Slow Logo: Brand Citizenship in Global Value Networks
Sage Handbook of Intellectual Property, 2014, Forthcoming
Brand New World: Distinguishing Oneself in the Global Flow, 2012
35 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2014 Last revised: 13 Apr 2014
Date Written: 2012
Trademark law contributes to the overall value channeled by brands, through the legally sanctioned propertization of symbols, typically owned by firms. But in addition to the dictates of the law, people create the tremendous non-legal value associated with brands, through media interventions and other forms of sociality. A brand-conscious approach to marks may identify significant gaps in trademark law doctrine and theory; both are currently devoid of a deep understanding of the communicative process underlying brand value, especially in this current era of what could be termed cognitive or information capitalism.
This article makes a case for a theoretical departure from dominant approaches to trademark law. It explains and then connects information capitalism to new governance through the heuristic of brand citizenship. Through these suggested analytical lenses, it examines a case study of ‘Big Fashion,’ which has become a highly concentrated industry focused almost solely on maximizing shareholder profit without regard to consumer, environment, or labor impact. It then concludes with some suggestions regarding the functions of brand citizenship in increasingly globalized markets where downward pressure on prices translates into greater global public “bads” often imposed upon the most vulnerable. For consumers to ‘look good’ in both the aesthetic and ethical senses, brand citizenship demands greater attention to the distance currently existing between these consumers and other stakeholders in the process of value creation in marks and brands.
Foregrounding citizenship recognizes the importance of belonging to an accountable community, albeit one that may depend upon a fluid, pluralistic and open-ended construction of the value of a mark and, importantly, its associated brand. As Seidman (2007:18) notes, “citizenship is a protean concept allowing local actors to articulate a wide variety of claims shaped to fit local circumstances. Despite that variation, it is important to recognize that for most of the past two centuries, labor rights have been central to citizenship narratives everywhere.” Presented here therefore, is the case for a more relevant account of the role of marks in creating discursive and hence economic value: brand citizenship.
Published as part of a symposium entitled Brand New World: Distinguishing Oneself in the Global Flow, a slightly different version of this sociolegal approach to trademark law is also forthcoming in the Sage Handbook of Intellectual Property (2014).
Keywords: brands, brand citizenship, certification, certification mark, citizenship, corporate social responsibility, ethical consumption/consumers, fair trade, fashion, global value networks, intellectual property, new governance, standards, supply chains, sustainability, trademark
JEL Classification: O20, O34, P16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation