Postmodern Cultural Branding & Corporate Social Responsibility

Hui Rose Moth

Student thesis: Master thesis


Purpose – The thesis explores cultural branding theory as a branding strategy for firms with a CSR focus that wish to engage political and ethical consumers. It is assumed that branding, when CSR is involved, should change character to become morally and dialogically aware. The purpose of the thesis is thus to examine whether cultural branding through CSR communication can lead CSR brands to be regarded as legitimate dialogue partners by consumers. The research problem is examined through an analysis of fairtrade as practice and of media discourses about Africa, where Fairtrade products from Africa are used as ideographical examples of CSR brands.
Methodology – The study takes an eclectic approach, as it employs philosophical hermeneutics, source criticism, social constructivism, discourse analysis, and critical theory. In particular, Habermas’ concepts of system and lifeworld are discussed in relation to how firms can engage in dialogue with consumers.
Theoretical framework – Firstly, the thesis explores cultural branding theory in relation to postmodern branding, postmodern consumer culture, and anti-branding movements. Second, the thesis proposes a link to consumer-oriented CSR communication, which offers insights into what consumers consider important for communication of CSR. The theoretical framework is supplemented by recent studies on fairtrade.
Empirical findings – The empirical material consists of 800 articles from eight Danish news media, where discursive accounts of ‘Africa’ are examined. Selected articles are analysed through Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis leading to recommendations of which discourses of transformation firms with production in Africa can employ in future branding activities.
Contribution – The thesis identifies three challenges of legitimacy that firms with CSR brands and Fairtrade products from Africa must consider in their cultural branding strategy in order to be perceived as legitimate dialogue partners. Namely, firms should a) take a more observing role in their brand interaction with consumer communities, b) contribute with more tangible and solid information about their CSR activities in selected neutral media, and c) include storytelling responsibility in their representation of Africa. The thesis concludes with a proposal of new guidelines for cultural branding of CSR brands and Fairtrade products from Africa.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages110