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No Man's Brand—Brands, Institutions, and Fashion

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ABSTRACT 

Branding has become so intertwined with consumption that today's consumers have often deeply personal relationships to brands and brand histories. Branding is an attempt to strategically “personify” products and to encapsulate a balance between different economic values: quality, utility, symbolic, and cultural worth. In this paper we argue that the relationship between the contemporary consumer and producer is mediated by and governed by a reflexive construction of brands. As such brands are best understood from an institutional perspective. The paper illustrates the institutional role of brands by using the example of the fashion industry. It is argued that in the fashion industry, a focus on consumer-producer brand-building and brand loyalty is central to the commodity and value chains built around products. We conclude by suggesting that economic geography has consistently undervalued brands as an area of study. By taking brands as a core product in industrial production rather than as an interesting aside for sociologists, historians, and cultural theorists, economic geography can better understand the institutions governing the economy. In particular, better understanding the institution of brands helps us better appreciate the dynamics systems within which commodities and commodity chains are formed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University, Sweden., Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University, Sweden., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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