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Private Entrepreneur Personal Branding:

Brand Creation and Customer Brand Engagement

Defuro Taifa Edward Ojala Aleksi

School of business, society & engineering

Course: Master Thesis in Business Administration Supervisor: Konstantin Lampou

Course code: FOA 403 Date: 09.06.2020

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Abstract

Date: 09.06.2020

Level: Master thesis in Business Administration, 15 cr

Institution: School of Business, Society and Engineering, Mälardalen University

Authors: Aleksi Ojala Edward Taifa Defuro

(92/05/15) (77/02/22)

Title: Private Entrepreneur Personal Branding: Brand Creation and Customer Brand Engagement

Tutor: Konstantin Lampou

Keywords: Private Branding, Customer Engagement, Brand Engagement, Entrepreneur Branding, Entrepreneurs

Research question: How does private entrepreneurs create their personal brand and customer brand engagement?

Purpose: The aim of this study is to investigate how self-employed entrepreneurs create and manage their brands and how the entrepreneurs engage customers to their brands in online and offline contexts. Furthermore, the viewpoints of entrepreneurs towards branding will be explored

Method: To answer the research question, a qualitative, multiple case study was conducted. The primary data was collected by semi-structured interviews and the secondary data was obtained by studying the entrepreneur´s social media behaviour.

Conclusion: This study found that entrepreneurs build their brands by utilizing their own personalities and characteristics. The brands created have loyal following and the customers are positively engaged. The engagement process itself is due to the relationships built between the company and the customers. Even if the brands are effective, there is not much strategic elements to them but are rather very organic.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to extend our gratitude to our supervisors and to all our colleagues who have given us valuable feedback, suggestions and ideas which has helped us immensely. We also want to thank all of the companies that were willing to dedicate their time to us and to our data collection, with the help of the case companies we were able to conduct an interesting and insightful analysis. Thank you, all, we have now written a complete thesis.

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iv

List of Figures

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Contents

Abstract ... ii

Acknowledgements ... iii

List of Figures ... iv

Figure 1. Conceptual model for customer brand engagement process and results (Brodie et al. 2013). ... iv 1.0 Introduction ... 1 1.1. Background... 1 1.2 Research question ... 3 1.3 Purpose ... 3 2.0 Theoretical Framework ... 4

2.1 Branding and Brand Creation ... 4

2.2 Personal Branding ... 6

2.3 Customer Brand Engagement ... 7

3.0 Method ... 10

3.1 Design of the study ... 10

3.2 Primary data... 11

3.2.1 Interviews... 11

3.2.2 Selection of interview participants ... 12

3.2.3 Operationalization ... 13

3.3 Secondary data ... 14

3.4 Method of data analysis ... 15

3.5 Trustworthiness ... 16 3.5.1 Reliability... 16 3.5.2 Validity ... 17 3.5.3 Objectivity ... 18 3.6 Ethics ... 19 4.0 Findings ... 19

4.1 Primary data on company A ... 19

4.1.1 Secondary data on company A ... 21

4.2 Primary data on Company B ... 22

4.2.1 Secondary data on Company B ... 24

4.3 Primary data on Company C ... 24

4.3.1 Secondary data on Company C ... 26

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4.4.1 Secondary data on Company D ... 28

4.5 Primary data on Company E ... 28

4.5.1 Secondary data on Company E ... 29

5.0 Analysis ... 30

5.1 Branding and brand creation ... 30

5.2 Personal Branding ... 33

5.3 Customer Brand Engagement ... 34

6.0 Conclusion... 38

7.0 Limitations and Future Research ... 40

8.0 References ... 41

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1.0 Introduction

This chapter outlines the following aspects: background, the research question and explains the purpose of the study.

1.1. Background

It is argued that a strong brand is not only one of the most valuable assets for any company, but it also accounts for up to half of the company value (Martensen & Gronholdt, 2010). A brand refers to the identity of a company, what makes it unique and therefore valuable (Rode & Vallaster, 2005).

A brand is a name given to a product, to have an identity to which the product can be referred to (Underwood, 2003). A brand image details what the brand, how the product is perceived by the customer, what makes it exceptional or different from other products are some of the few questions that come in the mind of the customer when a product or brand is seen (Cretu & Brodie, 2007). According to Ghodeswar (2008), a brand is a distinguishing name and/or symbol intended to identify the goods or services of either one seller or a group of sellers, and to differentiate those goods or services from those of competitors.

Brand image is formed in the mind of a customer not only by a product or service, but also with interaction and perception of the provider of a good or a service (Kucuk, 2019). Different customers have different perceptions on different products and providers (Kucuk, 2019). The image of the brand in the customers mind is also formed by visualization, the graphics used in labelling of the product, the environment the offering is received and also the visuals of the person interacted with are important (Rundh, 2009). In order for a good or a service to be attractive, the packaging of the product, person and environment needs to be differentiated and pleasing (Rundh, 2009).

Furthermore, different consumers have got their own attractiveness towards different brands (Kucuk, 2019). Whenever they look at different brands, different emotions and images will be triggered. (Kucuk, 2019). Brand image can be interpreted as what kind of impressions the brand gives to the customers and how these impressions are strategically managed (Ataman & Ulengin, 2003). It is the main key for customers to make a choice after gathering the

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2 information concerning a particular brand and alternative products or companies. (Ataman & Ulengin, 2003).

Businesses continuously strive towards creating long-term relationships with the customers and to enhance the loyalty towards their brand (Apenes Solem, 2016). Positive effects of customer participation in product or service creation has been highlighted in previous research and, furthermore, if customers have a channel to communicate with other consumers and the company they are customers of, they become engaged to the brand (Apenes Solem, 2016, Brodie, Hollebeek, Juric & Ilic, 2011).

Consumer engagement is born from repeated interactions with a brand and it leads to strengthened investment towards the brand emotionally, psychologically and physically (Vivek, Beatty & Morgan, 2012). According to Brodie and Hollebeek (2013), consumer engagement can be achieved by several processes between the customer and the brand. These are “learning, socializing, advocating, sharing and co-developing.” When these processes are maintained, consumers become more engaged to the brand (Brodie & Hollebeek, 2013). This engagement creates positive attitudes, such as loyalty, empowerment and commitment towards the brand (Brodie & Hollebeek, 2013).

Some research touches upon the entrepreneur aspect towards branding and consumer engagement, but the current literature mostly considers being a private entrepreneur as a start-up point and branding as a way to grow as an organization and leaving that stage behind (Rode & Vallaster, 2005; Vallaster, 2011; Eggers, Eggers & Kraus, 2016). Similarly, personal branding, meaning the creation process of a brand to an individual in a similar fashion to company branding (Lair, Sullivan & Cheney, 2005), has had a lot of traction in previous research, but not much light is shed upon self-employed entrepreneurs, but it rather focuses on private people as employees, managers of corporations, students or strictly online personalities building a personal brand (Dumont & Ots, 2020; Pai & Arnott, 2013). Furthermore, contradicting from the traditional branding literature, private entrepreneurs chosen for this study rely greatly on their personas, personal characteristics and skills, rather than building a brand based upon a product or a company name. For private entrepreneurs it is common that there is a lack of resources to invest in marketing and branding, meaning that they are forced to build their brands with low costs and with a focus on themselves and the differentiation of their products.

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3 To avoid confusion and to distinguish the term used for the business owners, the following definition of “entrepreneur” shall be used for the purposes of this study: “The one who organizes, manages and assumes the financial risks of a business or enterprise” (Merriam-Webster, 2020). In essence, the entrepreneurs introduced in this research are self-employed private persons working in different industries. Entrepreneurs chosen for this study are working as tattoo artists, barbers, marketing consultants and fashion designers. According to Shuen (2018), an entrepreneur decides on what field of business to engage in. After picking the field of business the entrepreneur identifies the service or product that can be improved or identifies the needed service or product in that field that is needed and works to provide it (Shuen, 2018). For solo entrepreneurs the choice of field of business is usually based upon an intrinsic values, such as personal skills and passion.

It is especially important for solo entrepreneurs to create and manage strong and compelling brands, because they, as persons, are the central point of their companies (Sankar, 2019). Usually, there are multiple companies in the same industry offering similar products or services, meaning that in order to succeed the differentiation of core-offering and personal brand is necessary (Sankar, 2019).

The businesses used in data collection are managed and organized by one person, including offering the core service, marketing, communication, brand creation and brand management. Arguably, similar knowledge could have been attained by including small businesses with varying number of employees, but to create a clear distinction only businesses of one were selected for this study. These type of entrepreneurs are called private entrepreneurs or sole proprietorship businesses.

1.2 Research question

How does private entrepreneurs create their personal brand and customer brand engagement?

1.3 Purpose

The aim of this study is to investigate and describe how private entrepreneurs create their personal brands and how the building process of personal brand differs from corporations that are researched in the literature. Furthermore, the creation of consumer brand engagement is focused on in order to see how and where entrepreneurs engage their customers to their brand.

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4 To answer the research question, a qualitative study is conducted. Both primary and secondary data is collected from multiple sources and industries to recognize branding and consumer engagement activities of private entrepreneurs.

This study contributes to literature by broadening the scope of branding to include private, self-employed entrepreneurs and fills the gap in literature that is the lack of research on private entrepreneurs. Furthermore, new knowledge of branding and consumer engagement can be found with this study as the subject researched differs from previous research.

2.0 Theoretical Framework

In this chapter the theories and concepts of the study are introduced and discussed through a literature review. First, branding and brand creation as concepts are presented. Secondly, private branding, building and maintaining it and the effects of it are discussed. Finally, Customer brand engagement is focused on and the engagement as a process and how it affects customers and companies is to be explained.

2.1 Branding and Brand Creation

The definition of branding is to allow consumers to be aware and understand the certain brand. Branding would work positively as a strategic approach in order to attract consumers' involvement within a particular product which would help to retain a significant number of consumers (Kunkel, Doyle & Funk, 2014).

A brand can be defined as a marketing process where the product or service or even a company is given a unique identity which differentiates it from other product, service or other companies (Ghodeswar, 2008). According to Ghodeswar (2008), a brand is a distinguishing name and/or

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5 symbol such as logo, trademark, or package design intended to identify the goods or services of either one seller or a group of sellers, and to differentiate those goods or services from those of competitors.

The identity clearly distinguishes the product from other products (Ghodeswar, 2008), this can be achieved by choosing a unique name, different labels and different design, all this is done to achieve a unique identity, different features more than listed can be employed to achieve a unique identity which is now a brand (Aaker, 1991). A brand has an effect on the decision making of the consumer by creating a perceived knowledge of what they would prefer to buy (Macdonald & Sharp, 2000).

Brand creation is a process of identifying and giving features that uniquely identifies the product which defines the brand (Ghodeswar, 2008). These features have to be carefully identified and researched to make sure the design chosen depicts the purpose of the brand, what it represents, how it differs from other brands, but to mention a few (McEnally & De Chernatony, 1999). The main purpose of creating a brand is to communicate with the consumers or target market (Razak, Hidayat, Launtu, Kusuma Putra, & Bahasoan, 2020). Therefore the branding should be done in a way that the brand communicates and creates an emotional connection which makes the consumer want to try it or at least pick it up and read more about other features, hence the graphics used in creating a brand must be carefully chosen (Keller, 2009).

The most important aspect of branding is to attract potential consumers (Kunkel, Doyle & Funk, 2014), an assessment should be carried out to know what the potential consumers prefer and work to develop a product that matches their preferences (Kunkel et al 2014). The communication used in branding should match with what the brand offers whether services or the products and the package should match what is communicated in the marketing process of branding for it to be sustainable (Morrison & Crane, 2007).

Another important feature in brand creation is the cost of the offerings (Rastegari, Amirhossini, & Torkfar, 2019), the target consumers are assessed to know their perception on price, if the majority decision making is driven by competitive price then it would be wrong to present the brand as a premium (McDougall and Levesque, 2000). Usually higher prices signal better quality and vice versa, if the price of a product or service is low, the customer expectations for it are equally lower (Yoo, Donthu & Lee, 2000).

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6 Understanding the needs of end users or consumers is also an important factor in creating a successful and functional brand (Balmer, McDonald, de Chernatony & Harris, 2001). Involving the target consumers in brand creation creates a relationship or connection with the users (Aaker, 1991). Furthermore, this also improves on a product or service being branded since many left out features can easily be identified by the potential consumers themselves, not mentioning improving on the quality to match their preferences (Aaker, 1991).

2.2 Personal Branding

In order to define and clarify one’s personal brand, answer to a fundamental question has to be figured out; “Who am I?” This needs to be clear to the person trying to brand themselves, since an authentic and believable brand can only be created from a realistic base (Rangarajan, Gelb & Vandaveer, 2017). According to Rangarajan et al. (2017), a unique personal brand is intrinsic to everyone and it is constructed by past experiences, personal development and relationships built – differing from company branding, which is considered to be more artificial or a faux construct built to please stakeholders. Contradicting this, Dumont and Ots (2020) argue, that personal brand can be altered to please the target market and that person can have multiple brands to present, if the brand is kept consistent to each audience.

