«‘Genuine Jersey’: Branding and Authenticity in a Small Island Culture Henry Johnson University of Otago New Zealand henry.johnson ...»
In terms of the authenticity of the goods that Genuine Jersey promotes, the organization clearly emphasizes the place of the island rather than the people producing the goods, although they should reside on Jersey. In doing so, a contradiction is revealed regarding the social place of production rather than the local place of production. For instance, the Jersey Royal Potato has been a traditional part of Jersey agriculture for many generations, but it is not always locals with many generations of Jersey ancestry that have been responsible for providing all the labour connected with farming this product. Jersey has a long history of importing short- and long-term agricultural migrant labour, as well as similar labour opportunities in other industries such as tourism and finance. The agricultural industry, for example, is known for its imported labour, first in terms of French workers, then Portuguese and more recently Polish. Likewise, the tourism industry, with its history of establishing a plethora of hotels and restaurants, has employed many migrant workers who have each contributed to the promotion of Jersey cuisine for local and tourist consumers. Other business too rely on Jersey’s emerging multicultural labour force in the production of goods, each of which points to the emphasis on place in the promotion of Genuine Jersey goods rather than the people involved in their production.
The mantra of buying local allows Genuine Jersey to align itself with contemporary green politics. This is especially evident in public statements by Genuine Jersey where the importance of purchasing its members’ products is placed in the context of potential
It gives consumers the choice to mitigate the adverse affects of global warming by reducing their food miles and the Island’s carbon footprint. Making an informed choice to buy local and embrace seasonality is good for the Island’s economy as it supports local jobs and recycles the local pound. Keeping agricultural fields in production also ensures that the Island’s countryside remains green (Garton, 2010: 2).
244 ‘Genuine Jersey’ The use of such a collective and public-private method of branding in Jersey reflects wider global trends that have seen the increased labelling of produce and products in terms of locality. The example suggested by Scherrer et al. (2009) of “Designation of Origin” labelling in the Canary Islands’ wine industry and its connection with tourism is one example from an archipelago. The European Union has done much to try to ensure that goods with a recognized connection to a place are safeguarded against inauthentic use of the same name. This is “a status that recognizes these products to be authentic, quality, local products … that are available to both locals and outside visitors looking for typical Canary Islands’ foods” (Scherrer et al., 2009: 452; Sainz, 2002). Most importantly, in the same way that Genuine Jersey links island products and produce with the island itself, “Designation of Origin” operates by “highlighting originality and providing an authentic experience that links the local products with aspects of the landscape, the area’s history and community in a holistic way” (Scherrer et al., 2009: 460). This type of branding might be viewed as protectionism where members’ goods are given special status over other goods that attempt to link to the success of the original produce or product. For example, within the European Union there is a Protected Geographical Status (PGS) law that protects the naming rights of regional foods. For Genuine Jersey, however, the organization is collectively branding select island produce and products to show that they are genuinely local, rather than imported. This relates closely to the PGS law, although it does not exclusively lay claim to the name Jersey, but, rather, the location and manner in which the goods are produced.
The tropes of providing “pride for residents” and a “desire for visitors” (Genuine Jersey, Charter: 2) point to the provision of a brand that seeks to embody a sense of place in the goods it promotes. As noted by the Chief Executive Officer, Genuine Jersey is “trying to drive some level of quality into the product” (Garton, 2011). For the brand to succeed in the local market, islanders will need to take pride in it in comparison to imported or non-Genuine Jersey goods, and visitors will need to seek the brand as a memento of islandness during their short-term stay on Jersey (Figure 2). As noted by Jersey Tourism, “work continues to take place through the auspices of Genuine Jersey to encourage local producers to trade and to develop products so that visitors can take home a Genuine Jersey souvenir” (Jersey Tourism 2008: 10). It is here that Genuine Jersey points to the celebration of local and of members’ goods vis-à-vis other goods. In such a context, membership of the organization becomes one of aligning a business and its goods with a brand that stands for Jersey, and only market research would be able to tell the success or lack of it in terms of whether it is beneficial for a business to become a member or not. There are indeed various businesses on Jersey whose goods are not recognized by Genuine Jersey, yet they claim to have very similar objectives. Take, for example, The Jersey
Cow Company, which notes:
We endeavour to produce products of the highest quality at a price that makes them an ‘everyday luxury indulgence’. The key to all of our products is ‘purity & provenance’.
We will only create products that have a genuine link to the island and that are not only good for you but also good for the environment (The Jersey Cow Company).
Figure 2: ‘Genuine Jersey’ Banners at Jersey Airport. (Photo by author.) This company, as one example, has aims that are almost identical with those of Genuine Jersey, yet it is not a current member and thus is establishing its own brand. In such a context, some brands might actually be disassociating themselves with collective brands of the publicprivate type. Genuine Jersey has now been in existence for over ten years, and it has increased its membership on an annual basis. It is forming a brand that will suit the products and produce of some Jersey businesses and not others. In forging its overall membership, the organization is creating a division on the island regarding businesses that have an affiliation with Genuine Jersey and those that do not. Some businesses are not members either because they do not fulfill the selection criteria, or because they have chosen not to become affiliated with the organization. While such a topic is the study for future research, it will suffice to say here that the only main incentive in staying away from this brand, even if fulfilling membership criteria, would be in terms of being able to offer an alternative brand that has the ability to function in its own right and not associate itself with a collective based on authenticity.
Apart from government funding, Genuine Jersey receives income in the form of an annual fee from members and sponsors. In 2011, there were 91 members and seven sponsors (see Genuine Jersey, Our Members). Over the ten years of its existence (at the time of writing this article), Genuine Jersey has grown rapidly: 20 members in 2001; 60 members in 2005; and 91 members in 2011. While members’ goods must qualify to gain labeling rights, in a somewhat contradictory way to the underpinning purpose of Genuine Jersey, sponsors simply pay an annual fee based on the size of the business, or a service for Genuine Jersey’s members, and do 246 ‘Genuine Jersey’ not have to qualify first. In addition to the membership fee, the sponsors’ scheme provides not only a further income stream for Genuine Jersey, but also further connections with the island’s businesses. A reward from Genuine Jersey to its sponsors is the right to use the Genuine Jersey Sponsor mark, even though the business might not actually qualify to be a member (Genuine Jersey, Sponsors). There is obviously inconsistency of purpose in connection with products that comply with the Genuine Jersey membership criteria and sponsors who do not, yet the latter are still able to associate themselves with a brand that has authenticity of product at its core. This point of contention highlights how on the one hand a public-private partnership is able to function within the commercial market, yet on the other hand how commercialism can help undermine some of the core values underpinning the organization.
The point of difference with the Genuine Jersey brand is that it is simultaneously top-down and bottom-up in terms of its purpose, and is also a public-private partnership. While closely linked with a government department, on which it relies for considerable funding and infrastructural support, Genuine Jersey has a membership base of local companies and businesses that collectively identify with and use the Genuine Jersey logo and brand as a way of marketing their produce and products. As part of the funding agreement, the grant that Genuine Jersey receives is reduced each year, and is intended to be replaced by private funding. A consequence of this is that the number of sponsors is likely to increase, with the possibility that some may not fulfil the criteria for membership and therefore reducing the organization’s overall association with businesses that reflect its primary purpose.
With such an organization, questions are raised when considering the incentives for local businesses to become members. What is in it for them? What if they don’t join? As noted in its
Charter, “the Genuine Jersey brand seeks to promote”:
Members’ goods • An informed choice for the consumer • The retention of consumer spending in the local economy • A pride for residents in the quality and diversity of the goods of their Island • Visitors’ desire to prolong memories of a Jersey holiday by buying Genuine Jersey goods • An accord between participating businesses to enhance the brand and generate viable • business for each other, without limiting consumer choice or imposing any price configuration on local goods Sustainability for and innovation amongst local producers • A guarantee of compliance with all statutory requirements (Genuine Jersey, Charter: 2).
• The Charter includes a number of key points intended for locals and visitors alike. While the underpinning purpose of the branding is surely to increase sales of members’ goods as competition grows in local and global markets, and hence ensure the sustainability of the local economy with “the retention of consumer spending” (Genuine Jersey, Charter: 2), several of the Charter’s points help show how the brand can embody meaning in other ways for consumers who purchase its goods. For example, by offering an “informed choice for the consumer” (Genuine Jersey, Charter: 2), Genuine Jersey goods are immediately juxtaposed with others that do not include the brand mark. This type of branding shows a labeling that embodies a notion of authenticity at its core. That is, Genuine Jersey goods represent a
“genuine” Jersey, others, therefore, do not. But such a constructed type of authenticity of place also serves to render the brand inauthentic because the image is created, or at least reinforced, by the brand in the first place.
Logo The purpose of any branding exercise, whether initiated by a government organization or a private company, is to offer a product with which people might easily identify and recognize.
As one researcher has commented:
Today it is argued that not only should products and services develop a system of brand management focused on their identity, which helps develop a coherent execution, but places should also develop a similar brand management system (Freire, 2009: 420).
Jersey Tourism, for example, would brand itself and the island of Jersey for slightly different purposes than a local retailer, although there might be similarities in terms of the desired targeted market. A prominent feature of most contemporary branding exercises is the inclusion of a logo, which acts as a visual signifier that is usually easily understood and remembered (Klein, 2000). For example, Jersey Tourism has recently introduced its “golden bird” logo (see top right of Jersey Black Butter poster in Figure 3), which is used as an emblem for the island in terms of its recognition as a tourist destination (States of Jersey, 2007: n.p.). The “golden bird”, which has also been described by unconvinced locals as a “flying banana” (e.g. Lewis, 2007: n.p.), was a £250,000 exercise (Quérée, 2007: n.p.), and is intended to represent “Jersey’s sense of independent spirit and freedom, the richness of its culture and all its produce, and its fresh outlook for the future” (States of Jersey, 2007: n.p.).
Figure 3: Shop at Jersey Airport. (Photo by author.)
Genuine Jersey too offers a logo as well as several slogans that inherently index a sense of authenticity in the language that is used.9 With the requirements of members’ produce and products having to fulfil strict criteria in terms of showing how they are locally produced, the notion of authenticity is both inscribed in the goods themselves and also ascribed to them. The single aspect of branding these goods involves becoming a member of Genuine Jersey and being privileged to use its logo and branding network. Genuine Jersey provides extensive guidelines
for the use of its logo and in its Charter notes that it is: