chapter  5
29 Pages

Online branding

The previous chapter began our investigation of contemporary brand management by looking at its most traditional form: the branding of consumer goods. I suggested that even here, where the brand is perhaps closest to its original role as a ‘symbolic extension’ of the object, its reference – what was actually branded – was not so much consumer goods themselves. Rather, the brand referred to a context of consumption, constructed by links between material objects, media discourses and life-world environments, and by accumulated consumer affect. This brand-space was furthermore open-ended and incomplete. It constituted a virtual promise or anticipation, to be actualized by the active involvement of consumers themselves. In their ongoing production of a common, consumers create the actual value of the brand: its share in meaningful experiences, its connection to social identities or forms of community: the practices that underpin measurable (and hence valuable) forms of attention. Brand management consists in a series of attempts to pre-structure or anticipate the kinds of actions that consumers perform around brands, and the meanings that they attribute to them. Furthermore, these attempts at governing through anticipation could be more or less detailed or strict. Brand management moves on a continuum from the highly structured brandscape or branded community where the whole environment serves to guide the consumer in a certain direction; via the ‘politics of product placement’, where a looser structure of expectations is created by inserting the brand in particular milieus; to, on the opposite extreme, the simple saturation of the life-world, paralleled by forms of overall macro surveillance, like trend-scouting or data mining.