towards traditional communication, the fundamental theory which points out “who says what to whom with what effect” is extended by conceptualising it as the phase of members of the public, through social media interaction, shaping brand authenticity. Adapting the critical discourse analysis of Van Dijk (2004; 2009) and Wodak and Meyer (2009), analysis of this intertwined variable of place brand authenticity shared through social media can be examined from the perspective of postmodernism. More specifically, it can be analysed based not only on the types of members of the public but also according to communication types (e.g. formal, informal or non-formal), the political, economic, sociocultural situation where the discourse of its shared value is being talked about or shared, and the consent effect and feedback behind the shape of place brand authenticity.

34As it seems to be clear that social media shapes the kinds of communication function and denotes ideology (the shared values) that mark the existence of postmodernism, the effect of this phenomenon could influence at least two domains. Firstly, it would lead to the discourse on e-word-of-mouth (i.e. e-WOM). Secondly, it would strengthen the past studies that allude the need to re-conceptualise the perspectives of communication theory and human interaction which generated the notion of online communities and online place branding community e.g. the study of Govers (2015) which specifically examine the online place branding notion or the studies that examine the media convergency and its impact on mass communication notion (e.g. Chaffee & Metzger, 2001, Handayani, 2011; and Weimann, Weiss-Blatt, Mengistu, Tregerman, & Oren, 2014); and to redefine the place authenticity (e.g. Knudsen & Waade, 2010). In this sense, e-WOM would revolve on the role of how the producer reacts on shared values that emerged as social discourse. Further, studies indicate customers want to inform both complaints and compliments in e-comments (e.g. the study of Memarzadeh, Blum, & Adams, 2015), which indicates that the discourse of shared values in the social media is influencing people behaviour beliefs. To date, literature indicates that the use of social media features by industry varied widely which most likely utilise it as means for posting property information and use it for facilitating customer engagement (e.g. Virginia Phelan, Chen, & Haney, 2013). This is in line with the studies that intertwined the relationship of information technology applications in the context of tourism and hospitality as experience-based industry which makes tourist(s) as agent of place branding that could (or could not) develop the place identity and its authenticity and how its implications influence the business (e.g. the study of Dwivedi, Shibu & Venkatesh, 2007). This perspective of agent of place branding is termed as socially oriented by Kavaratzis Warnaby, and Ashworth (2015) in Place branding domain.


35Place brand authenticity in this study is derived from the intertwined concept of contemporary brands and branding seen from the perspective of identity based-brand management, social media scrutinised from communication paradigm and theories, and the postmodern perspective; this is depicted in Figure 1. The creation and enactment of social reality, reflective of unjust discourse, and the experience of self and others through dialogue represent not only the communication flow and its patterns but, more importantly, the uncertainty of place brand authenticity formation, while at the same time indicating the “truth”.

36Unlike in the postmodern context, place brand authenticity formation in the modern context indicates room for the producer to control the core place identity, which is aspired to. In other words, constructivism may still be plausible to assist the growth of place brand authenticity in general, and the place brand identity formation in particular. In addition, the study shows that place brand authenticity, identified as the story of shared values (e.g. culture, identity and image) being talked about in the social media sphere would determine the level of place brand satisfaction (Insch and Florek, 2010) e.g. place brand trust, place brand identity and place brand image. To sum up, this study offers a way of viewing the development of place brand authenticity via social media from a postmodern perspective.

37There are two implications of this study. From the theoretical point of view, the study offers a place brand authenticity framework that requires future study to test it empirically. On the other hand, the managerial implication indicates the importance of social media and place brand authenticity in shaping place trust, place identity and place brand image. In addition, as the intertwined relationship of social media and place brand authenticity in the postmodern era indicates uncertainty of place brand authenticity formation, due to the reduced power of the producer in controlling the place brand identity, the producer may sustain its positioning shaping place brand authenticity through balancing its performance and adopting experience-based innovation (e.g. Della Corte, 2012), coupled it with smart tourism perspectives (e.g. Gretzel, Sigala, Xiang & Koo, 2015) as suggested in previous studies.

38There are several limitations to this study. First, the structure reviews are based on the most important contributions from interdisciplinary studies, and some may have been missed. Second, as the nature of the literature review as a methodology, especially the structure review approach, lies in examining the previous studies, gaps, methods used, and recommendations of issues/phenomena, it is deemed important for future study to test the framework. In doing so, future study could develop the items measured for each variable in the framework. Third, although place satisfaction, e.g. in the city or destination branding domain, has shown positive progress as reflected in numerous studies (e.g. Zenker, 2013; Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013; Insch and Florek, 2010; Morgan and Pritchard, 1999; Morgan et al., 2002a; Morgan et al., 2002b), another study from the context of regional studies and spatial planning or country branding and nation branding would be beneficial in enriching its perspective and testing the robustness of the framework and its perspectives. In addition, Netnography can be useful in examining the specific context of tourists who interact through social media, e.g. the oldest tourist online community that has been examined by Nimrod (2012) could be linked to this study.

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Titre Figure 1. Place brand authenticity framework
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Bintang Handayani et Maximiliano E Korstanje, « Place Brand Authenticity in Social Media Interaction: a Postmodern Perspective »Études caribéennes [En ligne], 37-38 | Août-Décembre 2017, mis en ligne le 15 novembre 2017, consulté le 30 novembre 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Bintang Handayani

Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata Bali International, Indonesia,

Maximiliano E Korstanje

University of Palermo, Argentina,

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