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Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods in Marketing

Edited by Russell W. Belk

The Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods in Marketing offers both basic and advanced treatments intended to serve academics, students, and marketing research professionals. The 42 chapters begin with a history of qualitative methods in marketing by Sidney Levy and continue with detailed discussions of current thought and practice in: research paradigms such as grounded theory and semiotics; research contexts such as advertising and brands; data collection methods such as projectives and netnography; data analysis methods such as metaphoric and visual analyses; presentation topics such as videography and reflexivity; applications such as ZMET applied to Broadway plays and depth interviews with executives; and special issues such as multi-sited ethnography and research on sensitive topics.
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Chapter 7: Researching the Cultures of Brands

Anders Bengtsson and Jacob Ostberg


Anders Bengtsson and Jacob Ostberg Brands have emerged both as culturally important symbols that give ballast to consumers’ identity projects and as devices that bring competitive advantages to their legal owners. In both these respects, the study of brands has become a matter of central concern to marketing scholars around the world. In standard brand management textbooks, brands are generally understood as devices that help companies achieve competitive advantages by offering added values to its customers (de Chernatony and McDonald, 2003), the socalled ‘mind-share’ approach (Holt, 2004). From this perspective, studying brands becomes a matter of analyzing and systematizing the strategies through which the brand was created and exploring the ways in which these strategies have the intended effects on consumers. In contrast to this conventional way of doing brand research, there are other approaches that seek to capture the cultural richness of brand meanings in contemporary consumer culture. The view in this chapter is that a brand is a culturally constructed symbol, created by various types of authors who furnish it with symbolic content. This means that a brand is a co-constructed object whose meaning is closely bound to context and time. Many times, brand meaning is thought to be produced through a one-way communication process in which sets of neatly constructed brand identities are understood to be decoded into corresponding brand images. Rather than this overly simplified approach, we contend that the cultures of brands are dialectically constructed through iterative processes between various actors (Fournier,...

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