As the competitive environment becomes harsher day by day, personal branding is the key to overcome the competition, regardless of the field operated in (Ilies, 2018). When a person, a student, employee or an entrepreneur “succeeds in sculpting a distinctive brand, that person is well-known to the target audience, has long-term staying power in the marketplace, is clearly and meaningfully differentiated from competitors” (Ilies, 2018). As everyone has a personal brand on some level, whether it is a complete mirror image of self, strategically built to optimal or a mixture of the two, the problem lies on the question how to benefit and exploit that brand (Rangarajan et al. 2017; Dumont & Ots, 2020).

Research widely agrees that social media is a key channel to build, market and manage the personal brand (Ilies, 2018; Rangarajan et al. 2017; Dumont & Ots, 2020), especially as personal branding is usually operated with relatively low resources (Gao & Feng, 2016). In addition, social media reaches wider audiences than traditional marketing, the audiences accept the messages received easier and the messages seem more personal (Gao & Feng, 2016).

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7 As the audience online is large and virtually everyone can interact with the brand, the impression management becomes more relevant, as consistency throughout the brand marketing is essential (Pai & Arnott, 2013). Furthermore, regardless of the media or forum used, if the person and brand do not meet when buyer-seller interaction happens, trust and goodwill towards the brand will decrease and vice versa (Ilies, 2018; Rangarajan et al. 2017).

2.3 Customer Brand Engagement

Engagement has been identified as an important concept in the field of business for decades, as the importance of engaged employees and students was recognized (Alvarez-Milan, Felix, Rauschnabel & Hinsch, 2018). Lately, the benefits of attaining engaged customers have been gaining more focus in the field of business as well and those benefits are made evident by multiple studies, which show growth in profits, frequent purchases, repeated purchases and overall customer loyalty (Alvarez-Milan et al. 2018; Brodie et al., 2011).

Customer engagement (CE) as a concept is difficult to define because of its vastness and subjectivity, which has led into multiple, but similar explanations for the phenomena (Vivek, Beatty, & Morgan). The basis of CE is formed upon customer – brand interactions (Hollebeek, 2018; Wang & Lee, 2020). In the essence, this can be seen as a relationship between a provider (of a service or a good) and a consumer that goes beyond the monetary transaction (van Doorn, Lemon, Mittal, Nass, Pick, Pirner & Verhoef, 2010). Furthermore, CE encompasses value co-creation between the company and the consumer as engaged customers takes part “in the creation of the core offering itself. It can occur in shared inventiveness, co-design or shared production of related goods”. This kind of co-creation can occur when the customer participates in uniquely personalized customer-to-brand behaviour expanding further from predetermined options as a coproduction (Van Doorn et al. 2011).

Customer engagement, although a dynamic relationship, is often considered to be company initiated and a strategic tool used to create CE programs, not as something spontaneous born from experiences over time (Vivek et al. 2012; Alvarez-Milan et al. 2018). Furthermore, results stemming from engaged customers should be measurable in terms of growth in sales along with consumer activities related to the brand online and in social media (Alvarez-Milan et al. 2018). Online context is an important part of customer engagement, since different online platforms allow customers and companies to interact and customers can share and learn about the brand

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8 and furthermore advocate for the brand online (Wang & Lee, 2020). Although an important factor in customer engagement, it is not the online services per se that are important, but they have to be taken into consideration because of the popularity of them as forums and platforms for brand-customer interactions (Brodie et al. 2011). In online context customers also interact with each other (Brodie et al. 2013). Customers can share their experiences online, thus advocating for the business concerned, simultaneously teaching other customers about the business and thus enhancing brand engagement (Brodie et al. 2013).

Whether online or offline, similar actions lead into customer engagement and the results are the same, regardless of the context (Brodie et al. 2013; Wang & Lee, 2020). According to Brodie et al. (2013), engaged customers show loyalty and satisfaction, feel empowered, are emotionally connected to the brand and also trust and commit to the brand. Furthermore, Brodie et al. (2013) have recognized five actions and processes (visualized in Fig.1) that lead into aforementioned benefits of engaged customers.

Figure 1. Conceptual model for customer brand engagement process and results (Brodie et al. 2013).

The five actions distinguished by Brodie et al. (2013) in their conceptual model are sharing, learning, co-developing, advocating and socializing. These processes have been recognized to function both online and offline and they can be carried out by customers to increase engagement or by the service provider to initiate customer engagement (Brodie et al. 2011, Hollebeek, 2018; Wang & Lee, 2020).

As can be seen in the conceptual model (Fig.1), the customer brand engagement is not an orderly progression or a one way process, but rather a dynamic and interactive one in which different actions interplay with each other, hence, the bidirectional arrows (Brodie et al. 2013).

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9 For example, results of co-development can be shared by the customer or the business, teaching new customers about the possibility. By sharing the result, customer simultaneously advocates the business. Similarly, if the business shares the result of co-development, the business socialises with current and potential customers. As aforementioned, customer brand engagement is a multifaceted process, where companies interact with customers and customers with companies and customers (Brodie al. 2011). The processes visualised in the Figure 1 can be performed by companies and also by customers that are engaged or in process of being engaged (Brodie et al. 2013). As customers that are not yet engaged get affected by these processes the engagement towards a brand can be initiated (Brodie et al 2013; Alvarez-Milan, 2018).

The four consequences, loyalty and satisfaction, empowerment, connection and emotional bonds and trust and commitment of customer brand engagement are identified by Brodie et al. (2013). According to Brodie et al. (2013) the consequences have been identified by multiple researchers, but have been all identified at once and illustrated by them. Additionally, the consequences as specific emotions towards a company as definitions are not the most important factor, but rather the notion that with CE the overall attitude towards companies is more positive (Brodie et al. 2013). Furthermore, the importance of offering a platform for customers is noted and also the importance of “engaging to engage” is found (Brodie et al. 2013). The final argument stems from the fact that following and measuring customer-customer interactions is challenging (Brodie et al 2013).

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3.0 Method

3.1 Design of the study

The basis of this study is to investigate how entrepreneurs engage customers to their brand in online and offline contexts. For that investigation to be plausible, ways of brand creation needs to be examined and clarified. To carry out the research, both primary and secondary data has been collected by conducting multiple case study interviews and studying brand-related behaviour in the marketing channels of participants.

