Brand Culture Essay

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Brand research emerged from the allied fields of management, marketing, and strategy, which generally emphasize pragmatic models of brand ”effects driven by quantitative analysis. Recently, sociologists, anthropologists, and geographers have looked at brands from critical perspectives, acknowledging the importance of brands in society, and providing a necessary counterpoint to managerial and psychological views of branding. Brands are not only mediators of cultural meaning – brands themselves have become ideological referents that shape cultural rituals, economic activities, and social norms. Furthermore, brands may pre-empt cultural spheres of religion, politics, and myth, as they promote an ideology linked to political and theological models that equate consumption with happiness

Brand culture refers to the cultural influences and implications of brands in two ways. First, we live in a branded world: brands infuse culture with meaning, and branding profoundly influences contemporary society. Second, brand culture constitutes a third dimension for brand research – brand culture provides the necessary cultural, historical and political grounding to understand brands in context. In other words, neither managers nor consumers completely control branding processes -cultural codes constrain how brands work to produce meaning and value. The brand culture perspective sheds light on the gap often seen between managerial intention and market response.

If brands exist as cultural, ideological, and sociological objects, then understanding brands requires tools developed to understand culture, ideology, and society, in conjunction with more typical branding concepts, such as brand equity, strategy, and value. The brand culture concept acknowledges brands representational and rhetorical power both as valuable cultural artifacts and as engaging and deceptive bearers of meaning, reflecting broad societal, cultural, and ideological codes.


  1. Bently, L., Davis, J., & Ginsburg, J. (eds.) (2008) Trade Marks and Brands: An Interdisciplinary Critique. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  2. Holt, D. B. (2004) How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding. Harvard Business School Press, Boston.
  3. Schroeder, J. E. (2005) The artist and the brand. European Journal of Marketing 39: 1291-305. Schroeder, J. E. & Salzer-Morling, M. (eds.) (2006) Brand Culture. Routledge, London.

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