Decoding service brand image through user-generated images
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: Despite the growing number of studies surrounding user-generated content (UGC), understanding of the implications, potential and pertinence of user-generated images (UGI), the visual form of UGC, on brand image in services is limited. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the concept and a comprehensive framework of image word of mouth (IWOM), which identifies UGI as visual articulations of service experiences that result in consumer judgment of service brand image. The framework takes a consumer-focussed approach and covers key branding issues relevant to services marketers such as identifying and linking valued services dimensions, made evident through IWOM, to ideas and thoughts inferred by consumers (viewers) of the brand image and consequent consumer intentions. Design/methodology/approach: The paper reviews and synthesises current services, marketing and branding literature surrounding electronic word of mouth (WOM) and UGC, where it highlights the need to consider interpretations of UGI as persuasive forms of visual WOM or IWOM, as well as a critical stimuli of brand image. Findings: The paper illuminates the importance of adopting a visual perspective that applies constructs developed in cognitive psychology, to decode how viewers (consumers) interact and form associations of brand image via IWOM. Originality/value: The paper examines, integrates and adds to extant literature surrounding WOM, UGC, visual images and brand image within services.