Getting to the core of the matter : an exploratory study on how social enterprises in the West of Ireland identify their potential target market and communicate their core brand values /
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The Social Enterprise Sector has grown rapidly in many countries in recent years to fill the gaps in social services. It helps to increase employment and solve public problems, thus promoting work integration and the economic development of a community (Wang, Duan and Yu 2016). What originally started out as a co-operative structure in the US and Europe the social enterprise model has taken on many forms and definitions over the years (Teasdale, 2011). Due to the lack of mission and vision of the social enterprise sector there is confusion and lack of clarity on the purpose and objectives of the social enterprise sector (Kim and Young, 2015). In Ireland, there have been calls for a social enterprise strategy/framework to clarity to role of the sector and branding of the social enterprise sector to highlight the impact and success stories of the hundreds of organisations within the country (Hynes, 2016). This qualitative research focuses on identifying the service users of social enterprises in the west of Ireland and the concept of marketing the social enterprise sector based on it’s core brand values. Building the equity of a brand places much value on the ‘social image’ of a brand, the perception that service users feel their social groups holds with the brand (Lasser, Mittal and Sharma, 1995). This research found that the brand equity of the social enterprise sector could be enhanced through telling the unique story of the social enterprise sector. Using the core brand values to act as a guide to build the culture of the social enterprises (Manohar and Pandit, 2013). The findings indicate that managers and frontline staff of social enterprises would benefit from a national social enterprise strategy, the provision of additional training in the area of social enterprise development, marketing, customer service and networking. The research found that social enterprises are different to the traditional business model and should market themselves based on their core brand values that differentiate them from their competition. A number of recommendations are provided in this research and validated by a social enterprise expert.
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