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Abstract - Han Wen (CIM)

Brand Research: The Interdisciplinary Complexity after the Cultural Turn

This study articulates the interdisciplinarity of brand research, through understanding the
cultural turn. The intense branding practices coinciding with the globalisation trend have
contributed to the development of abundant literature on branding in the discipline of
marketing. However, after a series of anti-branding and counter-cultural movements in the
1990s, the marketing theories found it hard to explain the controversy caused by what Klein
(2000) called “brand bullies”. Therefore, increasing attention has been paid to the brand outside
of business school, in accordance with what Ray and Sayer (1999) delineate as “one of the
most striking features of social science at the end of twentieth century” – the cultural turn.
Following this turn, the brand becomes a dynamic and heterogeneous concept, understood not
only in terms of the production-consumption relation (Lury, 2011), but also involving people’s
everyday practices, lifestyle, social meaning-making, cultural evolution, labour rights and
environmental protection (e.g. Holt, 2002; Arvidsson, 2005; Lury, 2004; Kornberger, 2010).
But although interdisciplinary contributions to brand research have significantly expanded the
arenas of brand theory, it also introduced complexity. This complexity considers: how does the
brand research has benefitted from the cultural turn; how it can contribute to understanding
interdisciplinarity; and how can interdisciplinary brand theories be made accountable?
Conforming with three distinctive logics of interdisciplinarity: accountability, innovation, and
ontology (Barry et al., 2008), this study aims at clarifying the theoretical puzzles of the
interdisciplinary study of brands and breaking barriers.

PhD candidate

Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies

Han.Wen@Warwick.ac.uk