Why Do Brands Cause Trouble?



by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc. ” Vol. 29 ” June 2002


Brands are today under attack by an emerging countercultural movement. This
study builds a dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding that explains
the rise of this movement and its potential effects. Results of an interpretive study
challenge existing theories of consumer resistance. To develop an alternative
model, I first trace the rise of the modern cultural engineering paradigm of branding,
premised upon a consumer culture that granted marketers cultural authority. Intrinsic
contradictions erased its efficacy. Next I describe the current postmodern
consumer culture, which is premised upon the pursuit of personal sovereignty
through brands. I detail five postmodern branding techniques that are premised
upon the principle that brands are authentic cultural resources. Postmodern branding
is now giving rise to new contradictions that have inflamed the antibranding
sentiment sweeping Western countries. I detail these contradictions and project
that they will give rise to a new post-postmodern branding paradigm premised upon
brands as citizen-artists.

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