To study how and whether or not the theories introduced in the theoretical framework function in the actual business world and furthermore in the context of what this paper focuses on, a qualitative, abductive approach has been chosen to carry this research out. With a qualitative study it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of phenomena by studying how individuals perceive and understand them within their own settings (Bryman & Bell, 2011, pp. 383-390). With a qualitative method, because of these characteristics, in-depth data can be obtained and evaluated in relation to the conceptual relationships. Qualitative approaches are criticized be inadequate in the terms of transparency (Bryman & Bell, 2015, p.409), therefore, in order to reduce this issue, the methodological steps taken are explained and transcribed thoroughly. Several case studies were carried out to gain information to answer the research question and fulfil the purpose of this study. A case study is a method of data collection where the focus is in certain company or an organization (Bryman & Bell, 2015, p. 78). Case studies were chosen as the tool to collect data, because by utilizing them, it is possible to gain evidence of a phenomenon in an environment where it is actually happening (Farquhar, 2012, p. 6). In addition, Farquhar (2012, p. 6) argues that “Case study research is a suitable and preferable method for answering questions that start with how, who and why.”

Case studies are critiqued for the lack of generalizability of the knowledge gained from them because only one certain entity is studied in a certain moment (Farquhar, 2012, pp.9-10). In order to gain results that are as generalizable as possible, multiple case studies have been conducted to find factors that are common among the cases studied. Furthermore, secondary data from a longer timeline has been collected, which eases the possible criticism of having only a snapshot of the reality of the case studied.

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11 All the case companies chosen were businesses managed completely by one person, including all the marketing efforts and brand-related actions. Furthermore, cases included were required to have a channel where marketing the brand and themselves is possible. In all cases, the channel used was online social media, mostly Instagram. Primary empirical data was collected from the businesses by conducting semi-structured interviews with the business owners and secondary data was obtained by studying the marketing and behaviour in online social media in a context that is relevant to this research.

To make sure that the data collected was relevant in regards to the focus of the research, a theory-driven, abductive research strategy was chosen. In an abductive study, existing, theoretical, knowledge is collected and applied to the empirical world (Bryman & Bell, 2015, pp.23-24). Therefore, data collection and operationalization of the study was planned with the concepts and theoretical framework in focus. The data collected was analysed in the same theory-driven vein. Furthermore, the relationships between brand engagement processes and related behaviour was analysed by applying the conceptual model presented in figure 1, in order to compare the theoretical and empirical data.

3.2 Primary data

3.2.1 Interviews

The method for collecting primary data for this study was opted to be in the form of semi-structured interviews. In semi-semi-structured interviews a set of questions has been prepared and the order to ask them is also premeditated, but the respondent has freedom in regards, to how to answer them (Bryman & Bell, 2015, pp.481-483). The semi-structured interviews were chosen as the preferred method as the research is theory-driven and the concepts included in the study have to be addressed. Furthermore, by conducting semi-structured interviews it is possible to ask follow-up questions and they give enough leeway to discuss the topic at a deeper level (Bryman & Bell, 2015, pp. 481-483). Thus, interviewers can ask the interviewees to elaborate on topics is deemed to be interesting and possibly useful for the research during the interview.

The predetermined questions for the interviews were set to be open-ended as the answers resulting from them are usually multi-faceted and rich in content (Saunders et al., 2015,

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pp.408-12 410; Bryman & Bell, 2015, pp.483-485). According to Saunders et al. (2015, pp. 405-407), open-ended questions encourage the respondents to answer in a personal and honest manner. To ensure complete focus on the interviews, no notes were taken during them. By doing this there were no distractions to deviate from what was said by the respondents, thus creating more dynamic interviews and the follow-up questions were easier to construct. Instead of real time transcribing, the interviews were audio recorded. With audio recordings the data can be accessed unlimited times, which enables more accurate analysis.

To carry out the semi-structured interviews, internet video-call service Skype was used. Advantages of using services like Skype are that the interviews can be conducted in a setting that suits all the participants and there is no need for physical interaction. According to Seitz (2016), when the interviewee is in a comfortable and familiar setting, he/she usually answers more truthfully, thus increasing the reliability of the interview.

Negative aspect regarding video calls is that it is reliable on a steady internet connection and technical difficulties may interrupt or stop the interview completely. Additionally, even though the participants can see each other, making this technique better than traditional phone calls, body language is more difficult to read as the picture is not complete. Even if not a perfect replacement, it was decided by the researchers to opt for video calls rather than face to face interviews as an adequate method.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, one of the interviews, interview 5 with Company E had to be conducted via e-mail.

3.2.2 Selection of interview participants

To find relevant participants for interviews, purposive sampling was utilized, as the reason of purposive sampling is to sample the potential businesses for their relevance regarding the purpose and research question of the study (Bryman & Bell, 2011, p.429). As the research is abductive, it is essential to find cases to interview that can provide data that is related to the concepts of the research. Furthermore, this enhances internal validity since with relevant participants it is easier to ensure that what is studied is relevant.

To attain rich and all-encompassing data in regards of the purpose and research question of this study, the selection of the interviewees was thoroughly considered. To make sure that consumer brand engagement could be investigated in an offline context, it was necessary that all the

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13 participants have physical interactions and communications directly with their customers. As for the industries, all of the participants have an artistic element to their work and core-offering, enabling them to create their brands and achieve differentiation through their work. Additionally, the selection of participants was made under the author´s judgement, that entrepreneurs with creative mind-sets would possess more vivid personalities, thus offering richer information and data about their personal brands and overall behaviour.

In order to create a more generalizable study, interviewees from multiple industries were selected. By this decision, the risk of having data that is only relevant to a single industry was avoided. Furthermore, the authors wanted to collect data from entrepreneurs that have variying experience as an entrepreneur.

Certain practical decisions were made when selecting the participants. In order for a company to be approved as a participant: It has to be managed by one person, including marketing online and offline, to have an online presence in a platform that enables interaction with customers and all communications has to be done alone by the person managing the business. Furthermore, if a company was considered for the interviews, the source of secondary data was investigated in order to verify reasonable activity in the online platform.

All of the case companies are operating in Finland and all the interviewees are Finnish speaking. By interviewing only Finnish entrepreneurs it was certain, that the interviewees can express themselves to their fullest, as there were no guarantees of their skills and comprehension in the English language.

3.2.3 Operationalization

The final operationalization of the concepts into an interview guide can be found in the appendix A. The interviews were conducted in Finnish between 7th of May and 16th of May 2020.

Interview guide used for the semi-structured interviews used for this study consists of series of questions referring to the concepts used in this study, but they are relatively broad in their context, as recommended by Bryman and Bell (2015, pp. 213-214). While creating the interview questions, the research question was constantly in focus to collect relevant data from all the conceptual aspects.

