RED is the New Black: Brand Culture, Consumer Citizenship and Political Possibility

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Departmental Papers (ASC)
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Brand culture
Consumer citizenship
Consumer-generated content
RED campaign
Participatory culture
Social and Behavioral Sciences
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Any quick glance at cultural, social, and political life in twenty-first century United States discloses compelling evidence that regardless of identity, or generation, or socioeconomic status, we organize our lives within brand culture. While advertising continues to have a dominant presence in both public and private spaces, what characterizes contemporary culture is not so much the ubiquitous ad, but rather the normalization of brand culture, where consumer participation is not simply (or even most importantly) indicated by purchases made, but rather by brand loyalty and affiliation. By connecting brands to lifestyles, to politics, and even to social activism, brand culture permeates consumer habits, and more importantly, all forms of political, social, and civic participation. We examine two contemporary examples of branding strategies, the RED campaign and the Chevy Tahoe consumer competition, as a way to demonstrate the dynamic relationships between consumers and brand marketers. In particular, we discuss these campaigns as lenses through which we understand how brand culture is a space for the constitution of consumer citizenship. These two campaigns are also illustrative of the ways that brand culture is in a state of flux at this historical moment, and we explore this instability for its political impact.

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International Journal of Communication
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Note: At the time of this publication, Sarah Banet-Weiser was affiliated with the University of Southern California. Currently, she is faculty member at Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
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