Branded Lives
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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.
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Chapter 2: Considering the ‘Bigger Picture’: Branding in Processes of Financialization and Market Capitalization

Hugh Willmott


1 Hugh Willmott Introduction … brand owning companies can earn huge returns on their capital and grow faster, unencumbered by factories and masses of manual workers. Those are the things that the stock market rewards with high price/earnings ratios. (Akasia, 2000: 30) Brands are financial assets and their importance in relation to the tangible assets of most businesses continues to grow. The management of brand value is simply another aspect of managing shareholder value. (Batchelor, 1998: 101) Branding has until recently been marginal to critical scholarship across business and manage ent studies (see Arvidsson, 2006; Holt, 2002; Kornberger, m 2010). Marketers, with few exceptions (e.g. Holt, 2002, 2004), have treated branding as a functional means of differentiating products or services, increasing product recognition and reputation and thereby securing or gaining market share.2 Other students of business regarded branding as external to their domain, the prin ipal exceptions being organization specialists interested in c corporate branding (e.g. Hatch and Schultz, 2005; Schultz et al., 2000, 2005) and accounting specialists interested in the issue of accounting for brands (e.g. Tollington, 2001). Attentiveness to branding among social scientists, whether mainstream or critical, has been muted, perhaps because it is considered too superficial to merit close or serious examination. For students of political economy, it seems that the ‘soft’ and intangible qualities of consumer behaviour make branding an unattractive topic. Lury’s (2004) Brands: The Logos of the Global Economy promises to balance the account (see also du Gay et al., 1996) and yet, rooted in...

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