Mastering survivorship: How brands facilitate the transformation to r ☆ ⁎

Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Business Research
Mastering survivorship: How brands facilitate the transformation to
heroic survivor☆
Candice R. Hollenbeck a,⁎, Vanessa M. Patrick b,1
Department of Marketing, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
C.T. Bauer College of Business, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
a r t i c l e
i n f o
Article history:
Received 1 September 2014
Received in revised form 1 May 2015
Accepted 1 May 2015
Available online 12 August 2015
a b s t r a c t
This study investigates the identity transformation from mere survivor to heroic survivor of cancer. Utilizing a
multi-method approach, interviews with seventeen female cancer survivors and five blog analyses, this research
sheds light on the processes involved in the transformation from mere survivor to heroic survivor and the
integral role of brands in this transformation process. Brands are used to signal heroism to the self (inward
expression) and to others (outward expression) as well as to combat countervailing forces that deter the
survivor's progress toward mastery of a heroic identity. The findings provide a rich understanding of the heroic
archetype and its centrality to the mastery of survivorship. The article concludes with a discussion of the
implications for brand managers, giving attention to the importance of consumer–brand relationships.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
1 . Introduction
Once your treatment is over, you must move on. You must believe
that you are healed and move on. Our attitude is everything. So many
women live the cancer years after their treatments are over and that
is not mentally or emotionally healthy. They hold onto the victim
mindset. To become a true survivor you have to move on from this
experience and create a new survivor identity. (Beth, 58)
Beth wanted to accomplish more than surviving cancer; her goal was
to master survivorship and transform herself into a heroic survivor. To
understand heroic survivorship, one only needs to turn to popular
media propagated throughout culture. Mass media is full of exemplary
portraits of survivors who must face unbearable obstacles only to come
out stronger and more powerful on the other side. Stories about survivorship abound, and emphasize the value of survivorship against all odds.
Survivor ideology, however, is somewhat gender biased and harbors
a number of stigmas that challenge whether a woman can ever really
achieve survivorship. The concept of survivorship typically denotes
☆ She is also on the board of directors of the Institute for Health Care Marketing at the
Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Both authors contributed equally
to this manuscript. This work is dedicated to the memory of Ruby Patrick.
⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 706 542 3762; fax: +1 706 542 3738.
E-mail addresses: (C.R. Hollenbeck),
(V.M. Patrick).
Tel.: +1 713 743 3661.
0148-2963/Published by Elsevier Inc.
characteristics that are culturally associated with masculine traits. In
fact, according to Oxford Dictionaries, a survivor is defined as such: “a
person, typically a male, who copes well with difficulties; a person
who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in
which others have died; a person who continues to function or prosper
despite hardships or trauma; a person who continues to live; one who
outlives another.”
Although heroic stories have been popularized throughout civilized
societies dating back to Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey among the oldest
works of Western literature, American culture today gives increasing
attention to the female heroine. Several recent New York Times
bestselling books about heroic female protagonists have resulted in
blockbuster movies: Wild (2014), the Twilight film series (2008–2012),
and the Hunger Games film series (2012–2015) to name a few. However,
even in this modern rendition, the fearless Katniss Everdeen (of Hunger
Games fame) takes on traditionally masculine warrior traits of strength,
bravery and courage coupled, only secondarily, with female traits of
compassion and empathy. Prevalent in these storylines is the notion
that females are expected to exemplify male characteristics to endure
difficulties, and the failure to do so, results in her characterized as weak.
Female cancer survivors, compared to men, similarly face extraordinary societal and cultural pressures not only to survive, but to survive in
a heroic fashion. Cultural, social, and financial stressors associated with
survival are escalated in the face of traumatic events such as cancer
(Barker, 2013; Seale, 2002), and women are more likely than men to
cope with cancer by denying feelings associated with disappointment
and fear (Seale, 2002). While cancer survival for men is portrayed as a
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
test of pre-existing character, for women it is a significant identity
A cancer diagnosis typically initiates an identity crisis. An identity
crisis can be defined as a “transition” from one specific state to another
(Parsons, Eakin, Bell, Franche, & Davis, 2008). Cancer survival is complex
and may be viewed as three distinct identity transitions: 1) an identity
transition from a healthy person to a cancer victim, 2) an identity transition from cancer victim to a survivor, and 3) an identity transition
from a mere survivor to a heroic survivor. In this research we focus on
the third, insofar uninvestigated, identity transformation. Specifically,
we focus on how female cancer survivors master survivorship to transform from a mere survivor to a heroic survivor and the role of brands in
this self-transformation process.
There are three main contributions of this study. First, the findings
shed light on self-transformations to achieve mastery of an identity.
For cancer survivors, the mastery of survivorship is the transformation
from mere survivor to heroic survivor. Notably, while the transformation to heroic survivor is a positive one, it is precipitated by the tragic,
unwanted and unforeseen cancer diagnosis. This study thus makes a
fine distinction between self-transformations precipitated by pleasurable (Choi, Ko, & Megehee, 2014) or planned events (e.g. retirement,
Schau, Gilly, & Wolfinbarger, 2009) and transformations that are hastened by unexpected and unwanted circumstances. Second, this study
provides insight into the manner in mastery over an identity is attained.
The findings identify three distinct processes of acceptance, mastery
and reinforcement. Notably, while the findings emerged in the context
of the mastery of cancer survival and the transformation from mere survivor to heroic survivor, the processes identified might well apply to
other identity transformations to mastery, such as the mastery of a leadership position or the mastery of motherhood. Third, a major focus of
this work pertains to the role of brands in fostering selftransformations; specifically, achieving heroic survivorship via symbolic consumption as brands as cultural icons (Holt, 2004; Holt, Quelch, &
Taylor, 2004). Consequently, this study broadens our understanding of
the powerful meanings associated with brands and how brands are
used to send signals indicating inward and outward transformations.
Using a multi-method approach, we interview seventeen female
cancer survivors, average age 59, and to triangulate our data we also
examine five blogs authored by female cancer survivors. The remainder
of the article is as follows. Acknowledging the extant literature on the
use of brands to enable self-transformation, this article begins with a
synthesis of a former theory that reviews consumption and identity
construction and consumption and transitional identities. Then, we
ground heroism as a key concept in our research. Next, we describe
our method and discuss our findings using direct quotes from cancer
survivors to support our conclusions.
2. Conceptual background
2.1. Consumption and identity construction
Consumption is central to identity and contemporary life and has
been characterized as “perpetual shopping” (Baudrillard, 1989).
Consumers are identity-seekers and goods provide consumers a way
of regulating emotions, gaining social status, and projecting an ideal
self (Dittmar, 2008). Brands often serve as “interpretive agents,” helping
consumers adhere to what is “normal” and “desirable” (Arnould &
Thompson, 2005, p. 875). As such, brands have symbolic functions helping consumers construct, express, and reconstruct identity.
A vibrant stream of research demonstrates the role of brands in identity construction. Brands symbolize human-like attributes (Aaker,
1997), represent values and beliefs (Aaker, Benet-Martínez, & Garolera,
2001) and can be used to bolster one's self-view (Gao, Wheeler, & Shiv,
2009). Correspondingly, brands are relied upon to restore harmony to
an ambiguous, incongruous, or unsatisfying self-concept (Schouten,
1991). Belk (1988) suggests that “we are what we have and that this
may be the most basic and powerful fact of consumer behavior”
(p. 160). Likewise Ahuvia (2005) reiterates, that a consumers' sense of
self is built upon the people and the things they love.
Indeed, identity and consumption are linked in a wide variety of contexts (for an excellent review see Ruvio & Belk, 2012). For example, recent work has explored identity projects in various contexts including
retirement (Schau et al., 2009), loved objects (Ahuvia, 2005), death rituals (Bonsu & Belk, 2003), and dispossession of cherished objects (Price,
Arnould, & Curasi, 2000). Products and specific brands often allow consumers to reflect, restore and create new aspects of the self, providing
consumers with a sense of control over shaping others' beliefs about
2.2. Consumption and transitional identities
Transitional identities are a result of life disruptions (Adams,
Hayes, & Hopson, 1976) and often cause a ripple effect including a
restructuring of routines, life-styles, relationships, and values
(Levinson, 1978). One way consumers cope during times of transition is through consumption (Schau et al., 2009). Possessions to
which consumers are attached help them define a present self and
consumption can help define a desired self (Mehta & Belk, 1991).
Specific brand meanings are especially salient to those in identity
transitions as brands are often used to signal an identity to others
(Ruvio & Belk, 2012) especially during times of transition Belk,
Russell W. (2013). The Digital Extended Self. Journal of Business
Researchers have long suggested that consumers choose brands that
communicate a desired identity (Belk, 1988; Douglas & Isherwood,
1979; Holt, 1995; Solomon, 1983). For instance, Schouten (1991)
found role transitions to be critical times in determining the quality of
consumers' lives and, during such times consumers have an increased
need for self-control. Throughout transitions, the self-concept is often
ambiguous and mutable and, in cases where consumers are unable to
find harmony with their self-concept, the result can be extreme feelings
of regret and dissatisfaction (Belk, 1988; Csikszentmihalyi, 1981). Furthermore, Wicklund and Gollwitzer (1982) suggest the less complete
or secure consumers feel in certain roles to which they are committed,
the more likely they are to use symbols (such as brands) for role competency in order to improve their own self projection of competency to
others. Schouten (1991) posits that consumption activities foster the
maintenance and development of a stable self-concept during transitional identities.
Brands serve as a means for boosting self-esteem and expressing
identity via explicit identifiers of wealth, status, or luxury (Holt, 2004).
Consumption can be used to express not only indications of social
class (ÜStÜNer & Holt, 2014), but luxury products have important
signaling functions in relationships (Yajin & Griskevicius, 2014), and
possess more influence in the marketplace (Ko & Megehee, 2012).
Furthermore, when consumption is conspicuous, consumers engage in
social competition to enhance their status (Ordabayeva & Chandon,
2014). In relation to identity construction, brands are useful tools in a
social context for signaling an identity to others and, more importantly,
brands empower consumers with confidence in achieving a heroic
2.3. Becoming a heroic survivor
Survivors of cancer consistently report a low quality of life, especially
with regard to physical, role, and social function and a high level of
symptoms and problems especially with financial difficulties and pain
(Masika, Wettergren, Kohi, & von Essen, 2012). Consequently, the transition to a strong and well-grounded survivor identity is a critical
component of cancer survival. Research documents that an established
survivor identity correlates with psychological well-being and posttraumatic growth (Park, Zlateva, & Blank, 2009). The individual
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
consumer must be able to be her own architect, envisioning and then
mastering a survivor identity.
Heroic survivorship is a psychological state in which a survivor feels
a sense of mastery about what it means to be a survivor and exudes
power and authority over her own set of given circumstances (Rucker,
Galinsky, & Dubois, 2012). Mastery comes from being the best survivor
she can be. The heroic survivor archetype helps consumers enact desired abilities and fulfill roles that they may not necessarily believe
they are capable of doing. The heroic archetype is not taught to survivors, rather, it is a primal, original human prototype (Megehee &
Spake, 2012) embedded in the social and cultural context of human experience (Jung, 1981). Specific brands play an important role in enabling survivors to achieve a pleasurable life by mentally and
physically enacting the heroic archetype (Woodside, Sood, & Miller,
Turning to Holt and Thompson (2004) for a grounded understanding of a heroic identity, their work shows that mass culture advances
and influences heroic ideals among males. They suggest that compensatory consumption, otherwise known as using consumption for relief
from pressured conformity to culturally-driven roles (e.g., Belk &
Costa, 1998; Schouten & McAlexander, 1995; Sherry et al., 2001), fails
to capture the most powerful identifications forged through consumption. Thus, men do not consume merely to escape conformity. Rather,
Holt and Thompson (2004) find that men engage in pleasurable
tensions between idealized masculine identities, namely the “breadwinner” and the “rebel,” to employ a “man-of-action” identity. Their
findings show that masculine identity construction moves through
two cultural productions: mass culture discourses and everyday consumption practices. Building upon this work, we surmise that a heroic
identity is an identity that is idealized in American culture, may be a
source of satisfaction and contentment and can be attained via everyday
consumption. The present study explores the mastery of heroic survivorship among female cancer survivors.
To master an identity is to take control of life circumstances and
exude power and strength in not only attaining the desired identity,
but going beyond by reaching for higher life goals that resemble excellence and a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfillment (Greene, 2013).
Research shows that the desire to display power and strength is associated with the consumption of brands (Han, Nunes, & Drèze, 2010;
Mazzocco, Rucker, Galinsky, & Anderson, 2012; Rucker et al., 2012).
We posit that brands not only signal survival, but can also be used to signal mastery of a desired identity. Such signals could be directed to a general audience or to select individuals important to the signaler (Berger &
Ward, 2010; Han et al., 2010; Wernerfelt, 1990) or signals to self.
3. Method
3.1. A multi-method approach
Our study began by attending two cancer survivor awareness campaigns and conducting 22 brief interviews during and after the campaigns. Through these initial brief interviews, we identified seventeen
volunteers who invited the researchers into their homes for three consecutive home visits. All home visits were with women, average age
59, who had been diagnosed with a form of cancer, had completed active treatment for cancer for a year or more prior to the study, and,
were now considered “cancer survivors”. All informants live in the
southeastern United States and home visits ranged from 90 to 120 minutes in length. The sessions were audiotaped and transcribed in their
During the home visits, the researchers sought to create an environment where the participants felt at ease and comfortable discussing
their personal experience with cancer. Face-to-face interviews in the relaxed environment of the survivors' homes allowed the researchers to
delve deeper into fully extrapolating the personalized meanings of
brands. All interviews were characterized by a conversational quality
in which the course of interview dialogues was largely set by the participant (Thompson, 1997). The interview guide for home visits was
flexible, and we adapted to each participant and her unique constraints.
As the research field was particularly sensitive, and the interviewees
vulnerable, we remained attentive to the interviewees' experiences
and addressed their personal needs during the interview process such
as stopping for short breaks, snacking during the interview, or allowing
time for emotional release. Although the topic was sensitive, the women
expressed gratitude for being offered the opportunity to discuss their
feelings, and to be able to talk freely about their personal experiences
with cancer.
During three consecutive home visits, the researchers focused on
different aspects of brands in the lives of participants. The first home
visit explored current brand usage in everyday situations. Participants
were asked to collect their favorite brands before the interview, and in
a conversation that typically took place at the kitchen table, participants
were asked to reflect on why the brand is a favorite. The second home
visit focused on the use of brands in expressing a desired identity. For
offline branded expressions, interviews transpired as the researcher
walked through the homes of participants exploring the refrigerator,
cupboards, cabinets, pantries, and closets. The researcher scanned
rooms and public display areas, flipped through picture albums, and
looked on counter spaces. Discussions between the researcher and the
informant explored new brand acquisitions, brand usage that was
maintained before and after cancer, and brand “dumping” which related
to brands that were disposed of after cancer. The third home visit focused solely on brands shared in digital spaces, such as Facebook. The
informant and the researcher sat down together in front of the
interviewee's personal computer and the informant guided the researcher on a virtual tour of her favorite websites. The researcher
viewed the informant's social media profiles (e.g., her Facebook page,
her Instagram account, her Pinterest account) and asked questions in
a conversational style. Facebook was used as the primary means for
cross-case comparisons as all of the informants in this study had a
Facebook account.
Following prior work advocating the use of multiple methods
for both collecting and interpreting consumer–brand relationships
(Woodside, Megehee, & Sood, 2012), projective techniques were used
during the second and third home visits to fully understand a brand's
meaning. For example, informants were asked to relate found brands
to animated objects, asked to situate a brand within the context of an
imaginary story, asked to match brands with similar personalities, or
asked to develop an ad for a brand using their own descriptive adjectives. Visual story boards served as an interpretive tool for conversing
with informants about their relationships with brands (Woodside et
al., 2012).The visualizations offered a “multiple-conversation paradigm”
and served as a means for “interpreting nonconscious (brand) information” (Woodside et al., 2012).
Data from the home visits were combined and analyzed using
conventional iterative interpretive methods (Spiggle, 1994). The researchers analyzed verbatim quotes using the part–whole process of
hermeneutic analysis (Thompson, 1997). The researchers tacked back
and forth between theory and data analysis using a constant comparative method (Belk, Sherry, & Wallendorf, 1988). A constant comparative
method is an iterative process where analysis is ongoing as data is collected, such that each interview informs the next interview. This comparative process continues until “conceptual categories are saturated
and reach a point of redundancy, making further data collection unnecessary” (Belk, Wallendorf, & Sherry, 1989, p. 3). Using the ATLAS
software, the researchers developed codes for different themes and,
through data reduction the data merged into more general themes
and categories. Table 1 provides profiles of the cancer survivors that
participated in the home visits and the key brands discussed.
To triangulate the findings, purposive and theoretical sampling was
used to select and analyze 5 blogs authored by women (Belk et al., 1989;
Strauss & Corbin, 1998). According to prior studies, first-person
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
Table 1
Qualitative research with survivors.
Informant name
Exemplary brands discussed during home visits
Heroic brands (as outward signals)
Heroic brands (as inward signals)
Newly acquired brands
Relinquished brands
Kashi snack bars
LL Bean sheets
Newman's coffee
Avalon hand lotion
Tropicana juice
Manuka healing honey
Apple and Bee bags
Puma running shoes
Steve Madden leather boots
Numi tea, Burt's Bees products
Schwinn bikes
Alba products
Back to Nature crackers
HoMedics humidifier
Nature Made vitamins
Wheat Thins
Contigo water bottle
Blue Sky, Lucky Brand
Teddy's soda
Bionaturae foods
Tony Lama Cowboy Boots
Style&co. dresses
Quaker Oats cereal
Boots No7 face cream
Chobani yogurt
Braun Electric Shaver, Sno Pac frozen veggies
Miss Dior perfume
Smart Balance butter spread
Amy's Kitchen frozen dinners, 3/50 Project
Patagonia clogs
Estée Lauder skin care products, Nike
Boca veggie burgers
Vitamin Water
Ecco Bella Makeup
Organic Valley egg whites
Nourish deodorant
SmartWool slippers
Bridgedale socks
Ruby Tuesday's salad bar
OPI nail polish
Locally-owned retail Stores
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Avenda Soap
Robert Marc glasses
Coach bag
Alfani dress
Toms toothpaste
Apple iPad
Athletic Club
Cover Girl Makeup
Grocery store brand eggs
Secret deodorant
Kmart slippers
Nike socks
Burger King whoppers
Revlon nail polish
Taco Bell
Coast Soap
Izod glasses
Fossil bag
Merona dress
Crest toothpaste
Dell laptop
Gold's Gym
accounts, through digital self-expressions such as blogs, serve as textual
and historical data (McQuarrie, Miller, & Phillips, 2013; St. James,
Handelman, & Taylor, 2011). Blogs are primary sources of data which
offer cultural and societal insights over time (Sewell, 2005). The blog
analysis offered a means for investigating our emergent themes with
survivors using a different mode of self-expression. The blogs selected
were written in English, authored by an amateur blogger and had a sizable group of followers, comprised mostly of family members and other
cancer survivors. The blog analysis used a constant comparative method
for cross-case comparisons of verbal texts with an emphasis on narratives related to specific brands. Line-by-line analysis was used in categorization and dimensionalization of the text (Spiggle, 1994).
