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Article Contents

Introduction, the pleasure and/or pain of brands, brand attachment and loyalty, consumer relevance and distinctiveness in branding, consumer communications about brands, managerial considerations in branding, other future research directions, conclusions.

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Consumer Research Insights on Brands and Branding: A JCR Curation

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Kevin Lane Keller, Consumer Research Insights on Brands and Branding: A JCR Curation, Journal of Consumer Research , Volume 46, Issue 5, February 2020, Pages 995–1001, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucz058

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Brands are a fact of everyday life and an omnipresent reality for consumers. Understanding how consumers respond to brands—what they think and feel and how they act toward them—is a critical aspect of consumer research. Consumer research in branding is expansive in nature and has investigated a wide range of topics in terms of how different kinds of consumers respond to different types of brands and branding activities in various contexts ( Schmitt 2012 ).

Researchers have explored how consumer responses to brands vary by factors such as knowledge, experience, gender, attitudes, and cultural background. They have studied the effects of brands that vary by product or industry type, personality or other image factors, country of origin, and more. They have explored branding as applied to products or services, people, countries and other geographical locations, and the like. Different forms of marketing activity relating to various aspects of the classic marketing mix (the “4 Ps”: product, price, place, and promotion) have been assessed, and the contexts studied have included a host of situations or settings.

The pleasure and/or pain of brands

Brand attachment and loyalty

Consumer relevance and distinctiveness in branding

Consumer communications about brands

Managerial branding considerations

Despite the relatively short time period involved, these five themes exhibit some of the diversity in subject matter characteristic of branding research. Some of these themes tap into broader interests in consumer research that also can be found in research streams outside of branding. Others capture phenomena wholly unique to the branding area. All themes reflect conceptual rigor and practical relevance. For each theme, we provide some background and highlight the findings of two recent JCR articles, one of which we describe in more detail in the form of its abstract and discussion of its future research implications. We conclude with commentary on other future research directions for brands and branding.

In theory, brands can play many different roles for consumers. In a basic sense, brands can make consumer lives simpler, easier, or more rewarding. Moreover, brands can take on rich meaning and allow consumers to signal to others, or themselves, who they are or who they would like to be and what they value. Yet not all consumers ascribe to the positive qualities of brands, and some consumers actively dislike brands and branding in general. Understanding the basic forces—positive and negative—associated with brands is an enduring consumer research priority.

Recent JCR Research

Reimann, Nuñez, and Castaño (2017) show the remarkable power of brands to insulate consumers from physical pain. Brands allow consumers to cope with pain by offering them a reassuring sense of social connectedness. On the other hand, Brick et al. (2018) show the yin-yang of brands in one of the most important aspects of consumers’ lives: their relationship with close others. They find that brands can also be a source of conflict, as summarized in their abstract below.

Brick et al., “Coke vs. Pepsi: Brand Compatibility, Relationship Power, and Life Satisfaction”   (2018) Individuals often evaluate, purchase, and consume brands in the presence of others, including close others. Yet relatively little is known about the role brand preferences play in relationships. In the present research, the authors explore how the novel concept of brand compatibility, defined as the extent to which individuals have similar brand preferences (e.g., both partners prefer the same brand of soda), influences life satisfaction. The authors propose that when brand compatibility is high, life satisfaction will also be high. Conversely, because low brand compatibility may be a source of conflict for the relationship, the authors propose that it will be associated with reduced life satisfaction. Importantly, the authors predict that the effects of brand compatibility on conflict and life satisfaction will depend upon relationship power. Across multiple studies and methodologies, including experimental designs (studies 2, 3, 5) and dyadic data from real-life couples (studies 1, 4, 6), the authors test and find support for their hypotheses. By exploring how a potentially unique form of compatibility influences life satisfaction, including identifying a key moderator and an underlying mechanism, the current research contributes to the literatures on branding, close relationships, consumer well-being, and relationship power.

Several aspects of this research are noteworthy. One crucial consideration, building on past research and worthy of further study, is how brands are embedded in consumer lives and part of their identities in profound ways. Additionally, this research reinforces one of the most central considerations in branding—compatibility, or “fit”—which manifests in different ways with many different branding phenomena (e.g., brand extensions, leveraged secondary associations from cause marketing or sponsorship). Finally, another valuable insight suggested by this research is the polarization that can occur with brands; that is, the same brand can elicit decidedly different responses from different people. Greater attention to the downside of brands and branding and their more detrimental effects with certain consumers is needed.

Not all brands have the same importance to consumers, and understanding why some brands take on special meaning has much theoretical and managerial importance. In a practical sense, in today’s intensely competitive marketplace, firms are going to greater and greater lengths to try to forge strong bonds with consumers and build mutually beneficial relationships. Understanding consumer-brand relationships has been a fertile research topic for years now as the complexity of those relationships continues to spawn intriguing and productive new research directions.

Khamitov, Wang, and Thomson (2019) offer a comprehensive meta-analysis of factors affecting when and how different types of brand relationships increase loyalty. The authors find that various brand, loyalty, time, and consumer characteristics all can affect brand relationship elasticity. They specifically reinforce the power of the intangible and emotional qualities of brands. Huang, Huang, and Wyer (2018) home in on a very specific consideration—how consumers connect with brands in crowded social settings, as summarized in their abstract.

Huang et al., “The Influence of Social Crowding on Brand Attachment”   (2018) Feeling crowded in a shopping environment can decrease consumers’ evaluations of a product or service and lower customer satisfaction. However, the present research suggests that a crowded environment can sometimes have a positive impact on consumer behavior. Although feeling crowded motivates consumers to avoid interacting with others, it leads them to become more attached to brands as an alternative way of maintaining their basic need for belongingness. The effect does not occur (a) when the crowding environment is composed of familiar people (and, therefore, is not considered aversive); (b) when individuals have an interdependent self-construal (and consequently, high tolerance for crowdedness); (c) when people are accompanied by friends in the crowded environment; (d) when the social function of the brands is made salient; (e) when people have never used the brand before; or (f) when the brand is referred to as a general product rather than a specific brand.

Understanding situational and contextual influences on consumer behavior with respect to brands offers much practical value to marketing managers who must make many different types of decisions based on assumptions about how consumers will behave in particular places or at particular times. Identifying boundary conditions in these and other ways is important to provide a more nuanced depiction of how consumers actually think, feel, and act toward brands under certain circumstances or in specific settings. Finally, more generally, this research underscores the contingent nature of consumer processing of brands and the need to thoroughly investigate moderator variables that can impact the direction and strength of branding effects in meaningful ways.

Distinctiveness is at the core of branding and a key element in virtually any definition of brands. Branding success is all about differentiation and offering consumers unique value. Unique value requires relevance, too; accordingly, another core branding concept is brand relevance and how meaningful a brand is to consumers. Ensuring that brands are relevant and differentiated, however, is a challenging managerial priority in today’s fluid and fast-changing marketplace. Consumers are also seeking relevance and differentiation and consequently demanding personalized, customized brand offerings that suit their individual preferences and distinguish them from others. In part because of these new dynamics, many important consumer research opportunities are emerging in how consumers and brands fit into their respective landscapes.

Torelli et al. (2017) show how consumer feelings of cultural distinctiveness in foreign locations can lead to consumer preferences for more culturally aligned brands, even if those brands may be deficient in other ways. In a desire to connect with home and not feel as distinctive, consumers broaden how they actually think of “home.” By expanding their in-group boundaries in that way, they exhibit preferences to include culturally related brands that are merely similar in geographic proximity or sociohistorical or cultural roots. Puzakova and Aggarwal (2018) show how a consumer desire for distinctiveness can actually result in less preference for an anthropomorphized brand, as summarized in their abstract.

Puzakova and Aggarwal, “Brands as Rivals: Consumer Pursuit of Distinctiveness and the Role of Brand Anthropomorphism”   (2018) Although past research has shown that anthropomorphism enhances consumers’ attraction to a brand when social-connectedness or effectance motives are active, the current research demonstrates that anthropomorphizing a brand becomes a detrimental marketing strategy when consumers’ distinctiveness motives are salient. Four studies show that anthropomorphizing a brand positioned to be distinctive diminishes consumers’ sense of agency in identity expression. As a result, when distinctiveness goals are salient, consumers are less likely to evaluate anthropomorphized (vs. nonanthropomorphized) brands favorably and are less likely to choose them to express distinctiveness. This negative effect of brand anthropomorphism, however, is contingent on the brand’s positioning strategy—brand-as-supporter (supporting consumers’ desires to be different) versus brand-as-agent (communicating unique brand features instead of focusing on consumers’ needs) versus brand-as-controller (limiting consumers’ freedom in expressing distinctiveness). Our results demonstrate that an anthropomorphized brand-as-supporter enhances consumers’ sense of agency in identity expression, compared to both an anthropomorphized brand-as-agent and an anthropomorphized brand-as-controller. In turn, enhancing or thwarting consumers’ sense of agency in expressing their differences from others drives the differential impact of anthropomorphizing a brand positioned to be distinctive.

Two aspects of this research are especially noteworthy in terms of future research. Given how many marketers are trying to bring their brands to life—literally and figuratively—in today’s digital world, anthropomorphism is likely to continue to be an important consumer research topic. In particular, AI and robotic advances in service settings and elsewhere will raise a number of similar issues in terms of how consumers interact with more human-like marketing devices. These are complex phenomena that will require new theoretical development as well as the careful adaption of concepts from consumer psychology originally developed with humans. Secondly, understanding how consumers and brands are—or want to be—distinctive is a fundamental element of branding that can yield interesting insights with a variety of branding phenomena.

Communications are the lifeblood of any brand. In a “paid-earned-owned-shared” media world, consumer-to-consumer communications are taking on increased importance. Different communication channels have different properties, however, that require careful analysis and planning. Understanding what, when, where, how, and why consumers decide to share information or opinions about brands is a research priority that will likely continue to drive research activity for many years to come.

Through an extensive text mining study of social media, Villarroel Ordenes et al. (2019) use speech act theory to identify distinct elements—rhetorical styles such as alliteration and repetition, cross-message compositions, and certain visual images—that lead to greater consumer sharing of messages posted by brands. They reinforce the power of informational and emotional content in online brand messages and find some important distinctions in message sharing across Facebook and Twitter social media platforms. Moving to also include the offline world, Shen and Sengupta (2018) found that when consumers communicate about brands to others by speaking versus writing, they develop deeper self-brand connections, as summarized in this abstract.

Shen and Sengupta, “Word of Mouth versus Word of Mouse: Speaking about a Brand Connects You to It More than Writing Does”   (2018) This research merges insights from the communications literature with that on the self-brand connection to examine a novel question: how does speaking versus writing about a liked brand influence the communicator’s own later reactions to that brand? Our conceptualization argues that because oral communication involves a greater focus on social interaction with the communication recipient than does written communication, oral communicators are more likely to express self-related thoughts than are writers, thereby increasing their self-brand connection (SBC). We also assess the implications of this conceptualization, including the identification of theoretically derived boundary conditions for the speech/writing difference, and the downstream effects of heightened SBC. Results from five studies provide support for our predictions, informing both the basic literature on communications, and the body of work on consumer word of mouth.

Word of mouth has been a critical aspect of marketing since the origin of commerce. In today’s digital world, word of mouth can take many different forms (structured vs. unstructured, public vs. private, and so on). Understanding the full consumer psychology implications of reviews, in particular, is a top research priority given their increasingly important role in consumer decision-making. Contrasting oral and written speech, as in the referenced article, will have important implications for social media usage and marketing communications more generally. Lastly, the crucial mediating role of self-brand connections reinforces the need to consider the relevance of brands and when and how they are drawn into consumers’ identities and lives.

There is a managerial side to branding that can benefit from principles and insights gleaned from more practically minded consumer research. Managers make numerous decisions on a daily basis related to building, measuring, managing, and protecting their brands with significant short- and long-term consequences. A thorough understanding of applicable consumer behavior theory is extremely valuable to guide that decision-making. The research opportunities here are vast, as a wide gap still exists in many areas between academic research and industry practice.

