Branded Lives

Branded Lives

The Production and Consumption of Meaning at Work

Edited by Matthew J. Brannan, Elizabeth Parsons and Vincenza Priola

Branded Lives explores the increasingly popular concept of employee branding as a new form of employment relationship based on brand representation. In doing so it examines the ways in which the production and consumption of meaning at work are increasingly mediated by the brand. This insightful collection draws on qualitative empirical studies in a range of contexts to include services, retail and manufacturing organizations. The contributors explore the nuances of employee branding from various disciplinary standpoints such as: organization studies, marketing, human resource management and industrial relations. They take a critical perspective on work and organizations and document the lived experience of work and employment under branded conditions. In investigating the extent to which a variety of organizational strategies seek to mould workplace meanings and practices to further build and sustain brand value and the effectiveness of these in terms of employee responses, the authors question whether the attempt to ‘brand’ workers’ lives actually enhances or diminishes the meaning and experience of work.

Chapter 5: The Trouble with Employer Branding: Resistance and Disillusionment at Avatar

Jean Cushen

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, marketing, organisation studies, research methods in business and management, research methods, research methods in business and management


Jean Cushen Introduction Employer branding appears to be emerging as the human resource management (HRM) practice ‘de jour’ promoted by respected HRM professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK, numerous management consultants, and leading business schools. An employer brand can be understood as ‘The identity of the firm as an employer. It encompasses the firm’s value system, policies and behaviours toward the objectives of attracting, motivating, and retaining the firm’s current and potential employees’ (Ainspan and Dell, 2001: 3). Employer branding entered the HRM toolbox amidst a discourse of universal ‘best practice’ and ‘institutional isomorphism’ (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). In other words, it is argued that implementing employer branding should yield positive results in all instances as it has been claimed to be successful in other locations. For human resource practitioners, the cited potential of employer branding is enticing as it appears to encapsulate the hallmarks of ‘good’ human resource management (Boxall, 1992; Guest, 1987). For example, employer branding seeks to create a unitary cultural framework of commitment by making explicit the binding, positive, social characteristics that are supposedly common to the organization. It is, as one commentator states, ‘marketing for your corporate culture’ (Ferdinandi, 2010). The message of unitarism is promulgated through claims of mutual interests, that is, that living the brand is the route to achievement of both organization goals and individual fulfilment. In addition to creating a unitarist frame of reference, the practice of employer branding also promises to deliver...

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