2.3.4 Relational Paradigm

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the August 31st, 2011

Your Brand is Not My Friend from http://www.mpdailyfix.com/your-brand-is-not-my-friend/

This post is part of my bachelor paper ‚The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management‘. You can see the other posts and the table of contents here.

The relational paradigm addresses two arguments that are held against the projective and adaptive paradigm: the projective paradigm neglects to account for consumers‘ role in creating brand meaning, the adaptive paradigm focuses on consumer evaluation but doesn’t demonstrate how organisations create brand value in this setting. From a relational perspective brand management is seen as “[…] an ongoing dynamic process, without a clear beginning and ending, in which brand value and meaning is co-created through interlocking behaviours, collaboration and competition between organizations and consumers” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.865). These relationships

“[…] involve reciprocal exchange between active and interdependent relationship partners; (2) relationships are purposive, involving at their core the provision of meanings to the person who engage them; (3) relationships are multiplex phenomena: they range across several dimensions and take many forms, providing a range of possible benefits for their participants; and (4) relationships are process phenomena: they evolve and change over a series of interactions and in response to fluctuations in the contextual environment” (Fournier 1998, p.344)

The relational approach to brand management then encompasses, in an interactive brand management process the core activities of all before mentioned paradigms: 1) building and communicating a brand identity that links to an organisation’s strategy and resources, 2) projecting it through a defined set of brand elements and a marketing program and 3) dynamically reconstruct and co-develop it “in the context of path-dependent consumer-brand relationships by encouraging active dialogue, mobilizing customer communities, managing customer diversity and co-creating personalized experiences (Fournier 1998; Prahalad & Ramaswamy 2000)” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.866).

This has important implications for the firm’s desired organisational capabilities. For a company to be able to sustain these dynamic relationships with consumers, it has to combine the strengths of market sensing (outside-in) with inside-out capabilities, implementing “multidimensional, process-based measuring systems” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.866) that “facilitate real-time action and reaction” (Keller 2000; Keller 1998; De Chernatony 1999 qtd. in Louro & Cunha 2001, S.867)

While the paradigms certainly describe “ideal-types” of brand management practices, assumptions and structures, they are able to give an overview into the current state of normative and academic literature in the field and the embodied assumptions about brands, brand management and the roles of organisations and consumers in the process. They might, however, also be read as a process of refinement and a historical development. Not only brand management as a function has to (or doesn’t have to, depending on the paradigm) adapt to outside changes, but also brand management as a discipline changes its focus, depending on economic, social, cultural and technological developments, thus the relational paradigm integrating earlier dominant modes.

Analysing paradigms and brand management models, Tropp (2004) uses a systems theory approach for a conceptualization of brands and brand management that will be used as the central theme of this work. Like proponents of the relational paradigm, Tropp (2004, p.115f) aims to bridge the before mentioned theoretical gap between image and identity. By analysing the relationship between companies and their environment from a systems theory view he first defines brands via two fundamental functions: Brands, according to Tropp [1] are the unique, emotionally charged field of knowledge about a company, a product or a service, that is symbolized by a set of highly complexity-reducing communication offers. It fulfils two mutually conditional functions:

a) Realizing and strengthen the structural coupling between companies and consumers (economic function)

b) Being the trigger and stabilizer for individual and social constructions of reality (life-world function)

Brands then, are not either the identity of a company or the image in consumers’ minds, but they receive their meaning from the social interactions around the brand and their value from being socially shared, and multidimensional knowledge (Keller 2003) that people can refer to Kapferer (1997, p.25). While Yakob (2007) compares this phenomenon with the collectively shared perception of the value of money, Tropp (2004, p.123) argues that brands usually cannot claim to have reached the status of being truly collectively shared knowledge. This means that consumers may individually very well have a different image of a brand, but that the meaning, the overall value of the brand at large – for both consumers as well as the company – is derived from what is commonly shared and shaped by the numerous social interactions performed around it (Holt 2010, p.3). As a consequence, this perspective leads to the conclusion that while brands are legally owned by the corporation managing it, they don’t have the possibility to fully control their meanings (Gries 2006, p.27).

After introducing the different brand paradigms at work today, with a focus on the relational perspective, the following chapter will now analyse the challenges, trends and changes contemporary brand management has to deal with.

[1] Translated from: „Eine Marke ist ein einzigartiger emotional aufgeladener Wissensbereich über ein Unternehmen, ein Produkt oder eine Dienstleistung, der von einer Menge hochgradig komplexitätsreduzierender Kommunikationsangebote symbolisiert wird. Diese erfüllt zwei sich wechselseitig bedingende Funktionen:a) Die strukturelle Kopplung zwischen Unternehmen und Konsumenten zu realisieren und zu festigen (ökonomische Funktion).b) Auslöser und Stabilisator für individuelle und soziale Wirklichkeitskonstruktionen zu sein (lebensweltliche Funktion). (Tropp 2004, p.115f)

De Chernatony, L., 1999. Brand management through narrowing the gap between brand identity and brand reputation. Journal of Marketing Management, 15(1), pp.157–179.

Fournier, S., 1998. Consumers and their brands: Developing relationship theory in consumer research. Journal of consumer research, pp.343–373.

Holt, D.B., 2010. Brands and Branding. Available at: http://culturalstrategygroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/brands-and-branding-csg.pdf.

Kapferer, J.-N., 1997. Strategic brand management: creating and sustaining brand equity long term, Kogan Page Publishers.

Keller, K.L., 2003. Brand synthesis: The multidimensionality of brand knowledge. Journal of Consumer Research, pp.595–600.

Keller, K.L., 1998. Strategic brand management: building, measuring and managing brand equity, Prentice Hall.

Keller, K.L., 2000. The brand report card. Harvard Business Review, 78(1), pp.147–158.

Louro, M.J. & Cunha, P.V., 2001. Brand management paradigms. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(7), pp.849–875.

Prahalad, C.K. & Ramaswamy, V., 2000. Co-opting customer competence. Harvard business review, 78(1), pp.79–90.

Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.

2.3.3 Adaptive Paradigm

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the August 31st, 2011


This post is part of my bachelor paper ‚The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management‘. You can see the other posts and the table of contents here.

The adaptive paradigm changes its focus on the “output” perspective and comprises a range of consumer-centred brand definitions, the most notable of those definitions being the brand image concept (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.863), as defined earlier as “perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory” (Keller 1993, S.3). In this more consumer-centred conceptualization of brands,

“[b]rand management is enacted as a tactical process of cyclical adaptation to consumers‘ representations of the focal brand whereby brand image gradually supplants brand identity (Aaker 1996). Within the adaptive view, brand image becomes the core theme underlying strategic formation and frames the specification of a brand’s elements and its supporting marketing program (Kapferer 1992).” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.863)

With performance measures usually focused on consumer-based metrics and brand management generating value by adapting to a particular competitive context, brand management needs to develop superior “outside-in capabilities” (Day 1994 qtd. in Louro & Cunha 2001, p. 864) developing “[…] the ability of the firm to learn about customers, competitors and channel members in order to continuously sense and act on events and trends in present and prospective markets.“ (Day 1994, p.43 qtd. in Louro & Cunha 2001, p. 863)

The adaptive paradigm in turn is criticised mostly by the brand identity school which argues for the importance of a companies guiding mission, culture and brand essence and against the “recursive reconfiguration of a brand’s identity in response to incremental changes in consumer’s expectations” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.865).

Next up is the relational paradigm and a summary perspective.

Day, G.S., 1994. The capabilities of market-driven organizations. Journal of Marketing, 58(4), pp.37–52.

Louro, M.J. & Cunha, P.V., 2001. Brand management paradigms. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(7), pp.849–875.

2.3.2 Projective Paradigm

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the August 31st, 2011

Mad Men

This post is part of my bachelor paper ‚The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management‘. You can see the other posts and the table of contents here.

The projective paradigm builds on the product paradigm and further complements and amplifies it. It was brought into existence by a series of mergers and acquisitions that publicly demonstrated multiples between earnings and acquisitions values of up to twenty to thirty. These earnings lead to a acknowledgment of the value of brands, which in turn led to a proliferation of brand management research and a consolidation of a strategic approach to brand management (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.859). Brands are here seen as the focal platform of a companies‘ strategy formulation and furthermore as an identity systems that all company offers have to be integrated with.

“Within this perspective brand management is focused on reinforcing and developing brand positioning and meaning by achieving a coherent focus across the brand portfolio and projecting a consistent message to all stakeholders.” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.860)

As the term projecting suggests, the organisation is seen as the primary source of meaning and value, which is derived from the “creation, development and communication of a coherent brand identity (Kapferer 1992; Aaker 1996)” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.860) that is projected onto the receiving consumers. In a historical context, the emergence of this paradigm can be related to Holt’s (2002) modern branding paradigm, which focuses on the communication of desirable life-worlds to the then emerging post-war mass consumer culture.

Next: The adaptive paradigm.

Louro, M.J. & Cunha, P.V., 2001. Brand management paradigms. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(7), pp.849–875.

2.3.1 Product Paradigm

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the August 31st, 2011

1940's snow white flour bag

This post is part of my bachelor paper ‚The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management‘. You can see the other posts and the table of contents here.

The product paradigm reflects a tactical approach to branding and brand management with the product as the most important consideration. The brand definition best suiting this paradigm is the long-standing definition of the American Marketing Association that sees brands, as mentioned before, as “[a] name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” (American Marketing Association 2010). Within this approach to brand management, marketing management is chiefly focused on the marketing mix, with the product as the most important outcome and source of value creation (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.856). The function of brands within this approach is mostly in its legal and signifying functions, and therefore closely resemble Gries‘ (2006, p.15) and Tropp’s (2004, p.23f) first phase in the history of brands.

Next: the projective paradigm.

Gries, R., 2006. Produkte & Politik: zur Kultur- und Politikgeschichte der Produktkommunikation, Facultas Verlag.

Louro, M.J. & Cunha, P.V., 2001. Brand management paradigms. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(7), pp.849–875.

Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.


2.3 Brand Management Paradigms

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business by thomas on the August 30th, 2011

This post is part of my bachelor paper ‚The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management‘. You can see the other posts and the table of contents here.

To speak of brand management as one clear and perfectly defined concept or management process would oversimplify the current state of research and practice on the topic. Shaped by different company practices, widely discussed ‚recipe‘ books by practitioners (Roberts et al. 2005; Ries 2002), numerous proprietary models of advertising agencies and brand consultancies (Fuchs & Unger 2007, p.33ff; Tropp 2004, p.151ff), and different schools of academic research on the topic there are many different perspectives onto what brand management is and how it works. According to Louro and Cunha (2001, p.853) there are four brand management paradigms. These paradigms

“constitute an organization’s portfolio of implicit assumptions, collective beliefs, values and techniques concerning the why (the objectives and performance measures of brand management), the what (the concept of brands), the who (the organizational structure of brand management) and the how of branding (the variables of brand management)”.

Brand Management Paradigms

Figure 1: Brand Management Paradigms, taken from Louro & Cunha (2001)

They are located in a coordinate system on two central dimensions of current academic and practitioner discussions about brand management: brand centrality and consumer centrality. Brand Centrality stretches from a tactical orientation, which sees brands for their mere signifying and legal value and branding as a residual decision mostly dealing with the advertising of product, to brand orientation which sees brands as “central platforms, in the form of guiding vision and values, and core expressions, in the form of particular marketing mix configurations, of an organisation’s strategic intent (Kapferer & Mayring 1992)“ (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.855) Consumer Centrality, on the other hand, refers to the degree to which managers belief in the consumers‘ involvement in the process of value creation, which ranges from a unilateral approach seeing consumers as the mere recipients of value created by organisations and multilateral approaches in which consumers are seen as co-contributors of value (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.855). The distinctive paradigms will now be introduced, starting with the product paradigm, followed by the projective and adaptive paradigm.

Fuchs, W. & Unger, F., 2007. Management der Marketing-Kommunikation 4th ed., Springer, Berlin.

Kapferer, J.-N. & Mayring, P., 1992. Strategic brand management, Kogan Page London.

Louro, M.J. & Cunha, P.V., 2001. Brand management paradigms. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(7), pp.849–875.

Ries, L., 2002. The 22 immutable laws of branding: how to build a product or service into a world-class brand, Harper Paperbacks.

Roberts, K., Lafley, A.G. & Nagymáté, O., 2005. Lovemarks, PowerHouse Books.

Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.


Master Thesis Topic (update)

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,communications,media, culture and society by thomas on the November 20th, 2010

After getting a lot of useful comments (thank you!) on my initial brainstorming on possible topics for my master thesis I cut them down to three and handed in a description of three very broad topics, all with some more concrete research questions: (1) ‚Post-Postmodern‘ Uses of Brands and Media?, (2) ‚Continuities from Propaganda Theory to Planning:‘ and (3) Reception and Usage of ‚Transmedia‘ Narratives.

So here’s my translated description of topic (1), that I handed in before leaving and which has got a strong endorsement from the prof while I was in Tanzania.

‚Post-Postmodern‘ Uses of Brands and Media?

According to Holt (2002) there are two relevant branding paradigms in the 20th century. The first is called „Modern Branding“ and was based on a domineering, cultural engineering approach. It was dominant until the 60s, when the ‚creative revolution‘ around people like Bill Bernbach appeared.

Marketers made no pretense about their intentions in these branding efforts. They directed consumers as to how they should live and why their brand should be a central part of this kind of life. Advertisements shared a paternal voice that is particular to this era. By contemporary standards, these ads appear naive and didactic in their approach. This paternalism reveals that, at the time, consumer culture allowed companies to act as cultural authorities. Their advice was not only accepted but sought out. (Holt 2002: 80)

This modell – now being popularized by the TV series Mad Men – was inspired both by Freudian psychoanalysis and the scientific approach to advertising and persuasion at the time, provoked rising resistance in the 60s, with books like The Hidden Persuaders and other critical analysis appearing on bookshelves. With the increasing professionalization of the industry and knowledge about the branding paradigm more and more entering the public sphere, the public opinion was increasingly directed against the supposed manipulation of the individual.

Branding could no longer prescribe tastes in a way that was perceived as domineering. People had to be able to experience consumption as a volitional site of personal development, achievement, and self-creation. Increasingly, they could not tolerate the idea that they were to live in accord with a company-generated template. (Holt 2002: 82)

In reaction to the creative and anti-commercial countercultures of the 60s – and with that at the time when interpretative approaches started to challenge the predominant stimulus response thinking – a new branding paradigm emerged. Holt calls this paradigm „Postmodern Branding“. In a postmodern consumer culture, the role of branding would emerge from the supplier of a cultural blueprint – „How should I live?“ – to supposedly authentic, cultural ressources to be used for the identity projects of consumers who strive for independence from paternalistic and authoritarian corporations.

Postmodern consumer culture has adopted a particular notion of authenticity that has proved particularly challenging to marketers. To be authentic, brands must be disinterested; they must be perceived as invented and disseminated by parties without an instrumental economic agenda, by people who are intrinsically motivated by their inherent value. Postmodern consumers perceive modern branding efforts to be inauthentic because they ooze with the commercial intent of their sponsors. (Holt 2002: 84)

To produce these ressources in a distanced and commercially disinterested way, five branding techniques – also made public by Klein 1999 and Frank 1998) have emerged over time: (Holt 2002: 83ff)

  • Authentic Cultural Resources
  • Ironic, Reflexive Brand Persona
  • Coattailing on Cultural Epicenters
  • Life World Emplacement
  • Stealth Branding

All of these techniques however, are confronted with substantial contradictions. Ironic distance has been imitated without end and is now outdated, stealth marketing is getting more and more aggressive and reaching its limits, marketers are running out of counterculture content to tap for their campaigns as the authenticity market heats up, consumers are increasingly peeling away the brand veneer and „collectively, postmodern branding floods social life with evangelical calls to pursue personal sovereignty through brands“ (ibid.).

For Holt these phenomena (published in 2002 – before ’social media‘ even existed) pointed to an expiration of the postmodern branding paradigm. Whereas brands in the future would still have to offer authentic and relevant resources, authenticity won’t not be conveyed distance the brand from a profit motive, but through a role that Hold calls ‚citizen artist‘.

So brands will become another of expressive culture, no different in principle from films or television programs or rock bands (which, in turn, are increasingly treated and perceived as brands). […] Postmodern brands have little value in this new consumer culture. Because they rely so much on the cultural work of disinterested others and work so hard to deny that the brand itself stands for anything by itself (for fear of being tagged as cultural engineers), postmodern brands lack an original point of view that they can claim as their own. Rather than take a free ride on the backs of pop stars, indie films, and social viruses, brands will be valued to the extent that they deliver creatively, similar to other cultural products.

The citizen part on the other hand is concerned with the socially responsable behavior of corporations and their brands, basically answering the question of what is behind the brand veneer.


This topic and Holt’s only superficially covered hypotheses give rise to a lot of questions that might be covered in a master thesis. (Not all in one of course …)

  • What – to people – is authenticity in advertising and marketing communication? How is it operationalized? What are expectations?
  • How does authenticity translate in regards to aesthetics – from user-generated content to brands using a documentary style?
  • How does the use of digital, social networks (’social media‘) have affect the ‚corporate cool machine‘ as described by Holt in the postmodern branding paradigm. Is his hypothesis regarding brands being used in the role of citizen artists true? Or, more concrete: which range of uses of original, authentic and creative brand content can be shown? And in regards to the ‚citizen‘ part of the hypothesis: do people really look behind the brand veneer and if so, how?
Frank, T., 1998. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, University of Chicago Press.
Holt, D.B., 2002. Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(1), S.70–90.
Klein, N., 1999. No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs ; taking aim at the brand bullies, New York, NY: Picador.
Mad Men – AMC. Mad Men. Available at: http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/