Double distinction

A few people have asked me about my thesis abstract recently so here it is.

This thesis aimed to understand the relationship between the Apple brand and Apple consumers. It presents an historical textual analysis of a selection of the Apple brand from 1978 to 2009 and in-depth interviews with Apple consumers. The interviews were then analysedthematically, looking at the ways participants employed Apple in the construction of identity. The thesis extends theoretical critical approaches to branding with the inclusion of participant interviews. Approaches to branding consider the role of consumers in brand production and ownership, but this thesis moves focus beyond abstraction to interrogate how much of consumer participation is predetermined by the brand. This was achieved by actually examining the ways in which brand consumers articulate the brand. In doing so findings showed that Apple consumers distinguish themselves from non-Apple consumers, but significantly theymade a second distinction. For the first distinction, Apple consumers articulated emotional investment, superior aesthetic taste, and feelings of being part of an exclusive community. The second distinction is an articulation of uniqueness within the Apple community. This is achieved through creating a sense of critical distance from consumption via individual lifestyle and taste.Participants legitimised their understanding and relationship with Apple as inimitable. They deployed an individual reflexive strategy, to exert a sense of freedom from what Bourdieu refers to as ‘the game’. Therefore, the thesis represents a response to contemporary branding theory in a rapidly changing consumer landscape. Double distinction highlights the symbolic efforts of the consumer to exert a self-representation associated with a higher condition and position in relation to, but independent of, the brand producer. This redefinition of distinction argues that Apple offers a point of enquiry into the relationship between structure and agency within brand design that may shed light on forms of contemporary consumption.

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