Seminar Questions

Seminar Questions

These questions are intended to help you identify the key arguments, concepts and definitions presented in the reading.
1. Arvidsson claims that in contemporary marketing the “link between public communication and economic value
has acquired an unprecedented centrality” (p. 236) What is this link, and why has it become so central?
2. In what sense are brands “an asset that is expected to generate value”? Where does this value come from?
Who generates it? (pp. 238–9)
3. What is “immaterial labour”? (pp. 240–1?) Use this idea to explain why “consumption [is] a productive activity”
that produces value (p. 242). In what sense is immaterial labour “beyond the direct control of capital”? (p. 242)
4. Why does Arvidsson describe the brand as an “open-ended object”? (p. 244) Why is this open-endedness a
“tricky problem” for marketers?
5. Arvidsson describes the activity of brand management as “a governance that works from below by shaping the
context in which freedom is exercised, and by providing the raw materials that it employs” (p. 246). What does
he mean by that? Whose freedom is being constrained, and how?
6. What are the “two mechanisms of valorization” used by brands? (pp. 250–1)

Discussion questions
These questions are intended to be the starting points for the seminar discussion.
1. Arvidsson suggests that marketing attempted to “discipline consumers” in the first half of the 20th century. Why
would consumers need to be disciplined? Can you find examples of this disciplinary approach in contemporary
marketing materials? From an ethical point of view, is this approach better or worse than the one taken by
brand management since the mid 1950s?
2. Arvidsson discusses three main ways in which brand management operates: through “investments in media
culture” and “media politics” (pp. 245–6); through “building […] spaces that pre-structure and anticipate the
agency of consumers” (pp. 246–8); and through commodifying the “productive sociality” of consumers (pp.
248–9). Find at least one original example of each of these forms of operation, and explain how it contributes
to strengthening the position that the brand occupies in the consumers’ life-world.
3. In what sense does branding exploit consumers, and why does it matter? Do you agree with Arvidsson’s
statement that branding is “a conservative and even reactive practice? (pp. 251-2

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