Whenever the news media feature brand-related moral struggles over issues such as ethicality, fairness, or sustainability, brands often find themselves in the position of…
Whenever the news media feature brand-related moral struggles over issues such as ethicality, fairness, or sustainability, brands often find themselves in the position of the culprit. However, brands may also take the opposite position, that of a moral entrepreneur who proactively raises and addresses moral issues that matter to society. In this chapter, the authors present a case study of the Austrian shoe manufacturer Waldviertler, which staged a protest campaign against Austria’s financial market authorities in the wake of the authorities demanding that the company closes its alternative (and illegal) consumer investment model after 10 years of operation. In response to this demand, the company organized protest marches, online petitions, and press conferences to reclaim the moral high ground for its financing model as a way out of the crunch following the global credit crisis and as a way to fight unfair administrative burdens. The authors present an interpretive analysis of brand communication material and media coverage that reveals how this brand used protest rhetoric on three levels – logos, ethos, and pathos – to reverse moral standards, to embody a rebel ethos, and to cultivate moral indignation. The authors also show how the media responded to protest rhetoric both with thematic coverage of context, trends, and general evidence, and with episodic coverage focusing on dramatic actions and the company owner’s charisma. The authors close with a discussion of how protestainment, the stylization of a leader figure, and marketplace sentiments can ensure sustained media coverage of moral struggles.
We stress the public demand for accountability of global brands and the rise in normative public brand evaluations in online networks. To gain an empirical and theoretical…
We stress the public demand for accountability of global brands and the rise in normative public brand evaluations in online networks. To gain an empirical and theoretical understanding of these phenomena, we introduce the notion of public brand auditing, which refers to public agents collectively contrasting brands against a multiplicity of shared understandings of what is worthy and good.
Convention theory serves as a theoretical lens to conceptualize public brand auditing, since it provides a normative framework of orders of worth based on which the appropriateness of actions are judged. Empirically, we conduct a netnographic study and illustrate public auditing strategies with online discussions about Google on the Slashdot platform.
We find that public brand auditing comprises two major auditing strategies: drawing leeways of acceptable brand conduct and allocating responsibilities.
Approaching public forms of normative brand judgments from a convention theory perspective allows researchers to better understand how the public holds brands accountable and evaluates brand conduct against higher-order principles.
The concept of public brand auditing helps managers to understand and approach the normative basis of both positive and negative brand judgments.
We urge brands to monitor public demand for accountability and emphasize the importance of the civic, market, and industrial orders of worth in guiding brand conduct.
This paper offers a conceptualization of and a framework for investigating public brand auditing phenomena.
Moral struggles in and around markets abound in contemporary societies where markets have become the dominant form of economic coordination. Reviewing research on morality and markets across disciplinary boundaries, this introductory essay suggests that a moral turn can currently be observed in scholarship, and draws a direct connection to recent developments in the sociology of morality. The authors introduce the chapters in the present volume “The Contested Moralities of Markets.” In doing so, the authors distinguish three types of moral struggles in and around markets: struggles around morally contested markets where the exchange of certain goods on markets is contested; struggles within organizations that are related to an organization’s embeddedness in complex institutional environments with competing logics and orders of worth; and moral struggles in markets where moral justifications are mobilized by a variety of field members who act as moral entrepreneurs in their striving for moralizing the economy. Finally, the authors highlight three properties of moral struggles in contemporary markets: They (1) arise over different objects, (2) constitute political struggles, and (3) are related to two broader social processes: market moralization and market expansion. The introduction concludes by discussing some of the theoretical approaches that allow particular insights into struggles over morality in markets. Collectively, the contributions in this volume advance our current understanding of the contested moralities of markets by highlighting the sources, processes, and outcomes of moral struggles in and around markets, both through tracing the creation, reproduction, and change of underlying moral orders and through reflecting the status and power differentials, alliances, and political strategies as well as the general cultural, social, and political contexts in which the struggles unfold.