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 4: The Branded Self as Paradox: Polysemic Readings of Employee–Brand Identification

Sandra Smith and Margo Buchanan-Oliver


4. The branded self as paradox: polysemic readings of employee– brand identification Introduction Sandra Smith and Margo Buchanan-Oliver In this chapter1 we unpack the brand experience by investigating employee representations of the self, organization and brand, from a social narrative perspective. Using a range of techniques, such as group and individual interviews, participant-generated visual texts and narrative analysis, we frame employee portraits of the brand as reflections or mirrors of the branded self. We assert that how the employee represents the brand is central to not only the branded identity of the employee but also, collectively, to that of the organization. This chapter outlines how employees may either accommodate or resist, to varying degrees, identification with the organizational brand. However, we add to this view by also exploring instances where the brand constitutes the self beyond the professional realm. We also uncover post-structuralist complexity which confounds notions of the branded self as unitary, predictable or complete. Our findings mirror the post-structuralist perspective of organizational identity expressed by Alvesson and Willmot (2002). Consequently, we represent and hold in tension competing portrayals of the self–brand– organization, thereby confirming the branded self as contingent, frequently paradoxical and ‘the nodal point of intersecting subject positions’ (Harding, 2008: 45). Organizational context Using a single case approach allows us to provide a rich, narrative portrayal of one organizational context. One key rationale for using a case study approach is that it is an effective way of linking theory and real-life experiences (Gummesson, 2007). Also, using...

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