The Way Brands Work: Consumers' understanding of the creation and usage of brands

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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During the recent years the concept or phenomenon of brands and the importance ascribed to them by the traditional marketing discourse seems to have spread to the every day discourse of ordinary consumers. Consumers are therefore thought to posses some kind understanding of how brands as a phenomenon work. This study sets out to investigate how consumers construct such a brand understanding, and what such brand understanding contains.
Prior consumer literature mainly conceptualizes consumers’ understanding construction as a vertical top-down process, where consumers either learn about consumption phenomenon from traditional socialization agents, or when the consumers are subjected to and individually handle the ideological infrastructure of a consumer culture. In this study it is however argued that a substantial part of consumers’ brand understanding construction is horizontal and occurs in consumers’ peer-to-peer micro level interactions.
By employing a “Netnographic” method to capture and analyze young Swedish consumers’ online micro level interactions, I have managed to identified three major types of micro interactions, consultative, disputative and normative, in which consumers’ brand understanding is thought to be formed. Their brand understanding contained both cynical reasoning and underlying paradoxes. By being cynical of the workings of brands the consumers creates a cynical distance that enables them to both assume a critical stance towards brands as a phenomenon, simultaneously as they may confess to fully participate in the brand consumption game. Consumer cynicism concerning the workings of brands may not emancipate consumers from the structures of the market, but displaying cynical reason may be important to receive recognition from peers and to gain status positions in ones social group.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Business Administration
  • Elg, Ulf, Supervisor
  • Bengtsson, Anders, Supervisor
Award date2009 Nov 13
Print ISBNs10 91-85113-40-9, 978-91-85113-40-8
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2009-11-13
Time: 13:00
Place: Crafoordsalen, Ekonomi Centrum

External reviewer(s)

Name: Elliot, Richard
Title: Professor
Affiliation: University of Bath


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration


  • cynicism
  • status positions
  • brands
  • Consumers
  • understanding
  • micro level interactions
  • construction
  • social structure
  • content


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