THE BRAND PERSONA
Applying the established concept of an organizational brand to people.
A conceptual synthesis of brand equity (Keller, 1993) and social capital (Bourdieu, 1986) is proposed to advance the meaning of human brands. Social capital represents the idea that social connections and affiliations can provide competitive advantages to certain individuals or groups (Burt, 2000). This phenomenon draws a parallel to competitive equity share in a business marketplace (i.e., brand equity). Along with market positioning, brand equity involves the relationships and recall consumers have with an organizational brand (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1993). When social capital is applied to the concept, brand equity, the humanization of a brand becomes operationalizable. To employ this operationalization, the term, brand persona, is derived from Herskovitz and Crystal (2010) who evaluate narratological and anthropomorphized brands.
Before human brands were assessed in media studies, a brand was traditionally defined by characteristics marketed by an organization, which would also extend to associations and relationships with consumers (Blackston, Aaker, & Biel, 1993). Hence, many previous brand analyses are void of human branding evaluations, especially in the context of reactions from media consumers. Carlson and Donavan (2013) extended the definition of brands to include individual human athletes, which provides a pathway to advance the literature to evaluate human brands.
SOCIAL IDENTITY THEORY (SIT)
SIT posits that individuals will compete for social positioning by perceiving social groups that may serve as a catalyst to higher achievement or a rise in social mobility (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Often, social groups can create partisanship and favorability that manifest rivalries, similar to sports team rivals. To further establish the term, brand persona, in the context of competing human brands, this scholarship draws from SIT. Underwood, Bond, and Baer (2001) were among the first researchers to develop a connection between social identity and brand equity. They attempted to connect SIT with the customer-based brand equity model (Keller, 1993), and argued that the better a brand (team or athlete) is included in the customers’ (fans’) identity, then the greater the brand equity.
Along with the market relevance of this scholarly contribution, the theoretical implications of advancing a SIT study on human branding in sports media enables future scholars to explore new avenues of human branding phenomena. The conceptual synthesis of brand equity and social capital acknowledges parallel functions of competitive behavior and brand valuations between the business context and social context of various media. Future applications of this synthesis will help define the universe of branding in media. Furthermore, these studies can include both traditional and new media environments where brand personas interact with consumers. Practical implications include new explanatory and investigatory tools by which practitioners may measure brand equity, message salience, and promotional value among athletes, celebrities, or other categories of brand personas operating in a competitive marketplace.
ABOUT DR. BRANDON CHICOTSKY
Dr. Brandon Chicotsky is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in Marketing at Texas Christian University's Neeley School of Business. Dr. Chicotsky instructs masters and undergraduate marketing courses covering various topics including entrepreneurship, media, and emerging technology.
Dr. Chicotsky previously served as a Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor of Integrated Marketing at New York University's Division of Programs in Business in the School of Professional Studies, which was preceded by lectureship in business communication and leadership at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School.
Along with a commitment to innovative and market-applied pedagogy, Dr. Chicotsky has an active research line focused on branding phenomena. He has published in peer-reviewed journals, as well as presented in academic and industry forums on complementary issues relevant to integrated marketing and communication.
The University of Alabama, PhD (2017)
Communication & Information Sciences
New York University, MSM (2012)
Management & Entrepreneurship
The University of Texas at Austin, BA (2007)
Cultural Anthropology & Government