Poetic Brandscapes

is an ongoing research project that explores poetics in marketing and lyricism in consumer behaviour. Way back in 2008, it started as an off-beat sunny yellow PhD by Roel Wijland, which is available in the central library of the University of Otago in New Zealand (HBO.1. WM956).


‘Every poet who takes language seriously is working against a culture of clear marketable meanings and commodified production’ states New Zealand novelist, essayist and poet Gregory O’Brien. This statement is the motivation for research that is explored in a collaborative ethnographic study of brand culture perceptions in New Zealand. It takes its inspiration from The Poetics of Space (Bachelard, 1978) and provides intimate lyrical insights into the experience of brands and brandscapes. Gregory O’Brien describes the artists that inspire him as: ‘Those who resolutely stand on their own creative terms, working towards their own objectives, as oblivious as they can be to any market forces.’

O’Brien’s observations are relevant to the research project in two essential ways: first to cast light on a shared cultural commodity construct such as a brand from its proposed opposite cultural site of individual imagination and secondly, to accept the poetic in the form of the undiluted voice of vocational poets as valuable media in their own right to achieve insightful interpretations. Critical marketing projects have the duty to generate an alternative ’marketing gaze’ sufficient to the task of ’revelation’ (Brownlie & Hewer, 2007). With regards to individual artists and poets specifically, critical marketing concepts implicitly pose the main research question as to the scenarios that are conceivably available to consumers: how does ’working against marketable meanings’ imaginatively work?
The project proposes the new construct of co-imagination as the co-active mental and spiritual engagement of consumers with the cultural artefacts of brandscapes that invite individual meaning making. It substantiates this individuality in a poetic evocation of brandscapes by thirteen artists. It analyses the holistic imaginative process on the basis of mental models, strategic scenarios and evocative aesthetics, in order to assess how talented consumers work against marketable meaning. It subsequently offers the relationship of co-imagination with existing co-optive concepts in marketing, literature and consumer behaviour, such as co-creation (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004), co-performance (Deighton, 1992) and co-duction (Booth, 1988). It results in a collaborative artistic inquiry that assembles individual evocations of enchantment and disenchantment with the beauty and ugliness of brandscapes, through newly created poetry. The research introduces the new concepts of aesthetic scarcity and aesthetic community and in its collaborative method of inquiry offers an alternative to a poetic tradition in consumer behaviour of the poet / researcher conflation (Sherry & Schouten, 2002). As a result, the project complements the understanding of the individual meaning-making process in brand culture and is relevant to both practitioners and researchers in consumer behaviour and brand strategy.
The design of the project included a four month research journey that covered the North and the South Island of New Zealand with the objective of meeting a variety of poets in their local inspirational environments and brandscapes and catalyse an unusual creative cooperation of highly individual radical artists. In the thick description and analyses of the extensive field research, the project implicitly adds to existing work on brand culture (Schroeder, Salzer Morling, & Askegaard, 2006), brand aesthetics (Salzer-Mörling & Strannegård, 2004) and the relationship between artists and brands (Schroeder, 2005).
The research includes design elements based on romantic pragmatism (Rorty, 2007) and cognitive aesthetics (R. H. Brown, 1977), both post-romantic concepts that explore aesthetic perception as perspectival knowledge and aesthetic distance as a means to transcend the dichotomy of objectivity and subjectivity.
Contents: Ch. 1. Critical Interdisciplinarity — Ch. 2. Poetry and Brands in the Field of Cultural Production — Ch.3 Poetics in Marketing — Ch. 4. Co-imagining Brandscapes — Ch. 5. The Pilot and the Journey — Ch. 6 Poetic Brandscapes — Ch. 7. Interpretative Capstones — Ch. 8. Ideation Summary — Appendices. Description: xxxiv, 420 leaves : ill. (some col.), maps ; 30 cm. + 1 CD-ROM (4 3/4 in.)

Summary references:

Bachelard, G. (1978). La poétique de l’ espace. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Booth, W. C. (1988). The company we keep : an ethics of fiction. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Brown, R. H. (1977). A Poetic for Sociology: Toward a Logic of Discovery for the Human Sciences. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Brownlie, D., & Hewer, P. (2007). Concerning Marketing Critterati: Beyond Nuance, Estrangement, and Elitism. In M. Saren, P. Maclaren, C. Goulding, R. Elliot, A. Shankar & M. Catterall (Eds.), Citical Marketing (pp. 44-68). Oxford: Elsevier.
Deighton, J. (1992). The Consumption of Performance. The Journal of Consumer Research, 19(3), 362-372.
Prahalad, C. K., & Ramaswamy, V. (2004). The future of competition : co-creating unique value with customers. Boston Mass.: Harvard Business School Pub.
Rorty, R. (2007). Pragmatism and romanticism. In Philosophy as Cultural Politics (pp. 105-119). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Salzer-Mörling, M., & Strannegård, L. (2004). Silence of the Brands. European Journal of Marketing, 38(1/2), 224-238.
Schroeder, J. E. (2005). The Artist and the Brand. European Journal of Marketing, 39(11/12), 1291-1305.
Schroeder, J. E., Salzer Morling, M., & Askegaard, S. (2006). Brand culture. London New York: Routledge.
Sherry, J. F., & Schouten, J. W. (2002). A Role for Poetry in Consumer Research. Journal of Consumer Research, 29, 218-234.

Poetic Brandscapes as a poetry / photopgraphic volume, was presented and distributed in limited edition during a special session of the Consumer Culture Conference in Toronto in 2007 and has a humble image of brand dyslexia on its front cover. The tags of the local garden center cover the small white roses completely. Photos and poetry seem to reinforce a by now defamiliar minimalistic representation. The more research techniques emulate the speed-crashing narrative of the market, the more distinctive the slow gaze becomes. Above all the inquiry was an amazing real journey.


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