Then, visual narrative art was used as a mapping exercise where
blogger stories were created from their blog entries. These interpretations were useful in understanding the nature of the brand and the blogger (Woodside et al., 2012). The authors of this study and two paid
research assistants independently analyzed published blogger posts.
Using the process of iteration, the researchers moved back and forth between blogger posts and our in-depth interviews, and this allowed for
part to whole comparisons (Spiggle, 1994). Table 2 offers a descriptive
summary of the five bloggers. The blogs served as a means for negative
case analysis, and further substantiated the themes from the interviews.
No contradictory findings emerged.
4. Findings
After conducting qualitative research with female cancer survivors via
face-to-face interviews and an exploration of blogs, an important theme
emerged within and across all cases: the desire to master survivorship
by achieving a heroic archetype. This desire was not related to sexual or
body type ideals. On the contrary, interview informants in this study described a strong desire to be brave, independent, emotionally strong,
and capable. Brands provide a means for achieving this heroic archetype.
As most communications are nonverbal (Megehee & Spake, 2012), brands
are visual symbols of the self (Belk, 1988, 2013) thus, representing an unspoken way of communicating survivorship.
Fig. 1 illustrates the mastery of a heroic survivorship identity according to three processes: 1) acceptance of the new identity through reconciling an unstable self, 2) mastery of the new identity by averting
counterforces, and 3) reinforcing the new identity. Consumption is interwoven in each of the three processes since specific brands fulfill symbolic
needs to express a heroic archetype. Mastering a new heroic identity provides a path for survivors to find deeper meaning in day-to-day routines
and to achieve a higher purpose beyond surviving cancer. Brands facilitate
symbolic mastery because they are an unspoken language manifested
through cultural imagery and discourse (Baker, 2009; Belk, 1988). In the
following, we delve deeper into the three processes of mastery of
4.1. Acceptance of the new identity
The feeling of loss is a critical component of the experience of cancer,
and although a woman may survive cancer, the feeling of dissonance between a woman and her body and the longing to make amends or peace
with herself may remain well beyond treatment and recovery (Rosedale,
2009). Informants discussed how they had to reconcile incongruities with
an unstable self during post-survival stages. For instance, Jane experienced feelings of doubt and disorder once she survived cancer as she
attempted to make sense of her experience and accept the fact that she
had survived. According to Sekse, Raaheim, Blaaka, and Gjengedal
(2009) one's psychological state is mirrored in the biological state, and
the converse is also true. Struggling to find balance and harmony deep
within herself, she determined to transform herself into a strong, independent woman. However, before Jane could move past her own pain
and disappointment, she had to acknowledge that her wellness had
been disrupted, and through this process she began to question her
own body and its reliability and, she reflected on her body as a body
(van Manen, 1990).
I had to learn to live and I feel really bad for the stage four cancer
patients who are learning how to die… I was told [by other cancer
survivors] to ‘connect, communicate, and conquer’ but then I had
to figure out how to do that on my own. Even though the support
groups [face-to-face groups supported by the local hospital] were
there, it was a personal journey. I had to go within…and I had to
get to know myself and by body all over again. (Jane, 63)
It was not until Jane made the decision to survive in a heroic fashion,
that she was able to feel successful. Jane, like other participants, subdued
weak or vulnerable tendencies that stemmed from self-doubt and selfcriticism. Jane conveyed: “I had to shut down my weaknesses and find
ways to become strong and I started walking on a different path that
was leading me toward a new Jane that was much more confident.”
Jane began a journey toward heroic survivorship.
4.1.1. The power of connection with like-minded heroines
Loneliness and isolation are experienced by all cancer survivors to
some extent and such symptoms can lead to bouts of depression
(Rosedale, 2009). Even though the hard-fought battle of cancer is
over, the survivor may still feel isolated and alone. Research suggests
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
Table 2
Blogger descriptions, January–April 2014.
Blogger description
Blogger 1
Female, 55
Total number of
brand mentions:
Unique brand
mentions: 270
Blogger 1 started her blog as a humorous way to
cope with getting breast cancer. She is a private
person and felt social support through talking
about her life on a blog. She now derives a lot of
meaning and purpose from her blog. She
advocates for people with cancer and has won the
Healthline Contest for best health blog.
Blogger 2
Female, 29
Total number of
brand mentions:
818 Unique
brand mentions:
Blogger 3
Female, 24
Total number of
brand mentions:
Unique brand
mentions: 34
Blogger 4
Female, 35
Total number of
brand mentions:
Unique brand
mentions: 23
Blogger 5
Female, 45
Total number of
brand mentions:
Unique brand
mentions: 78
Relation to heroic brands (inward)
Blogger 1's changing brands seem to relate to
both the physical and the psychological
components of having cancer. For instance, she
eats different foods as she tries to gain weight.
She also talks about cancer medications.
However, she has abandoned some “younger”
clothing brands, since the cancer has aged her
Exemplar Brands: Amy's, Amazon, Apple,
Earthbound, Kashi, Kindle, Sex and the City, Ugg
Boots, Disney, Latisse
Blogger 2 radically changed her lifestyle to be
Blogger 2 is a young woman who undergoes
more active and healthy before she got breast
breast cancer treatment while planning her
cancer. However, breast cancer and her genetic
wedding. She unfortunately has a rare genetic
disorder have given her an added impetus to be
disorder that predisposes her to lifelong cancer
risk. She created her blog to reveal the emotional healthy. She also identifies with fashionable
brands in conveying a sense of heroism.
journey of breast cancer.
Exemplar Brands: Betsey Johnson, Earthbound,
Weight Watchers, Healthy Choice, Disney
Channel, Chanel, Chobani, iPhone, Starbucks,
Blogger 3's blog gives attention to utilitarian
Blogger 3 found out she had leukemia at age 22.
She decided to blog about her experience through brands such as her blackberry. Since her blog is in
the New York Times. Blogger 3 is a high achiever the New York Times, her posts are more concise
and directed to her audience.
and enjoys giving back to others. She receives a
Exemplar Brands: American Apparel, Apple,
sense of accomplishment and purpose from
Facebook, Skype, HBO, New York City Ballet,
Apple, Disney, Earthbound, Kashi, Vitamin Water,
Relation to heroic brands (outward)
Blogger 1 supports a lot of cancer organizations,
such as the American Cancer Society. She hates
the “pink campaign” and “pink October” because
she believes these campaigns are exploitive,
emotionally difficult for cancer survivors, and ineffective in curing cancer.
Exemplar Brands: American Cancer Society,
Hercepin, Paula Young Wigs, Healthline, National
Marrow Donor Project
Blogger 2 appears to draw a lot of strength from
breast cancer organizations. In particular, Blogger
2 likes the Tour de Pink, which is a bike ride in
support of breast cancer.
Exemplar Brands: Tour de Pink, Young Survival
Coalition, Pink Zone, Phillip's Healthcare, Zoloft
Blogger 3 uses her blog partially to promote
cancer organizations that she believes in. She
seems to have a similar journey to Blogger
1—becoming a symbol/ spokeswoman for cancer
patients through her blog.
Exemplar Brands:, Society for Sex
Therapy and Research, Organization of Oncology
Social Work, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation,
HealthWell Foundation
Blogger 4 started her blog as a form of emotional The brands Blogger 4 mentions center around her Blogger 4 mentions some cancer brands. But, she
does not promote any specific cancer-related
children. An important brand for Blogger 4 is
release. She had a mastectomy, but did not have
organizations or events.
Disney. She mentions Disney weekly and travels
additional major treatments. In her blog, she
to Disney with her children often. This fixation on Exemplar Brands:,
emphasizes moving on and creating a new life.
Disney as the “happiest place on earth” serves as, Herceptin, Tamoxifen
She doesn't want cancer to hold her back.
way for her to escape “cancerland.”
Exemplar Brands: Disney, Track Your Happinness,
Ted Talk, iPod, Pinterest, Apple
Blogger 5 started her blog as a way to deal with
Blogger 5 identifies with some cancer
Blogger 5 says that she ate too many sweets and
her emotions 5 years after her diagnosis. Not only she worries this is what gave her cancer. Disney/ organizations. However, like Blogger 1, she rejects
did she have cancer, but her husband also left her Pixar are especially important brands for Blogger campaigns that she thinks does little for actually
helping cancer patients (i.e. Save the Tatas).
“out of the blue” a year before her diagnosis. As a 5. These brands relate to hope of making things
Exemplar Brands: Race For the Cure, Pink Ribbon,
result, she wants to begin her own charity helping normal for her and her kids.
Komen Foundation, Race for the Cure, Crazy Sexy
Exemplar Brands: Disney/ Pixar, Swedish Fish,
women who are coping with divorce.
Goetze Caramels, Target, Frye Boots, Ebay, Apple, Cancer
Whole Foods, Justin's Peanut Butter Cups
environmental and physiological stressors are important predictors of
depression (Hawkley et al., 2008) and, experiences like cancer are
major sources of both types of stressors (Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2007).
In addition, the feeling of loneliness is found to be stronger among
more women than men and, women struggle with more emotional imbalances after cancer (Cacioppo, Fowler, & Christakis, 2009).
Connecting with other like-minded individuals helped survivors cope
with their transition to heroic survivorship and pushed them forward in
mastering their new identity. Research by Chan, Berger, and Van Boven
(2012) shows consumers who have a strong desire to communicate identity typically conform on choice dimensions that are strongly associated
with their group. Likewise, blog narratives examined in this study confirm
that survivors typically subscribe to common brand identities. All five
blog narratives discussed symbolic attachments to brands with a strong
identity like Disney and Apple, organic food brands, and well-known,
non-for-profit cancer related brands. Whether it is for leisure
(e.g., Disney) or for achieving better health (e.g. Earthbound Farm organic
foods), brands discussed symbolize strength while providing a connection
to other survivors. All five blogs were very active with collaborative comments among survivors, connecting with one another while making recommendations for specific brands (see Table 2).
Likewise, a connection to others and a common linkage to similar
brands empower interview participants. For example, Audrey had old
bed sheets for 10 years until she finally gave them to charity. She bought
new LL Bean sheets because another survivor friend (who is also a survivor and a mentor for Marsha) has the same sheets.
Marsha [her mentor] told me about these [sheets] and she got
her's a year ago. Before cancer I wouldn't have spent the extra
money to get them, but it realy makes me feel good…I bought
my LL Bean Supima Flannel sheets and it's like $50.00 for one
sheet and I wouldn't have done that before [before cancer] but
they make me feel like I’m taking care of myself and I'm surviving.
When I sleep on them, I think of Marsha and I think of all the other
survivors and how we should all have these sheets …these things
[brands] give me confidence…you can see pictures of my sheets
on Facebook…I've told others about my sheets and now other
survivors also have these. (Audrey, 64)
The LL Bean sheets provide a sense of connection between Audrey
and Marsha. Their common brand ownership serves as linkage to each
other and their desire to be heroic. Brands, like the LL Bean sheets,
give informants a way to express survivorship through their indicative
linkage to the survivor community. The LL Bean sheets symbolize heroic
archetype for Audrey, even though the brand may not explicitly signal
heroism in advertising messages.
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
Fig. 1. Mastery of identity.
All of our face-to-face interviewees discussed the importance of virtual connections to others. Heather reiterated that positive affirmations
via Facebook are important in motivating her to accept her new identity.
and artists. Rather than tidying away locally-made necklaces in her closet or storing them in her jewelry box, she displays local jewelry on her
I like these new pair of Steve Madden black leather boots because
they make me feel powerful and they look bad ass. As soon as I put
them on, they make me feel free and in control…as soon as I posted
a picture with my boots on Facebook, I got all kinds of recognition. It
was like a bunch of high-fives. (Heather, 48)
My passion just came to me after I survived cancer…One day I just
said to myself ‘local is important to me and I want to do something
about it and help out’…I just started liking colorful, hand-made jewelry made by a local artist. It makes me feel like I am doing something for myself and I'm supporting her [the local artist] because I
love her jewelry, and it makes me feel unique and I like that. (Kathy,
Comments to Heather's post (noted above) ranged from the brand of
boots and where to buy them to how much the boots cost. One survivor
friend commented: “I can't wait to get my own Steve Madden boots!”
Heather suggests “I got all these Facebook likes when I posted my picture in my boots and this made me feel like I could conquer the
world.” Informants learned to utilize social media in order to connect
with other survivors and gain affirmations, which helped them accept
their new identity and move toward mastery.
