To read this content please select one of the options below:

Navigating the emergence of brand meaning in service ecosystems

Jonathan J. Baker (Adelaide Business School, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)
Julia A. Fehrer (Department of Marketing, University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand) (Department of Marketing and Service Management, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany)
Roderick J. Brodie (Department of Marketing, University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 16 March 2022

Issue publication date: 18 April 2022




The purpose of this paper is to clarify how brand meaning evolves as an emergent property through the cocreation processes of stakeholders on multiple levels of a brand's service ecosystem. This provides new insight into the intersection between brands, consumers and society, and emphasizes the institutionally situated nature of brand meaning cocreation processes. It further lays a holistic foundation for a much-needed discussion on purpose-driven branding.


Combining the ecosystem perspective of branding with the concept of social emergence allows clarification of brand meaning cocreation at different levels of aggregation. Emergence means collective phenomena – like social structures, concepts, preferences, states, mechanisms, laws and brand meaning – manifest from the interactions of individuals. Drawing on Sawyer's (2005) social emergence perspective, the authors propose a processual multi-level framework to explore brand meaning emergence.


Our framework spans five levels of brand meaning emergence: individual (e.g. employees and customers); interactional (e.g. where work teams or friend groups interact); relational (e.g. where internal and external actors meet); strategic (e.g. markets and strategic alliances); and systemic (e.g. regulators, NGOs and society). It acknowledges that brand positioning is an inherently co-creative process of negotiating value propositions and aligning behaviors and beliefs among broad sets of actors, as opposed to a firm-centric task.


Service research has only recently embraced a macro–micro perspective of branding processes. This paper extends that perspective by paying attention to the nested service ecosystems in which brand meaning emerges and the degree to which this process can (and cannot) be navigated by individual actors.



Baker, J.J., Fehrer, J.A. and Brodie, R.J. (2022), "Navigating the emergence of brand meaning in service ecosystems", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 465-484.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles