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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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The growth of the post-Second World War tourist industry was primarily the result of an increased ability to travel during economic growth and increased amounts of leisure time.

During this period, Jersey put itself forward as being sunny, close to France and having a social and cultural heritage that was unique amongst the British Isles (such as Norman influence, beaches around much of its coastline, low or no taxes, war artefacts), which attracted mass tourism from the UK.3 In this context, Jersey has histories that are well-known outside the island, reputations that allow some aspects of its past and present to be foregrounded and to stand for the island.

Jersey’s beaches, of which the small island boasts many, as well as its physical landscape – with small lanes, walking paths and sea views – offer the tourist industry various facets that have helped attract many tourists over the years. As noted in the recent corporate branding


2 The Channel Islands, of which Jersey is the largest, are not actually geographically part of the archipelago of the British Isles, but rather islands that are very close geographically to the French mainland in northwestern Europe.

3 As noted elsewhere (Johnson, 2010), Jersey makes much of its Norman heritage, particularly as one Norman island or location amongst others, and from various perspectives Jersey particularly showcases its unique island existence, including its dislocation from France and Britain, its cultural heritage, and its place as a tourist destination and finance centre. Indeed, Jersey is increasingly using aspects of its distinct island heritage in various branding exercises, including the use of the island’s local language, Jèrriais, on the latest bank notes of the island’s own currency (pegged to the Pound Sterling)

239H. Johnson

Jersey has always been a very beautiful, very desirable place to live and work. And it already has a ‘brand’: a set of perceptions that many people share about what Jersey is like. Safe, secure, beautiful, great beaches, a little old fashioned, off shore, Jersey Royals, wealthy, a bit inward looking. A whole mix of the good and bad, the fair and the unfair (States of Jersey, 2007: n.p.).

In this setting, the heyday of Jersey’s mass tourism that dominated the island until around the 1990s witnessed a multitude of hotels and guest houses shaping the built-up parts of the island, with large hotel complexes surrounding several beaches, tour companies filling the roads with

coaches, and the ever-present hire-car (Brychan & Thomas 2012). Nevertheless:

Traditional Jersey industries such as agriculture and tourism were superseded by financial services as the dominant industry in Jersey. The financial services sector (which includes banking, trust and company administration, fund management, accountancy and legal activities) has grown such that it now accounts for almost half of total economic activity in Jersey and employs about a quarter of the workforce (States of Jersey Statistics Unit, 2010: iv).

Branding on Jersey, therefore, is undertaken in many ways. As a place, Jersey is known both for its individual industry sectors as noted above, and collectively for each of them as a way of representing the island. However, as discussed next, when place branding and goods’ branding are combined in a public-private partnership, a different type of marketing dynamic is revealed with regard to the produce and products that form part of that brand vis-à-vis those that are not.

Moreover, those goods that are accepted as part of such a brand might be viewed as part of a staging process or emergent authenticity that actually binds them to inauthentic experiences (Cohen, 1988: 373; MacCannell, 1999).

Genuine Jersey and the Authentic Island Purpose Jersey holds an enviable position amongst other small island jurisdictions and cultures in terms of the international recognition of several of its products and produce. Household and even global brands include Jersey milk (from the Jersey cow), the Jersey Royal Potato, the Jersey tomato, Jersey cabbage and broccoli. As discussed later in connection with place branding, most of these products include the word “Jersey” in their name, something that helps brand not only the items but also the island (as with Shetland wool and Orkney beef). Furthermore, these products are well known within and beyond their home island, and their long association with Jersey would have already created a reputation as part of an established island brand (Baldacchino, 2005: 29). Before finance became the dominant industry on the island, and also part of Jersey’s contemporary brand, local produce such as those listed above helped form an important local and export industry. For much agricultural produce, Jersey’s warmer climate in comparison to the other British Isles helped local traders ship their produce to the UK at the start of the season. While Jersey produce such as these remain in high demand, their place on the island and in the export industry has taken a slightly different role. That is, while they no 240 ‘Genuine Jersey’ longer form part of the main industry for most islanders, they still hold an important place as products for local and non-local consumers, as well as for their ability to stand for the island as part of its traditional past. Here, the island’s heritage has been partly constructed around the reputation of its agricultural produce, and the preservation, and sometimes rediscovery, of some produce and products is found within the Genuine Jersey framework (Lichrou et al., 2010: 141).

Top-down branding exercises, such as the ones discussed by Grydehøj (2008: 175) in connection with Shetland and other islands, explore issues of generic island branding imposed on a “locally-oriented identity concept”. In this setting, place branding serves to collectively give an island distinct characteristics that might help market the island to incoming tourists or locals or non-local consumers (Baldacchino, 2010b). The focus of this discussion, however, is on a Jersey organization whose sole purpose is to brand select local produce and products with a distinct label, “Genuine Jersey”. As a non-profit marketing organization that is heavily supported by government (discussed below), Genuine Jersey works directly with many local businesses in order to help bring aspects of some island industries together to collectively brand unique features of Jersey (Genuine Jersey website). Genuine Jersey collaborates with such businesses by offering marketing advice and support, promoting members’ brands by holding public events around the island, holding growing competitions such as the Genuine Jersey Royal Potato Growing Competition,4 and offering a branding logo (Figure 1) that members use when packaging, labeling and marketing their goods. In such a framework, Genuine Jersey offers a level of branding for local products that fall within its guidelines (discussed later). Such products might have a long history on the island, or they might be recently conceived in a broader commercial environment that is aligning itself with a notion of a Jersey brand as a way of achieving greater commercial advantage. As noted in more detail later, there are also products that may have an established place on the island, yet fail to be recognized by Genuine Jersey.

