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Classifying the narrated #selfie: genre typing human-branding activity

Toni Eagar (Research School of Management, ANU College of Business and Economics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Stephen Dann (Research School of Management, ANU College of Business and Economics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 12 September 2016

Abstract

Purpose

This paper explores the purposive use of the selfie in the construction of personal narratives that develop and support an individual’s human brand. Selfies were divided into archetypical clusters of “genres” that reflected the combined story told through Instagram image and accompanying text captions.

Design/methodology/approach

The analysis drew a randomized sample of 1,000 images with accompanying text from a large capture of 3,300 English language captioned selfies. Coding for semantic and semiotic data used a three-wave technique to overcome interpretive limitations.

Findings

Based on their structural characteristics, seven genre types emerged from the coded sample set. These primary genres of selfie meta-narratives are autobiography, parody, propaganda, romance, self-help, travel diary and coffee-table book.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited in generalization to the Instagram photo-sharing app platform by design. Samples were taken from the app due both to its popularity and its capacity to annotate images. Selfies conducted in non-public, non-annotation-based apps may produce alternative genres and classifications.

Practical implications

The paper presents a genre classification to examine how selfies are used to “show, not tell” a portion of the consumer’s life story. Brands, firms and marketers can apply genres to examine the selfie types that best connect with the identity of their brands and consumers, based on how their consumers communicate within the Instagram network.

Social implications

Selfies are an oft pathologized and moralized aspect of consumer conduct. We present a view of the selfie as a deliberate, consciously considered communication approach to maintaining social bonds between friends, family and wider audience. Selfies are presented as a combined effect of consumption of a social media service (Instagram) and the co-production of valued content (the selfie) that recognizes the individual as an active constructor of their digital self.

Originality/value

The paper outlines a novel framework of selfie genres to classify the deliberate human-brand narratives expressed in selfies. By taking a narrative perspective to the Instagram selfie practice, the genre type captures the combined effect of the mimesis and diegesis, where the mimesis showing of self is contextualized with the diegesis of the provided captions to capture an intentional storytelling act of image and text.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the members of the ANU’s Research School of Management and the College of Business and Economics Communication Team that helped in recreating and replacing the selfies that appear in this paper. Their willingness and good humour are greatly appreciated.

Citation

Eagar, T. and Dann, S. (2016), "Classifying the narrated #selfie: genre typing human-branding activity", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 50 No. 9/10, pp. 1835-1857. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-07-2015-0509

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited