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  • 1 University of Szeged
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The idea of symbolic consumption is based on the assumption that consumption is more than just functional problem solving: products and brands have significant meanings; therefore, they can be utilized as symbols in the cultural ecosystem. However, grasping the meaning of a specific brand can be confusing because it would presume knowledge about the brand as a symbol shared by the customers. We review the contradicting findings in the literature about the symbolic meaning of brands, and we initiate a new reference point in order to dissolve the above mentioned conflict. According to our understanding, the symbolic meaning of a brand shall be examined in the context of specific brand communities and not in general. We suggest that limiting the scope of research to brands with brand communities resolves several limitations of symbolic consumption studies focusing on general issues. Our theoretical model distinguishes the different types of brand communities based on their main cohesive force. In the model, at one end we find image based brand communities where the brand image is the main cohesive force, while at the other end we find brand-subcultures where the members are more committed to each other than to the brand.

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