Processes of non-identification: Business school brands and academic faculty

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This paper examines the internal implications of branding within higher education, a specific context which is dominated by the co-existence of strong professional logics and identity structures. We focus on how and whether academic faculty identify with the branding practices undertaken by their respective institution. The paper proposes a communicative perspective on brand identification to understand how academic faculty relate to and make sense of the brand. The findings, from responses of 65 faculty members at five business schools, indicate widespread indifference and non-identification with brand messages. Specifically, we identify four types of disconnects between faculty members and branding practices of their respective schools, namely ambiguity, emptiness, misalignment, and irrelevance. The evidence of these disconnects, we argue, suggests that the faculty members refrain from relating the brand to their own identities. Although individuals relate to discourses around the brand, these are often not internalized and do not thereby impact on their individual identity. Rather than navigating between identity tensions, they eschew identification altogether. We contribute to research on how branding works inside contemporary organizations – including higher education - through questioning the role of identity in branding processes seen as the management of meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101157
JournalScandinavian Journal of Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration


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