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14 The broadness and openness of the interview guide and naturally the interview itself had an important role, as the knowledge of the interviewees regarding the concepts was unknown. Rather than using specific vernacular, the interview language was kept conversational, in order to capture meanings and viewpoints of the interviewees and not forcing them to answer theoretical questions that they don´t necessarily understand completely. In that sense, the interview guide functioned more as a roadmap to carry on the conversation and as an aid to keep the interview on track regarding the purpose of the study and the concepts that needed to be investigated. Furthermore, the interview guide had to be modified with some minor changes from interview to interview. The reason for this was the different industries and core-offerings of the case companies. For example, the term “product” might not be valid for all of the interviewees as their core-offering can be seen as a service.

The global pandemic had an effect on the nature of the data collection, mainly because of the fact that there was no possibility to visit the work establishments of the interviewees. Originally the interviews were planned to be face-to-face. Although an adequate replacement, Skype-interviews do not have the same possibilities for a natural flow of communication and informality of the interview what was planned. Similarly, the plan was to collect data on the concepts introduced in the interview guide (Appendix A) by observing the workplaces of the interviewees. In the essence, some of the brand-related concepts, such as “packaging” would have been easier to investigate in-person, rather than relying on the explanations of the interviewees.

3.3 Secondary data

Secondary data for this study was collected by examining and studying the marketing, brand-related actions and processes of customer brand engagement (Fig.1) in online social media. Secondary data was collected from the companies’ profiles on Instagram, which is an online platform used for video and photo sharing and social is networking. In Instagram users have the possibility to upload photos and videos on their profile, where people can see, like and comment them. Additionally, users can tag other users on their uploads, which alerts the tagged profile and gives the possibility to share the upload to their feed as well, thus being shown on two separate profiles enhancing the coverage of the upload. Users also can post “stories” that are visible for 24 hours. The “stories” have similar functionalities as other uploads. Additionally, users can communicate via direct messages which are only visible to the sender and recipient.

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15 Instagram was chosen as a source of secondary data not only because of its popularity as a marketing tool but also because of the possibilities it offers for interactions between companies and customers.

With secondary data collected from Instagram, the methods of building a personal brand can be investigated as well as the ways that companies and customers interact with each other creating and enhancing customer brand engagement. Furthermore, not only what is posted to the Instagram is studied, but certain conclusions can also be drawn from lack of social media activity regarding branding and customer brand engagement.

By collecting and analysing secondary data, it is possible to see the actual behaviour of the business that is researched. As the concepts of this study deal with online context, it is essential to reach the data about that context along with the interviews. Furthermore, data collected, and overall observations made can be used to support the semi-structured interviews.

Qualitative secondary data entails data that is already produced for other purposes than to be used for a specific research (Irwin, 2013). This leads into a conclusion that secondary data could be deemed as irrelevant (Saunders et al., 2015, pp. 335). To enhance the relevancy and validity of the secondary data, some measures has been done; firstly, purposive sampling was used in choosing of the case companies with a prerequisite that they have an active marketing and networking channel online from which content related to this study can be found, as this is an abductive study. Secondly, not all data available has been collected, analysed or presented if it has been judged as irrelevant.

3.4 Method of data analysis

After the interviews, the data collected was coded and categorized separately and individually from each other in order to get an understanding of the data and the relationships between the data and the concepts investigated. First, the data was categorized and sorted into a comprehensible order by pairing the relevant data with the concept that was the most relevant. As the interviews were semi-structured and the answers were result of an organic discussion in most cases, the recordings of the interviews were listened multiple times for each of the participants until all of the relevant data was collected and coded with the corresponding concept.

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16 To ensure the display of all of the relevant data while avoiding presenting overwhelming amounts of text, data reduction was carried out by paraphrasing the interviews and by focusing on the data that was connected to the concepts in the interview guide, as suggested by Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 11). By reducing data, the analysis is set underway, as it focuses the data to the categories that are important and simultaneously non-relevant data is discarded (Miles & Huberman, 1994, pp.11-12). Arguably, some interesting remarks, insights and descriptions will inevitably be reduced, but as aforementioned in the operationalization, some changes had to be made into the focal points of data collection and therefore to the method of analysis.

To organize and analyse the data from the secondary source, similar procedure was conducted as for the primary data. The data was considered and presented regarding the concepts and the contents of the secondary source rather than in a descriptive fashion to keep the data display and analysis uniform. Furthermore, the secondary data was used to confirm what the interviewees had said.

Ultimately the data was coded and divided under the three main focus points of this study; branding and brand creation, personal branding and customer brand engagement. Also, all the findings were brought together under the final concepts to make comparisons between interviewees finding themes among them possible.

The method used to create a meaningful analysis is called qualitative content analysis and more precisely directed approach to it (Hshieh & Shannon, 2005). With this method the data is coded and categorized according to the theories used for the data collection or relevant previous research (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). Furthermore, Hsieh and Shannon (2005) argue that directed approach to content analysis is best suited for data that is collected with interviews containing open-ended questions.

3.5 Trustworthiness

3.5.1 Reliability

Reliability in a research refers to the level of repeatability of the study and furthermore, whether the results of the study would repeat if the research was to be conducted again (Bryman & Bell, 2015, p.49). Along with replication, transparency of the study needs to be taken into

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17 consideration in order to create a reliable study, as the former is not possible to achieve without the latter. (Farquhar, 2012, pp.102-103).

Complete reliability in qualitative case study is difficult to achieve because of the fact that the moment regarding social setting, interviewer-interviewee interaction and the personal contexts cannot be recreated (Farquhar, 2012, pp. 102-103; Saunders et al., 2015, pp. 155-156), possibly resulting in differences in data collected (Saunders et al., 2015, pp.155-156).

In order to create as repeatable study as possible, complete explanation and description of methodology, data collection and analysis has been done in detail. In addition, to increase the transparency of the study, all the interviews have been recorded. Recording of the study also minimizes the risk of biased answers, thus, if the interviews were to be conducted again, the answers would be more likely the same. Regarding the fact that the interviews have been done in a certain context and timeframe in a social setting, the secondary data is collected from a broader timeline allowing the researchers to address the possible changes in attitudes and behaviours.

3.5.2 Validity

Internal validity in a research relates to the level of causality of the relationships between the concepts and theories and the results of the data analysis (Bryman & Bell, 2015 p.50), or as Farquhar (2012, p. 101) states that internal validity refers to whether or not “event X led to event Y.” According to Björklund & Paulsson (2014, pp. 66-67), internal validity can be achieved also by ensuring that what is measured is supposed to be measured.

