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Message in a Bottle: Multiple Modes and Multiple Media in Market Identity Claims

Multimodality, Meaning, and Institutions

ISBN: 978-1-78743-332-8, eISBN: 978-1-78743-331-1

Publication date: 30 November 2017


A multimodal perspective highlights the importance of attending to the different modes, mostly verbal and visual, which organizations use when conveying messages. We complement this perspective by adding an additional layer, namely the medium through which messages appear. We suggest that organizations can fine-tune messages not only by playing with possible interactions across modes, but also across media. We build our reasoning around the communication of identity claims. Specifically, we are interested in how identity elements are referenced in verbal and visual modes of meaning making, and how these modes interrelate both with one another and with the respective channels of communication on which they appear. We propose that organizations differentially select identity elements across diverse media and draw on specific identity elements modally in their quest for legitimate distinctiveness. We propose three ways in which multimodal identity claims interact: intensifying, in which messages draw from the same theme to reinforce claims; complementing, in which messages complement each other to enhance meaning; and transposing, in which a dominant theme in one message is transposed into another theme elsewhere. We provide an illustration with identity claims made by single-malt Scotch whisky distilleries.




We are indebted to many people for their generous assistance and support, especially Markus Höllerer and Tammar Zilber and our reviewers for very helpful comments, Lynn Cherny and Thomas Renault for their help with data collection, Thibault Daudigeos, Markus Höllerer (again!), and Dennis Jancsary for organizing what lead to this volume, James Creed for copy-editing, participants at the 2014 New Institutional Workshop, 2014 EGOS Colloquium, 2016 CBS Conference on Visuality, Materiality, Multimodality for feedback, and the professionals and enthusiasts who guided us in the fascinating world of whisky.


Forgues, B. and May, T. (2017), "Message in a Bottle: Multiple Modes and Multiple Media in Market Identity Claims", Höllerer, M.A., Daudigeos, T. and Jancsary, D. (Ed.) Multimodality, Meaning, and Institutions (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 54B), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 179-202.



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