Peter Jackson, Polly Russell and Neil Ward INTRODUCTION: BRANDS AND BRANDING Taking British retailer Marks & Spencer’s food business as a case study, this chapter examines the development and marketing of the Oakham brand of chicken, arguing that branding can be understood as a narrative process where brands are developed and ‘storied’ in ways that are consistent with the commercial positioning of the firm and with the personal investments of the brand developers. Our focus is on the interweaving of corporate and personal narratives in the branding of a contemporary food product, reinforcing Susanne Freidberg’s argument that, ‘especially in the advertising-saturated countries of the global North, most food is sold with a story’ (2003: 4). Our research examines the way retailers are engaged in the process of making and managing the meaning of food products. We refer to this as a process of manufacturing meaning, arguing that these cultural constructions help shape the economic fortunes of food retailers such as Marks & Spencer’s. Our emphasis on brands as narrative constructions, telling stories that are designed to encourage consumer loyalty, is not new. The symbolic role of brands in the construction of cultural meaning is a well-established theme from Levy’s pioneering work (1959) on ‘selling symbols’ to Lury’s argument (2004) about how brands make the meaning of goods manageable for producers and consumers. According to Muniz and O’Guinn (2001), successful brands enable the construction of ‘brand communities’ involving a consciousness of kind among consumers, together with shared rituals and traditions and a sense...
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