Disrupting Heritage: A Qualitative Study of how Luxury Fashion Heritage Brands are Perceived by Brand Public Members During a Rebranding
Abstract: The aim of this study was to determine in what manner a luxury fashion heritage brand can rebrand from the perspective of brand public members. In line with the relativist and social constructivist stance taken in this study, a netnography of posts and belonging comments on the Instagram accounts of this study’s two example companies, Burberry and Gucci, was conducted. A thematic analysis was applied in order to extract meaning from the brand public members’ perceptions from the comments retrieved. Using theories about brand identity, brand image, consumer perceptions, consumer attitudes, brand heritage and heritage brands, rebranding, consumers’ adaptation to change and brand publics, a general understanding of aspects connected to rebranding a luxury fashion heritage brand was developed. In order to analyse the empirical material and add new insight to the research field, key theories were selected and included in a conceptual framework. Some of these theories were challenged as current actions in the luxury fashion industry indicated that further knowledge could be added. The netnography was conducted through an in-depth examination of posts and belonging comments on the Instagram accounts of Burberry and Gucci. It was found that a luxury fashion heritage brand can be perceived in a number of ways during the process of a rebranding. Both Burberry’s and Gucci’s rebrandings withheld both critique and praise, but were eventually and seemingly accepted by the brand public members on their Instagram accounts. In contradiction to existing theories, it was further found that small changes to a brand’s identity can render large reactions. Moreover, consistency might not be as vital for heritage brands as previously proposed. These insights indicated that luxury fashion heritage brands can act more boldly from the perspective of brand public members. This conclusion was connected to the digital environment of brand publics, which seemingly allows for an increased ability for heritage brands to undertake changes and for brand public members to share their opinions.
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