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Cultural economy and brand integration

2020-06-24 来源: 51Due教员组 类别: 更多范文

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下面为大家整理一篇优秀的essay代写范文 -- Cultural economy and brand integration,文章讲述在晚期资本主义中,品牌已成为一种独特的现象。沃尔特·本杰明(Walter Benjamin2008)曾详细阐述了光环在艺术品复制中的衰落,但即使他对当今的品牌文化也可能感到惊讶。例如,HMZara之类的快速消费品(FMCG)品牌指示了光环的再现和褪色的时间,这反过来又使它们更容易获得,因此很受欢迎。但是像LV这样的奢侈品牌通过使品牌显得“优雅”,“经典”和“独特”来重建其“光环”。品牌不仅是一种推广产品的方式,而且还是一种促进生活方式的方式(Berger2008)。我们生活在一个不同品牌的世界中。

 

Cultural economy and brand integration

 

1. Introduction

In the late capitalism, brand has become a distinct phenomenon. Walter Benjamin (2008) once elaborated the fading of aura in the reproduction of art, but even he may be surprised at the brand culture today. For example, the Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands such as H&M and Zara indicate the time of reproduction and fading of aura, which in turns makes them more accessible and thus desirable; but the luxury goods brands such as LV rebuild their “aura” by making the brand seem “elegant”, “classics” and thus “unique”. Brand not only serves as a way of promoting product, but also a way of promoting lifestyle (Berger, 2008). We live in a world of different brands.

Brand as cultural phenomenon is now getting more and more diverse and complicated, and in modern times brand involves complex cultural sub-systems, including the consumer, the product, the symbolic system, the capitalism system. We need new theoretical tools to analyze the brand as “new media object” (Lury, 2004). In this article, the author tries to put the brand in a complex systematic network drawing on the theory of “brand as assemblage” (Lury, 2009), which is “made up through multiple heterogeneous processes in which different forms of marketing, management and design expertise converge” (Bennett& Healy, 2009, p. 6) Contemporary scholars borrows the concept of “assemblage” from STS study and ANT to reconsider the brand as a complex cultural systematic network, which gives ontological stress on different involved subjects and their interactions.

This article discusses the “brand as assemblage” in theoretical and empirical perspective. In theoretical part, I will discuss the Marxism and Frankfurt school critique, the traditional persuasion theory and public relation theory, and brand as symbolic object following Roland Barthes’s semiotics and Bourdieu’s critique of symbolic distinction and violence. I will then discuss “brand as assemblage” (Lury, 2009) compared with these theories to show how these theoretical perspective understand the new phenomenon in the modern world. And I will also discuss the knowledge making process in the modern world, which helps us understand how the “assemblage” is possible in the symbolic perspective. I argue in this article that the material network background and the symbolic system make the capitalism cultural economy possible.

In empirical perspective, I will discuss two cases to show how brand can be seen as assemblage and how it contributes to our understanding of symbolic commodities.

In the second section, I would look into two brands to explain the value of thinking of brand as an assemblage. The Chanel brand is based on the legendary life stories of its founder: Coco Chanel. It has successfully established its brand image on the basis of creating a lifestyle instead of simply a piece of clothing. The lifestyle of France and a unique class were carefully packaged into her signature collections. Nike constitutes the other end of the analysis as it symbolizes the possibility that lies in a brand. Like Chanel, Nike has also established a distinct brand image. It is associated with athletics, competitiveness and determination. This brand is created not only in its commodity, but also in events and activities most clearly demonstrated in Nike towns and also those running apps like Nike run. Being the brand that has multiple factories in developing countries like China and southeast Asian countries, Nike is also a great demonstration of brand as the interface of organizing asymmetrical communications.

 

2. Brand as Assemblage

(1) Brand and Academy

Brand is an essential cultural representation of capitalism system. As Lury (2004, p. 47) argues, brand is “a part of the rise of a virtual economy, an economy in which feedback systems of information, communication and control fundamentally reconfigure the temporality of production and processes of objectification”. Brand can be thus seen as a multi-determined configuration, a cultural phenomenon shaped by different powers. Scholars in different lines of theory may put different theoretical stress on it.

From the perspective of business and management, brand is the triumph of late capitalism, and proved to be a successful way of promoting product and lifestyle. As Kornberger (2010) argues, brand changes management and lifestyle of our time. There are also a large amount of literature of practical brand issues, such as the innovative ways of brand making (Shaffer, 2014), social media marketing (Naveed, 2012; As' ad, H., & Alhadid,2014), and “re-organizing marketing activity and even shaping business strategy itself” (Lury, 2009, p. 73). In their views, brand is a taken-for-granted marketing and management tools. Brand is a fixed signified. The only things that need to be inquired is how to make use of it.

This approach may not be appreciated by critical scholars. Following the Marxism tradition, many scholars argue brand value as part of “surplus value” (Arvidsson, 2005) or analyze the brand phenomenon as “commodity fetishism” (Kline & Leiss, 1978). The Frankfurt School may attack the brand in the ideological level. Adorno and Horkheimer (1997), for example, may attack “brand” as part of culture industry, part of the “mass deception”, which reproduces the false consciousness and help paralyze the critical spirits of human being. The recent Marxism scholars put more emphasis on the symbolic exchange of the brand economy. For example, Baudrillard (1993) stresses it’s the symbolic capitals that maintain the capital economic system. Brand is valuable because of the symbolic exchange in this way. In this line of theory, brand itself is the dynamics of cultural economy, and also the representation of capitalism symbolic exchange. Bourdieu (1984), the French sociology who combines Marx and Weber to develop his own theory of practice, argue that brand helps maintain the “distinction” of different class. Bourdieu (1984) elaborates the interaction of habitus, capital and field and he also stresses the power of symbolic capital. By borrowing his theoretical insight, we could see “brand” as a field of cultural production which is formed by several economic and cultural symbols. The consumer’s “habitus” and their different capitals will affect their specific practice in this field, and the class divide may be reproduced in this field due to the symbolic power.

But the critical theory cannot respond to the complicated image of modern brand phenomenon. For example, although Bourdieu’s theory can be used to deal with the relationship between power, capital and the brand, it cannot deal with the global context and local image of the brand effectively. The concept of “field” may limit its potential for understanding the transnational practice of cultural product in different levels. The Marxism may also need other theoretical perspectives to understand how the “brand” can create economic surplus. The making of a brand involves the labor of worker, the making of “false consciousness”, but in modern world, its value comes also from the complex cultural practice of brand.

(2) Brand as Assemblage

Different from the tradition critical theory, Lash and Lury (2007) suggests a different set of approaches to understand the culture of brand. They point out the transformation of the research paradigm of brand cultures, including the stress on the reflexivity, the information capitalism, the interpretation approach and the bio-power. Under the new circumstances, new approach and new theory should be created and used.

Several scholars turn to the ANT theory and study the assemblage of culture. Assemblage, following the theory of Deleuze and Guattari, means the product and process of arrangement, organization and fixing. “Assemblage” doesn’t mean that it is constructed by fixed elements and by determined structures; neither does it mean it is constructed in a messy way. In brief, it’s the process of de-territorialization and re-territorialization (Wise, 2005, pp.78-80). Wise (2005, p.84) takes the mobile phone as example to show how it can be seen as an “assemblage”. First of all, mobile phone can be seen as a “thumb-key-software-transmission” assemblage. The “hand” and the “phone” are closely connected to create a network of agents. Besides, the assemblage also involves the process of texting, the ways of communication, the intention of maintaining communication, and the process of “becoming private publicly, grasping, having an expensive phone”, the way it “shapes space, transforms behaviour, rings, bothers, etmotes” (Wise, 2005, p.84). From the perspective of ANT (Actor-Network-Theory), the assemblage can be a useful tool to help us understand the nature of the society. For Latour (2005, p. 2), to study assemblage is to study “science of the living together”. He tries to remake the association of the society and even remake the notion of “society” and “sociology”. For example, following the perspective of ANT and assemblage, to study law doesn’t mean to study the inner logic of law, but to study how these logic “makes an association last longer and extend wider” (Latour, 2005, p.7). And in science study, we should notice that the field of science are associated in unpredictable ways. ANT and the notion of assemblage consider the coexistence of different actors, and the agency of the “materials” (such as the relationship between the mobile phone itself and the hand itself, which will be considered only as the “biological background” of social inquiry but not a subject) and the complication of the network formed by the several involved subjects.

When applied to the study of brand, ANT and the notion of “assemblage” help us understand “the multi-layered character of the brand’s ontological existence” (Lury, 2004,p.6). As Lury (2009, p.77) argue, brand is “the reflexive organization of a set of multi-dimensional relations between products or services”, and the “the rapidly changing pressures of mediation, stylization and practices of commercial calculation”. It concerns the brand itself and the network. It’s not only the representation; it is a special topological structure that makes cultural economy possible. As Entwistle and Slater (2012, p. 22) suggest, to think “brand as assemblage” helps us understand the nature of the object. Brand is not only the symbolic sign (as Baudrillard will argue) but also an object. However, this object should not be understood as an “isolated” part or an “isolated” being. It must be understand in the complex network, just as the case of mobile phone stated above (Entwistle and Slater use the case of car, which involves much more elements to form the network). Besides, it also involves the process of reassembling the social network, including the network of consumers, subcultures and communities. Entwistle and Slater (2012, p. 24) point out that “marketers, brand consultants, different types of consumers, different types of media, governmental regulators, lawyers” are all connected into these network, such as the case of Nike – are the sign and the complex practice of “NIKE” still owned by the company? Henry Jenkins (2006) also provides an excellent example of the assembling network. He analyzes how the brand of “Big Brothers”, a famous American reality show and the Harry Porter are reconnected by and thus reassembling the fans community. The meanings of Big Brothers and Harry Porter are connected and recreated by these complex network of producers, audience, fans, and those who makes use of fans community. They are not limited and “owned” by CBS and J.K. Rowling. But it is this network that makes the cultural economy of Big Brothers and Harry Porter possible. One cannot imagine the cultural economy without the participant of different subject. It’s the network that makes profits.

The ANT theory and brand as assemblage also requires us to update our understanding of knowledge making of brand. Polanyi (1967) clarifies the two kinds of knowledge: tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. To understand the brand, we must reconsider the two kind of knowledge of the brand. The explicit knowledge, which can be seen and heard, is the most visible part of the brand. It requires semiotics and social economic study to reveal the secret of the “object” itself. But we also need to consider the implicit knowledge in the whole network. This knowledge that is hard to transmitted and transcribed often help forms the community of different actors. However, the tacit knowledge of different group may often baffle the attempt to makes the network into a homogeneous group. Although organizations are able to produce the knowledge, it’s not easy to disseminate the knowledge (Gertler, 2003). Because of that knowledge, “the brand cannot be reduced to any of the actors who have an interest in it” (Entwistle and Slater, 2012, p. 24).

 

3. How Brand as Assemblage Becomes an Economic Network

In this part, I will illustrate how the brand as assemblage helps us understand the aesthetic economy, and how the brand as assemblage makes the cultural economy possible. I will discuss the case of luxury brand Chanel and the sportswear brand Nike  to show how they are embedded in a wider social-economic context and how the brand as assemblage make the complex network into a economic system.

(1) The Case of Chanel

On the list of Forbes’ most valuable brands (Forbes, 2015), Chanel has always been a luxury brand symbolizing elegance, perfection and simplicity (Corporatebrands). The brand has always been immediately connected to its legendary founder: Coco Chanel. This fashion icon has been sending powerful fashion messages in the many decades after her death.

But the story of Chanel and the Chanel brand does not belong to the fashion company, nor does it even belong to Coco Chanel herself. The brand, once created as an object in the Latourian sense, has a vibrant life of its own, “they are much more interesting, variegated, uncertain, complicated, far-reaching, heterogeneous, risky, historical, local, material and network than the pathetic version offered for too long by philosophers” (Latour, 2005, p.21). In the early years of her business, Coco Chanel went into a business arrangement with Wertheimer, giving her a 10 percent ownership of the Parfums Chanel company. Later, she resented the arrangement as she felt exploited by Wertheimer (Funding Universe, 2003). When Coco Chanel started to file a trademark infringement lawsuit against Parfums Chanel, Wertheimer avoided this business quarrel to go public by settling with Coco Chanel by renegotiating a contract so that Parfums Chanel could have the full right to the brand “Coco Chanel”. By then, Parfums Chanel has been so closely knitted to the charismatic image of Coco Chanel that once departed, the brand would no longer be the same in the eyes of the public (Mazzeo, 2011,pp.166-167). 

The company has been continuously making use of this tie with the charismatic image of Coco Chanel through several channels. In one of the most recent campaigns, the company produced an advertisement featuring the life story of Coco Chanel “Once Upon A Time” has been promoted along with the advertisement series of “Inside Chanel” in 2013 (Levinson and Hoff, 2013). In it, the story of Chanel as an inspiring girl risen from poverty and misfortune to the heights of a successful fashion designer that free women of previous boundaries was demonstrated in an artistic way. The advertisement aroused positive reaction from the public as people resonated with the powerful story (Katten, 2013). Not only so, Toto Audrey immediately became the face of the No.5 Perfume after featuring in the film Coco Avant Chanel.

The success of this brand campaign is deeply rooted in the everyday life of ordinary women. Indeed, Chanel lives on not only in these brand advertisement campaigns. The “philosophy” and statement of Chanel has spread into the everyday life of women who aspire for elegance and power that arises out of fashion. Ordinary Twitters are actually the promoters of the brand. Quotes of Coco Chanel like “A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future” and “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman” are widely distributed on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Women across the world treat these sentences as fashion mottos and codes for dressing. Within these voluntary daily circulations of the legend of Coco Chanel, a cult-like admiration of Coco Chanel was created and closely networked with the image of the Chanel brand. No other luxury brand feels the need to revitalize its connections with its founder as badly as Chanel. As the legendary designer Karl Lagerfields of Chanel states: “I took the Chanel codes, or languages and I mixed them up”.

The marketing of the brand goes beyond the image of Coco and seeks to follow closely the steps of poplar culture. The 1950s advertisement campaign that connected Merlyn Monroe with the fragrance Chanel No.5 was an great success. This connection went beyond the few pictures and commercials that Monroe shoot for the brand. The interview of Monroe in which she stated that she only wears No.5 perfume to bed brought a great increase in the sales of the perfume (Niven, 2013). The brand keeps on its fame and presence through the hosting of the yearly fashion show of the Chanel house, and events like “private shows, special catalogues and special invite-only VIP events in order to retain a close following of those who remain true advocates to the House of Chanel: Coco’s style, vision and life” (Corporate brand management, 2012).

However, the consumers of the brand won’t necessarily consume the brand as the company desires. Chanel stands as one of the most counterfeited brands in the world. China, the emerging economic powerhouse has both contributed to the growth in formal sales and counterfeit products. As one of the most recognized luxury brands in China, counterfeit products of Chanel are widely seen in the small street-side shops and on the streets. According to an online investigation made by the leading portal site Tencent in China titled “which counterfeit bag of the luxury brand is most common on the streets of Shenyang” (Tencent, 2014), Chanel is the most likely counterfeited luxury brand on the streets of Shenyang. In fact, Chanel has become so much counterfeited that some Chinese consumers have described certain distaste at the brand, saying that “it is so widely counterfeited that it has no personality any more” (Tieba, 2011). Counterfeited products, an effort to imitate the lifestyle of the elegant rich, has lowered the image of the brand in the heart of some luxury consumers, and reconfigured the network of economic and cultural meanings of Channel. In its campaign to fight the counterfeit products, Chanel stated that the counterfeit products would usually involve crime networks and terrorists groups, and fail to pay tax dollars supposed to spend on public goods on its official statement (Chanel). By putting the focus on how the product is made, it makes it possible to foreground a discussion on the ethics of the commodity and the brand, pushing the ethics to the front stage.

In this case, a global network of Chanel is constructed. The object of Chanel itself is always linked to the founder Coco Chanel. The products and the symbols stuck in the products link the women consumers together, which makes the cultural economic possible. Consumers purchase the product as well as the symbolic meanings, which is the ideal consequence of the marketing strategy. However, the symbolic meanings of Chanel may get distorted by the counterfeit products, which intentionally borrowed the symbolic values of Channel. In the assembling network, the symbolic meanings of Chanel are being consumed, recreating and colliding, making the economic activities possible.

(2) The Case of Nike

Nike has been a brand that continuously reinvents itself. As a company focused mainly on production, Nike was once pushed out of the market by brands like Reebok that did a good job on marketing. By abruptly changing its strategy, Nike took up the challenge of transforming itself to a marketing brand and tried to be more consumer-oriented (Willigan, 1992; Lury 2004). I will discuss here the interface of its specific brand image, its marketing technique that reorganized the brand and the resistance possibilities that lie in the brand.

First of all, Nike has built for itself the image of a highly competitive sporting brand featuring these famous advertisement slogans like “Just do it’, “Gotta be the shoes”. “Chicks dig the long ball”, “You don’t win silver, you lose gold” and “There is no finish line” (Elliott, 2013). Yet apart from these well-known slogans and advertisement, a common way of promoting brand, Nike has also been able to promote itself through a complex mixed ways of marketing.

Niketowns are the one of the marketing strategy of Nike that symbolizes how, in the words of its own CEO Phil Knight “marketing knits the whole organization together”. As one blogger claimed sighting an exhibition at the storefront of the Nike Town after a marathon, Nike Town exhibited the Nike t-shirt that said “Ran Like A Girl” along with the names of all of the female runners in the marathon and pictures of them at the storefront. Family members of the runners would point to their names and share a moment of happiness with their family members. The blogger claimed that it revitalized his love for the campaign of “Just Do It” and see Nike as a brand that promotes intergenerational bond (Mitch, 2006). By hosting events that connect with the Nike product and the brand campaign message, the marketing practice has connected production, marketing, retailing and advertising together to form the assembling network of the brand. What’s more, the aggregation of individuals in the Nike Town has extended into the aspect of individual habits through the testing of products, the trying out on the treadmills, and the indoor exercise space (Arvidsson, 2006). The marketing team focuses on the mass experience with the brand, the interaction of consumers with each other, and consciously incorporated its products and brand image with the ideas valued in the broader social milieu. After all, economic action is embedded in the social structure (Granovetter, 1985)and we should bring social relationship and social structure back into the study of brand instead of seeing them as pure economic entities trying to produce benefits for the company.

Nike has also extended into the daily life of consumers, turning consumers into unconscious promoters and salesman of the brand through the practice of everyday life. As in the Foucault concept of bio-politics (Foucault,1978) the brand has extended control of the consumers’ daily life and bodily experience. With the advent of electronic technology, Nike has cut down the money put into TV advertisement and sponsorship fees by a stunning 40% (Wakefield, 2012). Instead, more efforts have been made into those personal running apps like Nike +, and gears like the Nike Fuel band that calculates the data of running. People than post their numbers on social networking sites like Facebook. The apps produce consumers for the brand as people are turned into active and enthusiastic runners, and the posting of their data on the social networking sites is also a subtle promotion for the Nike brand as the sweat and efforts put into exercise is closely connected with the brand through those apps.

Yet the brand image as the leading brand in terms of self-achievement and empowerment also makes it an easy target for anti-sweatshop campaigns aiming to promote labor rights. The anti-sweatshop campaigns against Nike has been a larger effort to promote labor-protection consciousness worldwide and it targets highly visible brand like Nike “as a way to capture the attention of the press and the concerned publics” (Bullert, 2000). Such a technique was avidly employed in groups like SACOM, and in a strike involving a factory producing shoes for Nike in China made highly publicized by labor NGOs. As Hawkins described in the campaign against plastic bottles for environmental reasons “in this example it’s not simply the ‘facts’ of matter that are being used as part of a rational debate and argument in the public sphere though this is part of it with the invocation of statistics it is also, crucially, about matter as poetic and affective: shocking, vital disturbing matter that demands attention and disturbs unthinking habits” (Hawkins, 2009). The stark contrast between an inspiring brand boasting the possibility that lies in the ordinary people and the sweatshop where workers are slaving away for minimum wage is shocking and likely to bring the problem of labor issues to the forefront of public attention.

In the case of Nike, the assembling network of the product marketing, the positive symbolic meanings of the object, the consumer, the smart-device, the social media and the transnational labour makes the cultural economy possible.

4. Conclusion

The development in the brand has rendered the old model of brand analysis impotent in the understanding of contemporary branding practice. We need a multiple understanding of the brand from the perspectives of production, symbol, marketing, retailing and its consumers. Yet the components of the brand should not be looked upon in a singular manner, we need to take the method of assembling network analysis in unraveling the functioning of a brand. As in the case of Nike town, marketing, retailing, production and consumer experience all converged in the events and facilities of the Nike town. It should also be remembered that the brand is not in the hands of those who have an interest in it. The object has a life of its own and also has its own agency. The Nike brand showed the potential of becoming the center of labor movement’s effort to promote the awareness of the public and the Chanel brand became the tainted by counterfeited products. It is thus necessary, to reflect on the nature of the brand from the perspective of cultural assemblage.


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