4.1.2. Discovering the authentic hero inside
Equally important as connecting with others, in becoming heroic,
survivors must accept themselves in their truest form, recognizing and
adhering to their own desires and interests. The quest for personal authenticity is especially challenging for survivors who often feel some degree of marginalization from the general population (Fogel, Albert,
Schnabel, Ditkoff, & Neugut, 2002; Telch & Telch, 1986). As many as
30% are likely to have continued poor health, 17% are unlikely to ever return to work, and, 58% have one or more functional limitation (de Moor
et al., 2013).
Amid the common burdens associated with the aftermath of cancer,
participants interpolated peace and contentment via self-discovery.
Going within allowed for a purposeful focus aimed at contributing to a
higher cause. For Kathy, her religious-like pursuit of self-discovery led
her to initiate a 3/50 Project in her small town; a pro-local-business
brand aimed at raising the awareness of supporting the local economy.
Kathy's acceptance of her new survivorship identity was complemented
by her desire to do something remarkable for locally owned businesses
According to Mead (1928), we have to distinguish ourselves from
other people and this is accomplished by doing something for ourselves
that other people cannot do or do as well. Participants told stories about
how cancer revealed their inner desires to do something great. In realizing their passions, informants set out on a course to bring to fruition
their desire to do something special and unique that resembled heroism. The meaningful act of excelling beyond survivorship to achieve excellence and deeper satisfaction was a driving force toward mastering
their new identity.
Similar to Kathy, other participants described instances where they
were compelled to do more, to push themselves further to find an
inner desire or passion because they felt they were given a second
chance at life. The heroic archetype is incarnated through a higher
cause that is personally satisfying. Examples of excelling beyond survivorship to do something great include: becoming an extreme athlete
(Julie, 63; Doris, 50; Blogger 2), teaching other women (Audrey, 64 ;
Beth, 58; Laura, 52), writing a book with the goal of helping others
(Laura, 52; Blogger 1, Blogger 3), participating in mission trips (Elise,
63 and Juda, 72), initiating a local garden club (Patricia, 59), and starting
her own local charity (Bernice 61, Blogger 5).
4.2. Mastering the new identity
The mastery of an identity is driven by a primal force that guides a
survivor forward. There is an inspiration to go beyond simply arriving
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
at a new identity by striving for higher pleasure and fulfillment. Mastery
is a religious-like quest for a higher level of excellence and a deeper
sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in daily routines (Leonard, 1992).
According to Greene (2013), there is a major barrier to achieving mastery, and it is summed up as counterforces. Three important counterforces emerged from our data analysis: 1) doubting one's own ability
to survive, 2) fixating on the past and feelings associated with the
past, and 3) wallowing in a self-indulgent attitude concerning one's
own difficulties. In the following, we describe these counterforces
from the participants' points of view.
4.2.1. Doubt: My ability as a woman
A prominent counterforce that participants grappled with is the historical and cultural depictions of femininity. Schroeder (2003) suggests
that gender is much more than a demographic variable and should be
considered a basic cognitive construct and a cultural category that explains consumer behavior. Through the course of interviews, participants explained that they came to adulthood during a time when
women began openly advocating for their rights, and they told stories
that alluded to their awareness of cultural depictions of women as
“weak” and “vulnerable.” Fran conveyed that she works hard to appear
self-reliant because she doesn't want to appear “fragile” or “needy” as
the latter traits are associated with weakness. Fran directly compared
heroic traits with masculine characteristics and she described instances
when she uses brands, like Levi jeans, to symbolize “manliness” and
provide herself with a sense of mastery.
I don't typically wear dresses because I prefer pants. I like Levi jeans
because they make me feel more comfortable and I feel like I can do
anything around the house in my jeans. I can change a light bulb or
go to the grocery store. My jeans work for any occasion…I think people know that I'm a rugged person and not afraid to get my hands
dirty. (Fran, 69)
Social-historical advertisements of Levi jeans are typically aimed
at rugged men doing manly chores while wearing the jeans (Gentry
& Harrison, 2010). Fran utilizes these culturally embedded depictions of masculinity to express her own sense of heroism to others.
Fran says: “after cancer I'm proud [of wearing Levi jeans] and I'm
more likely to show off my jeans to other people because I want to
be a strong survivor.” In wearing Levi jeans, Fran overcomes counterforces associated with roles and identities associated with gender.
Levi jeans offer fulfillment in Fran's day-to-day routine by allowing
her to feel more self-assured and presumptuous. She masters her
new heroic identity as she wears the Levi jeans while performing
the same tasks traditionally assigned to men (e.g., changing a light
bulb, getting her hands dirty).
4.2.2. Remembrances of the past
Another common counterforce among survivors in this study is
hurtful or painful memories associated with past experiences. Here
again, brands played an important role in allowing the survivor to
free herself from the past by letting go of brands linked to a negative
past experience. As part of her self-transformation process, Laura
took pleasure in freeing herself from a brand that resembled herself
before cancer.
I didn't want to be loaded down with all of these things [brands] that
were no longer being enjoyed. My philosophy is ‘if I don't enjoy it, it
goes.’ My sickness made me want to free myself of the clutter that
had taken up so much of my living space. I wanted to be healthy like
a lot of women in my support group. We tell each other about products that are cleaner or healthier. And I wanted to find my own
things… I want to find things that are healthy for me. I have thrown
out lots of stuff…the humidifier has been replaced with an environmental friendly one…the half-used toothpastes have all been
thrown out and now we use Toms. (Laura, 52)
As Laura's narrative demonstrates, surviving cancer prompts participants to discard brands that fail to resemble a heroic archetype. Informants also described replacement brands that offer a more suitable
representation. For instance, when we examined Juda's kitchen, she
conveyed that her beautiful William Sonoma olive oil bottle sitting on
the counter serves as a daily reminder that she is purifying her body.
This bottle was a replacement for a dark, cheap olive oil container
from Target. Juda's new bottle is “clear, clean, and beautiful just like
my body” and the oil that goes in the bottle is “fluid just like my insides.”
4.2.3. Resisting notions of self-pity
An important counterforce conveyed by participants is the temptation to pity oneself. Participants described how learning to express
self-love was a healthy response to exaggerated self-pity. As we walked
through participants' homes, they discussed specific roles brands played
in anchoring self-love, as opposed to self-pity, mindsets.
