Branding Cultural Analogues in Virtual Communities

Branding Cultural Analogues in Virtual Communities

Robert Pennington (Fo Guang University, Taiwan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8133-0.ch006


This chapter discusses cultures as analogues of actual environments, specifically socially constructed communities and the individuals who compose them. Analogues replace actual environments in human perception. Virtual communities provide context for this discussion. Virtual communities have evolved as analogues of actual communities to the degree that technology permits. Greater technological detail brings greater detail in the production of analogues. As a fundamentally cultural phenomenon, marketing communication signifies shared patterns of consumer thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. Virtual communities are particularly suited to communicate consumer culture because they afford consumers authentic cultural presence through analogous representations. Culture depends on communication. Communication depends upon symbols. Symbols constitute electronic environments. Brands are symbols. eBranding supplies consumers with components to construct identities by communicating consumer roles and relationships in virtual consumer culture environments for transfer to actual consumer culture environments. Consumption in actual environments results in brand viability and marketing success.
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Evolution Of Brands

Brands are signs, components of system of symbolic representations that largely constitutes culture. They have always expressed value, which is subjective. The origin of brands is obscure. Centuries ago, traditional Indian merchants used tokens to distinguish their products from competitors’ commodities. Through such use, brands asserted greater relative value to buyers. Brands have also been statements of property, which is the right to possess, use, enjoy and dispose of an object. Such use asserts not only that an object carries subjective value, but also that the value belongs to the owner and no others. Brands have distinguished objects that were difficult to distinguish by their own inherent properties, i.e. attributes or characteristics that had subjective value. Brands further developed into statements of the outcome of product use when the attributes that caused the outcome were difficult to distinguish. That is, brands evolved to represent the expected, subjectively-valued outcome of human interaction with products. Through the entire evolutionary process, brands have been components of conventional communication.

Originally, brands most often occurred in the context of the objects to which they were attached in actual environments. By association, brands primarily represented objects and secondarily represented the outcome on the environment of interacting with the objects. Contemporary brands, however, most often occur within the context of marketing communication. That is, brands most often occur within the context of the system of symbolic representations that constitute the analogue world of culture. Therefore, consumers interpret brands based upon the context of communication more than upon product use or relationship with the producer.

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