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Brands are the names, signs, and symbols designed to identify the offerings of one producer from those of the competition. As such, brands can be distinguished from the more generic constructs of goods and services. Brands and branding have played a crucial role in the development of market economies by allowing producers a way to differentiate similar offerings. Brands have also profoundly changed the ways in which consumers make consumption decisions, relate to the market, define themselves, and interact with other consumers. They can be considered one of the chief sources of meaning in modern consumer culture.
Branding is a young discipline which evolved considerably in the twentieth century. In recent decades the practice of branding has been applied extensively (and well beyond packaged goods), being used on museums, political parties, universities, and religions. Recent decades have also witnessed a dramatic evolution in the ways in which brands are researched and understood. Marketing has its roots in economics and psychology. As a consequence of this lineage, brands were long studied from perspectives which stressed individual, passive, and rational consumers. Recently, the fields of marketing and consumer behavior have embraced sociological and anthropological perspectives. These perspectives treat brands as culturally embedded, social creations and view consumers (and their various social aggregations) as active interpreters and co-creators of brands.
Large brands, particularly global, multinational brands have become the target of a great deal of criticism and opposition, often seen as being emblematic of and responsible for the contemporary consumer society and its impact on global and local cultures, media, the environment, and human rights. There has been a growing anti-branding movement that is reflected in the guerilla anti-marketing actions of groups like AdBusters, the Billboard Liberation Front, and the Church of Stop Shopping.
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- Klein, N. (1999) No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. Picador, New York.
- Muniz, A. M. Jr. & O’Guinn, T. C. (2001) Brand community. Journal ofConsumer Research 27 (March): 412-32.