Sub-theme 36: Exploring the Kaleidoscopic Nature of Branding

Viviane Sergi
ESG UQAM, Canada
Martin Kornberger
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Majken Schultz
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Call for Papers

If the brand is an assemblage, as Lury (2009) suggests, it follows that branding is about assembling and connecting – in other words, that branding is about bridging. Indeed, words like interface, medium, connector, mediator and relais have been used by various researchers to define the concept of brand. Building on this theme, this stream will articulate three broad lines of inquiry, which each play with the metaphor of the bridge and with bridging action.


The bridge: branding as a connector between theories, concepts and dimensions

The concept of the brand has long travelled beyond its disciplinary home of marketing. Branding is currently investigated by researchers interested in topics as varied as organizational identity and image, strategy and consumer culture, among others. Yet, this expansion may create a Babylonic language confusion. Thus, a first line of inquiry suggests exploring different theoretical angles from which branding can be understood, and also addressing how branding can connect various fields of studies. Examples of questions that could be explored in this line include:

  • Which theoretical lenses can be brought together in branding thinking? For example, how does branding link themes such as organizational identity and strategy, design practices and communication, creativity and open innovation?
  • In what regards is branding a new way of conceiving relationships between organizations, their external environments and their internal micro-climates?
  • From the perspective of performativity, what do brands do?


Crossing the bridge: branding in action and in practice

Nowadays, branding has achieved an astonishing diffusion. From individuals to cities, from transnational corporations to local nonprofits, from private to public organizations, everything seems to be open to branding. Such a variety in the applicability of branding needs to be carefully investigated, especially from the perspective of what these various branding projects entail. As a second line of inquiry, we would like to discuss the diversity of activities and practices involved in branding, in order to understand better what is being done in/for branding. Here are examples of questions related to this line:

  • How does branding (re)organize, in practice and over time, the organization? How are actors and artifacts combined in branding projects?
  • How are social media involved in branding? How do these tools help in creating and communicating organizational identity?
  • Who are branding practitioners? What does their day-to-day work involve? What challenges do they face, and how do they go about resolving them? How do they brand themselves?


Opposites banks and passages: tensions, conflicts and change

Finally, the fact that bridges are built supposes that there is a distance, gaps, and even oppositions that need to be filled in or reduced. Also, by considering branding as something that is practiced and also that is performative, this theme opens the door to a reflection on passage, as in the movement between, over or across – a movement that might, as any transition, bring transformation and change. Some possible questions for consideration include:

  • What are the tensions and conflicts that can arise in the process of branding initiatives? What are the power effects of branding?
  • Once a brand has been constituted, how does it resist change, disruptions or unplanned events? On the other hand, how do brands change? What are the challenges involved in re-branding?
  • What are the (intended and intended) consequences of branding initiatives?

Finally, in this sub-theme, we wish to combine different formats in order to stimulate a diversity of discussions. In sum, this sub-theme will discuss the growing relevance and prevalence of branding thinking and practice in organizations.



Lury, C. (2009): 'Brand As Assemblage.' Journal of Cultural Economy, 2 (1), 67–82.


Viviane Sergi is Assistant Professor of Management at ESG UQAM in Montréal, Canada. Her research interests include project organizing, leadership, organizational identity, materiality and qualitative methods. She is currently exploring the contribution of artifacts to project organizing, the role of social media in branding initiatives and leadership from a practice perspective.
Martin Kornberger received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Vienna in 2002 and currently works at Copenhagen Business School. He is also affiliated to the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. Martin is the author of several books including "Brand Society", which explores how brands transform practices of production and consumption (Cambridge University Press, 2010). For more information, please visit
Majken Schultz is Professor at Copenhagen Business School. Her research is located at the interface between culture, identity and image, corporate branding and reputation management. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Academy of Management Review', 'Harvard Business Review', 'California Management Review', 'European Journal of Marketing', 'Organization Studies', 'Human Relations', 'Journal of Management Inquiry', 'British Journal of Management', 'Corporate Reputation Review'. She has most recently published "Taking Brand Initiative: How Companies can Align Strategy, Culture and Identity Through Corporate Branding" with Mary Jo Hatch. For more information, please see