Arla: Fortællinger om identitet

Morten Gundelach

Student thesis: Master thesis


Using a theoretical framework of David M. Boje's theory of narratives and Majken M. Schultz' and Mary Jo Hatch's theory of organisational identity and branding, this thesis investigates existing narratives in the communication about Arla and what they mean for the construction of Arla's identity and Arla’s new brand strategy, in which “naturalness” is the brand driver. My interest in Arla is sparked by the paradox of Arla being a company that on the one hand moves from one crisis to another and is often the subject of harsh criticism, and on the other hand, being one of the biggest dairy companies in the world, is a remarkable success. This paradox seems to suggest that Arla has an image problem but could be even more successful if that problem was successfully addressed. A better image would also help bolster Arla against future competitors in a Danish market that is already becoming increasingly competitive. The analysis is divided into two parts. The first part identifies four main narratives in the communication about Arla: The Cooperative Narrative, Arla as a Monopoly, Arla as an Innovator and Arla as a Crook. The analysis finds that there are tensions within Arla and between the narratives about Arla, which cause oppositely oriented expectations, leaving Arla unable to fulfill one expectation without disappointing the other. The second part of the analysis finds that Arla's organisational identity holds internal tensions similar to those expressed in the external narratives, which pulls Arla in different directions. The analysis also finds that through the communication of Arla’s stakeholders as well as through Arla’s own strategic communication, both external and within the organisation, Arla is primarily is constructed as an industrial enterprise. The thesis concludes that Arla’s current brand strategy, which employs “naturalness” as the brand driver, corresponds poorly with how Arla is actually perceived by its own Executive Summary organisation and its stakeholders and consumers. And furthermore, that a brand strategy linked to the narrative Arla as an Innovator would be more credible, because the Arla as an Innovator narrative corresponds well with Arla's existing identity as an industrial enterprise.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages95