An empiric analysis of symbolic boundaries within identity constructive consumption: A case study of Apple

Rafael Cifuentes

Student thesis: Master thesis


With an interpretive approach, this thesis explores the actions consumers make use of to classify themselves and others into distinct groupings that display their desired identities. The interest was found in a paper on the symbolic meanings of the Apple brand, which indicated the existence of several groupings under the Apple brand. This sparkled a desire to understand whether they were aware of each other and in that case how these groupings distinguished themselves from one another. Through 8semi-structured qualitative interviews empiric material was gathered and subsequently analyzed. The analysis shows that several dynamic meanings are attached to the Apple brand. These meanings originate amongst others things from stereotypes and stereotypical ideas on what an Apple-user is. Showing that whether the consumers’ choice of electronics is an Apple branded product or another, commonly referred to as PC branded products there are clear differences in the understanding of that individuals’ identity. There seems to be at least four groupings or reference groups maybe even identity forms giving meaning to the Apple brand. These consist of hipsters, creatives and trendsetters who are being chased by the followers. Which identity grouping an individual consumer belongs to is to a large extent determined by the holistic image that consumer is able to portray of himself. This is shown by different consumption-rituals of classification. The classification is shown by several different things, the clothes you wear, the bike you ride, the variety of Apple products you own, the café you zip your coffee at and the manner in which you use your Apple products amongst other things. This thesis is completed by emphasizing that the groupings belonging to the Apple brand have different characteristics and needs. These characteristics and needs must be taken into account by Apple in order for them to establish themselves as a meaningful brand in these consumers’ lives.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages95