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«‘Genuine Jersey’: Branding and Authenticity in a Small Island Culture Henry Johnson University of Otago New Zealand henry.johnson ...»

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Island Studies Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2012, pp. 235-258

‘Genuine Jersey’: Branding and Authenticity in a Small Island Culture

Henry Johnson

University of Otago

New Zealand


Abstract: Jersey has attained a recognized international reputation especially in agriculture,

tourism and finance. Over the past century, this small island has developed rapidly as a tourist

destination and, since the 1960s, as a leading international finance centre. This paper discusses how a public-private organization uses a notion of islandness in order to help add value to local produce and products, and at the same time offering a sense of authenticity in terms of provenance. As an organization and brand, “Genuine Jersey” was launched in 2001 and is now a particularly visible island-based brand that does much to support local businesses and promote selected island produce and products more broadly to locals and visitors alike, as well as within a wider export industry. Drawing on discourses mainly from island studies and marketing, the article discusses how and why this brand exists on Jersey. While including a critical discussion of the brand itself, the paper shows how Genuine Jersey operates on and as a result of this particular island context.

Keywords: authenticity, branding, Genuine Jersey, island, Jersey, produce, products, public- private partnership © 2012 Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada Introduction This paper studies the interconnection between branding and constructions of authenticity on Jersey. The aim of the article is to show how one organization on a small island utilizes a notion of islandness in several ways in order to help add value in terms of provenance to select local produce and products. The organization functions in this context through an interconnection with government and business in a way that is constructed as a result of its specific island context. It is here that this paper provides a critical discussion of not only how such branding occurs in this island setting, but also how the island itself adds value when positioning local produce and products.

As a relatively small island with a land area of about 118 km2 (States of Jersey Statistics Unit, 2010: iii) and a population in 2011 of 97,857 (States of Jersey Statistics Unit, 2012: 2), Jersey boomed as a tourist destination in the decades following the Second World War, especially with visitors from the United Kingdom who were attracted by such features as its warmer climate, low taxes and natural tourist attractions. Jersey is approximately 137 km from England and 23 km from France (States of Jersey Statistics Unit, 2010: iii). However, the mass tourism the island once experienced declined rapidly in the 1990s under pressure from other tourist destinations as a result of increased and cheaper travel options. In its place, and ever growing from the 1960s, finance has now become Jersey’s main industry. For a small island, the H. Johnson physical landscape has subsequently been altered in that many hotels that once housed decades of visiting tourists have now been replaced by apartment blocks for the growing permanent and temporary workers that dominate the island’s business sector (Lichrou et al., 2010: 139).

Jersey has its own government (the States of Jersey), laws, taxes, endangered language and various other aspects of governance and cultural heritage that contribute to making the island what it is today. Each helps form the Jersey brand. Nevertheless, even though some features of Jersey’s heritage are foregrounded in tourism and other contexts of island celebration, such as British and German military defences (the island was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1945), it is an identity that is actually constructed from a diverse population and increased external influences. For example, based on figures from the last official census in 2011, the place of birth of Jersey’s population showed mixed influences that were the result of recent migrations from the British Isles, the European mainland and further afield (Table 1).

Table 1: Islanders’ Place of Birth (States of Jersey Statistics Unit, 2012: 9).

–  –  –

In the broader setting of the European Union, of which Jersey is not a part (nor is it a part of the United Kingdom),1 as well as other outside influences, Jersey today makes much of its uniqueness as an island (e.g. location, size, history, politics) to celebrate its heritage and selfgoverning identity, particularly in the spheres of agriculture, tourism and finance. It is in this context that branding and constructions of authenticity interconnect to celebrate products that stand for Jersey. Selected goods, whether manufactured, grown or caught, are presented by Genuine Jersey (a public-private organization; also known as Genuine Jersey Products Association [GJPA] in full) as types of “cultural heritage assets” (Ivanovic, 2008: 215), and these items are given value and consumed by locals and visitors alike in a process that not only supports some local businesses, but also actively celebrates products that are considered unique to the island, whether well or recently established.

In connection with understanding these links, this paper discusses the Genuine Jersey brand, which was launched in 2001, as a case study for investigating critically some of the ways this small island culture celebrates and constructs notions of authenticity in its local economy. As a way of contributing to and extending the literature on the branding of islands (e.g.

Baldacchino, 2005, 2010b; Grydehøj, 2008, 2010; Kelman, 2007; Khamis, 2010, 2011;

1 As a British Crown Dependency, the Bailiwick of Jersey’s relationship with the EU relates to certain limited provisions contained in Protocol 3 to the UK’s Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community (later European Union) in 1972. “In simple terms, the Island is treated as part of the European Community for the purposes of free trade in goods, but otherwise is not a part of the EU” (States of Jersey, 2012).

236 ‘Genuine Jersey’ Leseure, 2010; Lichrou, O’Malley & Patterson, 2010; Pounder, 2010; and Reddy & Singh, 2010), this paper offers a study of a public-private branding exercise of one organization that is based around the notion of the authenticity of the goods it supports and promotes. The activity is seen to be inherently based around place branding, goods branding and the construction of a notion of authenticity. The discussion raises questions in connection with the selection criteria of Genuine Jersey products, as well as pointing out contradictions inherent in the branding process itself. Why has a notion of authenticity been constructed? How can a public-private organization truly represent the wider island community? Who are the key players in this branding process? In this context, Genuine Jersey is seen to undertake a process of selecting certain Jersey produce and products to brand as genuine island goods, an activity that helps show characteristics of a commercial exercise that actually interconnects business and government. In doing this, the paper also provides an example of how a small island with a recent history enmeshed in the tourist industry is reinventing itself in an age of rapid change to the three main industries that have themselves often come to stand for the island: agriculture, tourism and finance (Table 2).

Table 2: Principal Industries in 2009 (States of Jersey, Jersey Facts and Figures).

–  –  –

This article draws broadly on case studies of and critical discourse on place branding from several scholarly fields, especially island studies (e.g. Baldacchino, 2010c; Grydehøj, 2008;

2010) and marketing (e.g. Askegaard & Kjeldgaard, 2007; Manniche et al., 2009; Manniche & Larsen, 2009). The article provides a case study of place and produce/product branding on

Jersey. As Kavaratzis (2008: 51) has noted:

Places have long felt a need to differentiate themselves from each other, to assert their individuality in pursuit of various economic, political or socio-psychological objectives.

The conscious attempt of governments to shape a specifically designed place identity and promote it to identified markets, whether external or internal, is almost as old as civic government itself.

In this setting, and building on Kavaratzis’ points, this article shows that there are several layers of branding in the Jersey case, including island/place branding and product/produce branding. Each layer contributes to creating not only a public-private organization that brands a place and its goods as authentic, but also a branding proposition with a sense of islandness and ‘othering’ at its core.

237H. Johnson

Several research methods have been used for data collection and analysis. Secondary data have been important for assembling background information and gaining historical knowledge of key facts and figures, as well as comparing different types of case study approaches to similar topics (e.g. Khamis, 2010; 2011; Reddy & Singh, 2010; Pounder, 2010; Witkowski & Jones, 2006). The research also included a telephone interview in May 2011 with the Chief Executive Officer of Genuine Jersey. Undertaking one in-depth semi-structured key-informant interview was essential in this particular context (the interviewee is the person responsible for the day-today operations, and the subject of this article is on this organization). Such an approach is typical in the field of cultural biography (e.g. Parke 2002), although in the context of this article, rather than focussing on the person, emphasis was placed on the organization. In other

words, this is a case study of one organization and relies on several sources of information:

historical, verbal and observational. The interview was based on open-ended questions on such themes as background, organization, funding, purpose and activities. Consent was given to use names and quotes from the interview, on the basis that everything said was typical of a media interview that would be broadcast to the wider public.

Following a short section that contextualizes recent place branding in connection with Jersey from a politico-economic perspective, the main part of the discussion focuses on outlining and discussing the Genuine Jersey brand: its purpose, structure, logo and activities.

Branding Jersey for the Tourist Gaze

Many islands have utilized, rediscovered or even invented aspects of their heritage as part of a branding exercise. Grydehøj (2010), for example, explores the idea of heritage production in Shetland (Scotland), Åland (Finland) and Svalbard (Norway). In earlier research, and in

connection with the influence of business, he points out that:

It is not just that marketers use marketing to disseminate a message about a product.

The complex and evolving nature of the product (the place) itself and the marketers’ frequent personal identification of themselves as part of the product means that the very process of place branding has the dual potential to inform policy makers and to intensify their prejudices (Grydehøj, 2008: 175).

Such research, as well as that mentioned in the introduction, shows that some small islands have made much of their environmental or cultural settings in terms of creating a place brand for the island, or for the promotion of local industry, including tourism and commercial goods.

The Jersey brand, however, has several guises, and has over the past sixty years or so been adapted in various ways. In terms of branding itself as a location (an island location), Jersey’s main industries have been at the heart of each successive branding and re-branding exercise.

While agriculture, tourism and finance have distinct historical and recent histories on the island, their presence and importance have impacted at different times and in different ways in connection with Jersey and place branding. Although a sixty-year period is a relatively short time span to consider, the changes that have occurred to Jersey’s principal industries have been dramatic, and the decline of some (in place of the growth of others) is currently seen at a juncture where past successful industries have acquired a status akin to cultural heritage 238 ‘Genuine Jersey’ (Ivanovic, 2008: 215). That is, while their importance to the island’s economy may have been transformed from principal to secondary status, they have maintained importance to a smaller yet still significant market, and at the same time attained status in terms of their heritage on Jersey as part of the Jersey brand in its broader guise.

As the most southerly inhabited island in the geographic British Isles (using a political definition of the term),2 Jersey boasts a milder and sunnier climate to the UK, and as such has been a traditional source for early agricultural crops and especially unique local produce such as the Jersey Royal Potato. Indeed, parts of the island itself have physically been re-defined as a result of centuries of farming, whether crops or dairy with the well-known Jersey cow. As the States of Jersey (i.e. Jersey’s government) branding guide notes, “farming has shaped the beauty of Jersey’s landscape and sustained local families over generations” (States of Jersey, 2007: n.p.; see also Corporate Edge Branding, 2008). This particular branding exercise was based around several questions relating to the promotion of Jersey: “How can we position Jersey as a sophisticated and contemporary place to visit? How can we reinforce perceptions of strength, solidity and integrity within the financial market? How can we help grow the agricultural sector in recognizing (and marketing) the unique qualities that make Jersey produce worth trying and buying? How can we reawaken a sense of pride amongst the whole community in Jersey?” (States of Jersey, 2007: n.p.). In this context of top-down branding, agriculture is foregrounded, along with finance, tourism and community, as one of the overarching features that the States of Jersey aims to promote in connection with standing for Jersey in a broader sense (other spheres of this branding exercise are discussed later). It is agricultural produce like this that are typically supported by Genuine Jersey, although the breadth of produce promoted by this public-private organization moves far beyond such traditional crops as the Jersey Royal Potato.

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