“That British Sound”: Nation as a Branding Device

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Tad Skotnicki, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: This article proposes the concept of “nationalness” to account for the persistent circulation of national labels as a tool of distinction. We argue that the concept expands on the traditional conception of nation as country of origin to include cultural notions of sensuous and aesthetic qualities that are semiotically tied to national “essence.” Nationalness connects products to nations not only through indexicality but also iconicity. It is made possible through “rhematization,” the process of appropriating signs whose interpretants are taken to be iconic. Talk of nationalness enables consumers to make sense of national labels in today’s world where the both ends of capitalism—manufacturing and consumption—are thoroughly global. Instead of confining our analytical focus to top-down national branding projects, we examine how consumers invoke the idea of a nation to describe their uses of industrial products. Our case study is the popular concept of “British sound” circulated among audiophiles. Drawing on online discussions of an internet community, the article shows that audiophiles refer to Britishness as a key mechanism to distinguish their consumption experiences from mass market consumption. We further show how the label “British sound” can be used to describe the experiences of consumer products that are no longer manufactured in Britain.

Additional Information

Signs and Society, Vol. 4, No. 1: 1-29. https://doi.org/10.1086/684444
Language: English
Date: 2016
capitalism, global consumption, nationalness, semiotics, British sound

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