The role of ideology in brand strategy: the case of a food retail company in Italy

Silvia Massa (University of Genova, Genova, Italy)
Stefania Testa (University of Genova, Genova, Italy)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Publication date: 10 February 2012



This paper aims to study the role of ideology in brand strategy with reference to large‐scale food retailing. By means of a thorough case study investigation of highly ideology‐focused food retailer Eataly, the paper aims to enrich existing theory on retailer branding. The various elements of Eataly's brand have been studied in order to identify how they enact the ideology for which the retailer stands. This topic is particularly relevant in a context where consumers appear increasingly committed to social responsibility and business ethics. So the final goal of the paper is to identify ideology‐focused brand choices that lead to a preference towards the retailer.


In order to address this paper's research aim, a well known framework developed by Esbjerg and Bech‐Larsen is adopted to conceptualize the retail brand. Case study methodology is applied.


This paper provides both research‐related and practical contributions. From a research perspective, it provides empirical evidence on the role of ideology in large‐scale food retailing, a field which has been traditionally neglected in the ideology debate. From a practical perspective, it provides a contribution to retailers and brand managers. Three main lessons can be mentioned. First, a company's ideology should be pervasively applied to each aspect of a brand and it seems to be primarily situated within tangible and physical attributes, rather than within symbolic features, at least in the case investigated. Second, an explicit ideology is not exempt from risks. Third, ideology can be subject to multiple interpretations that may give rise to unintended consequences.

Research limitations/implications

This study tries to attenuate the reliability issues that are inherent in qualitative research by interviewing multiple informants with different positions inside the company. Triangulation using different types of data sources and systematic data analysis was also employed.


The paper raises the importance of ideology in large‐scale food retailing. It adopts the Esbjerg and Bech‐Larsen framework and introduces the dimension of ideology as a lens through which each aspect of a brand can be interpreted. Moreover, it suggests that a brand's functional attributes play more of a leading role in transmitting ideology than symbolic features, which is somewhat counterintuitive.



Massa, S. and Testa, S. (2012), "The role of ideology in brand strategy: the case of a food retail company in Italy", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 109-127.

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