Studying the James Bond film franchise, Preece, Kerrigan, and O'Reilly (2019) take an evolutionary approach to study brand longevity. Applying assemblage theory, they show how brands can optimally balance continuity and change at different levels over time. van Horen and Pieters (2017) show how copycat brands—that is, those that imitate brand elements of another brand—meet with more success when the imitated product is in a product category distinct from that of the imitated brand, as summarized in their abstract.

van Horen and   Pieters, “Redefining Home: How Cultural Distinctiveness Affects the Malleability of In-Group Boundaries and Brand Preferences”   (2017) Copycat brands imitate the trade dress of other brands, such as their brand name, logo, and packaging design. Copycats typically operate in the core product category of the imitated brand under the assumption that such “in-category imitation” is most effective. In contrast, four experiments demonstrate the benefits of “out-of-category imitation” for copycats, and the harmful effect on the imitated brand. Copycats are evaluated more positively in a related category, because consumers appraise the similarity between copycat and imitated brand more positively than in the core category, independent of the perceived similarity itself. This is due to a reduced salience of norms regarding imitation in the related category. Moreover, the results show a damaging backlash effect of out-of-category imitation on the general evaluation of the imitated brand and on its key perceived product attributes. The findings replicate across student, MTurk [Amazon Mechanical Turk], and representative consumer samples; multiple product categories; and forms of brand imitation. This research demonstrates that out-of-category brand imitation helps copycat brands and hurts national leading brands much more than has so far been considered, which has managerial and public policy implications.

Research on trade dress goes to the very heart of brands and branding: the brand elements themselves. Because of how they shape awareness and image with consumers, brand elements are often invaluable assets to brand marketers. A deeper understanding of their intrinsic properties, as well as their interface with various marketing activities, would be very helpful for managers. More generally, adopting a legal perspective to branding research, as with this article, should be encouraged given its increasingly significant role in managerial decision-making. In a related sense, given that most brands span multiple categories, ensuring that a broader multicategory perspective is recognized in branding research is also essential.

The five themes reviewed above each suggested a number of important future research directions. Nevertheless, an abundance of other research opportunities also exist in other areas with brands and branding, five of which are highlighted here (for further discussion, see Keller 2016 ; Keller et al. 2020 ).

Brand Emotions and Feelings

What are the most important types of brand feelings and emotions? What is a useful taxonomy of brand feelings and emotions?

What are the most effective ways for marketers to elicit brand feelings and emotions? How do different marketing activities create brand feelings and emotions?

Can affective information be shared by consumers as effectively as more cognitive information? What is the role of word of mouth and social media for spreading feelings and emotional qualities of brands across consumers?

How easily can feelings and emotions be linked to a brand? In what ways are they stored and later activated?

In what ways do feelings and emotions affect consumer decision-making? When can positive brand feelings overcome product deficiencies? When can negative feelings undermine product advantages?

Brand Intangibles

As noted above, successful branding is about differentiation. Increasingly, brand intangibles are playing a bigger role in creating, or at least strengthening, differentiation. Brand intangibles are those associations to a brand that are not directly related to the product or service and its function and performance. In a broad sense, the increased emphasis on brand intangibles reflects the fact that consumers have become more interested in learning about the people and companies behind products and brands, posing questions such as: Who are they? What values do they hold? What do they stand for? How do they make the product or service?

How do consumers form opinions about authenticity ( Newman and Dhar 2014 ; Spiggle, Nguyen, and Caravella 2012 )? How important is it for a brand to be seen as authentic or genuine?

How does history or heritage define a brand ( Paharia et al. 2011 )? In what ways can it help or hurt? How flexible are consumers in updating their perceptions and beliefs about brands? What is the proper balance of continuity and change for brands over time?

How do consumers view political stances by brands ( Horst 2018 )? How do they respond to brands taking positions on important political issues that support or contradict the positions they hold?

What are consumer expectations for corporate social responsibility for brands ( Bhattacharya and Sen 2003 ; Chernev and Blair 2015 ; Kotler and Lee 2005 ; Torelli, Monga, and Kaikati 2012 )? What are the accepted standards for sustainability, community involvement, and social impact? How do consumers make those judgments? How do they influence brand attitudes and behavior?

Given the subjective nature of brand intangibles, how do marketers reconcile the potentially varying or even contradictory opinions held by different consumers about any particular brand intangible? How much consensus can reasonably be expected?

Brand Positioning

One well-established strategic tool for branding is the concept of positioning —how consumers think or feel about a brand versus a defined set of competitor brands ( Keller, Sternthal, and Tybout 2002 ). Although historically significant, some marketers have questioned the value of traditional positioning in developing modern marketing strategies. One fundamental question is the role of consumers in setting strategies for brands. Some marketing pundits proclaim that “customers are now in charge of marketing,” maintaining that consumers now set the strategic directions of brands. Such statements, however, presume that consumers are empowered, enlightened, and engaged with respect to brands and branding. In other words, consumers have the motivation (engagement), ability (enlightenment), and opportunity (empowerment) to actually impact brand strategies.

In what ways do consumers think they can influence brand strategy? How much input do consumers think they should have about what a brand does?

How much do consumers know about brands and branding? How deep and broad is consumer brand knowledge? How do they define the “rules of the game” for branding?

How actively invested are consumers with a brand’s fortunes? How much do consumers care about how other consumers view a brand or how it is performing in the marketplace as a whole?

How much do consumers want to engage with brands and in what ways? What is a useful taxonomy of brand engagement?

Developing a more complete understanding of the consumer-brand terrain along these lines will be invaluable in understanding how different types of relationships are formed between consumers and brands ( Fournier 1998 ).

Brand Purpose, Storytelling, and Narratives

How well do these alternative brand strategy concepts tap into our understanding of consumer behavior? What assumptions do they make about consumer behavior? When are they most valid or useful? Are they ever unhelpful or even counterproductive?

What types of brand purposes are most meaningful to consumers? How should brand purposes be crafted internally and expressed externally? How should brand purpose relate or be aligned with other aspects of the brand positioning and strategy? For example, how closely tied should brand purposes be to the products or services for the brand?

What makes brand stories or narratives compelling ( Escalas 2004 )? Are there any disadvantages to their use? Can brand stories or narratives distract marketers or consumers from a focus on potentially more important product or service performance considerations?

Brand Measurement

Lastly, for both academics and managers to fully understand the effects of brands and branding, there needs to be a deep, rich understanding of how consumers think, feel, and act toward brands. Although one common industry research technique has been consumer surveys, as consumers have become more difficult to contact and less willing to participate, the viability of surveys has diminished in recent years. Yet marketers today arguably need to stay closer than ever to consumers, underscoring the need to develop new methods and evolve existing ones to gain critical insights into consumers and brands.

Fortunately, as much as any area, branding research has benefited from a full range of quantitative and qualitative methods that go beyond surveys and other traditional data collection methods (e.g., focus groups). For example, researchers are continuing to refine neural techniques (Chang, Boksem, and Smidts 2018; Yoon et al. 2006 ) and ethnographic methods ( Belk 2006 ; Chang Coupland 2005 ). One particularly promising tack involves digital methods and measures that can be used at the individual or market level to monitor online behavior ( Berger et al. 2020 ; Moe and Schweidel 2014 ; Yadav and Pavlou 2014 ). Although full of potential, the methodological properties of these digital approaches need to be validated carefully, and boundaries need to be established as to their comparative advantages and disadvantages.

More broadly, for all traditional or emerging research methods, strengths and weaknesses must be identified and contrasted in terms of their effectiveness and efficiency in gaining consumer and brand insights. In many ways, brand-building can be thought of in terms of painting a picture of a brand in consumers’ minds and hearts. Extending that metaphor, it is important that marketers skillfully combine a full range of research methods to be able to appreciate the colors, vividness, and texture of the mental images and structures they are creating.

Perhaps not surprisingly, research on branding mirrors many of the broad themes found in consumer research more generally. Consumer researchers of all kinds are interested in achieving a better understanding of consumer motivations and desires and how consumers choose to interact with the world around them, especially in digital terms. Researchers studying branding have certainly homed in on these and other topics and also have focused on more managerial considerations, all of which help marketers achieve a deeper understanding of consumers to help them build, measure, manage, and protect brand equity.

The reality is that brands and consumers are inextricably linked. Brands exist for consumers, and consumers generally value brands. Yet, in today’s data-rich world, both brands and consumers can be too easily reduced to online and offline statistical footprints. It is incumbent upon consumer researchers to breathe life into branding to ensure that consumer psychology as applied to branding is undeniable in its importance and essential to marketers everywhere.

This curation was invited by editors J. Jeffrey Inman, Margaret C. Campbell, Amna Kirmani, and Linda L. Price .

The author thanks the editors for the opportunity to write this research curation and for their helpful feedback.

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Personal Branding: Interdisciplinary Systematic Review and Research Agenda

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Personal branding has become an important concept in management literature in recent years. Yet, with more than 100 scholarly papers published on the concept to date, it has developed into a fragmented area of research with a diversity of definitions and conceptual boundaries. This paper posits that this heterogeneity of extant research impedes theoretical and empirical advancement. To strengthen the foundation for future work, we review the extant literature and offer an integrative model of personal branding. Through our systematic literature review we identify the key attributes of the construct, establish its clarity by comparing it with similar concepts in its nomological network, and suggest the definitions of personal branding and personal brand based on the reviewed literature. Further, we propose a theoretical model of personal branding summarizing the findings from the reviewed papers. The proposed model outlines the trends conducive to personal branding, as well as its drivers, processes, and outcomes. Finally, we discuss ethical implications of personal branding for both scholarly work and practice. In conclusion, we outline a further research agenda for studying personal branding as a critical career and organizational behavior activity in contemporary working environment.

Introduction

Marketing-born and reared, personal branding has made its definitive headway into management science. Sitting at the junction of marketing, sociology, communication, psychology, organizational behavior, and some would claim even accounting (Vitberg, 2010 ), personal branding has emerged as a means of attaining career success in the context of more temporary employment systems and project based work structures.

Many reasons have prompted the emergence and penetration of the concept—personal branding—into the management discourse. Among the key is a widespread shift of the responsibility for employees' careers from organizations to individuals (Arthur and Rousseau, 1996 ; Arthur, 2014 ; Greenhaus and Kossek, 2014 ). Indeed, business changes in traditionally stable sectors push thousands of lifetime workers out of jobs, e.g., because of the “greening” of the energy sector, or massive job cuts in the call centers, and because of the advances in artificial intelligence. More frequent career transitions require expanding and creating new networks of contacts, which, in turn, predicate more frequent personal rebranding activities (Schlosser et al., 2017 ). With the technological advances bringing about the ease of communication across the Internet and numerous social media platforms, “careers have become personal brands that need to be managed in a virtual age” (Gioia et al., 2014 ). When Peters ( 1997 ) wrote that everyone is a CEO of his or her own company, it must have been prescient to the labor market situation of today, where careers are boundaryless (psychological contract wanes) (Arthur et al., 2005 ), individuals are as good as their last gig (portfolio careers) (Cawsey, 1995 ), and “you are your own enterprise” (the need to be intelligent in career decisions) (Arthur et al., 2017 ).

Although personal branding originated in the field of marketing (Lair et al., 2005 ), there are now more than a hundred published papers on the topic across a range of disciplines. These papers contribute to the growing body of literature that aims to define personal branding, explain how it works, and to conceptualize it in relation to various input and output variables. Yet, this body of literature is diverse and disconnected, without any attempt so far to bring scholarly efforts together toward a more integrated understanding. No commonly accepted academic definitions or theoretical models exist. As the voice of popular press on personal branding becomes increasingly pervasive, painting a consistent picture that standard work is obsolete, that self-fulfillment is a sine qua non of success, and that organizational and personal interests are diverging (Vallas and Cummins, 2015 ), science needs to step forward to corroborate or refute such allegations. With this literature review we aim to fill this gap.

We analyze 100 papers on personal branding published in journals representing various disciplines, with the purpose to, firstly, synthesize all definitions of personal branding stemming from different disciplines and fields of studies, and to propose a new definition that integrates multidisciplinary knowledge about the concept. Secondly, we establish the personal branding's construct clarity, by positioning personal branding as a distinct construct alongside other established concepts related to managing perceptions of others toward achieving a specific objective, such as image, fame, or self-promotion. Thirdly, we propose a conceptual model of personal branding based on the reviewed literature outlining successive inputs, processes and outputs. Finally, a future research agenda is laid out by positioning personal branding as one of the essential human activities for maintaining sustainable work and employment.

Methodology

This field of knowledge being fragmented and scarce, we conducted a systematic literature review, applying wide criteria to include all the extant academic research on personal branding. A systematic approach intends to remove subjectivity and bring about cohesion through the synthesis of available information. To ensure a comprehensive approach and minimize the bias, where applicable, we followed the PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews, suggested by Moher et al. ( 2009 ), related to defining the research question, setting the search parameters, extracting and appraising the relevant data, and synthesizing the findings. We followed the literature selection process used by Mol et al. ( 2015 ), followed by the “snowballing” technique (Greenhalgh and Peacock, 2005 ). An initial search by topic and title on Web of Science™ on April 1, 2018 returned 1183 results from all databases after applying the following restrictions: TOPIC OR TITLE: (personal brand * ), Refined by: Research Domains: (Social Sciences OR Arts Humanities) AND Document Types: (Article OR Review) AND Research Areas: (Business Economics OR Psychology OR Communication OR Social Sciences Other Topics OR Sociology), Timespan: All years, Search language = Auto. Most of the articles in the topic search were related to the marketing studies of product branding, and, therefore, were excluded, as they were not relevant to the research topic of personal branding. Similarly, we did not consider non-academic papers and patents. Removing the duplicates across the topic and title search and studying the abstracts, 96 references were selected for full-text analysis. To ensure that any unindexed references are included, additional Boolean searches on the keywords “personal brand * ” were carried out on EBSCO Business Source Complete restricting it by peer-reviewed publications only and on Google Scholar, returning 13 and 19 additional original references respectively; top 250 hits were manually reviewed in each search. After analyzing the full texts of the articles, 44 references were excluded for the following reasons: (a) for lacking academic rigor albeit published in peer-reviewed journals ( N = 16), (b) for lacking relevance to the topic of the study ( N = 14), and (c) for being in a language that the researcher did not know ( N = 10), and for the inability to find full text articles ( N = 4). A manual search in the reference lists of the selected articled resulted in 16 additional references added to the list. Conference proceedings and papers were included. As a result, this current review is based on the analysis of full text of 100 academic publications. This process is graphically explained in Figure ​ Figure1. 1 . Each article was subsequently analyzed in depth with the results coded under the corresponding category titles, main ones being definition, theory, model, methods, population, inputs, processes, outputs, study design, primary social media, future research recommendations.

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Review methodology process.

Considering that the first academic papers on the topic were published in 2005, the review period for this paper was set as 2005–2017. Since 2005, there has been an uptake in scholarly writing on the subject, and the growths in academic research and writing on the topic of personal branding follows an exponential trend line ( R 2 = 0.7416) as illustrated in Figure ​ Figure2 2 .

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Total number of academic publications ( n = 98) by year included in current review. The 2018 publications ( n = 2) are excluded from this graph to prevent distortion of the exponential trend line, as the year is not over yet.

As our review reveals, research on personal branding is progressively moving from conceptualization to empirical studies, with a preference for qualitative methods. Out of the 100 reviewed papers, 34 are conceptual. 42 papers used qualitative methods, 17—quantitative, and seven used a mixed-method approach. Supplementary Table 1 lists all the reviewed papers in chronological order, together with the definition of personal branding or a personal brand , the nature of conducted research and the populations studied.

Construct clarity and definitions personal branding

Looking through the literature, we found that despite a substantial number of academic articles on the topic of personal branding suggesting a diversity of definitions, there is little agreement on the exact boundaries of the concept. Therefore, as the first step, it deems necessary to determine the construct clarity and position it in the field of related concepts. Then, we elucidate the definitions of personal branding and personal brand , clearly demarcating them as self-standing constructs. We conclude this part with the analysis of the theoretical premises for personal branding that the earlier authors based their research in.

Construct clarity

While the authorship of the term “personal branding” in 1997 is contended by Montoya and Vandehey ( 2002 ) and Peters ( 1997 ), some researchers indicate the origins of the concept either in Goffman's work in 1960s (Lorgnier and O'Rourke, 2011 ; Khedher, 2015 ; Philbrick and Cleveland, 2015 ) or in the 1980s in marketing studies (Vallas and Cummins, 2015 ). Despite these early attempts, the academic work to research personal branding as a self-standing concept only began in early 2000s.

Shepherd ( 2005 ) reviewed the popular literature on the subject and acknowledged wide acceptance of the term “personal branding.” Some researchers use the term “self-branding” (Gandini, 2016 ), which is synonymous to personal branding. Still, this review finds that the term “personal branding” is more customary and accepted. Parmentier et al. ( 2013 ) made an attempt at the conceptual rapprochement among different definitions, stating that despite various names “the premise of much of what has been written is that some product branding concepts are sufficient for understanding how people can position themselves to be successful in any career pursuit” (p. 373). We hope to contribute further to greater construct clarity for personal branding. In order to do so, we followed the process suggested by Podsakoff et al. ( 2016 ). We present our findings in the next four sub-sections: (1) analysis of the definitions encountered in the reviewed literature; (2) study of the related concepts in the nomological network of personal branding as informed by this literature; (3) synthesis of the key attributes of personal branding from the reviewed definitions and analyzing presence or absence of the identified attributes in the related concepts; and (4) defining personal branding and a personal brand .

Heterogeneity of extant definitions

Although the definitions encountered in the studied articles are diverse, they can be grouped according to the underlying theoretical approach. We have identified two main categories of those definitions: Those based in the marketing theory and those sprouting from the studies of self-presentation behaviors. The “marketing” definitions (see, for example, Lair et al., 2005 ; Marwick and boyd, 2011 ; Bendisch et al., 2013 ) tend to use words like “product,” “buyer,” “seller,” “market,” “added value,” “promise,” “differentiation,” or “meeting customer needs.” They liken personal branding to a product branding process, using similar terminology and directly applying marketing principles. The “self-presentation” definitions (see, for example, Parmentier et al., 2013 ; Molyneux, 2015 ; Schlosser et al., 2017 ) tend to include such words as “impression,” “reputation,” “individual's strengths,” “uniqueness,” “image,” “self-promotion,” or “identity.” These definitions position personal branding as a person-centric activity, focused on managing how others view the individual. Although some papers use the definitions suggested by other scholars, there is no commonly accepted way to define personal branding in either approach. Also, we find that the existing definitions, provided in Supplementary Table 1 , lack either in comprehensiveness, e.g., “active process of synthesizing and packaging a personal brand to target customers, prospective employers, and an online network of colleagues” (Cederberg, 2017 , p. 1), rigor, e.g., “planned process in which people make efforts to market themselves” (Khedher, 2015 , p. 20), or both, e.g., “how we want to be perceived by employers, potential employers, clients, professional peers, and others in a way that will boost short- and long-term career prospects” (Evans, 2017 , pp. 271–272).

Related concepts

There are seven related concepts, chosen for this exercise, as they were consistently mentioned alongside with personal branding in the reviewed literature. They belong to the same group for the reason that they deal with perceptions of others of an individual. However, the agency of managing those perceptions, the vector of action, the nature of methods and techniques, and their intent are different, which gives way to distinguishing them one from the others. Zinko and Rubin ( 2015 ) in their work on personal reputation have provided a useful overview of several concepts under consideration, including reputation, status, image, fame, celebrity, pedigree, legitimacy, credibility, branding, and impression management. In our study, we have chosen the following most relevant seven related concepts with their definitions, as they were most frequently mentioned in relation to personal branding:

  • Human branding . Close et al. ( 2011 ) defined human brand as “persona, well-known or emerging, who are the subject of marketing, interpersonal, or inter-organizational communications” (p. 923). This concept comes from marketing, building upon the branding literature and extending it from products to people (Thomson, 2006 ).
  • Impression management . Kowalski and Leary ( 1990 ) defined impression management as “the process by which individuals attempt to control the impressions others form of them” (p. 34). It is the “vehicle by which professional image construction occurs” (Roberts, 2005 ).
  • Self-promotion . While Molyneux ( 2015 ) placed an equation mark between personal branding and self-promotion, we would like to disambiguate the two. Bolino et al. ( 2016 ) view self-promotion as a distinct impression management technique, when actors “are inclined to highlight their accomplishments, take credit for positive outcomes, name-drop important others, and downplay the severity of negative events to which they are connected” (p. 384).
  • Image . Roberts ( 2005 ) provided an authoritative point of view on professional image, also influencing our understanding of personal branding in considering the desired and perceived components of the personal brand (see further section on Brand Architecture ). Yet, we would like to extract the “professional” part from her definition, given that image construction may occur outside of the organizational setting, so that it becomes “the aggregate of key constituents' < …> perceptions of one's competence and character” (p. 687).
  • Reputation . Several authors liken reputation to a personal brand (Noble et al., 2010 ; Schlosser et al., 2017 ), yet there are distinct differences between these concepts. Zinko and Rubin ( 2015 ), noting that the research on reputation is not yet well-developed, propose their own definition of it: “a perceptual identity formed from the collective perceptions of others, which is reflective of the complex combination of salient personal characteristics and accomplishments, demonstrated behavior, and intended images presented over some period of time as observed directly and/or reported from secondary sources, which reduces ambiguity about expected future behavior” (p. 218). While we would disagree with the word “intended” in this definition, as reputations can be formed in the most unintended manners, this is the most robust one we have found.
  • Fame . Zinko and Rubin ( 2015 ) suggested that fame equals reputation less predictability, since fame can be brought about by singular events, and later developed into reputation through repeated behavioral displays.
  • Employee Branding . While not often mentioned in the literature on personal branding, this concept is very close to the one under study, differing only in few key attributes. Miles and Mangold ( 2004 ) conceptualized employee branding within the framework of internal marketing, and defined it as “the process by which employees internalize the desired brand image and are motivated to project the image to customers and other organizational constituents” (p. 68).

Clarifying the construct of personal branding: key attributes

We will now proceed to the discussion of each of the five first-level attributes (strategic, positive, promise, person-centric, and artifactual), which were drawn from the definitions found in the reviewed literature.

Several definitions used in the reviewed literature specifically point out that personal branded activities are targeted , i.e., directed at a defined audience (Labrecque et al., 2011 ; Cederberg, 2017 ), and programmatic , i.e., designed as a series of coordinated activities (Lair et al., 2005 ; Manai and Holmlund, 2015 ). There are some definitions using the word strategically directly (Marwick and boyd, 2011 ; Kleppinger and Cain, 2015 ; Nolan, 2015 ; Lee and Cavanaugh, 2016 ). For certain roles, strategic personal branding is a prerequisite. For example, Bendisch et al. ( 2013 ) discussed closing the gap between the desired identity, image, and reputation for CEO brands from the stakeholder and organizational perspectives, requiring a planful and deliberate approach. Gandini ( 2016 ), studying digital freelance professionals in London and Milan, likens strategic personal branding to a profitable form of investment of time, labor, and relationships, essential in a reputation economy. Such concepts as “fame” actively lack these characteristics, and they are not essential for “self-promotion,” “reputation,” or “image.” Bolino et al. ( 2016 ) note that while impression management can be strategic and intentional, it also can be “unconscious and habitual” (p. 378), hence we conclude that the programmatic aspect of impression management may be missing.

The definitions of personal branding are consistent in the positive intentionality of personal branding. Authors concur that its main objective is to “establish favorable impressions” (Lee and Cavanaugh, 2016 ), be “appealing” (Omojola, 2008 ), and “valuable, reliable or desirable” (De la Morena Taboada, 2014 ). We use the term “positive” as “desired by the target audience,” as indeed, there may be cases where personal branders would want to be associated with characteristics that are in ill regard by the societal norms, such as in research of male sex workers by Phua and Caras ( 2008 ). From this perspective, we can argue that “positive” also could be “drawing attention,” following the line of reasoning that one of the objectives of personal branding is to differentiate oneself in the emerging attention economy (Hearn, 2008b ). The inability to create a positive desired image in the minds of the target audience or a mismatch between the goal and perception is a branding failure. Labrecque et al. ( 2011 ) identified two types of personal branding failures: Insufficient branding (e.g., lack of content, failure to emphasize the desired message, etc.) and misdirected branding (e.g., inconsistencies with the brand identity, addressing wrong audiences, etc.). They offer specific advice to increase the positive attribute of a personal brand: “Reinforcement for optimal branding, augmentation for insufficient branding, and deleting or diffusing for misdirected branding” (p. 47).