To enhance the internal validity of this study, the concepts have been carefully chosen by utilizing credible sources, which prove the functionality of different relationships between theoretical and empirical worlds, thus presenting the causality at a general level. Furthermore, a multitude of previous research by multiple researchers on the topic has been studied and presented in order to create a functional theoretical framework. Additionally, a high level of focus has been kept on the purpose and research question throughout the interview question preparation, data collection and analysis as well as on the decisions regarding the theoretical framework.

External validity refers to the generalizability of the research, which can be a problem when conducting a qualitative case study, as the number of respondents in the study is usually

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18 relatively low (Farquhar, 2012, p.7, 103). Furthermore, the criticism for the generalizability of qualitative studies stems from the argument that the findings should not only be valid in the setting they are studied but elsewhere as well (Farquhar, 2012, pp.103-104).

To create a study that is generalizable multiple case studies has been conducted in order to find similarities between the cases studied and to find out why the findings differ from case study to another, thus achieving generalizable results within the context that is studied. On the topic of total generalizability throughout the business world, it is not necessary to achieve in regard to the purpose of this study. As aforementioned, the theoretical framework and conceptual model has been built upon general knowledge on the topic at hand, which is achieved by studying large populations. The purpose of this study is to investigate and fill a gap in literature, which requires a more focused sample of participants. Thus, the goal regarding generalizability for this study is to gain knowledge that is generalizable within the contexts of studied businesses. To further increase the generalizability within the field of study, case companies are from different industries. By collecting data from multiple industries there is less risk of gaining knowledge that is bound to certain industry and furthermore drawing conclusions that are not relevant to the larger focus of this study.

3.5.3 Objectivity

For a research to be objective, all the decisions and actions done to create a research have to be explained and motivated to a highest possible extent (Björklund & Paulsson, 2014, pp.66-67). The researcher's objectivity has to be considered as well in order to avoid the research to be affected by personal values, opinions or inclinations (Farquhar, 2012, p. 108). Furthermore, possible shortcomings about the thesis needs to be addressed as well as problematics regarding methodology (Farquhar, 2012).

In order to stay objective towards the study, a comprehensive methodology has been built not only to create a roadmap from start to finish but also to discuss and answer the problems and criticism towards the methodology chosen. To maintain the objectivity of the data and the analysis of it, the data has been collected, revised and analysed by more than one person, decreasing the chance of possible personal views from disturbing the objectivity.

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19

3.6 Ethics

Securing the privacy and anonymity of the interviewees needs to be addressed and furthermore full confidentiality of the interviews is to be offered to the respondents, as publicising the names or other information about them might affect the respondents negatively (Bryman & Bell, 2015, pp.130-132; Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2015, p. 263). In this study, all aspects of anonymity were negotiated with the interviewees and no information of the person interviewed or their business was published without their knowledge and approval. Similar considerations were respected for the collected secondary data. Furthermore, the possibility of revising the final work was offered to the respondents in addition to access to the transcripts made from the interview.

4.0 Findings

In chapter four of findings, the relevant information obtained through collecting primary and secondary data will be introduced and presented as follows:

4.1 Primary data on company A

Interviewee A is a tattoo artist from Finland. He has worked as an entrepreneur for 2,5 years. Before starting his own studio, he has worked in different studios around the world.

Company A uses social media, namely Instagram, as the main marketing channel and information source for the customers, “Because it is the only reasonable option.” Social media also functions as a communication channel including bookings and questions about the company and so on. With close customers, Company A also communicates with direct messaging apps and customers do come to the studio as well to book times and socialize. Interviewee A describes his studio as his second living room where “everyone is welcome to come, grab a cup of coffee and talk.” Every Friday Company A hosts a walk-in day, where customers can come in and get tattooed without a booked time. Interviewee A believes that walk-in days are a great way to attain new customers and to spread knowledge about his studio. Interviewee A admits that his marketing efforts are not very efficient or strategic and most likely there would be more new customers if he would put more effort on his social media pages. According to the interviewee, he does tag people on his posts but not necessarily as a tool to get new customers but more as a thank you for getting to do a design he really enjoyed. Interviewee A uses hashtags to raise awareness about his studio and to attract more people to

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20 his profile. “I know I should use social media more and it is good for marketing. Well, the way I use social media for marketing, is that most of the posts I upload are designs that I really enjoy doing and by putting the picture online, hopefully people will get more similar designs.” Interviewee knows that people post his work online and to him it is a sign that the customer is excited about the tattoo and that it is well done. Every time this happens the interviewee does repost it in his Instagram

Interviewee A describes the environment he works in to be as he likes it, including the decoration, music that is played and the overall atmosphere. Interviewee A believes that he and the customers he have similar tastes and enjoy similar themes. He mentions that he has long relationships, lasting from his apprentice days and that if there were things about him or his studio that people dislike, they would not probably return. “I need to be in an environment I am comfortable in or otherwise my work would suffer. Of course, if a customer wants to listen to different music while getting a tattoo, I will change the song”, he adds. Interviewee A pays a lot of attention to the customers and to making sure they are comfortable. He describes himself as easily approachable and a humane person. Furthermore, he thinks that customer service is the most important factor to his work. “I have been to many studios and while some artists do terrific work, the human aspects and customer service are not paid attention to. This can be scary and uncomfortable to the customer, especially if the customers are not that experienced.” For Interviewee A, it is very important that customers are not nervous, and if they are, he pays extra attention to explaining various steps and, ensuring that customers get the breaks they need and that everything is going according to plan. “Tattoos hurt, no matter what. My job as a tattoo artist is to make sure that the customers can manage it.”

When asked about the pricing of Company A, the interviewee describes them as affordable and reasonable compared to the levels in the city he works in. He knows that he could charge more but has made the decision not to. The reason for this, according to Interviewee A, is that he wants to tattoo everyone not just people with a lot of money. Additionally, he does not want to get labelled as an artist for certain group of people.

Interviewee A tells that there are certain things that he wouldn´t do, even if it would ensure higher profits. These things include tattoos he cannot make, face tattoos, offensive designs and designs that are against his personal views and values. Reason behind this is that he firstly wants to stay true to himself and secondly that kind of work would harm his reputation. Being told strictly what to do and in which way to do his work would never work.

