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Online Spoof Illustrations in the Aftermath of a Reputational Brand Crisis: Defining the Phenomenon and Its Consequences for Brand Management

Eichinger, Eric LU and Gudacker, Jens LU (2016) BUSN39 20161
Department of Business Administration
Abstract
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to explore the phenomenon of online spoof illustrations that are created in the aftermath of a reputational brand crisis. In a first step, characteristics of these illustrations are assessed and categorized. Subsequently, their impact on a brand’s reputation is investigated.

Methodology: An exploratory sequential mixed method approach was applied, with initial qualitative research facilitating a subsequent quantitative phase. Over 500 spoof illustrations of three cases (Barclays LIBOR crisis, Volkswagen “Dieselgate”, and BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill) were collected online. A structuralist semiotic reduction analysis was conducted to assess the context as well as denotative and connotative... (More)
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to explore the phenomenon of online spoof illustrations that are created in the aftermath of a reputational brand crisis. In a first step, characteristics of these illustrations are assessed and categorized. Subsequently, their impact on a brand’s reputation is investigated.

Methodology: An exploratory sequential mixed method approach was applied, with initial qualitative research facilitating a subsequent quantitative phase. Over 500 spoof illustrations of three cases (Barclays LIBOR crisis, Volkswagen “Dieselgate”, and BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill) were collected online. A structuralist semiotic reduction analysis was conducted to assess the context as well as denotative and connotative features of these images. These insights were further combined with grounded theory to arrive at a framework that allows a categorization of the illustrations. Finally, an online self-completion questionnaire with 501 respondents was used in the quantitative stage of the thesis to assess the harmfulness of spoof illustrations to a brand’s reputation.

Findings: Spoofs can be found in several illustrations types, be it cartoons and caricatures, subvertisements, photographs, or image macros. They include recurring content elements, such as a brand’s logo, name, slogan and product, different stakeholders and political actors, as well as pop cultural and situational artifacts. The Reputational Spoof Illustration Framework (RSIF), which is introduced here for the first time, allows a classification of spoof illustrations, according to the dimensions Humorousness and Aggressiveness. These dimensions form four categories: Resenting, Insulting, Mocking, and Gloating. The quantitative data suggests that spoof illustrations have a negative impact on a brand’s reputation. It can also be inferred that the less humorous and more aggressive a spoof is, the more harmful it is to a brand’s reputation.

Theoretical Contributions: The thesis contributes mainly to the fields of (online) crisis- and reputation management, strategic brand management, and stakeholder relations. It gives an extensive definition of spoof illustrations that help to further understand the tools stakeholders use to criticize a brand. Furthermore, the RSIF can arguably be applied to a vast range of different scenarios of brand criticism and parody. Finally, substantial gaps in literature were filled in the fields of online criticism, brand parody, and brand reputation.

Managerial Implications: Spoofs can be harmful to a brand’s reputation, and thus need to be closely monitored during a crisis. The study was conducted in close relation to real- life examples and therefore delivers immediate implications for practitioners, especially by applying the RSIF in corporate crisis situations. After spoofs have been collected, they can be instantly mapped and evaluated with the help of the framework. Consequently, three action alternatives are presented, namely Ignore, Reduce Impact, and Counteract.

Originality/Value: Spoof illustrations that are created following a brand crisis have only been researched in a cursory manner. This is the first comprehensive analysis of this phenomenon. It provides an extensive descriptive as well as interpretative assessment of the spoofs, and also demonstrates their implications for a brand and its reputation. Furthermore, the Reputational Spoof Illustration Framework that was developed in the course of this study, allows academics and practitioners alike a quick and simple assessment of any spoof illustrations. (Less)
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author
Eichinger, Eric LU and Gudacker, Jens LU
supervisor
organization
course
BUSN39 20161
year
type
H1 - Master's Degree (One Year)
subject
keywords
Spoof Illustrations, Brand Parody, Crisis Management, Stakeholder Online Reactions, Corporate Reputation, Strategic Brand Management
language
English
id
8879328
date added to LUP
2016-06-21 14:17:00
date last changed
2016-06-21 14:17:00
@misc{8879328,
  abstract     = {Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to explore the phenomenon of online spoof illustrations that are created in the aftermath of a reputational brand crisis. In a first step, characteristics of these illustrations are assessed and categorized. Subsequently, their impact on a brand’s reputation is investigated.

Methodology: An exploratory sequential mixed method approach was applied, with initial qualitative research facilitating a subsequent quantitative phase. Over 500 spoof illustrations of three cases (Barclays LIBOR crisis, Volkswagen “Dieselgate”, and BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill) were collected online. A structuralist semiotic reduction analysis was conducted to assess the context as well as denotative and connotative features of these images. These insights were further combined with grounded theory to arrive at a framework that allows a categorization of the illustrations. Finally, an online self-completion questionnaire with 501 respondents was used in the quantitative stage of the thesis to assess the harmfulness of spoof illustrations to a brand’s reputation.

Findings: Spoofs can be found in several illustrations types, be it cartoons and caricatures, subvertisements, photographs, or image macros. They include recurring content elements, such as a brand’s logo, name, slogan and product, different stakeholders and political actors, as well as pop cultural and situational artifacts. The Reputational Spoof Illustration Framework (RSIF), which is introduced here for the first time, allows a classification of spoof illustrations, according to the dimensions Humorousness and Aggressiveness. These dimensions form four categories: Resenting, Insulting, Mocking, and Gloating. The quantitative data suggests that spoof illustrations have a negative impact on a brand’s reputation. It can also be inferred that the less humorous and more aggressive a spoof is, the more harmful it is to a brand’s reputation.

Theoretical Contributions: The thesis contributes mainly to the fields of (online) crisis- and reputation management, strategic brand management, and stakeholder relations. It gives an extensive definition of spoof illustrations that help to further understand the tools stakeholders use to criticize a brand. Furthermore, the RSIF can arguably be applied to a vast range of different scenarios of brand criticism and parody. Finally, substantial gaps in literature were filled in the fields of online criticism, brand parody, and brand reputation.

Managerial Implications: Spoofs can be harmful to a brand’s reputation, and thus need to be closely monitored during a crisis. The study was conducted in close relation to real- life examples and therefore delivers immediate implications for practitioners, especially by applying the RSIF in corporate crisis situations. After spoofs have been collected, they can be instantly mapped and evaluated with the help of the framework. Consequently, three action alternatives are presented, namely Ignore, Reduce Impact, and Counteract.

Originality/Value: Spoof illustrations that are created following a brand crisis have only been researched in a cursory manner. This is the first comprehensive analysis of this phenomenon. It provides an extensive descriptive as well as interpretative assessment of the spoofs, and also demonstrates their implications for a brand and its reputation. Furthermore, the Reputational Spoof Illustration Framework that was developed in the course of this study, allows academics and practitioners alike a quick and simple assessment of any spoof illustrations.},
  author       = {Eichinger, Eric and Gudacker, Jens},
  keyword      = {Spoof Illustrations,Brand Parody,Crisis Management,Stakeholder Online Reactions,Corporate Reputation,Strategic Brand Management},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Online Spoof Illustrations in the Aftermath of a Reputational Brand Crisis: Defining the Phenomenon and Its Consequences for Brand Management},
  year         = {2016},
}