Connecting with consumers: Branding and convergence

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Within the marketing communications literature, brands are considered an important means of differentiating an organization’s offer and communicating with consumers. Through the systematic coordination of multiple messages and across a wide range of media platforms via brand narratives and brand conversations (Dahlen et al 2010), branding is now understood to be a key promotional method of relevance to private as well as public organization culture. Deeply embedded in everyday life through a wide array of tactics, from product placement in television, movies, video games, mobile and other platforms, to corporate sponsorship of every realm of community life, brands’ presence in our daily practices has been facilitated by ubiquitous interactivity. An ‘always on culture’ of mobile technology now makes it possible to reach consumers at any time of day. Social and cultural theorists draw attention to brands’ symbolic and ideological impact upon contemporary culture. Some authors argue that brands culturally constitute meanings, where images and reality are blurred, through convergence, making for a type of ‘hyper-reality’, particularly influenced by the cultural context where the brand may be produced. In Baudrillard’s (1998) view, consumers actively engage with and manipulate signs. In relation to the processes of branding, even corporate logos can become fashion accessories in the hyper-reality of consumer culture. Brand names such as Nike, Dunkin’ Donuts and Harley Davidson, through the practice of permanently tattooing corporate logos, for example, make it possible for the body to become a multidimensional billboard. Corporate logo tattoo consumers may not necessarily be interested in the product, but by expressing various simulations of reality and possibilities for their identities, they are fetishizing both the social meanings of the brand and the commodity-sign logo (Orend-Cunningham 2003). Authors from media studies traditions, in contrast, focus on the role of brands in articulating and reproducing certain ideologies and views of the world and mediating various subject positions where notions of communities and identities are continuously being built and rebuilt (Kellner 1995; Morley and Robins 1995). Social theorists such as Urry (2000) argue that brands also play a role in producing models of global citizenship and certain modes of being. In the context of promotional culture and convergence, the brand can also be understood as a sign in relation to an increasingly aestheticized everyday life (Featherstone 1991; Lash and Urry 1994). The brand, however, acts as a medium for exchange, as well as a referent (elaborated upon by Lash 2002), involving not solely the production of the sign, but also how consumers interact with it. From this perspective, the meaning of brands is not only interpreted but also constituted by consumers, a position further developed by Lash (2002) and Lury (2004). Of particular interest for the purpose of this chapter is the role of the brand as a new media object, implicating social relations (Lury 2004). According to Celia Lury (2004), a brand embodies a new media logic, as it is both an object of information and objectifies information, which involves images, processes and products and multidimensional relations between products in time. Lury argues that while a brand may be considered incorporeal or intangible, it is ʼnot immaterial. .. while not fixed in time or space, it is a platform for the patterning of activity, a mode of organizing activities in time and space. .. not a closed object, but open, extending into or implicating social relations. .. not a matter of certainty, but object of possibility’ (Lury 2004: 2). Expanding on Lury’s work, Arvidsson (2006) argues that brands work as a platform that anticipates and pre-structures certain kinds of actions or feelings. Arvidsson suggests that ‘brands today do not so much stand for products, as much as they provide a part of the context in which products are used. … With a particular brand I can act, feel and be in a particular way’ (Arvidsson 2006: 8). The brand understood from this perspective is a ‘propertied frame of action’, empowering consumers to orientate themselves in a particular direction, while recouping the effects of such activity as its own (Arvidsson 2006: 8). Implicated in brand design and performance, consumers emotionally engage and interact with brands as users, or even creators, rather than audiences or readers, in processes that are often ephemeral and emotional, rather than cognitive processes of reffection (Lash 2002). This chapter will examine some of the processes of the relations between the products and services that constitute branding in the context of convergence and promotional culture. Through a case study of the promotion of HIV/AIDS prevention, it will consider how branding has become part of even the most intimate corners of our lives, including what was once considered the domain of governmental and non-governmental actors. The chapter will begin with a discussion of brand value and brand positioning as distinguishing features of brands within contemporary promotional culture and will consider the impact of convergence culture upon the branding process. The chapter will then provide an analysis of the branding of MTV’s Staying Alive and Viacom’s HIV/AIDS campaigns.

Idioma originalInglés
Título de la publicación alojadaPromotional Culture and Convergence
Subtítulo de la publicación alojadaMarkets, Methods, Media
EditorialTaylor and Francis
Número de páginas14
ISBN (versión digital)9781136474385
ISBN (versión impresa)9780415672795
EstadoPublicada - 1 ene. 2013
Publicado de forma externa


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