The role of brands in female consumers´ identity projects: An investigation of the negotiation of brand meaning taking place between a brand and its female consumers

Louise Krarup Hansen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Contemporary consumer behavior seems characterized by a felt agency of the consumer, to jump in and out of various identity roles, where the consumer potentially re-designate the intended meaning of brands, in order to make them fit into the performance of situation based identity-roles. Thus, the present study is motivated by a fundamental wonder; what is the role of the brand manager, if it is no longer to control the meaning of a brand? In this connection, the present study suggests that brand meaning should be treated as a process of negotiation, between the intended brand meaning and the meaning, which arises from the consumption of the brand, whereby a modification of Grant McCracken‘s (1986) model of meaning-transfer is suggested. The idea, introduced by the postmodern research position that brand meaning is entirely created by the consumer is however disregarded in the present study, since plural studies have found that sociocultural constraints impact the individual to an extent she might not be consciously aware of. Hence, the theoretical purpose is to illuminate the foundation of female consumers‘ agency to express female identity and negotiate brand meaning, independently from sociocultural constraints of their gender, further reflected in the intended meaning of brands targeting women. The empirical purpose is to investigate the implications for marketing communication, when the consumer is considered a co-creator of brand meaning. For this purpose, the brand By Malene Birger (BMB) is applied as an example. In this connection, the research targets two groups of participants: Firstly semi-structured interviews were conducted with heavy users of BMB. Secondly, a semi-structured interview with a representative from BMB was conducted in order to gain a as rich description of the intended brand meaning as possible. From the analysis it was found that the intended brand meaning of BMB seems only arbitrary linked to the usage of BMB, due to the various meanings the consumer-participants ascribe the usage of BMB, informed by which situation-based female identity role the usage of BMB helped them perform. Hence, an empirical outcome is an identification of, which brand elements of BMB are most significant to the consumer-participants‘ interpretation of BMB, and what meaning these create in their female identity projects. Potentially indicating, which aspects of the brand make them repurchase BMB and not switch to competing brands. As such, the presents study suggest that in order to understand what makes a brand strong, and what makes the consumer value the brand potentially over competing brands, the marketer needs to pay attention to what meaning arises, from the consumption of the brand, and how this meaning becomes significant in the performance of situation-based female identity roles.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages76