Sub-theme 15: Making brands come alive: How organizations, stakeholders and customers mobilize their identity

Martin Kornberger
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, and University of St Andrews, Scotland
Majken Schultz
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Jonathan Schroeder
Exeter University, UK

Call for Papers

In line with EGOS' 2009 theme on creativity and innovation in organization studies and celebration of the plurality of theoretical and empirical approaches, we propose a track that explores and exploits the concept and phenomenon of branding for organization studies and relates it to one of its most important current issues – organizational identity.

Over the past couple of decades the phenomenon of brands has increasingly become more influential. In 2005, Coca-Cola's brand value was estimated at about US-$67 billion, a figure far beyond the value of the firm’s physical assets, and Virgin has grown an empire around its powerful brand idea: anti-authoritarianism combined with the celebration of freedom and fun. An iconic leader such as Steven Jobs has been part of a movement against the pc-world, where the Apple brand has shown a different way and turned their customers into dedicated iPod-fans. But not only have corporations embraced the idea of branding, not-for-profit organizations such as Greenpeace, universities such as Harvard, states, cities, public bodies and political movements are searching for unique ways to express who they are and what they stand for.

In this sub-theme we want to explore how organization theory can contribute to our understanding of brands and how branding can contribute to organization theory, with the aim to facilitate an interdisciplinary dialogue. Although branding originates from marketing we argue that it has grown out of the marketing discipline and is now relevant to studies of organizations and especially identity, creativity, innovation and strategy. Most of the current theories on branding are developed from a practice-perspective, suggesting innovative organizational practices. In this stream we invite scholars and practitioners to reflect more critically on the phenomenon and engage in interdisciplinary scholarship that can explain the concept more fully.

Following this philosophy, we propose to explore some of the following research questions:

  • How can brands can be understood as relational and dynamic organizational identities that are enacted as the organization asks itself and others "who are we?"

  • How far can a brand be perceived as organizational discourses through which organizations make sense of themselves and the ways others describe them?

  • How far are brands embedded in and expressed through organizational culture as manifested in artefacts, routines and practices spurring the formation of communities creating relations between external and internal stakeholders?

  • How can we understand the symbolic value of brands and reflect on them as ways of making and giving sense in a "Society of the Spectacle" as analyzed by Guy Debord?

  • How can we study brands critically examined to find out in how far they exercise power upon their internal and external environment by using and manipulating symbols and perceptions of reality?

  • What are the inter-relationships between organizations, stakeholders, consumers, and society in creating brands and brand value?

  • Finally, in how far does the concept of branding engender innovative and creative ways of managing and organizing?

We are looking for theoretically innovative and/or empirically interesting papers that are inspired (but not confined) by the research questions above. Importantly, we are seeking contributions from diverse fields of scholarships including identity theory, discourse analysis, cultural studies, critical management studies and others. In doing so, we want to ensure a truly interdisciplinary discussion that will open up new avenues for research.

Martin Kornberger 
Majken Schultz 
Jonathan Schroeder