Cultural Branding

Essay Question:

Using the theories and concepts of ‘cultural branding’ analyse Apple Inc. and their brand, its evolution, and cultural impact.

Course perspective on “Branding”
Rather than viewing brand management as a set of discrete tasks to be mastered, we will instead seek to understand brands as cultural phenomena that are increasingly influential. How, then, are we to understand brands as (arguably) the true icons of our age? We will initially approach this question from the viewpoint of consumer agency, which immediately signals that antagonisms are at stake. From this starting point, we will then turn our attention towards Douglas Holt’s famous article, ‘Why do brands cause trouble?’. We will then finish by considering the contemporary phenomenon of ‘wokewashing’, where by brands seek to embrace popular campaigns.

Notes / Items of Reference:

Consumer agency and brand culture
‘Are we consumers sad little sheep being herded about by the not-so-good marketing shepherds? Or are we in control of our own thoughts and behaviour?’ So begins the first reading, from the chapter entitled ‘Consumer agency and brand culture’ in the Hackley textbook. In posing these fundamental questions about our consumer behaviour, Chris Hackley invites us to critically analyse the role of brands. Further conceptual clarification follows in the encyclopaedia entry written by Adam Arvidsson.
• Hackley, Chris. (2013). Marketing In Context: setting the scene. Chapter 6
• Arvidsson, A. ‘Branding’ in Southerton (2011), pp.109–117

How brands cause trouble
• Holt, D. ‘Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding’, Journal of Consumer Research 29(1) 2002, pp.70–90.

A brief history of Nike’s ‘wokewashing’
As Holt notes in his ‘Why do brands cause trouble?’ article, a major issue that brands face is the authenticity of their message. Today, brands which seek to position themselves as sympathetic to particular social issues are sometimes said to be engaging in ‘wokewashing’, or seeking to create a veneer of caring. Yet, marketing has a long history of trying to associate itself with wider ideas. The following article looks at Nike’s history of ‘wokewashing’, and the matter is then explored in a podcast recording with Carl Rhodes, whose recent book, Woke capitalism, addresses these issues.
• Bradshaw, A. ‘From the Beatles to Colin Kaepernick: a brief history of Nike’s “wokewashing”’, Frieze, 12 September 2018.

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