The present study tabs in to the paradoxical intersection between brand management focused on the proactive facilitation of deep and committed relationship bonds with and among its consumers, and a consumer culture marked by reluctance and scepticism towards the marketplace and its commercial actors. With the pivotal case comprised by the Nike+ concept – an interactive tracking system for running exercise – the study sheds light on a proactive relational marketing strategy launched by a particularly troubled brand, namely the American sports brand Nike as the epitome of not only iconic brand status but also of socio-‐cultural criticism and mockery. Guided by a general curiosity towards consumers’ responses to such proactive relational marketing approaches, the study more specifically explores consumers’ sense making in this new consumption scenario pointing to a fundamental question previously disregarded in brand relationship literature, namely whether consumers will embrace just any brand that proposes itself as a relationship partner and a social intermediary. Through a qualitative interview study of six Danish Nike+ users and their experiences with Nike and the Nike+ concept, the study finds that these six participants are reluctant towards embracing Nike as an emotionally significant relationship partner/social intermediary even though the Nike+ concept fulfils central individual and social needs, and further that socio-‐culturally forged meanings pertaining to the brand’s cultural status and its commercial background are crucial to consumers’ sense making and the perceived acceptability of engaging in a relationship with a given brand or socialising around it. Accordingly, the study suggests that a comprehensive understanding of consumers’ assessment of a given brand cannot be founded on postmodernist views of consumer sense making alone as otherwise proposed in both brand relationship and brand community literature, but that a supplementary post-‐structuralist view is necessary in order to understand the broader dynamics between consumer culture, marketplace, and consumer actions that influence on brand meanings and consumer identity projects. In other words, a comprehensive understanding of relational phenomena in the marketplace – whether they are of individual or collective nature – requires an understanding of the socio-‐cultural context in which both brand and consumers are embedded.
|Educations||MSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis|
|Number of pages||226|