The role of brands in contemporary society has in a fundamental way shifted the earlier balance of power in terms of consumers’ identity, in a sense creating a society where we are what we consume. This change has not only created enormous values centered around everyday brands, but also made brands into cultural objects interacting in a space earlier exclusive to such high-brow areas such as religion, science and the fine arts. As such, brands have become an integral part of our societies, permeating virtually every space of contemporary life. This new role of brands also creates a need to understand how brands interact with culture. This dissertation is focusing on the brand heritage facet of brands, a construct existing both in consumers, as a kind of historical mashup in the consumer’s mind, and brand management which, at least discourse-wise, finds it to be more of a cultural stereotype.
In order to further the understanding of the phenomenon of brand heritage, this dissertation is using the case of Sony Ericsson to explore how both brand managers and consumers are relating to the brand. At Sony Ericsson, the brand managers are very dual to the brand heritage of their parents, on one hand they are clearly trying to distance themselves from the past by ‘inventing’ difference, on the other, they are embedding sub-brands of Sony into the products to enhance their offering.
On the consumer side, as the study was conducted in Sweden, it is quite apparent that the heritage of Ericsson still looms over the new brand, unable to break lose from its symbolic universe. While this is by no means inherently bad, it goes to show the difficulties brands have to rapidly shift from one well-established brand identity to another. To elicit information from the consumer respondents photo elicitation was used in order to gain insights into their negotiation of brands deeper than what is usually possible in a ‘normal’ interview setting.
One outcome of this study was four principles that brand heritage can be seen as formative of brand heritage, the principle of comfort, the local, authenticity, and identity. They act as beacons both for consumers and brand managers as they create a structure for understanding how brand heritage interacts with culture to enable its use both in the brand and consumer identity creation process.
Stockholm: KTH , 2009. , 177 p.