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Positioning person brands in established organizational fields

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Abstract

This paper inductively develops an extension to brand positioning theory to understand how individuals seeking work in established organizational fields can effectively position themselves. It does so by analyzing qualitative data on the practices of people in one job category (fashion models) in an established organizational field (fashion), examining them through the lens of concepts adapted from work by Pierre Bourdieu. Four brand positioning practices are identified as relevant for models vying for work in the fashion field: crafting a portfolio, cultivating and demonstrating upward affiliations, complying with occupation-specific behavioral expectations, and conveying field-conforming tastes. Drawing on Bourdieu, we argue more generally that person brand positioning within established organizational fields happens through processes that help to portray a person as having field-specific social and cultural capital that allows them to “stand out,” while acquiring the habitus that allows them to comply with field- and occupation-specific expectations in order to “fit in.” Standing out and fitting in have parallels with—but are not identical to—the processes of establishing and reinforcing points of differentiation and points of parity for product brands. Our study implies that scholars interested in person branding should further develop theories that illuminate variations in brand positioning practices between products and persons. It also suggests that people building person brands should be sensitized to the valued forms of capital and normative expectations in their field that enable them to stand out while fitting in.

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Notes

  1. http://models.com/model_culture/50topmodels/top50.cfm?fnumber=5&lnumber=1; last accessed Feb. 23, 2012.

  2. Margaret’s agent is the owner of one of the most successful modeling agencies in Montreal.

  3. See http://www.models.com/agencies/top/.

  4. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/brandyou.html; last accessed June 6, 2012.

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Acknowledgement

The first author thanks the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Ontario Graduate Support program for funding during her doctoral studies. The second and third authors also gratefully acknowledge the support of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for research grants. All of them thank Russell Belk, Susan Fournier, Ahir Gopaldes, Jay Handelman, Robert Kozinets, Hope Jensen Schau, Matt Thomson, Detlev Zwick, Suzanne Rivard, Gilbert Laporte and the participants at HEC Montréal’s writing workshop for their feedback on drafts of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marie-Agnès Parmentier.

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Parmentier, MA., Fischer, E. & Reuber, A.R. Positioning person brands in established organizational fields. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 41, 373–387 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-012-0309-2

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