In this time and age, with the emergence of social media, the communication patterns between consumers and brands have changed considerably. The new form of consumer-brand relationship indicates a shift of power from the organization to the customer. Branding has become an open source activity, where consumers have a say in the matters of the brand by participating in the co-creation of brand value through user-generated content (UGC). In this new branding landscape, numerous brands leverage UGC by urging their audiences to create brand-related content and by reposting it on social media. In particular, travel cybermediaries, especially Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and KAYAK, are reposting UGC on their Instagram accounts regularly. Taking into consideration the above, this research aims to investigate how UGC is part of the branding processes of travel cybermediaries and how it is perceived by young adults (25-34 years old). Specifically, the study investigates the topic from two different perspectives, from the travel cybermediaries’ and young adults’ angle, in order for the results to provide a more complete and rounded insight on the topic. The ways in which travel cybermediaries (Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and KAYAK) express their brand identities through UGC on Instagram as well as how their brand images are perceived by young adults are explored. In order to provide an answer to the respective sub-questions, a mix of qualitative methods, that of content analysis and in-depth interviews are implemented. Through thematic analysis, two overarching themes emerged from the examination of Instagram posts. Travel cybermediaries seem to promote their engaged orientation and their dynamic features and expressions to reflect their brand identity through UGC. By conducting and analyzing interviews, young adults appear to attach experiential and functional benefits to the brands, while they feel an intimate connection to the brand identities. These core categories and their subcategories proved to be interrelated as young adults were found to perceive the brand images of travel cybermediaries in the same way that they express their brand identities through UGC on Instagram.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, business, open source branding, user-generated content, travel cybermediaries, brand identity, brand image
Thesis Advisor J. Pridmore
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/2105/50142
Series Media & Business
Citation
E. Aravani. (2019, June 24). Travelers Break through the Noise! Brand Identity Expressions through UGC and Young Adults’ Perceptions of the Brand Image of Travel Cybermediaries. Media & Business. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/50142