How has branding changed media, in terms of both audiences’ experience and industry practices?
A case study would draw on a detailed examination of the use of a specific medium in promotion and market research (for example, looking at a case of consumer surveillance in the new media).
Branding is often associated with an expanded sense of what qualifies as “medium”, so one way to tackle this question is to consider the implications of everything becoming a channel for promotional messages, from litter (Moor, 2007) to architecture (Julier, 2008, c. 6–7; Klingmann, 2007; Moor, 2003) and street art (Borghini et al., 2010). This can be linked to debates about how promotional culture has saturated culture as a whole (Wernick, 1991). A more theoretically involved approach would be to examine the idea that brands represent new media in their own right (Lury, 2004, c. 1), by mediating between the manufacturer and the consumer and thus framing our experience of the branded good.
Another angle into this topic would consider how the development of marketing and branding has shaped developments in the media landscape. A canonical example is the importance of advertising revenue in the creation of the mass media, creating ‘commodity audiences’ that could be sold to advertisers (Curran, 1981; Meehan, 2007). Contemporary developments include media fragmentation and (especially) convergence, which have led to novel forms of branding that link various different media together with audience activity in a “cross-media” or “transmedia” franchise (Freeman, 2015; Jenkins, 2008).
A third approach could look at the use made by marketers of new and social media. Since social media explicitly draw on the users’ pleasure in sociable behaviour and their existing networks of interpersonal connections, the issues of ‘prosumption’ and exploitation mentioned in Q2 also come to the fore here (Petersen, 2008; Zwick, 2008). A good way to theorise these issues might be to connect them with the notion of “knowing capitalism” (Thrift, 2005), in which commercial activities are based on the continuous and in-depth surveillance of all forms of consumer behaviour (Manzerolle & Smeltzer, 2010; Pridmore & Lyon, 2011). In any case, it would be important to consider political issues of discrimination and control, in terms of who has the power to determine the information that flows across these new media links and regulate its accumulation and reuse (Beer, 2008, 2009; Langlois et al., 2009).