In April 2021, SRH Berlin School of Popular Arts (SOPA) and University of Portsmouth (UoP) delivered a full-day workshop on sustainability-oriented brand management. The international workshop has been designed and delivered by Prof. Dr. Svenja Tams (Professor of Management, Organizations and Leadership at SRH Berlin) and Dr. Mahsa Ghaffari (Senior Lecturer/Associated Professor in Marketing at University of Portsmouth) as part of the DAAD-funded IVAC Project.
The workshop focused on cross-cultural differences in consumers’ engagement with sustainability-oriented consumer brands. It was attended by students of the Research Methods and Intercultural Communications modules of the B.A. Creative Industries Management and of the Market Research module at the University of Portsmouth.
The first part introduced concepts and tools for cross-cultural sustainability-oriented brand communication. It built on consumer research to develop a nuanced understanding of the benefits of segmenting sustainability-oriented consumers according to their value preferences, socio-economic status and cross-cultural background.
In the second part of the workshop students put concepts into practice. They selected a sustainability-oriented brand from one of three sectors: fast fashion, luxury fashion and automotive. These included Zara’s sustainability-oriented JoinLife label, Stella McCartney, and BMW i3.
Working in international teams, students used a set of online tools to create personas of sustainability-oriented early adopters in Germany and the UK, based on insights from cross-cultural consumer research, defined their target audiences for their respective brand, and formulated the brand message in a way that would appeal to their target audiences.
- It has shown that the use of custom-designed online tools facilitates the online collaboration among students from different institutions, serving as scaffolds in their co-creation of personas, target audiences and target messages. The instructors used easily available online platforms, such as Google Presentations, to design online tools for this session.
- The learning outputs delivered by student also indicate that they have benefitted from the combination of ‘flipped classroom’ (pre-workshop readings) and sessions that deepened an understanding of concepts and tools. The personas of sustainability-oriented early adopters in Germany and the UK reflected the conceptual knowledge about cross-cultural and sustainability-oriented brand management, which had been introduced through readings and in the first part of the workshop.
- To assure the success of international virtual collaborations in teaching, the design of online workshops, readings and online tools across institutions requires careful development. In this project, considerable time and planning went into the identification of case studies that would appeal to students from both countries, as illustrated by our use of well-established brands, such as Zara, Mango, H&M, Stella McCartney, Hugo Boss, BMW 3i and Tesla.
- The collaboration also highlighted the range of factors that establish inter-institutional collaborations in teaching, but which are beyond the control of the teaching faculty. Among these factors are: international differences in semester structures, cultural differences in the ways in which students engage in online workshops, institutional differences in the typical length of sessions and assessment regulations. Since these broader cultural and institutional aspects determine the success of international workshops, they should be part of the ‘due diligence’ before committing to any collaboration.
- Summing up the experience, we view international virtual collaborations in short workshops as a useful context for developing customized, subject-specific teaching tools and as a prototype for the development of longer-term collaborations in teaching.