Understanding brands and branding
This chapter focuses on contemporary branding theory – ways of making sense of brands and branding and their complex relationships to economy, culture, and everyday life. The chapter considers key sociological branding theories, which are categorized into two main lines of thought, including symbolic approaches and multidimensional perspectives. It outlines critical approaches to urban brands and branding based in urban studies, sociology, and geography, including symbolic economy approaches and performative perspectives. The chapter engages an emerging geographies of brands and branding, which draws attention to the importance of place in branding activity. It also delineates the notion of open source branding, developed to reflect the changing nature of brands and branding activity as it moves online. The chapter summarizes the main tenets of these various theories and charts the major differences and similarities between them. This chapter also details the theoretical framework that informs the analysis presented in the book. This framework is largely based in multidimensional sociological perspectives, which are synthesized with elements of the various branding theories discussed. It consists of three key components, centered on entanglements of brands and branding with consumers (and other actors) and urban environments; the co-production of identities, cultures, and social worlds; and the contradictory, unanticipated aspects of brand-based performances and cultural consumption.