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Brands at Work: Understanding Organizational Control Through the Illusory Power of Employee Branding


Brand scholarship traditionally resides within the marketing literature and focuses on organizations’ external relationships with customers. However, increasing critical attention in organization studies has focused on the brand in order to understand its impact on the internal dynamics of employment relations in contemporary organizations. Drawing on an ethnography of frontline service work in an IT consultancy call centre, we explore the brand as an internal organizational resource sustaining the process of employee meaning-making activities. Documenting the ‘work of the brand’, we outline what the brand offers both employees and employers and, in doing so, we theorize the brand at work as a connecting mechanism between processes of identity formation/re-formation and regulation. While employees are encouraged to internalize particular brand meanings (in this case prestige, success and quality), we found that they often willingly buy into these intended brand meanings as a palliative to ‘cope’ with mundane work. In this way brand meanings are central to producing a self-disciplining form of employee subjectivity.

Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2015
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Journal Organization Studies
Print ISSN 0170-8406
Publisher SAGE Publications
Pages 29-53
Keywords brand, call centres, employee branding, ethnography, identity, organizational control
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