Figure 1: ‘Genuine Jersey’ Logo (Genuine Jersey, Branding Guidelines).

4 Genuine Jersey also provides a Teacher’s Pack for this competition (see Genuine Jersey, Education).

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Structure The organizational aspects of Genuine Jersey provide various links with Jersey’s government, a government department and with local businesses, and a study of these interconnections helps show how the organization is able to exist in a public-private sphere and in connection with Jersey’s small island political and commercial landscape. This public-private partnership allows government to collaborate through a series of organizations with local businesses, and for those businesses that are members of Genuine Jersey to indirectly draw on funding support that ultimately serves to help market their goods.5 Public funding through the States of Jersey Economic Development Department (Jersey Tourism is a part of this Department) is used to help some businesses promote their produce and products collectively under a shared brand that is inherently defined as local and authentic versus goods that are either imported, locallyproduced but do not meet the requirements of Genuine Jersey, or have not yet been offered to Genuine Jersey for consideration. Genuine Jersey’s link with Jersey Tourism is very close.

They share the same physical office space, and both are linked to the Department of Economic Development. It is this construction of a perceived island-centred authenticity that this discussion is mostly concerned with.

Launched in 2001 by several local businessmen “who wanted to be able to differentiate their product, which was locally produced, from product that was imported, but sometimes gave the impression that it was local” (Garton, 2011), Genuine Jersey Products Association (GJPA) interconnects a number of commercial and political affiliations, and Genuine Jersey is the brand name that is used in the public domain. Above this association there is now a company called Jersey Product Promotion Limited (JPPL), which was formed in 2008. At this time, GJPA became a subsidiary of JPPL, the latter of which is “wholly owned by a special purpose trust under the aegis of the States of Jersey Economic Development Department” (Genuine Jersey, Branding Guidelines: 1).6 One of JPPL’s primary purposes is to employ Genuine Jersey’s Chief Executive Officer, and also to take more control of the activities of GJPA. The direct connection with government is that JPPL receives an annual grant from the Economic Development Department, and this Department has outlined some strict criteria when awarding the grant. As noted by its Executive Director, who is also Chief Executive Officer of Genuine Jersey, JPPL is essentially to “promote local product both in the local market place and overseas” (States of Jersey, 2010a: 11; see also States of Jersey, 2010b). In 2010, for example, JPPL received £140,000 (about US$217,000) from the Economic Development Department, half of which went to Genuine Jersey (States of Jersey, 2010a: 10). As well as this grant, Genuine Jersey receives office space and office equipment and fittings. When the differences between the various affiliations of Genuine Jersey are defined, in general terms, JPPL focuses on local product off island, and Genuine Jersey on local product on island, the latter being the focus of this discussion (States of Jersey, 2010a: 5).7 5 Prior to Genuine Jersey, the States of Jersey ran a branding exercise known as “Jersey Fresh”, which was funded entirely by the government.

6 The embedded nature of Genuine Jersey in government policy is evident in such documents as the Rural Economy Strategy 2011-2015 (States of Jersey, 2010b) where Genuine Jersey is found in connection with “Marketing Support for Jersey Produce” (25) and “Working together and collaboration” (39-40).

7 Some goods that do not comply with the Genuine Jersey guidelines form part of JPPL’s marketing activities off shore.

242 ‘Genuine Jersey’ The Genuine Jersey Management Committee includes representation from government, government organizations, Genuine Jersey and local businesses. Its structure comprises the following positions: Chairman (independent), Vice-Chairman (independent), Chief Executive Officer, Committee Members (three from the scheme’s membership and three from the Economic Development Department [one must be a Trading Standards Officer]), Associate from the Jersey Farmers’ Union, and an Invited Arts and Crafts Representative. This structure and membership allows Genuine Jersey to be represented not only from government but also from key partnership organizations and business. The Chief Executive Officer, who is Executive Director of JPPL, is remunerated in this position and has the main day-to-day responsibility of the running of Genuine Jersey.

There are strict criteria for becoming a member and for using the Genuine Jersey branding logo

once an annual payment has been made, as noted in its Charter:

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To become a member of Genuine Jersey, businesses must follow these criteria and pay an annual membership fee, and in doing so they are able to brand their goods using the Genuine Jersey logo. The emphasis on the goods is on the location of Jersey. That is, it is on the produce or product in terms of where it is grown, caught or made. The exception is in restaurants, where the dishes can have 20% non-local ingredients and still be eligible to join the organization. By varying the amount of non-local ingredients acceptable to become a member of Genuine Jersey, the organization is able to acquire further income from some of the numerous restaurants that are in Jersey, many of which service the tourist industry and the affluent culture that has emerged as a consequence of the finance industry. However, by 8 Genuine Jersey based their criteria on a similar system used in Cornwall. Interestingly, this English county was described as being similar to an island: “Cornwall very much is... in a way, an island community” (Garton, 2011).

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reducing the criteria for the amount of non-local ingredients, questions are raised about broader aspects of membership. Should the membership criteria be the same for all businesses? Why should restaurants get such a reduction? What about other businesses that can only exist with a similar amount of imported items? In the modern-day globalized world, many businesses that may have roots in an island culture might rely in varying degrees on imported items. It is here that one can see the need for the organization to gain more members from representative spheres of island business, although in doing so the core of the “genuine” message is perhaps diminished when criteria are allowed to vary between businesses.

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