The marketing nature of the personal branding construct implies the idea of signaling a promise to the target audience (Tulchinsky, 2011 ; Philbrick and Cleveland, 2015 ). Parmentier et al. ( 2013 ), studying positioning of personal branding in the organizational field of modeling, concluded that effective signaling of one's human, social, and cultural capital depends on successfully fitting into a specific organizational field ( cf . product brand points of parity) and standing out from the competition in that field ( cf . product brand points of differentiation). In contrast to product brands, standing out in personal branding is achieved not by having additional attributes or characteristics but having higher levels of those qualities, valued by the target audience. The most adjacent concepts related to this attribute are human branding (Thomson, 2006 ) and employee branding (Miles and Mangold, 2004 ), both of which are built on the foundational purpose of a brand to convey a promise. Human branding is a generic concept, which may lack agency in cases when, for instance, an advertising agency brands a movie character, rather than the actor playing that character. Employer branding lacks reflexivity as that work is conducted top-down, guided by the overall organizational objectives.

Person-centric

This attributes comprises three second-level attributes: agency, reflective, and differentiation. The principle of agency supposes an active involvement of the subject of personal branding into the process: “Workers are encouraged to view themselves as entrepreneurs within corporate employment or while seeking corporate employment” (Lair et al., 2005 , p. 316). While human branding, employee branding, fame, and reputation may occur without the subject's volition, personal branding demands the individual's involvement. Since personal branding requires agency and intentionality, persistent claims that “everybody has a personal brand” (Rampersad, 2008 , p.34) are misguided, calling for a more accurate “everybody has a reputation.” Reflexivity highlights the exteriorization processes that are central to personal branding, where the subjects are required to identify individual characteristics prior to engaging in positioning of their personal brands to the outer world (Wee and Brooks, 2010 ). We have already highlighted that human branding and employee branding may lack reflexivity as an attribute due to low agency. Finally, differentiation refers to building a personal brand around a set of characteristics that are unique and desirable by the target audience (Parmentier et al., 2013 ). Studying personal branding of professional golfers, Hodge and Walker ( 2015 ) discuss how differentiation, or “standing out” from the competition, allowed those sportsmen to access valuable career opportunities.

Artifactual

Both personal branding and core marketing literature points out artifactual nature of branding. Examples of artifacts in personal branding go back to embroidering monograms on shirts, personalized stationary and visiting cards, or a signature at the bottom of a painting. Khedher ( 2015 ) specifically attributes artifactual displays of impression management behaviors to personal branding activities. Scholars are unanimous regarding the need for a narrative (Brooks and Anumudu, 2016 ; Eagar and Dann, 2016 ; Pera et al., 2016 ) and related imagery (van der Land et al., 2016 ; Holton and Molyneux, 2017 ). Several papers specifically studied the artifacts of personal branding efforts, such as narrated selfies (Eagar and Dann, 2016 ), LinkedIn photos (van der Land et al., 2016 ), Instagram photos (Geurin-Eagleman and Burch, 2016 ), YouTube videos (Chen, 2013 ), and ePortfolios (Jones and Leverenz, 2017 ). Concepts like reputation or impression management do not necessarily require a coherent story or associated artifacts.

Juxtaposing the identified attributes with other related concepts, we determine these attributes necessary and sufficient (Podsakoff et al., 2016 ) to demarcate the construct of personal branding as self-standing and distinct. The overview of the attributes of personal branding, compared to related concepts, is depicted in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Attributes of personal branding compared to related concepts.

Legend: P, present; A, absent (if blank, presence or absence of an attribute is situation-dependent) .

Defining personal branding

Having identified the core attributes of the construct in question, we proceeded to elucidating its definition. Guided by the characteristics of a “good definition” (Suddaby, 2010 ), we propose the following way to define personal branding :

Personal branding is a strategic process of creating, positioning, and maintaining a positive impression of oneself, based in a unique combination of individual characteristics, which signal a certain promise to the target audience through a differentiated narrative and imagery .

In the reviewed literature, the authors would choose to base their work either on the definition of personal branding as a process, or a personal brand as a product, or both. Hence, we offer a definition of a personal brand as well. Drawing on the definition of personal branding and one provided by Ottovordemgentschenfelde ( 2017 ), we proceed to define a personal brand :

Personal brand is a set of characteristics of an individual (attributes, values, beliefs, etc.) rendered into the differentiated narrative and imagery with the intent of establishing a competitive advantage in the minds of the target audience .

Theoretical foundations of personal branding

Personal branding, being a multidisciplinary construct, employs a wide range of distinct theories to explain it. We have grouped the theories used in the reviewed literature into four large categories: sociological, marketing, psychological, and economic.

Sociological theories

The majority of the authors, totaling 38 papers, used sociological theories to explain the concept of personal branding. Goffman's ( 1959 ) dramaturgical perspective is most often referenced (19 papers), positioning personal branding as both a backstage activity (e.g., reflection, sense-making, etc.) and onstage performance (impression management, feedback-seeking, etc.) to influence the perceptions of others. Meyrowitz ( 1990 ) extended the dramaturgical theory into wider social and digital contexts (cited by one paper). While Goffman's work on self-presentation and social interactions is a predominant way to understand the activities around personal branding, it does not explain fully the interactions in the digital world, and it may overlook some ways to understand the outcomes of personal branding.

As an extension to Goffman's work, specific research on impression management by Kowalski and Leary ( 1990 ), Baumeister ( 1982 ), Gardner and Martinko ( 1988 ), and Schlenker ( 1980 ) was mentioned in three papers. Linked to the backstage activities, four papers rely on the reflexivity theories of Giddens ( 1991 ), Beck ( 1992 ) and Adams ( 2003 , 2006 ) attempt to explain how individuals build own identities in the fast-changing technological world. Five papers used Bourdieu's ( 1993 ) theories to explain accumulation of social and cultural capital in specific organizational fields, highlighting that our identities are shaped by the habitus and we are not in full control over them. Finally, Du Gay's enterprising culture theory (Gay and Salaman, 1992 ; Du Gay, 1996 ) is used in six papers to position personal branding as a new type of labor in the post-Fordist era, working identities forged into “enterprising selves” or “flexible subjectivities.”

Marketing theories

Shepherd ( 2005 ) noted that Kotler was first to expand the field of marketing beyond the product. Hughes ( 2007 ), Neale et al. ( 2008 ), and Speed et al. ( 2015 ) attributed the emergence of personal branding as a separate discipline to Keller's distinguishing the “small b” approach to branding, referring to product branding only, and the “large b,” extending the science of branding to services, organizations, and people. The work of Aaker ( 1997 ) on brand personality and brand identity is most often referenced in research on personal branding (seven papers). Thomson ( 2006 ) contributed to the stream of thinking around human brands. Eagar and Dann ( 2016 ) suggest three approaches to the self as a human brand: (1) “consumerist”—viewing human brands from the position of consumers, (2) “reputational”—assuming a passive approach in having a brand, and (3) “agency”—proactively creating and managing one's personal brand. An overwhelming majority of the extant literature on personal branding subscribes to the latter two approaches: understanding the brand equity, or the reputation, and managing the desired projected image. Overall, marketing theories were used in 17 papers.

Psychological theories

Eleven papers used psychological theories to explain personal branding. Four papers (Shepherd, 2005 ; Gioia et al., 2014 ; Molyneux, 2015 ; Holton and Molyneux, 2017 ; Schlosser et al., 2017 ) highlight the role of personal branding in identity formation, situating their thinking in the works of Mead ( 1934 ), Erikson ( 1968 ), Turner and Oakes ( 1986 ), Ibarra ( 1999 ), and others. Schlosser et al. ( 2017 ) even likened the narrative approach to the concept of personal branding, which “reflects how executives project their identity to others in order to demonstrate their leadership fit” (p. 574). Psychological needs were referenced in five papers, ranging from basic need for self-fulfillment and self-esteem (Shepherd, 2005 ; Gioia et al., 2014 ; Zinko and Rubin, 2015 ) researched by Cohen ( 1959 ) and Baumeister and Leary ( 1995 ) to non-social motives, as suggested by Labrecque et al. ( 2011 ): need for power, to pass time and provide entertainment, and need for advocacy. Finally, Shepherd ( 2005 ) and Khedher ( 2015 ) suggest that personal branding can be viewed as a self-development tool, grounding their conclusions in Schon's reflective practitioner theory (Schon, 1984 ).

Economic theories

The economic theories, used only in nine papers, help us understand the macro environment, in which personal branding takes place. There are a variety of attempts to describe the current economic conditions shaping social interactions: flexible accumulation (Harvey, 1990 ), controlled discourse (Andrejevic, 2007 ), emotional capitalism (Illouz, 2007 ), leading to the emergence of reputation economy (Gandini, 2016 ). Hernando and Campo ( 2017 ) used Freeman's multi-stakeholder approach to describe the complexity of brand positioning. Spence's signaling theory (Spence, 1973 ) was used in two papers to reflect communication of unique characteristics to target audiences in imperfect markets.

Thus, we conclude that comprehensive understanding of personal branding lies on four broad social sciences: sociology, marketing, psychology, and economics. Driven by certain needs and shaping own identity (psychological perspective), an individual engages in online and offline interactions with others, trying to manage their perceptions of him/her to gain a certain benefit (sociological perspective). There are specific principles and practices of creating, positioning, and managing own brand (marketing perspective), and these activities are predicated by larger shifts in the organizational and societal contexts (economic perspective).

Trends, drivers, processes, and outcomes of personal branding

Research on the topic is fragmented, so we used a systematic approach to synthesize the knowledge from the reviewed literature, categorizing the findings into trends, conducive to personal branding, its drivers, related processes, and outcomes. We proceed to discuss these five aspects of personal branding in separate sections below.

Trends conducive to personal branding

There are three broad categories of trends that are conducive or preclusive of personal branding activities, found in the reviewed literature: Economic, societal, and technological.

Economic (6 papers)

The basic economic premise of an imperfect market (Hernando and Campo, 2017 ) is already a strong foundation to argue for the need to signal own value to the target audience. Another economic premise for personal branding relates to the economic reality of the modern world. The reviewed literature refers to these conditions as “era of post-Fordism” (Vallas and Cummins, 2015 ), “knowledge economy” (Gandini, 2016 ), “sharing economy” (Pera et al., 2016 ), or “era of consumer-to-consumer” (Chen, 2013 ), and most concur that the marketplace for skills has become much more demanding, coupled with increasing employment uncertainty (Cederberg, 2017 ; Holton and Molyneux, 2017 ) and the rise of portfolio careers (Gandini, 2016 ), all of which lead to personal branding as an effective career strategy in the new economic environment. Abrate and Viglia ( 2017 ) note that “parties operating in sharing economy platforms are incentivized to use reputation-signaling mechanisms to maximize the likelihood of a successful transaction.” (p. 4). Schlosser et al. ( 2017 ) conducted their research on career rebranding specifically within the framework of modern career agency, seen as a response to the economic changes. On the other side of the imperfect labor market, employers embrace digital as well, which results in emergence of such practices as, for instance, cybervetting (Berkelaar, 2014 ). In a similar vein, research by van der Land et al. ( 2016 ) shows that effective management of own picture in the LinkedIn profile may lead to better chances of getting a job interview.

Societal (4 papers)

Several researchers have attributed the societal shifts to emergence of personal branding. The generational divide and novel lifestyle choices (Harris and Rae, 2011 ) have contributed to the need of self-promotion, both at work and in private life. Constructing a public image, previously a prerogative of celebrities, today is available to “everyday person” (Eagar and Dann, 2016 ). Researching social media consumption on YouTube, Chen ( 2013 ) maintains that amateur individuals are embracing social media for personal branding purposes. It is noteworthy that different cultures may have varying degrees of appreciation of personal branding practices. For instance, North American blogger communities are more discerning and skeptical of someone's self-promotion activity and they place a greater value on knowledge dissemination, while Middle Eastern personal brander communities are “more praiseworthy, accepting, and less critical of the personal brander efforts at self-promotion and increasing social capital” (Saleem and Iglesias Bedós, 2013 , p. 20). Vallas and Christin ( 2018 ), having compared the attitudes toward personal branding among the US and French freelance web journalists, report that the French journalists are more wary of such practices than their American counterparts.

Technological (6 papers)

There is a widespread consensus that the key driver for personal branding is the ease of access to technology, especially the Web 2.0 tools, such as social media and blogs (Harris and Rae, 2011 ; Holton and Molyneux, 2017 ). “If once personal reputation was considered crucial for celebrities and politicians, online tools have allowed personal reputation to become an important marketing task for everyday people” (Pera et al., 2016 , p. 45). While technology facilitates personal branding, it also makes it more difficult to differentiate oneself in “hyper-saturated and hyper-fluxed media environment” (Ottovordemgentschenfelde, 2017 , p. 65), where digital media skills become an additional kind of brand identity. Green ( 2016 ) concurs, having performed research in professional sports area, that, when other “sporting” characteristics are similar, an online profile creates differentiation.

Drivers of personal branding

We have identified two broad groups of drivers pertaining to the individual doing own personal branding: Individual and role/industry-related. These factors may explain why, how, and for what reason persons engage in personal branding activities.

Individual (5 papers)

Driven by the need for a positive personal reputation (Zinko and Rubin, 2015 ), comprised of the need for self-esteem, need to belong and desire for rewards, certain personal characteristics, such as attributes and values, make it easier or more difficult for individuals to engage in personal branding. Pihl ( 2013 ) performed a netnographic study of three professional Swedish bloggers, which found that individual characteristics aligned with their personal brand enhance its impact and effectiveness. Lorgnier and O'Rourke ( 2011 ) identified specific skills required for personal branding: technological, metacognitive, creative and critical. Therefore, we may hypothesize that individuals with superior digital skills, who are able to discover own points of competitive differentiation and creatively turn them into compelling narrative and imagery, while doing that strategically and socially-appropriately, have greater chances of professional and personal success. In addition to that, cultural and social capitals predicate the required effort and the effectiveness of the personal branding process (Khedher, 2015 ).

Role/industry-related (12 papers)

A significant portion of literature links personal branding with the requirements, expectations, and/or limitations of specific roles and industries. Some authors make general statements that professions of today require promoting self via personal branding (Bridgen, 2011 ; Harris and Rae, 2011 ), while others discuss specific jobs and industries. We conclude that industries with higher degree of transparency, such as sports (Green, 2016 ) or journalism (Brems et al., 2016 ; Holton and Molyneux, 2017 ), are more conducive to individual personal branding. At the company level, Sturdy and Wright ( 2008 ) point out that organizations adopting an enterprise model may be more lenient or even supportive of personal branding. Amoako and Okpattah ( 2018 ), having conducted a study on sales executives in the insurance and FMCG sectors in Ghana, suggest that companies investing in personal branding of their employees may gain substantial financial benefits. As the existing research has been focused on particular populations, we observe that those personal branders belong to industries or roles conducive or indifferent to an individual's engaging in personal branding activities. It is logical to assume that some industries or roles, such as defense or police agents, may be less conducive to personal branding or even precluding of such activities. We expose the specific occupations studied, categorized by the degree of conduciveness for personal branding and the type of studied population, in Table ​ Table2 2 .

Samples studied in the reviewed literature, categorized by the degree of conduciveness for personal branding and the type of studied population.

While a greater number of articles studying executives, firm owners and high-profile political figures was expected, since much management research often begins with the upper echelons, the amount of papers on journalists' personal branding was surprising. We attribute such interest to the fact that journalism of one of the areas most impacted by the advances of social media, with the role and career of journalists currently being in a flux (Holton and Molyneux, 2017 ). It is worthwhile noting that, according to Brems et al. ( 2016 ), freelance journalists are more likely to engage in self-promotion and share personal information than employed journalists. This points to differences in personal branding behaviors even within a specific professional area.

Processes of personal branding

Several models are discussed in the reviewed literature regarding the process of personal branding, with a total of 29 papers. Some researchers quote the models from the popular literature, such as Aruda's “extract, express, and exude” (Chen, 2013 , p. 334), or the three-step model by McNally and Speak: “(1) identify the areas where your competencies matter; (2) examine your standards and values; (3) define your style” (Gander, 2014 , p. 101). Brooks and Anumudu ( 2016 ) examined the 10-step model used by the consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers to teach personal branding. Other researchers design own approaches such as Resnick et al.'s ( 2016 ) “4Ps” self-branding model. Drawing on our analysis of the reviewed papers, we single out the key processes involved in personal branding: raising self-awareness, needs analysis and positioning, constructing brand architecture, self-reflection and feedback-seeking, and sense-making.

Raising self-awareness

Self-awareness, introspection and critical skills (Lorgnier and O'Rourke, 2011 ) are viewed as essential for discovering the “inner self,” a combination of self-identity, personal values and beliefs, self-image, and personal aims (Kucharska, 2017 ). Self-discovery is the most common first assignment in personal branding courses, discussed in the reviewed literature, and scholars seem to agree that self-awareness is the initial step of the personal branding process (García Montero et al., 2014 ; Philbrick and Cleveland, 2015 ; Cederberg, 2017 ).

Needs analysis and positioning

Shepherd ( 2005 ) draws our attention to the apparent misalignment between the consumer-oriented approach, advocating for ignoring the “true self” and focusing only on the needs of the target audience, and the personal branding researchers, who advise not to change oneself and build upon individual strengths. He suggests a consensus through engaging in self-reflection vis-à-vis the target audience and the competitors. Two later studies empirically tested applicability of marketing concepts to personal branding in terms of focusing on the target audience and choosing the right positioning strategy. Parmentier et al. ( 2013 ) found that to achieve and signal one's capital in the desired organizational field it is necessary to comply with the principles of brand positioning (establishing both points of parity and points of differentiation) and person brand positioning (both fitting into expectations of the field and standing our from competitors in the field). The need for differentiation or uniqueness is highlighted in several papers (Chen, 2013 ; Gander, 2014 ; Cederberg, 2017 ). Such strategies may be specific to various organizational fields and roles. For instance, Parmentier and Fischer ( 2012 ) claim that specialization, high-level playing opportunities, revealing publically visible cues about self, and interaction with the audience are key personal branding strategies for professional athletes.

Impression management is the vehicle for positioning the personal brand (Labrecque et al., 2011 ; Khedher, 2015 ), which can be achieved through a combination of online and offline strategies. Online activities get the greatest focus from the personal branding scholars, given the changing nature of the economic and social environment and the shift toward digital work; “branding is inevitable when participating in an online environment” (Labrecque et al., 2011 , p. 48). Social media and Web 2.0 technology most often discussed in the reviewed literature are Twitter (13 papers), Facebook (6 papers), LinkedIn (5 papers), Instagram (3 papers), blogs (3 papers), and others (5 papers), such as MySpace, About.me, YouTube. As the role of social media in individual career management increases, digital storytelling also comes to the fore as a powerful signaling mechanism of one's worth in the labor market (Jones and Leverenz, 2017 ).

Constructing brand architecture

In studying professional image , Roberts ( 2005 ) suggested two facets of the construct: Desired professional image and perceived professional image . We adhere to this line of thinking. A personal brand comprises two key elements: Desired self and perceived identity. Desired self can be understood through the dynamic approach to studying work identity (Sveningsson and Alvesson, 2003 ; Alvesson et al., 2008 ). While McCall and Simmons ( 1978 ) conceptualized idealized self as how individuals perceived themselves according to internal values and needs, we posit desired self as how individuals want to be perceived by their target audience. Creating the personal brand is, therefore, similar to what Ibarra and Petriglieri ( 2010 ) described as “identity play,” understood as “the crafting and provisional trial of immature (i.e., as yet unelaborated) possible selves” (p. 13).

While most of the papers, discussing personal branding processes, focus on constructing and positioning desired self, only seven articles explicitly address the issue of the audience's perspective, or perceived identity , i.e., how in reality one's personal brand is perceived by others (e.g., Cederberg, 2017 ). In fact, we see this part of personal branding as the most important, as perceptions of others determine their actions toward us.

Gandini ( 2016 ) described personal branding as acquisition of reputation, so it is important to understand the concept of personal brand as both what we intend to project to the target audience (desired self), and that audience's reaction to it (perceived identity). Desired self and perceived identity will have all the brand image features, derived from the marketing science: attributes, attitudes, benefits (Keller, 1993 ), and personality (Aaker, 1997 ), which Manai and Holmlund ( 2015 ) refer to as “brand core,” comprised of core identity (education, skills, personality, values, experience, etc.), extended identity (abilities, attitudes, cultural aspects, etc.) and value proposition (functional, emotional, self-expressive and relationship benefits).

Self-reflection and feedback-seeking

These are the two processes that enable the individuals to do maintenance of their personal brands, ensuring their relevance, strength, and competitiveness. Both procure information on the personal brand, the former being internal and the latter—external. Khedher ( 2015 ) sees both reflexivity and feedback as integral pieces of the personal branding process. Despite being critical of the way personal branding is being imposed on the society, Wee and Brooks ( 2010 ) also see its benefits, as “personal branding strategies are clearly aimed at developing reflexivity because they encourage actors to engage in careful and critical self-assessment about their relative strengths and weaknesses” (p. 47), which is consistent with the research on narrated selfies by Eagar and Dann ( 2016 ), confirming that the sheer act of posting a narrated selfie may require a degree of reflexivity. Gioia et al. ( 2014 ) states that seeking confirmation on both positive and negative self-conceptions is a natural human behavior, based on the self-verification theory. The nature of the Web 2.0 environment where many personal branding activities take place presupposes a two-way interaction, including receiving feedback (Holton and Molyneux, 2017 ). Labrecque et al. ( 2011 ) considers feedback essential to close the gap between desired self and perceived identity, as it helps avoiding branding failure. Both self-reflection and feedback-seeking lead to greater self-awareness.

Sensemaking

As the labor environments become decontextualized, as a consequence of technological advances, people have an increased need to construct their working identities (Brooks and Anumudu, 2016 ). Cederberg ( 2017 ) is more categorical, specifying that “the purpose of a personal brand is to build an identity that associates specific emotions and perceptions with an individual while simultaneously managing these perceptions successfully” (p. 1). People make sense of their environment through their identity (Walsh and Gordon, 2008 ). Since identity is a collection of meanings attached to a person by self and others (Gecas, 1982 ), the intelligent career places the onus on the individual to make sense of those meanings. In reality, both individuals and the targets of their personal branding efforts engage in a process of reciprocal sense-making (Gioia et al., 2014 ).

We posit, therefore, that effective sense-making, feedback-seeking, self-reflection, and greater self-awareness lead to minimizing the gap between desired self and perceived identity, resulting in a stronger and more coherent personal brand.

Outcomes of personal branding

While many scholar position personal branding as a career success strategy (Parmentier et al., 2013 ; Brooks and Anumudu, 2016 ), the outcomes of personal branding are multifaceted and non-linear. Fifty-one papers specifically identified outcomes of personal branding. Labrecque et al. ( 2011 ), acknowledging the importance of career motivation, notes that personal branding can also be used in dating, friendships or merely self-expression. Rangarajan et al. ( 2017 ) suggested a list of tangible and intangible measures of the effectiveness of a personal brand in the business setting. We synthesize the outcomes in three categories: individual and organizational, where the individual ones can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Each category is discussed below. The number in brackets following the name of each category refers to the number of papers that discussed it (we coded “career success” as both intrinsic and extrinsic unless specified).

Individual intrinsic outcomes (18 papers)

One of the outcomes of personal branding is developing greater reflexivity (Khedher, 2015 ). This literature review leads us to conclude that effective personal branding requires self-awareness, feedback-seeking and sense-making, all of which lead to reflexivity in the attempt to position self-identity in the social environment. Some other specifically mentioned intrinsic outcomes are motivation (Ward and Yates, 2013 ), self-realization (Gandini, 2016 ), credibility and influence (Ward and Yates, 2013 ), and acquiring self-promotion skills (Edmiston, 2014 ). Therefore, we can also hypothesize that effective personal branding leads to greater self-evaluations (self-esteem and general self-efficacy) as defined by Chen et al. ( 2004 ).

Individual extrinsic outcomes (50 papers)

The majority of the reviewed papers determine the outcomes of personal branding either as furthering professional career (69%, n = 22) or creating some sort of social capital (78%, n = 25), be it power and influence (Ward and Yates, 2013 ; Zinko and Rubin, 2015 ; Hanusch and Bruns, 2017 ), enhanced visibility (Lee and Cavanaugh, 2016 ; Jaring and Bäck, 2017 ), or prestige (Milovanović et al., 2015 ). Twelve papers identify differentiation as an outcome, which could enable a connection with the target audience (Brems et al., 2016 ) and use that connection to receive a preferential treatment against those competing for same resources (Parmentier et al., 2013 ). Ten papers directly point to monetary outcomes of effective personal branding. (Hearn, 2008b ) summed up the outcomes of personal branding as, “the function of the branded self is purely rhetorical; its goal is to produce cultural value and, potentially, material profit” (p. 198).

Organizational outcomes (10 papers)

Despite the predominant view of personal branding from the position of the benefit for the person, there is emerging research linking employee branding with organizational performance. In a study of 225 Polish professionals, Kucharska and Dąbrowski ( 2016 ) found that sharing tacit knowledge, arguably a company's key competitive advantage in the knowledge economy, is positively correlated with personal branding, which is consistent with the exploratory findings of Vosloban ( 2012 ). Zinko and Rubin ( 2015 ) distill the organizational benefits to three elements: (a) predicting individuals' behaviors, (b) basking in the reflected glory of individuals, and (c) organizational signaling. This applies not only to heads of firms (Chen and Chung, 2016 ; Malhotra and Malhotra, 2016 ) or prominent figures in political parties (Neale et al., 2008 ), but to any employee as personal branding promotes the ideology of enterprise (Sturdy and Wright, 2008 ).

Integration and a conceptual model

Derived from the knowledge in the reviewed literature and the analysis presented above, a conceptual personal branding model emerges as a result. Figure ​ Figure3 3 demonstrates the relationships among the key elements of the model, each of which has been discussed above.

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Personal branding model.

By definition, personal branding is a dynamic construct, subject to ongoing adjustment and change. Personal brands need maintenance (Lorgnier and O'Rourke, 2011 ), i.e., persistent reassessment and monitoring (Cederberg, 2017 ), which is achieved through constantly repeating the processes described above. This is particularly relevant at the points of career transitions. Schlosser et al. ( 2017 ) found that “executives must revisit their personal brands, deciding how to best position their skills and knowledge and values within the context of their new < …> organizations” (p. 576) at each transitional stage. In a study of personal branding in organizational settings Sturdy and Wright ( 2008 ) discovered that consultants making a career transition into the corporate labor market need to “trade” their elite personal brand for one that is consistent with the new organization's culture, in order to be effective. When personal branding happens online, the process stages are not discrete and sequential but overarching (Tarnovskaya, 2017 ), so “when a personal brand is born online, its enforcement and maintenance become critical immediately” (p. 33). All of this evidence leads us to conclude that personal branding is an ongoing process, requiring constant re-evaluation and maintenance.

Ethical and social considerations

A particular set of findings deals with the ethical and social considerations of personal branding. Irrespective of the definitions, theory, or the model, scholars debate the ethical nature of the branded self in contemporary careers. We have identified four directions of such debate: egalitarianism vs. elitism of personal branding, commodification of self, blurring the line between the personal and professional lives, and teaching personal branding. We proceed to examine these in more detail.

Lair et al. ( 2005 ) were the first researchers to raise the ethical questions associated with personal branding, focusing on three areas: gender, race, and culture. They were primarily analyzing at the US labor market, but, e.g., Saleem and Iglesias Bedós ( 2013 ) also questioned across the board applicability of personal branding practices in various cultural contents. However, such differences also benefit the individual. Although in a very specific industry of sexual services, Phua and Caras ( 2008 ) point out that ethnicity, race, or nationality can be a differentiating factor in personal branding, while gender not being statistically significant. Content analysis of Instagram photos of Olympic athletes revealed that sexually suggestive photos are most popular (Geurin-Eagleman and Burch, 2016 ). While this lends itself to a discussion on morality of personal branding methods, it also leads us to the conclusion that gender, race and culture issues associated with personal branding are situation-dependent.

The ethical debate of today centers around the concept of commodification with polarized opinions on personal branding as the new savoir-être of the new shared, digital and freelance economy (Gandini, 2016 ) vis-à-vis the self being “a commodity for sale in the labor market, which must generate its own rhetorically persuasive packaging, its own promotional skin, within the confines of the dominant corporate imaginary” (Hearn, 2008b , p. 201). This pervasive messaging to brand oneself may be misused by mass media, e.g., reality television, to take advantage of most “precarious individuals and groups” to expose their insecurities to the public in exchange for creating a stronger personal brand (Hearn, 2008a ). Sociologists are concerned that not only our selves become commodified, but also a new type of labor—the digital work of managing own professional identity online—is being thrust on the workers in the realities of post-Fordist capitalism. Vallas and Cummins ( 2015 ) even use the word “coercive” to describe the vigor with which personal branding is being introduced to the workforce. They also question the applicability of marketing techniques used for selling shampoo or washing machines to branding individuals. Yet, in their research they found that outward rejection of personal branding was rare, and in general the interviewees demonstrated an “active embrace of branding discourse, coupled with an acknowledgment that one ought to engage in a determined effort to refine one's brand as a condition of one's success and personal fulfillment” (p. 311).

Yet, the requirements of the “knowledge” or “reputation” economy blur the lines between the personal and professional. Labrecque et al. ( 2011 ) found that “separating social and professional worlds appears nearly impossible without the proper mechanisms for control” (p. 49). Several studies were conducted around the reporter profession. Conducting interviews with reporters, Molyneux ( 2015 ) discovered a sense of uneasiness as they lacked knowledge and skills of balancing professional and personal identities with no clear guidance from their employers. We see that in this specific organizational field, reporters are not aggressively pursuing personal branding, and particularly newspaper reporters being the least motivated to do so (Schultz and Sheffer, 2012 ). The hypothesis here could be that professions that are most dependent on social media and Web 2.0 technologies require a higher degree of personal branding, while it is less of a necessity for more traditional fields, which is consistent with the research in the entrepreneurial environment (Pihl, 2013 ; Gandini, 2016 ). Examining personal brand positioning of journalists on Twitter, Ottovordemgentschenfelde ( 2017 ) discovered that they had to manage three identities at the same time—organizational, professional, and personal. This expands the existing role of a worker and adds additional tasks to perform without lowering the employer's performance expectations. This creates a conflict that many employees may not know how to manage. Unfortunately, the popular literature, urging everyone to delve into personal branding, provides little advice on how to deal with such quandaries (Pihl, 2013 ).

Another ethical point related to the protecting the private space is dissemination of private information. Marwick and boyd ( 2011 ) found that social media users operate within the assumption that their imagined audiences are bounded, while, in reality, the cyberspace is limitless. This dialectic pressure between the need to expose oneself in order to self-brand and the need to control own content and the personal boundaries is one of the findings in the study of Labrecque et al. ( 2011 ).

Finally, teaching personal branding is a point of concern, too. The issue of the curricula for personal branding and the practical challenge of preparing people to be effective personal branders were raised as early as 2005 in academic sources (Shepherd, 2005 ). Out of the 100 reviewed articles, 11 deal with teaching personal branding, suggesting various curricula (Edmiston, 2014 ; Johnson, 2017 ) and estimating effectiveness of different assignments in teaching personal branding skills (McCorkle and McCorkle, 2012 ; Wetsch, 2012 ; Stanton and Stanton, 2013 ; Jones and Leverenz, 2017 ). This review demonstrated that there is limited understanding and concurrence on the concepts and processes; therefore teaching unproven ideas raises ethical issues in itself. While some studies report teaching personal branding as a means to developing accompanying skills, such as awareness of online communication issues or metacognitive, creative, and critical thinking skills (Lorgnier and O'Rourke, 2011 ), most of the papers mentioned in this section teach personal branding as a core subject. For better or worse, the popularity of personal branding has created an industry, which is ahead of the academic thought. Brooks and Anumudu ( 2016 ) found that “trainers, career and vocational development consultants, and personal branding enthusiasts publish books and articles and conduct workshops to teach individuals to build their personal brands to become more employable and successful” (p. 24). The contemporary career frameworks (boundaryless, portfolio, intelligent, Protean) share the same underlying assumption that career changes will become more frequent and personal agency will increase. Therefore, such individuals need to be supported by bona fide training on how to thrive in the modern employment environment. The demand has already been vocalized to identify the skills required for effective personal branding (Manai and Holmlund, 2015 ), develop the content of such training (Lorgnier and O'Rourke, 2011 ), and provide guidance on the decision to engage in personal branding vs. remaining digitally invisible (Kleppinger and Cain, 2015 ). However, furthering the ethical debate, Pagis and Ailon ( 2017 ) point out that learning the complex personal branding skills may not be accessible to all.

Discussion and future directions

This systematic review is the first attempt to look at the academic literature pertaining to personal branding comprehensively. Having reviewed the selected 100 papers, we have (a) provided a definition of personal branding and a personal brand that is more comprehensive, rigorous and detailed than the existing ones and that can help to distinguish these concepts from related ones, and (b) offered a conceptual model capturing inputs, processes, and outputs of personal branding. These findings and this systematic literature review as a whole suggest important directions for future research on personal branding that we discuss below.

Developing a new measurement instrument of personal branding

While many authors have indicated the need for aligning similar concepts across the related fields (Zinko and Rubin, 2015 ), as well as developing a comprehensive personal (re-) branding framework (Resnick et al., 2016 ; Schlosser et al., 2017 ), only in this paper we have provided an extension to the existing body of research by offering an integrative definition of personal branding . By following Podsakoff et al. ( 2016 ) rigorous approach toward greater construct clarity through identifying its key attributes and positioning personal branding as a self-standing concept in the nomological field, we outlined its distinct differentiating properties. The introduction of the integrative definition of personal branding warrants development of a new measurement instrument of personal branding. While Chen and Chung ( 2016 ) already developed a scale to measure the personal brand of a business CEO, we question its validity, due to lack of rigor in the process of scale development and validation. Therefore we hope that the new definition will stimulate much needed personal branding scale development and validation for moving the field further.

Empirically testing the proposed personal branding model

When developing a conceptual personal branding model, we found that 26 papers discussed the antecedents of personal branding, and 51 papers discussed the outcomes, while only 29 papers focused on the processes. This points toward lacunae in academic knowledge of personal branding that needs further investigation. Understanding the antecedents and outcomes of personal branding is critical for further theory building and field research. By providing an integrative model we offer fresh avenues for future research and join other scholars' calls for empirical testing of conceptual models of personal branding (Bendisch et al., 2013 ; Dumitriu and Ciobanu, 2015 ; Johns and English, 2016 ).

Studying personal branding in the organizational context

Our review reveals that a small group of researchers specifically point in the direction of studying the person vs. organization tension resulting from personal branding (Hughes, 2007 ; Bendisch et al., 2013 ; Karaduman, 2013 ; Nolan, 2015 ; Zinko and Rubin, 2015 ; Ottovordemgentschenfelde, 2017 ). Only few studies related to the organizational/corporate setting exist (Korzynski, 2012 ; Vosloban, 2012 ; Kucharska and Dąbrowski, 2016 ). Given the discussed tensions between personal and organizational, the managerial attitudes toward employee personal branding call for further research of organizational practices (e.g., guidelines, communication) and employees' activities (e.g., co-branding, signaling). Hence, it may be opportune to converge the studies of careers and human resources management, which traditionally have been apart. Although novel and unconventional, it may prove necessary. Firms must embrace the new reality of workers with strong personal brands overreaching the organizational boundaries. For instance, Kucharska ( 2017 ) suggested that the co-branding concept is also applicable to personal brands. So, one of the areas of future research could be examining whether constructing a working identity through personal branding is a source of greater employee loyalty, intrapreneurship intentions, innovation, new clients, and an indication of a stronger employer brand.

Studying the sustainability and transferability of personal branding

This literature review shows that there is a host of issues regarding the veracity of personal branding (Hughes, 2007 ), portability of personal brands (Parmentier et al., 2013 ), and their sustainability (Bendisch et al., 2013 ). We wish to see further contributions to the ongoing scholarly debate about whether having multiple personal brands is possible, how to adapt one's personal brand when changing employers, and how to avoid the spillover from private social media activities into the professional sphere. Furthermore, up to date the research has only focused on the industries that are most conducive for personal branding. We do not know much about the challenges of creating and maintaining personal brands in settings that are not conducive or outright preclusive of self-promotion, at least, to the outside world. The limited amount of industries and roles studied to date, as well as small samples in those studies, renders scarce opportunities to generalize the knowledge and make conclusive statements about extrapolating the findings. Additionally, the majority of the empirical studies took place in European, Australian, or North American settings, so the possible research directions could lead scholars to test the theoretical premises of personal branding in other cultures.

We conclude that the academic interest in the concept of personal branding is growing, and that a better understanding of how a personal brand is constructed and managed in the modern labor markets characterized by frequent job changes, project-based work engagements, and increasing job insecurity is needed. This literature review contributes to the field of personal branding by consolidating the extant research, proposing an integrative definition of personal branding and personal brand, developing a conceptual personal branding model, and discussing future research directions that could stimulate the advancement of our knowledge on the topic.

By showing that personal branding is a distinct construct that spans a number of disciplines, we point to an opportunity for a closer integration of traditionally individual-driven career efforts and organization-driven human resources practices to help the employees create effective personal brands, benefitting both the individual and the firm. This paper casts but a glimpse of light into the confusion and uncertainty around the merging spheres of personal and professional. Research and practice have a chance to expand the theory and provide guidance on successfully navigating the current employment reality.

Author contributions

SG is a PhD candidate, who is the main author of the submitted paper. SK and EL are PhD supervisors. SG was responsible for identifying relevant papers under the supervision of SK, who has expertise in literature review writing. SG also did the initial analysis of the paper and wrote the initial draft. In the consequent process SK and EL helped to develop the paper toward the final submission.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02238/full#supplementary-material

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Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN : 1061-0421

Article publication date: 28 July 2022

Issue publication date: 19 January 2023

This paper aims to provide an integrated model of nation branding, propose a comprehensive definition of this concept and differentiate between nation branding and other related constructs.

Design/methodology/approach

To analyze nation branding academic literature, this paper used a systematic literature review approach to investigate academic studies related to nation and country branding. All relevant studies on the nation and country branding between 1996 and mid-2021 were extracted from six selected databases, including Elsevier’s Science Direct, Emerald, Sage, Wiley, Springer and Jstor, by using a Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis process. The reviewed papers were coded and analyzed to extract themes and concepts.

The results of this paper show that nation branding is influenced by six main factors, namely, business and marketing, political, social and cultural, economic and labor, international and environmental factors; it comprises one key component, that is, nation branding; it results in five major consequences, including social, economic and financial, business, international and political consequences, and is moderated mainly by socio-demographic variables. Additional contributions of this paper are the proposal of a comprehensive definition of nation branding based on the extant literature and identifying nation branding differences with other constructs that sometimes have been previously used interchangeably with nation branding. This paper concludes with suggestions for future research in the field.

Originality/value

This paper uses the themes and concepts uncovered by the analysis to conceptualize nation branding, provides an integrated model of nation branding and distinguishes it from other related branding concepts. This paper also summarizes what nation branding is versus what it is not.

  • Nation branding
  • Country branding
  • Place branding
  • Systematic literature review
  • PRISMA process

Rojas-Méndez, J.I. and Khoshnevis, M. (2023), "Conceptualizing nation branding: the systematic literature review", Journal of Product & Brand Management , Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 107-123. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-04-2021-3444

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Research-Methodology

Increasing Importance of Brands and Branding: a brief literature review

Importance of Brands

The definition of a brand image has been proposed as “the total, global impression of the information that accumulates in the memory of consumers in relation to a band” (Franzen and Moriarty, 2008, p. 241). The terms of branding in particular has been defined as “the process of continuous struggle between procedures ad customers to define the promise and meaning” (Healey, 2008, p.6).

The issues of increasing importance of brands and branding in modern global marketplace have been addressed by a wide range of authors and the most noteworthy contributions to the issue have been made by authors such as Hill et al (2006), Franzen and Moriarty (2008), Clifton and Ahmad (2009), and Kotler and Pfoersch (2010).

Interestingly, Okonkwo (2010, p.9) reasons that “the origin of brands comes from the times when early cattle-rearing men stamped their ownership on their livestock by burning a mark of their name or identity on the cattle, to distinguish one cattle-farmer’s stock from another’s”. However, according to Franzen and Moriarty (2008) the importance of branding has seen a significant boost during the past several decades, and reasons for this have been offered as increase in the level of well-being of consumers (Inkpen and Ramaswamy, 2006), increasing role of media (Steers and Nardon, 2008), and innovations in marketing communications (Alessandri, 2009).

Abbing (2010) addresses the issues associated with the shift in the role and meaning of branding in a detailed manner and presents his findings in terms of differences in branding in the past and present in the following manner:

Branding Past and Present

Source: Abbing (2010)

In justification of increasing importance of brands and branding secondary data authors argue that “the intangible elements of the combined market capitalisation of Standard and Poor’s 500 companies has increased at around 80%, compared with some 30% 20 years ago, and it is likely to grow even further as tangible distinctions between businesses become less sustainable” (Clifton and Ahmad, 2009, p.5). Considerable increase in intangible elements of major multinational businesses can justly be credited to increasing importance of brands and branding in modern global marketplace.

Moreover, to further justify this stand authors mention official statistical data according to which “the 100 most valuable brands in 2008 were worth over $1.2 trillion, which would make them the 11 th biggest country in the world in terms of GDP, ahead of India and just behind of Brazil” (Clifton and Ahmad, 2009, p.6).

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Clifton, R. & Ahmad, S. (2009) “Brands and Branding” John Wiley & Sons

Franzen, G. & Moriarty, S. (2008) “The Science and Art of Branding” M.E. Sharpe

Healey, M. (2008) “What is Branding?” Rockport Publishers

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Okonkwo, U. (2007) “Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques” Palgrave Macmillan

Steers, R.M. & Nardon, L. (2008). “Managing in the Global Economy”, ME Sharpe

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Fashion Branding and Consumer Behaviors pp 7–27 Cite as

Luxury Fashion Branding: Literature Review, Research Trends, and Research Agenda

  • Tsan-Ming Choi PhD 2  
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I examine in this review paper the literature on luxury fashion branding. I classify the literature into three research types, namely qualitative empirical research, quantitative empirical research, and analytical modeling research. Research scope and core findings on each reviewed literature are presented. Insights on research trends are derived. A few future research areas for scientific studies are identified and formulated as a research agenda. I believe that the research findings can help both practitioners and academicians to better understand the current state of knowledge in terms of academic research on luxury fashion branding. The proposed research agenda, which include topics such as consumer welfare, can help stimulate new applied and basic scientific research on the topic.

  • Luxury fashion
  • Fashion branding
  • Conspicuous fashion
  • Literature review
  • Future research
  • Research agenda
  • Research trend
  • Consumer welfare

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Notation for the types of research that are reviewed: [Editorial], [QLE = Qualitative Empirical], [QTE = Quantitative Empirical], [AM = Analytical Modeling]

Al-Mutawa, F. S. (2013). Consumer-generated representations: Muslim women recreating western luxury fashion brand meaning through consumption. Psychology & Marketing, 30 (3), 236–246 (QLE).

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Arrigo, E. (2011). Fashion, luxury and design: Store brand management and global cities identity. Emerging Issues in Management, 1, 55–67 (QLE).

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Carrigan, M., Moraes, C., & McEachern, M. (2013). From conspicuous to considered consumption: A harm chain approach to the responsibilities of luxury fashion brands. Journal of Marketing Management , in press (QLE).

Chen, J., & Kim, S. (2013). A comparison of Chinese consumers’ intentions to purchase luxury fashion brands for self-use and for gifts. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 25 (1), 29–44 (QTE).

Choi, T. M., Liu, S. C., Pang, K. M., & Chow, P. S. (2008). A study of the shopping behavior of individual travellers from the mainland China. Tourism Management, 29, 811–820 (QTE).

Crane, D. (1997). Globalization, organizational size, and innovation in the French luxury fashion industry: Production of culture theory revisited. Poetics, 24 (6), 393–414 (QLE).

Edgell, S. (1992). Veblen and post‐veblen studies of conspicuous consumption: Social stratification and fashion. International Review of Sociology, 3 (3), 205–227 (QLE).

Emond P. L. (2009). Managing fashion and luxury companies. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 13 (4), 582– 584 (Editorial).

Fionda, A. M., & Moore, C. M. (2009). The anatomy of the luxury fashion brand. Journal of Brand Management, 16, 347–363 (QLE).

Gao, L., Norton, M. J. T., Zhang, Z. M., & To, C. K. (2009). Potential niche markets for luxury fashion goods in China. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 13 (4), 514–526 (QTE).

Heine, K. (2010). The personality of luxury fashion brands. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 1 (3), 154–163 (QLE).

Jung, J., & Shen, D. (2011). Brand equity of luxury fashion brands among Chinese and U.S. young female consumers. Journal of East-West Business, 17 (1), 48–69 (QTE).

Kamal, S., & Chu, S. C. (2013). Materialism, attitudes, and social media usage and their impact on purchase intention of luxury fashion goods among American and Arab young generations. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 13 (1), 27–40 (QTE).

Kim, A. J., & Ko, E. (2010). Impacts of luxury fashion brand’s social media marketing on customer relationship and purchase intention. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 1 (3), 164–171 (QTE).

Kim, A. J., & Ko, E. (2012). Do social media marketing activities enhance customer equity? An empirical study of luxury fashion brand. Journal of Business Research, 65 (10), 1480–1486 (QTE).

Kim, H. Y., Yoo, J. J., Choi, D., Kim J., & Johnson, K. K. P. (2011). Personal luxury values associated with fashion brand consumption: An exploratory analysis of demographic variations in the United States. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 2 (3), 130–138 (QTE).

Kim, J., Kim, J. E., & Johnson, K. K. P. (2010a). The customer-salesperson relationship and sales effectiveness in luxury fashion stores: The role of self monitoring. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 1 (1), 230–239 (QTE).

Kim, K. H., Ko, E., Xu, B., & Han, Y. (2012). Increasing customer equity of luxury fashion brands through nurturing consumer attitude. Journal of Business Research, 65 (10), 1495–1499 (QTE).

Kim, M., Kim, S., & Lee, Y. (2010b). The effect of distribution channel diversification of foreign luxury fashion brands on consumers’ brand value and loyalty in the Korean market. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 17 (4), 286–293 (QTE).

Ko, E., & Megehee, C. M. (2012). Fashion marketing of luxury brands: Recent research issues and contributions. Journal of Business Research, 65 (10), 1395–1398 (Editorial).

Li, G., Li, G., & Kambele, Z. (2012). Luxury fashion brand consumers in China: Perceived value, fashion lifestyle, and willingness to pay. Journal of Business Research, 65 (10), 1516–1522 (QTE).

Liu, S. C., Choi, T. M., Au, R., & Hui, C. L. (2011). A study on individual tourists from the Chinese mainland to Hongkong: Implications for tourism marketing in fashion. Tourism Economics, 17, 1287–1309 (QTE).

Matthiesen, I. M., & Phau, I. (2010). Brand image inconsistencies of luxury fashion brands: A buyer-seller exchange situation model of Hugo Boss Australia. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 14 (2), 202– 218 (QTE).

Miller, K. W., & Mills, M. K. (2012). Contributing clarity by examining brand luxury in the fashion market. Journal of Business Research, 65 (10), 1471–1479 (QTE).

Moore, C. M., & Birtwistle, G. (2004). The Burberry business model: Creating an international luxury fashion brand. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 32 (8), 412–422 (QLE).

Moore, C. M., & Birtwistle, G. (2005). The nature of parenting advantage in luxury fashion retailing—the case of Gucci group NV. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33 (4), 256–270 (QLE)

Moore, C. M., Doherty, A. M., & Doyle, S. A. (2010). Flagship stores as a market entry method: The perspective of luxury fashion retailing. European Journal of Marketing, 44 (1/2), 139–161 (QLE).

Morace, F. (2010). The dynamics of luxury and basic-ness in post-crisis fashion. Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, 1 (1), 87–112 (QLE).

Nobbs, K., Moore, C. M., & Sheridan, M. (2012). The flagship format within the luxury fashion market. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 40 (12), 920–934 (QLE).

Savelli, E. (2011). Role of brand management of the luxury fashion brand in the global economic crisis: A case study of Aeffe group. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 2 (3), 170–179 (QLE).

Souiden, N., M’Saad, B., & Pons, K. (2011). A cross-cultural analysis of consumers’ conspicuous consumption of branded fashion accessories. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 23 (5), 329–343 (QLE)

Stankeviciute, R., & Hoffmann, J. (2010). The impact of brand extension on the parent luxury fashion brand: The cases of Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Jimmy Choo. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 1 (2), 119–128 (QLE).

Tereyagoglu, N., & Veeraraghavan, S. (2012). Selling to conspicuous consumers: Pricing, production, and sourcing decisions. Management Science , in print (AM).

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Venkatesh, A., Joy, A., Sherry, J. F., & Deschenes, J. (2010). The aesthetics of luxury fashion, body and identify formation. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 20, 459–470 (QLE).