I constantly feel this pressure to succeed and overcome cancer, but it
is not that easy. People think that the tough part is over when the
treatments end, but I still struggle…fear of reoccurrence can be overwhelming. I want to just give up. But I look at my Numi tea sitting on
the counter and it says ‘come on let's get on with the day’ and just
holding a cup of fresh brewed tea gives me that extra boost needed
to go on at work, to be competent at my job. (Jackie, 52)
Jackie has a basket of Numi tea that sits in the middle of an island in
her kitchen. It is centrally displayed as a reminder to take time to care
for herself. Jackie uses the phrase ‘Numi at Nine’ to mean that she drinks
tea at nine in the morning and nine in the evening. Feelings of doubt and
insecurity continually batter Jackie as she resists temptations to pity
herself and her reconstructed body resulting from a double mastectomy. Jackie uses brands, such as Numi tea, as a means for coping throughout her day. Although we did not visit Jackie's workplace, she described
brands that evoke confirmations of survivorship at her work desk.
When I get to my office, my Burt's Bees lip balm and lotion are sitting
there waiting for me. I love the smell and feel of Burt's Bee. When I
begin to have negative thoughts about cancer, I reach for my lip balm
and then, rubbing my lips together, I say a prayer to God to help me
through this day. I tell myself that I love myself and I try to be kind to
myself all day, like using as much Burt's Bees lotion as I want and not
worrying about running out. It sits on my desk where everyone can
see it and everyone in the office knows that I love Burt's Bees. (Jackie,
For Jackie, products such as Burt's Bees and Numi tea reflect her heroic transformation, downplaying weaknesses and fostering a sense of
strength and courage. The brand language for the products noted
above embodies “natural” and “healthy” concepts and Jackie adopts
the brand's language to signal survivorship to herself. Jackie's narrative
illustrates that brands embody personal meaning for survivors. Brands
serve as inward signs of “taking care of” self and usage offers subtle reminders of the heroine she can be.
4.3. Reinforcing the new identity
Brands play an important role in reinforcing the new identity.
Wicklund and Gollwitzer (1981) suggest the less complete or secure
consumers feel in certain situations, the more likely they are to use symbols (such as brands) for role competency. Our findings reveal that survivors use brands to fulfill archetypal character traits within the context
of a heroic identity. Brands provide a means for exemplifying heroic
traits and balancing the tensions between incompatible characterizations such as rational versus irrational, independence versus connectedness, or excellence versus imperfection.
Tensions were explored using projective techniques. Participants
were asked to describe a brand as either male or female, explain what
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
kind of car the brand would drive, and give the brand a career and a
personality. Using a continuum, participants evaluated brands as male
versus female, and, strong versus weak. This technique provided insight
into informants' cultural understanding of brands and how perceptions
associated with brands are used to fulfill heroic roles. In essence, when
informants feel weak, they select brands with masculine traits selfreported as strong, courageous, and independent to appear strong to
others and to signal strength to self. Cultural depictions of gender in
marketplace discourse positions women as vulnerable (Martin,
Schouten, & McAlexander, 2006), thus, within a cultural and sociological
framework, femininity is associated with connectedness, emotionality,
and irrational behaviors; whereas, masculinity is associated with
strength, courage and rational behaviors (Coleman, 2012). Within this
social and cultural context, informants navigate heroic survivorship,
utilizing brands associated with enhancing strengths or diminishing
weaknesses to portray masculine versus feminine traits in order to
exude a heroic identity. Symbolic consumption reinforces the heroic
archetype and provides visible evidence of mastery.
4.3.1. Enhancing strengths versus diminishing weaknesses
In mastering survivorship, there is a collective desire for achieving
excellence among informants in this study by enhancing strengths
and acknowledging and diminishing weaknesses. The pursuit of excellence is a shared attitude among heroic survivors, and an important
distinguishing attribute separating heroic survivors from mere survivors. While informants strive for excellence, they discussed a simultaneous realization of their weaknesses or imperfections. Further
discussions revealed how brands help restore balance and harmony
when confronting imperfections.
For instance, Julie's story exemplifies how the Nike brand allows her
to feel excellent at running while realizing her imperfections. Julie runs
on a regular basis, but conveyed that running is not her strong suit.
However, Julie believes her Nike running shoes allow her to master
the heroic identity while realizing her imperfections.
Nike has the ‘just do it’ slogan and that really resonates with me. I tell
myself that I've got to just do it. Sometimes I can't stop and think of
all the things I have to do…I just do the next thing…When I wear my
Nike shoes, I feel more confident because I'm always on the go and
when I look down at my shoes I see the swoosh and it reminds me
that I am a hero. (Julie, 63)
Nike served as a visible reminder of heroic survivorship for Julie.
When she sees the swoosh symbol, Julie feels a sense of confidence in
her ability to do things well. Julie explains that she would never have
attempted her desire to complete a triathlon without her Nike running
shoes. The Nike brand reinforces Julie's heroic survivorship identity to
the extent that she also participated in a triathlon, even though she
claims to be a dilettante athlete.
I just wanted to do something great. I was determined to do even
greater things for my health, so I completed a triathlon last April
because I knew I could do it and that it would make me feel like
a conqueror. If the Iron Nun can do triathlons at age 82 and complete something like 340 triathlons, I knew that I could do it too.
(Julie, 63)
The Nike brand reinforces Julie's heroic archetype, as a conqueror,
and symbolizes her mastery of survivorship—that she can do something
great. Julie's example illustrates how women in this study pushed
themselves beyond survivorship to express a heroic self. The heroic archetype provides a mental model for survivors in overcoming imperfections, unwanted circumstances, and negative experiences; and,
brands reinforce the mental model. In mastering their new identity,
informants found deeper satisfaction and a higher purpose for their
everyday lives.
4.3.2. Adopting a masculine versus feminine identity
During interviews, informants reported using masculine-oriented
brands to indicate independence while using feminine-oriented brands
to signal connectedness. Hazel (56) discussed her desire to be independent stating: “I bought a tough and rugged Jeep after I finished my
cancer treatments because I wanted to feel strong and independent…
like a survivor.” Yet, during the same conversation, Hazel also noted:
“even though it is not my favorite wine, I am very loyal to Fish House
Sauvignon Blanc because I'm very close to my friends and we all drink
Fish House.” Hazel's example demonstrates how informants utilize
brands in balancing traits that may be paradoxical on the surface, but,
in essence, both characteristics fulfill a heroic archetype.
