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Authenticating brand activism: Negotiating the boundaries of free speech to make a change

Sibai, O., Mimoun, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-5173-312X and Boukis, A. (2021). Authenticating brand activism: Negotiating the boundaries of free speech to make a change. Psychology and Marketing, doi: 10.1002/mar.21477

Abstract

Activist brands commonly engage in controversies to redefine which opinions and ideas are acceptable to express publicly. We conceptualize this practice as free speech boundary work, that is, negotiating the social norms defining which opinions and ideas are acceptable to express publicly. Thus, how can activist brands negotiate the boundaries of free speech to authenticate their activist positioning? By conducting a comparative case study of 18 activist brands, we identify three controversial strategies –creating monstrous hybrids, challenging the establishment, and demonstrating exemplarity– each of them challenging the boundaries of free speech through a distinct mechanism. The results show that whether these strategies authenticate brands’ activism depends on their ability to communicate brands’ moral competency, defined in terms of moral sensitivity, moral vision, and moral integration. This research contributes to the literature on brand activism by proposing an integrative framework that articulates the mechanisms underlying the reformative power of controversial brand activism. Second, we contribute to the literature on brand activism authentication by introducing a competency-oriented view that reveals the heterogeneous and multidimensional nature of activism authenticity and expands our conception of the spectrum of moral territories with which activist brands can engage.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Sibai, O., Mimoun, L., & Boukis, A. (2021). Authenticating brand activism: Negotiating the boundaries of free speech to make a change. Psychol Mark., which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21477. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Publisher Keywords: Brand activism, free speech boundary work, controversial branding, moral competency, brand morality, economies of worth
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Business School > Management
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2021 14:46
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/25811
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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