Consumer culture theory has long acknowledged the role of goods in shaping identities and selves. In fact, some would argue that consumption is the main space in which identities are constructed, and that the pursuit of identity is the main goal of consumers. As consumption choices come to represent symbolic meanings, brands have become both tools for self-expression and multidimensional sources of value. As a result, consumers bond with brands as an extension of the self, allowing them to produce a coherent self-narrative through their consumption choices. Additionally, empowered by the collaborative nature of Web 2.0, consumers find themselves increasingly more involved in the construction of brand meaning. It is here where a dynamic process of brand and consumer identity co-construction emerges, in which brand meaning to be reperformed and re-interpreted by a multitude of stakeholders who perform their own identity needs and understandings. This thesis aims to observe these phenomena, by examining the process of brand- and consumer identity co-construction on visual social media in a real-life context. Guided by the following research question: How are brand- and consumer identities co-constructed on visual social media?, this research takes a closer look at the cultivation and negotiation of brand meaning between a fashion brand and its consumers. In order to answer the research question, in-depth interviews and netnographic observations were employed in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand. Ultimately, the research process led to a grounded theory consisting of three emerging themes, all representing the experiences and performances by internal and external stakeholders and how these come together to co-construct the brand’s meaning. First, it was found that in creating a sense of sisterhood and solidarity, the brand has been able to take on the role of the “other” with whom they can identify and form a close interpersonal relationship with. This relationship is achieved through various strategic elements, such as matching values and lifestyles between the brand and consumer and catering to needs that other stores have failed to. Additionally, it was found that by tapping into the creativity of the collective, the brand has been able to tap into the consumer’s need for self-expression using the affordances of the visual social medium. Customers are invited to share their ‘style stories’, which enables a sense of contribution and recognition, while creating valuable content for the brand. Lastly by embodying the digital brandscape, the results of this research demonstrate that while market-based choice and new media technologies certainly enable new opportunities for identity construction, these come hand in hand with new challenges and burdens, for brands and consumers alike.

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Pridmore, J.
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Balluff, Sanna. (2019, July 15). MONKI SEE, MONKI DO An analysis of brand- and consumer identity co-construction on visual social media. Media & Business. Retrieved from