The archetypal hero, Katniss Everdeen, for instance, is both an independent warrior and a socially-connected team player. Brands provide a
means for reconciling seemingly incongruous identities. According to
Jung (1981), archetypes reside within the collective unconscious of society, evoking deep-rooted emotions that represent fundamental
human motifs. The archetypal hero can take on many forms, whether
it is a warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, soldier, winner, or team
player. The archetype motivates brand evaluation and ultimately influences consumption. In mastering a heroic identity, survivors find deeper
meaning in consumption, reflecting on brands and the use of brands in
ways they had not done before cancer.
5. General discussion
This study analyzes how survivors transform themselves from mere
survivors to heroic survivors, drawing on the symbolic meaning of
brands to achieve the mastery of a survivor identity. These findings advance our understanding of mastery processes: acceptance of the new
identity, mastery of the new identity, and reinforcing the new identity
while combatting the counterforces that challenge the transformation
to mastery. This study shows how survivors use brands to signal characteristics associated with a heroic archetype, and why survivors use
brands to balance paradoxical or contradictory heroic characteristics.
Informants' narratives illustrate the powerful meanings brands hold
in the marketplace and how brands can be used to construct archetypes.
For instance, when a brand did not fit the newly aspired heroic archetype, that brand was discarded and replaced by a more suitable brand
with heroic significance. Informants navigated the cultural and symbolic meanings of brands to determine a brand's relevance to survivorship,
and struggled to achieve mastery by deflecting counterforces that impede the new identity. Brands symbolically reinforced the heroic archetype and provided a means for externalizing control over unwanted
circumstances and encumbering counterforces.
Prior research shows how very subtle actions, such as branded selfexpressions, can affect one's self-view confidence and undesirable circumstances can lead consumers to choose self-view-bolstering brands
(Gao et al., 2009). Building upon prior works, the present study found
that brands can be subtle confidence-boosters in achieving desired
self-transformations, sending symbolic messages to the self as well as
sending explicit messages to others that signal survivorship. Brands
are imbued with symbolic meanings (Chaplin & John, 2005) and
through these meanings brands serve as a catalyst for self-expression
(Aaker, 1997; Escalas & Bettman, 2005) and, thus, signs for heroic selftransformation. If possessions are viewed as part of self (Belk, 1988), it
follows that brands can indicate well-being and survival.
Moustakas (1956) conveys that the self is constantly emerging and
can only be understood as a unique personal experience through selfexpression. Transitioning from mere survival to heroic survivorship
often plunges one into a self-exploration process where consumption
is central to one's identity. Brands are acquired, relinquished, or given
new meaning to symbolize heroic survivorship.
Finally, this study brings attention to the heroic ideology shared
among women cancer survivors. The desire to be heroic does not refer
to sexual or body type ideals or the roles typically ascribed to women.
C.R. Hollenbeck, V.M. Patrick / Journal of Business Research 69 (2016) 73–82
Rather, the heroic archetype is akin to culturally ascribed characteristics
resembling a brave, independent inner-self, emotionally strong and capable of giving to others, and able to endure physical and psychological
pain. We posit that similar processes of mastering an identity may occur
in analogous situations when people must respond to traumatic events.
For example, women who are victims of rape or violence must also
overcome the emotionality and vulnerability associated with mere survival of the event. Pushing forward toward mastery is a rewarding and
self-satisfying path for overcoming adverse circumstances.
and multiplication of new selves (Cambra-Fierro, Berbel-Pineda, RuizBenítez, & Vázquez-Carrasco, 2013). As such, brands should be positioned as an agent for positive self-transformations.
In conclusion, our study of the interplay between the symbolic
meaning of brands and the identity transformation process from mere
survivor to heroic survivor, represents an important domain of research
inquiry into the role of brands in consumer identity transformations and
mastery of life domains and can have profound implications for brand
strategy and consumer welfare.
6. Implications for brand managers
The findings of this study point to the evolving role of brands in
today's dynamic consumer environment. Brands are central to social
and cultural discourse and are imbued with social cues that
denote characteristics (e.g., strong, courageous) as well as gender
(e.g., masculinity or femininity) and role competency (e.g., confidence,
independence). As such, consumers can use brands to craft their own
unique archetypes to overcome difficulties ranging from disappointing
news (e.g., job layoff, missed promotion) to a devastating diagnosis
(e.g., cancer, AIDS).
Archetypes are fundamental to human psychology and are grounded in culture with pertinent consumer emotions (Jung, 1981). Brand
managers should aim to understand universal archetypes and the accompanying myths that bolster certain identities. Cultural archetypes
can offer a mental model for survival, thus, a broader understanding of
culturally embedded archetypes can equip brand managers with the dialectical knowledge needed to position brands with constructive
Brand managers should seek to understand the collective unconscious of consumers as brand meanings are shaped by experiences
and cultural discourse. Consumers desire to create their own worlds,
to have a voice, and to define their position in the world and, brands
serve as a language for self-expression and mastery of selftransformation directed by archetypes. With technology, brand
managers have real-time access to consumer voices and social discourse. Online chatter related to brands offers an opportune picture
of the cultural content created by consumers. The context can be
narrowed to subgroups and communal networks. For instance,
while cancer survivors have a heroic archetype, parents with young
children may have a mother of goodness archetype. Discourse
evolves over time, thus emphasizing the importance of real-time insights gathered from consumer-generated content specific to a target segment.
In terms of managing brand perceptions, it is important that brand
managers align brands with positive words or phrases that allow for
personalized meaning. For example, adverting campaigns or taglines
must be culturally relevant and transferable to various target markets.
Attention must be given to a brand's online and offline image, ensuring
integration across all communication channels. Although online advertising can be a lean approach for marketing budgets, there are incentives
beyond cost savings for firms to increasingly make online strategies a
part of their overall marketing mix. As demonstrated in this study, consumers directly influence other like-minded consumers' consumption.
Engaging consumers through digital marketing has short-term and
long-term rewards for brand managers (Teixeira, 2013). In today's
marketing-saturated world, consumers are no longer attentive to interruptions, repetition, and the brute ubiquity of brands. To win the attention and trust of a target audience, marketers must think less about
what brand communications are saying to consumers and more about
what the brand is doing for consumers (Rayport, 2013). Brands must become a sustained and rewarding presence in the lives of consumers.
In the case of survivors, branding in a social sphere means that communications must be relevant, address a social need, and facilitate interaction among survivors in innovative ways. The new media consumer is
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