term of ‘consumer culture is used in order to emphasize that the world of
goods, of products and their principle of structuration are essential to
understanding our contemporary society (Featherstone, 2007). This involves
focusing on two things. Firstly, on the cultural dimension of economy, the use
and the symbolization of material goods as ‘communicators’ and not just as utilities.
And secondly, on the economy of cultural goods, the market principles of supply
and demand, competition, capital gain and monopolization, which operate within
the sphere of lifestyles, cultural goods and commodities (ibid.).
a brand or finding a single definition of a brand is not as easy as it may
seem. Each one of us has a general idea of what a brand may be, by thinking
about some examples, such as Coca Cola or Nike, but that is not enough. In this
section we will explore some definitions of a brand given by different
specialists, in order to try and pinpoint what a brand means, what are its
characteristics and how it works.
Chernatony and Dall’Olmo Riley (1998) have identified through content analysis twelve
main themes through which literature is defining the ‘brand’. The brand has
been defined as: a legal instrument, a logo, the company, a shorthand, a risk
reducer, an identity system, an image in the consumers’ minds, a value system,
a personality, a relationship, adding value and an evolving entity. Based on
these themes, they interviewed experts in the field, such as chairmen, partners,
or directors in brand consultancies, advertising agencies, market research
agencies and corporate communication agencies, in order to see what kind of
definitions they would provide for the brand.
results are showing that out of 20 experts, 11 of them mentioned ‘value system’,
10 ‘personality’, 9 ‘image’, 8 ‘logo’, 5 ‘risk reducer’, 4 ‘company’ and ‘adding
value’, while ‘shorthand’, ‘legal instrument’, ‘identity’, ‘relationship’ and ‘evolving’
have been mentioned by 3 of them. This means, that because of the complex, multifaceted
nature of the brands, practitioners are drawing from several different themes
to describe them, the main one being brands as value systems (ibid.).
Based on their literature analysis and the data gathered from the interviews, De
Chernatony and Dall’Olmo Riley are providing a definition for the brand in
order to encourage better communication and a more effective use of resources: ‘The
brand is a complex multidimensional construct whereby managers augment products
and services with values and this facilitates the process by which consumers
confidently recognise and appreciate these values’ (De Chernatony and Dall’Olmo
Riley, 1998: 436).
(2004), however, argues that to assume that a brand is a single thing would be
to mistake the multiple and diverse layers of activity that have been contributing
into creating a brand. Therefore, brands should be seen as the products of
multiple knowledges implicated in creating them: economic, marketing, design,
law, and even images, information and the media. And in terms of looking at the
brand as an object, its objectivity is not independent of or external to these
knowledge practices, but they enter into the object itself. Moreover, this
objectivity is not fixed, but rather dynamic, mixing and layering heterogeneous
images which are unfolded in time (ibid.). The dynamism of the brand is organised
based on the interactivity of the consumer and the information about them, but
also the multiple logics of global flow. Therefore, Lury defines the brand as ‘an
object or medium for exchange of information between “producers” and “consumers”‘
(Lury, 2004: 62).
regard to the producers and consumers, Arvidsson (2005) argues that the value
of a brand derives from the productive practices of the consumers, their prosumption. He argues that consumption
is immaterial labour through which the consumers are producing an ‘ethical
surplus’. This ethical surplus is a social relation, a shared meaning or a
sense of belonging. And according to Arvidsson, the brand, is a context of
consumption, it is a certain way of using the branded object or a propertied
form of life that is to be realised in consumption (ibid.). The brand ‘exploits’
the consumer by taking its value from the activities the consumer is undergoing
through the brand. Let us take as an example the Niketown. While this place is
a Nike store, it is mainly offering a Nike experience to the consumer. The
consumer, by engaging in the sporting activities under the brand of Nike,
trying on Nike sportswear, is taking part in the so-called ‘Nike commune’.
Commune which is giving the brand of Nike its value.
his conclusion, he argues that the brands represent an exemplary embodiment of
the prevailing logic of capitalism. Just like the factories in the times of Fordism,
they are a Post-Fordist mode of production made to generate surplus value. This
way, brands can be looked at as exemplary of a capitalist response to postmodernity,
‘marked by an intensified mediatisation of the social and a concomitant
rendering reflexive, transitory and mobile of thinks like identity and
community’ (Arvidsson, 2005: 252).
will now take a look at some of the writings of the professionals in the field
extracted from a collection of 20 of the best papers produced during 10 years
of IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) Excellence Diploma, called What is a 21st Century Brand? New thinking
from the next generation of agency leaders (Kendall, 2015).
Docherty, Global Planning Director at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, states that ‘brands’
and ‘branding’ are terms that outlived their usefulness (Docherty, 2006). Brands’
evolution from the ones used for slaves and cattle to soap, service brands and
lately institutional, entertainment or experiential suggests that the
continuous change of brands and what they mean makes the ‘brand’ a problematic
term. He argues that this term is problematic because it is a way of describing
how our brains interpret the world around us (ibid.). Our brains are wired in
such way that they generalize, stereotype and label things, groups or entities
that are too complex. We attribute brand values to things that are as diverse
as our Mum, the local school, the Monarchy or our new PlayStation. They are not
just a way of choosing between two different types of baked beans, but rather they
are the way in which we make sense of life (ibid.). Thus, the term of ‘brand’
with its roots in tangible and predominantly economic signs and symbols has
become misleading, a brand being rather a way in which humans have always categorised
the world around them.
the other hand, the term of branding has changed radically over history. That
is because new and different marketing techniques have been applied to already
existing brand entities over time. Take the example of Dove. Dove used to be a
bar of soap, then it became a bar of cream. After that, the feel of soft skin
and then the ideal of beauty. Now it is the belief of the diversity of beauty,
of what it means to be beautiful, a point of view on life (ibid.). He believes that
rather than the ‘types’ of brands that will develop in the future, a more
significant change will be cause by the branding techniques that will be
developed. Therefore, brands existed before branding techniques have been
systematically practiced and branding is a manipulation of a brand’s behaviour.
argument is that brands are not as important to the global consumer culture, because
they have always been a part of the human thought, as a way of thinking, but
rather the process of branding, which adds new properties to already existent
brands, are the ones the focus should be on.