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21 Interviewee A explains the process of getting a tattoo to be very dynamic, sometimes he gets to do what he wants and sometimes customer has a lot of suggestions. Usually customers have an idea or a theme in mind and together they work on it to be functional and doable. There are often discussions about the future designs and how customers could get them to work as a part of larger whole design. Interviewee believes that these back-and-forth discussions is necessary for both parties to be happy and both sides are as important. Interviewee A adds, that sometimes he needs to put on the breaks a little bit and explain that something would not work or is against “tattoo rules” as he describes them, regarding placement, colour or character. Furthermore, he gives information on healing and how the tattoos work, that the colours might fade and other practicalities. Still, as there is an established relationship between the interviewee and the customer, there is a lot mutual trust between the two and as the customer know how Interviewee A works and his style the end result always satisfies both parties.

Interviewee states that his tattoos and the company he has is affected by himself and his personality. Furthermore, he believes that his company and his personal service are unique, since his opinion is that he is the company. Furthermore, he states that he is the same person at work as he is at home, “of course”, he adds, “everyone´s behaviour changes regarding the customer, but the same person is still there.”

When asked about his view on his company´s image he describes it to be about great customer care, easy place to come, tattoos that look like real tattoos and that he is there as himself; “No bells and whistles, I´ll keep on doing things my way as me, and if it does not work out, I´ll have to figure out something else to do.”

4.1.1 Secondary data on company A

In the Instagram profile of Company A all of the posts are picture of tattoos made or future designs by the entrepreneur running Company A. In all the posts with done work, the customer has been tagged or named if they don´t have an Instagram account or they didn´t want to be tagged. In most cases, the tagged customer has commented on the post that they have been tagged to. Furthermore, all the posts have been commented by multiple people and all of the posts contain hashtags. The hashtags added are used in other account´s posts from tens of thousands of time to millions of times. The pictures of future design contain information about booking details and special events hosted by Company A. In the stories section the posts are similar to the regular feed with an addition of reshared posts from customers.

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22 The Instagram profile of Company A is named after the Interviewee A

4.2 Primary data on Company B

Interviewee B has worked as an entrepreneur in Finland for two years. Before starting his own marketing agency, he worked for other companies and did freelance work as a visual designer. Interviewee B handles his communicating and marketing through social media and tries to keep his communications as personal as possible. The personal way of contacting customers is also his way to differentiate from other similar companies and “from me you won´t get automated e-mails and you don´t have to fill readymade contact forms.” Interviewee B understands the limitations to resources while working as an entrepreneur, but at the same time he thinks it is a strength because he must be there 100% for the customer. Furthermore, according to interviewee, it is a positive thing that he handles everything from planning to carrying out the designs, since that way there is less complications and middlemen. Additionally, he believes that by himself he can commit to the customers more, allowing him and his clients to make more long-term plans together from singular designs to complete visual images. The whole work process is built upon planning together and exchanging ideas; “The more the customer speaks the better, since then it is easier for me to satisfy the customer” Interviewee B continues. It does make it easier for him to sell other services too, Interviewee B explains.

Instagram is the most used marketing platform for Company B, and Interviewee B considers it to be a portfolio of his work. Interviewee B acknowledges the importance of social media marketing but admits that he is not focusing on that as much as he would like to. Still, interviewee aims to make it as efficient as possible and tries to always use it to full potential by sharing his work and re-sharing his client’s material.

Interviewee claims that the personal relationships he is able to create with the customers is his greatest strength and that those relationships sets him apart from other, larger agencies. Additionally, those relationships seem to work according to the interviewee, since he has gotten a lot of personal referrals from his clients leading to attainment of new customers.

The way he works and the fact that he runs the company by himself makes his company and work unique, since “There is a lot less compromises to be made internally and I can really work without any shackles on me or be hindered by company policies.” By being self-employed, his costs are lower than they are for others, enabling lower prices for customers. Interviewee B

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23 acknowledges the fact that cheap prices might affect the perceived value of his work, so he does not make too much cost breakdowns or market himself as cheap but let´s the done work speak for him first. In the future, interviewee would like to hire more professionals that are capable to give full service like him, not just one aspect included in visual images.

When asked about how much Interviewee B can be seen in the company, he tells that he has made the decision to market it as a company, since he believes that by doing so, it would be more believable. Interviewee B says that it might not be the right decision, because his reputation is built upon the personal attributes and that he might have to reconsider adding his own image to the company too.

Interviewee B thinks that he can be his own self while working and that it is a big strength for him: “At first I thought that customers only buy finished design, but now I understand that they buy the relationship we create together.” According to the interviewee, those relationships he has built are worthwhile. For example, it makes after-sales easier as he can make suggestions for new campaigns and the customers appreciates the initiative. Those relationships need to be honest still and Interviewee B does not believe that creating relationships just to increase profits would be sustainable. “For me, it is easy not to be just a salesman, because I´m really bad at selling, so I have rely on honesty, quality of my work and my personality.”

Interviewee B states that he would not work with companies that are against his personal values or he would not create false advertising, because it is very difficult to bounce back from that and it would negatively affect his reputation greatly. “Naturally, I am trying to make my company successful, so I can´t be too picky when it comes to clients, but there are some lines I would not cross”, he explains.

The way Interviewee B works, is that he always creates plans together with the client before starting. After the initial mapping, he creates a presentation and discusses about the possibilities with the customer again. Interviewee´s opinion is that in the end customer makes the decision, but that he does a lot of suggestions about the work. “Sometimes it is about finding the balance between what the customer thinks is good, and what I know is good. There is always room for discussion.” Additionally, Interviewee B gives information about the length of the projects, possible additions to the initial order and he also gives marketing consultancy during the projects. Interviewee points out that the initial mapping is always free of charge, as it helps with attaining new customers.

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24 Interviewee B states that his brand is “stylish, direct, customer-driven and simple.” Interviewee B believes that he himself and his work reflect that image very well.

4.2.1 Secondary data on Company B

Company B´s Instagram profile includes pictures and videos of completed works done for clients. The clients have been tagged to the posts and they also contain hashtags that are used in from hundreds to millions of posts. The Instagram profile is named after the official company name of Company B

4.3 Primary data on Company C

Interviewee C is a barber and has been working as a private entrepreneur for 7 years in Finland. The company C was started immediately after required education and apprenticeship was finished.

The primary marketing channel for Interviewee C is social media and mostly Instagram is used. The marketing in social media for Company C is carried out by posting pictures of customers after the service. Interviewee C always tags the customer in the photo and he has noticed that the customers appreciate this and get happy over it. Furthermore, Interviewee C posts pictures of himself to social media along with his work-related material. According to the interviewee, even though most of the material is his work, he likes to “sometimes just put up something funny in there, whether it is me, or some other funny picture.” Interviewee also adds that there is relationships created in social media with the customers, and that people comment on the pictures they are tagged to and share them forward. Interviewee C explains that he knows the power of social media as a marketing tool but continues that he feels that he is not utilizing it to the fullest. Still, “I think that I have gotten better at it, with tagging and hashtags and so on, but I don´t really have a professional attitude towards it”, he states. Interviewee C does not host any kind of competitions or encourage customers to share his work in their social media, because he feels that it would be forcing a relationship with the customers.

