Public branding audit. A pathway to brand accountability

Sabrina Gabl, Verena E. Wieser & Andrea Hemetsberger (2016)

In Ozcaglar-Toulouse, Nil/Rinallo, Diego/Belk, Russel W. (eds.)(2016): Consumer Culture Theory. Bingley (UK): Emerald Group, pp. 147-167.

Purpose. We stress the public demand for accountability of global brands and the rise in normative public brand evaluations in online networks. To gain an empirical and theoretical understanding of these phenomena, we introduce the notion of public brand auditing, which refers to public agents collectively contrasting brands against a multiplicity of shared understandings of what is worthy and good.
Methodology/approach. Convention theory serves as a theoretical lens to conceptualize public brand auditing, since it provides a normative framework of orders of worth based on which the appropriateness of actions are judged. Empirically, we conduct a netnographic study and illustrate public auditing strategies with online discussions about Google on the Slashdot platform.
Findings. We find that public brand auditing comprises two major auditing strategies: drawing leeways of acceptable brand conduct and allocating responsibilities.
Research implications. Approaching public forms of normative brand judgments from a convention theory perspective allows researchers to better understand how the public holds brands accountable and evaluates brand conduct against higher-order principles.
Practical implications. The concept of public brand auditing helps managers to understand and approach the normative basis of both positive and negative brand judgments.
Social implications. We urge brands to monitor public demand for accountability and emphasize the importance of the civic, market, and industrial orders of worth in guiding brand conduct.
Originality/value. This paper offers a conceptualization of and a framework for investigating public brand auditing phenomena.

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