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No harm done? Culture-based branding and its impact on consumer vulnerability: a research agenda

Broderick, Amanda J. and Demangeot, Catherine and Kipnis, Eva and Zuñiga, Miguel and Roy, Abhijit and Pullig, Chris and Mueller, Rene Dentiste and Mandiberg, James M. and Johnson, Guillaume and Henderson, Geraldine Rosa and Ferguson, Nakeisha S. and Adkins, Natalie Ross (2011) No harm done? Culture-based branding and its impact on consumer vulnerability: a research agenda. Social Business, 1 (3). pp. 263-280.

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Abstract

Brands, as actors participating in the marketplace's social discourse, have the ability to lower and, equally, raise social and cultural boundaries. As such, it is important to understand better effects of brand-related cultural cues on consumer vulnerability, especially given the unprecedented diversification of cultural contexts in society today. First, we discuss the importance and complexity of cultural identity in the marketplace. Next, we explore the role of brands in creating social identity conflict. Finally, based on marketplace complexities and the role of brands as social actors, we offer several suggestions for research that will increase our understanding of how brand-based cultural cues might minimise feelings of consumer vulnerability and lower social and cultural boundaries within society. We demonstrate that relying on demographic characteristics when addressing cultural diversity in advertising appeals may result in misrepresentations or incomplete representations of complex cultural identities. Advertisers' failure to understand and reflect cultural identity complexities may aggravate consumer vulnerability and result in consumer withdrawal from the marketplace or from a particular brand. This paper calls for the need to deepen our understanding of mono- and multi-cultural consumer identification and behaviour in increasingly multi-cultural marketplaces. The social role of brands is to represent people's ideas about themselves and the world. An evolution in culture-based advertising and branding is proposed to address multiplicity in cultural identities and limit consumer vulnerability in the new reality of increasing cultural diversification in the marketplace. The paper contributes an augmented view of cultural identity that integrates links with multiple national, racial, ethnic groups and other cultural groups not connected to individuals through ancestry. It articulates the main research areas into consumer and brand vulnerabilities in multi-cultural marketplaces. Such a view would enable culture-based advertising and branding to enhance social cohesion in promoting cultural tolerance and diversity.