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Pop Brands

Branding, Popular Music, and Young People


Nicholas Carah

Edited By Nicholas Carah

Corporations engage young people and musicians in brand-building activities. These activities unfold in media-dense social spaces. Social networking sites, the user-generated content of web 2.0, live music events, digital cameras and cell phones are all used in constructing valuable brands. This book addresses the integration of popular music culture, corporate branding, and young people’s mediated cultural practices. These intersections provide a rich site for examining how young people build brands within spaces and practices that they perceive as meaningful. The book is based on extensive ethnographic empirical research, drawing on participant observation, textual analysis and interviews with young people, musicians, marketers and other participants in the cultural industries. Contemporary theories of marketing and branding are brought together with critical and cultural accounts of mediated social life. The book explores the distinctive concerns and debates of these different perspectives and the lively interface between them.


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Chapter Six


‘I’m Here to Party…’: The Social Narratives of Brands From brands to branding Throughout this book I have detailed how brands develop ironic and reflexive persona, embed themselves in cultural milieu, create origin myths and stealthily influence meaning-making processes (Holt, 2002). In addition to these practices, contemporary brands also weave in narratives of ethical substance and social responsibility. Marketing and corporate communications literature traditionally maintains an ambiguous separation between branding strategies and social respon- sibility initiatives. Kotler and Lee (2005, p. 2) define corporate social responsibility as ‘a commitment to improve community well-being through business practices and contributions of corporate resources.’ This definition appears benign. Their explanation of how to put corpo- rate social responsibility into practice details how socially responsible initiatives should have a good strategic fit with the values, goals and markets of the business. This includes building brand identity. Corpo- rate social responsibility, initiatives and marketing all fundamentally tie together ethical narratives with brand values in ways that are strategically beneficial for the corporation. The contrived theoretical separation of corporate social responsi- bility from branding obscures how corporate conceptions of social re- sponsibility are necessarily limited by the strategic imperatives of the corporation. Marketing strategies with social objectives contribute to constructing an ethico-political framework within which brands oper- ate. The conceptual apparatus of the brandscape is useful in articulat- ing the links between brand-building activities and the production of branding as a social, ethical and political logic. Brand-building is not just about individual brands but about...

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