Interviewee C believes that he and his company are unique and that the uniqueness is based upon both the way he treats his customers but also because of the way he is. Interviewee C states that the relationships he has with the customers is the most important factor for them “I believe that the best way to differentiate is to do things I like and do them the way I like. That is probably not for everyone, but I won´t change my methods or the way I am.” Furthermore,

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25 he knows that he´s work is easily recognizable and a great way to differentiate from others and to market himself.

Interviewee C argues that when there is a match between him and a customer, it creates customer loyalty and long-lasting relationships. This can be seen especially now when having a store open is problematic because of the pandemic as customers are constantly asking about his return to work and refuse to go to another shop, interviewee elaborates. “I don´t like to talk about my skills or praise my techniques, but I feel like I have done something right with the way I am with the customers if they are willing to wait for weeks on end to get their hair cut by me.” Interviewee states.

Interviewee C continues that his shop follows the same theme as the way he does his work; “My place of work is really an extension to my living room. I have furnished and decorated it with the things I like, and I think that my store really represents who I am.” Interviewee believes that it is essential that he likes the workplace and is surrounded by the things he is passionate about. “If I would have to do things the way someone else wants or if I had to work in an environment that is not to my liking, I would have to quit my work.” Interviewee C argues that being exactly him and not changing or adapting himself to anyone’s preferences is a strength and that he has customers from all levels of life; “From construction workers to bankers”, he describes.

When asked about how can Interviewee C seen as a person in his workplace and in his marketing, he tells that he has some pretty strong values that can be seen in his social media and in the shop. Still, even though those values are strict and unchangeable, he does not force them to his customers.

Interviewee C believes that the prices he has are about at the medium compared to the area and that there would room for increasing them in respect of the quality he provides and popularity he has. Interviewee C tells that he offers classic haircuts for men and that he also works with beards. Additionally, he gives advice on different styling products and how to style hair at home as well. “There is a lot of customers that tell me about their difficulties with styling their hair at home, so I try my best to guide them in it, I want my customers to feel happy about their hair the day after as well.” Interviewee C explains that it is mostly up to the customer to decide what they want to have, but most of his customers are aware of his style and methods so there are rarely any requests that he feels uncomfortable with. Interviewee C adds that most of his

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26 customers are returning customers, meaning that they were happy with the service and the cut they have gotten previously. “There is still a lot of back-and-forth about ideas between me and my customers and we always get to an end result that pleases both.”

When asked to explain the brand of Company C and what it is built upon, the interviewee tells that “it is pretty mixed bag, good haircuts, I think. Good times and good haircuts.”

4.3.1 Secondary data on Company C

Company C´s Instagram profile consists of work-related pictures and other pictures in approximately equal amounts. The work-related pictures are of finished and in progress works. Additionally, there is professionally made promotional material for Company C. The other content in the profile is mostly pictures of Interviewee C outside of his profession. These pictures also contain pictures of his family and friends.

In the work-related pictures Interviewee C has included industry- and location related hashtags that are used in hundreds of thousands to millions of posts. In all the work-related posts Interviewee C has tagged industry-related companies and popular profiles in the industry, but there are no tags of customers during the past 12 months.

In the stories portion, Interviewee C shares pictures of his customers to which he has been tagged to. Instagram profile of Company C is named after Interviewee C.

4.4 Primary data on Company D

Interviewee D has been an entrepreneur for 5 years and has been managing Company D for 3 years. Company D is a barbershop of Interviewee D.

Interviewee D uses social media, almost exclusively Instagram for marketing and for communications to his customers. Interviewee D tells that even if being a barber is his job, he does not consider it as work, but as “something where I get to do what I love, I get to hang out with cool people and I get paid for it.” In social media he tries not to only focus on pictures of finished work but rather on himself and the reason for this is, according to Interviewee D, that he probably is not the greatest one at cutting hair technically, but his persona is what he relies upon and makes him successful. Furthermore, He aims to broaden his visibility and reputation by collaborating with people who are well-known in the area and with local events and festivals, in order to create larger networks.

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27 Interviewee D tells that he does not necessarily differentiate by purpose, but he has realised that he wants to focus on the entrepreneurial and business-related aspects more and not to be just another barbershop. Interviewee D elaborates that he has already been a very successful barber for a large chain and that he needed a change. “It started to feel like a 9 to 5 kind of job, and I was losing my passion for the work. I realized that I had been bringing a lot of money for someone else, and now it would be time to do that for me.” Interviewee D continues that working for a larger company thought him a lot about the importance of marketing and branding. One example of this is that he has started to sell his own merchandise. “Not in bulk, but in limited sets for exclusivity”, he explains. Similarly, he explains his prices to be among, or not the, highest around. According to the interviewee, the price has been set up to be expensive in order to send the message of high quality of the shop and to enhance exclusivity and there is not or there will never be any discounts. Interviewee D continues that the prices will continue to rise, but he still feels that his services deserve it.

Interviewee D explains that most of his customers are returning customers and that there is no new customer coming that much, because of the full booking calendar. The large amount of returning customers are because of the close relationships that Interviewee D and his customers have created and that he still gets the same people coming from a different city he used to work in. “Sometimes I get the thought that my customers might be bit silly to drive hours just to get my services, but then I see how happy it makes them. I also get happy for that dedication, most of customers I could call as my friends”, Interviewee D describes. Furthermore, he tells that there is very little things that his customers can´t talk about when they are in the chair and that he´s biggest strength is the customer interactions. When there is a new customer, it is usually through referrals and word-of-mouth either online or offline. Interviewee D believes that there are more and more people talking about him in social media and on the streets. I have worked a lot in social media and for my visibility for a while now, and I think that it is starting to bear fruit”, he adds. In regards, to the visibility, the interviewee tells that he focuses a lot on when and how to post on social media in order to attain as much viewers and attention as possible, as he has knowledge on different algorithms and suggestions created by social media platforms. Interviewee D describes his shop to be his home and that it has been decorated to his own liking. He continues that he wants to keep it personal and interesting and not something straight out of an interior guide. He explains that a lot of the interior is inspired by locality and local people, as the city he has his shop in is a big part of his brand.

Figure

Figure 1. Conceptual model for customer brand engagement process and results (Brodie  et al

References

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