Wall, R. S., & Large, J. (2010). Jailhouse frocks: Locating the public interest in policing counterfeit luxury fashion goods. British Journal of Criminology, 50 (6), 1094–1116 (QLE).

Woodside, A. G. (2012). Economic psychology and fashion marketing theory appraising veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, 3 (2), 55–60 (QLE).

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Yoo, B., & Lee, S. H. (2012). Asymmetrical effects of past experiences with genuine fashion luxury brands and their counterfeits on purchase intention of each. Journal of Business Research, 65 (10), 1507–1515 (QTE).

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Choi, TM. (2014). Luxury Fashion Branding: Literature Review, Research Trends, and Research Agenda. In: Choi, TM. (eds) Fashion Branding and Consumer Behaviors. International Series on Consumer Science. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-0277-4_2

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Literature review: branding

Literature review: branding

Literature review: branding IntroductionThey say the best way to enter one’s heart is through stomach. And today, when the restaurant industry is booming and companies are vying for competitive advantage, the above saying can be reshaped for further use – the best way to enter customers’ hearts is through branding the company in their brains! Yes, branding is very much important in the restaurant sector, because eating business is a live package amid multiple competition, where each company has to do a lot to align their product with the interests of the customers – which range from immediate gratification to long-term implications like developing penchants for certain range of dishes, etc. Understandably, this package of customers’ demands does not necessarily limit itself within the quality of the food, but involves anything that is associated with it.

The more the product package of the company fulfils the package of demands of the customers, the more the company establishes its name in the minds of the customer, consequently which gets interpreted as a trusted friend or aid to ‘food solution’! Simply put, branding here works as an invisible tool, which would create a situation where the name of the cook (the company) would trigger all the eating stimuli in the connoisseurs (customers) instantly. Thus the journey of a product together with branding would look like below:Figure – 1 (by author, 2008)The figure above evokes a few basic clarifications about branding, before this system can be incorporated in a company, where are the issues are:1.      Definition of Branding2.      Importance of branding3.

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      Brand equity4.      Brand loyalty5.      Brand awareness6.      Brand value7.

      Brand personality8.      How a strong brand is created What is a Brand?As Mary Brown, a creative director of Marketing Angel would prefer to define ‘brand’ as a “term that has evolved to mean the enduring emotional association one has with a particular company or product” (McCall, 2003), the famous copywriter and ad agency founder David Ogilvy would prefer to go into a detail – ‘brand’ is an “intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, price, its history, reputation, and the way it’s advertised” (Brand, 2008).  In short, brand could be anything like “symbol, words, or mark that distinguishes a product or company from its competitors”(Brand Definition, 2008). And there is more, like “a brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of these, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors” (Kotler et.

al., 1998). These definitions clear the fact that branding has to be the process that creates and disseminates the brand name, where it can even consider a whole corporate identity as a product (a service or a concept can always be considered as a product).Definition of Branding”Branding is the sum total of a company’s identity – from its name and logo to every piece of communication”(Brandguru).

There is a plethora of definitions on branding, where some focus on one single point as the most important factor, while some others generalize the issue by including multiple points to define branding. Thus, one needs to have multiple views on the definition of branding to have a comprehensive view, besides choosing the right one applicable for restaurant industry. “Branding means starting with your values and beliefs, projecting these into everything you do, and going forward from there”, says Susan Dunn, the EQ Coach (Dunn, 2007), while some would prefer to say, “branding is generally used to describe the company’s visual identity” (Branding, 2006).According to Mud Valley, a brand marketing company, branding is “the creation, development and maintenance of a mutually–valuable relationship with a strategically selected group of customers, through the medium of a fresh and compelling elaborated proposition that is delivered consistently over time” (Definition, 2004).

This definition looks like a collage of several ideas, which needs to be defined separately. For example, “mutually valuable friendship” connotes to a situation where it might be a case of customer retention through monopoly, or certain contractual terms. This, however, leaves room for argument like whether customers would like to be bonded in this manner, or what if the ‘imposed’ friendship annoys the customers. However, the phrase, ‘strategically selected group of customers’ carries sense, as it points towards prior evaluation of the potential of the customers and identifying the prospective zone of business out of the whole lot and the approach turns out as ‘selected service to a selected group of people’, where privileged service stands as branding.

The last part of this definition seems to be thrusting on consistency in marketing communication with customers.The above definition looks unimpressive due to its complex nature. “Today’s modern concept of branding grew out of the consumer packaged goods industry and the process of branding has come to include much, much more than just creating a way to identify a product or company”, says Dave Dolak, a branding professional and an author. He observes that modern branding is about “creating emotional attachment to products and companies, where branding efforts create a feeling of involvement, a sense of higher quality, and an aura of intangible qualities that surround the brand name, mark, or symbol” (Dolak, 2001).

Thus, the successful branding should be able to1.      Deliver the message clearly.2.      Confirm the credibility of the company.

3.      Connect the target prospects emotionally.4.      Motivate the buyers.

5.      Concretize the user loyalty (Lake, 2008).In any case, overall branding can “also stretch to a logo, symbol, or even design features” (Bizhelp, 2008).  Taking cue from the above ideas, this can be said that branding is an attempt to create a wholesome bonding between the company and its customers:Figure – 2 (by author, 2008) The diagram above clearly shows that branding literally bonds the customer with a product in several ways – the end result of which brings in secured sales for the company.

This amply proves the significance of branding in the life of a company – if it wants to grow more, it cannot do without branding.Importance of brandingEven as globalization providing an unlimited horizon for companies, the competition among them has never been so intense. According to Allan Moss, Managing Director of Macquarie Bank, “globalisation is inevitable and pervasive” (Moss, 2002). It has made new technologies and cheap labour available everywhere.

Accordingly “companies are turning to their brands as their only source for competitive advantage” (Blackcoffee, 2008). Branding today is that integral part of marketing, which gives it more competitive edge, where it involves everyone, associated with the trade like “clients, prospects, vendors or employees” (Baldwin, 2003). Branding creates an image of the company, gives it a dynamic character, thereby influencing the customers to associate themselves with that image or to be a proud carrier of it. Under the context it would not be inappropriate to use an old saying in the restaurant business – “you sell the sizzle – not the steak” (Siebert, 2006).

Understandably, it speaks of highlighting the distinguished identity, which is invaluable for a company who wants to stay ahead in the race.Talking of identity, the brand holds aloft the identity of a company, sends its theme message to all, thereby establishing its outlook in the chosen market, be it small or big (The Importance, 2008). It is that live instrument out in the open that can reach customers anytime and retain them. Besides, branding has more avenues to establish a company than the actual marketing.

It’s easy for the customers to remember a logo or the cogent catch line of a company, which would keep their interest on the products behind the brand all time alive.The importance of branding can be felt if someone observes the surge of many non-essential commodities, it plays on the emotional plane of the buyers and converts such products as ‘must-have’ items. Coca-Cola or Pepsi serve great examples of that.Thus the experts consider branding as “the most important facet of any business – beyond product, distribution, pricing, or location”, where a “brand provides a concrete descriptor to customers and competitors alike” (King, 2005), besides creating a customer base and constantly attempting to retain the most part of it.

Therefore, it can be assumed that branding plays the true catalyst between business and its growth, through its various contributions in the sphere of marketing.  This is why it is an integral part of the advertising too. “To leave out branding from your marketing efforts is like committing suicide in your industry”, says business writer Lynne A. Saarte, who observes that no company, be it “small business entrepreneur or a Fortune 500 conglomerate” can do without branding (Saarte, 2008).

Figure – 3 (by author, 2008)The diagram above attempts to cover the usual roles of branding, yet it is incomplete and would ever remain incomplete due to the fact that it impossible to describe how a brand can bridge so many people from so many diverse cultures or taste. The true potential of branding can only be imagined.  Thus, this is a fact that in modern times, branding has become an invaluable organ of the company. “In today’s marketplace, where consumers have more options than ever before, anyone who thinks brands aren’t important is kidding himself”, observes Rick Van Warner, while describing the setback of KFC at Dallas in 1996, when it neglected proper branding of their ‘home-meal-replacement’ and eventually had to close the project.

“Simply put, don’t underestimate the power of a strong brand”, says Rick (Warner, 1996). He points at brand miscalculation, which can drain millions of dollars from business, while highlighting the importance of branding in restaurant business. Business commentator and writer Steve Gray puts it in another way – “The brand and the resultant image it projects can be vital to ensuring you have a stable platform to launch the business from, and it also builds pride in knowing you have a rock solid image to project” (Gray, 2008).Brand EquityWhen a brand stands as decisive factor between two identical products, then one has to admit that it adds some value to the product – that might be intangible, yet that would prove effective in the tangible turnout of higher sales! Therefore, how much a product can earn over its identical competitor by virtue of its brand, determines its brand equity.

It can be a neat result of many factors like years of experience, proven track record of quality, legacy, emotional bondage and company outlook, where it adds more value to the product and thereby helps the product to score over its identical competitors. Without brand equity a product loses its competitive advantage, and for that matter some companies “measure brand equity relying on financial measures of brand performance” (Dobney, 2007). Other experts also hold a similar view that  “a brand is nearly worthless unless it enjoys some equity in the marketplace” (Dolak, 2001), or “building brand equity is crucial for any retailer, big or small” (Hurlbut, 2008).Figure – 4The brand management chain (Based on Wood, 2000; Kapferer, 2004) Integration of the theoretical constructs brand equity (Aaker, 1996) and brand orientation could be instrumental in the understanding of brand value, where brand equity commands more attention as it aims for generating long-term values for the company by “understanding the conceptual basis for the value of brand and its implications” (Keller, 1993).

“Brand equity is an intangible asset that depends on associations made by the consumer” (Brand Equity, 2007). The significance of brand equity has grown in leaps and bounds in modern times, and thus is now seen as the outcome of a series of activities among brand assets, brand strength and brand value. The above diagram of brand management chain thus subdivides the processes under brand assets, brand strength and brand value, where brand assets refer to the information linked to the brand in customers’ memory, while customer responses are referred to as brand strength and their out come in terms of profit is taken as brand value of the company.Brand loyaltyBrand loyalty refers to the customers’ consistent preference to buy a selected brand in a particular product category, irrespective of other provocative options presented by the competitor of that brand.

This situation occurs after the customers make a trial run of the brand and get convinced about the efficacy of that brand towards fulfilling certain needs of theirs and decide to buy that brand again and again. That practice “forms the habit and thus customers continue purchasing the same brand because the product is safe and familiar” (Giddens, 2002). It is thus a kind of faith of the customers on the brand metamorphoses into habit that rides over other considerations like price rise or additional features available in the brands belonging to same category.According to a brand loyalty promotion company, “the top 20% of customers generate around 80% of the profit of a brand, and it is five times cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one” (Why, 2008).

Loyalty promotional companies like these, therefore thrust on the outcomes like increasing the sales among loyal customers, besides increasing the frequency of visits and converting non-loyal customers turning into loyal customers.The advent of such companies proves that brand loyalty is a very important factor in both increasing and retaining the sales. A brand can enjoy several competitive advantages over its competitors by having loyal customers. First, it ensures high sales, second, it erases any agony with the price-rise of the product, third, it generates positive campaigns from the buyers who spread their good experience with the product, and fourth, the loyal customers care little about promotional campaigns of that brand and thus save the company expenditure on advertising, marketing and distribution (Gibbens, 2002).

However, brand loyalty stems out of the quality of a product and its successful projection to the customers. Effective branding creates loyalty (Baldwin, 2003). It embeds the thought of a particular brand in its category. Loyalty to a particular brand generates mostly out of two situations – one, when applied rationality of humans opts to include the brand into its future strategies, and two, when applied emotion overtakes the rationality to respond to the call of the heart.

This state of affairs clears the possible customer approaches to a product, where they would avail either the call of the brain or the call of the heart or both at a time.This situation speaks of the dual responsibility of branding too, where on one hand it should influence the rationality of its prospective customers, while invoking the emotional response among them on the other. As for example, a particular meal in a restaurant might declare about a possible health benefit with the inclusion of tomato in it by saying, “lycopene in tomato lowers the risk of cancer”, thereby influencing the rationality of the customers, and at the same time it can evoke the nostalgia in customers by labelling the meal as “grandma’s special recipe”.Brand loyalty is more or less associated with customer behaviour, which is ever dynamic and thus commands constant monitoring.

Furthermore, the expansion of market in the era of globalization and digital information, the consumer behaviour is getting tougher to understand. A model that “examines the significance of content, context and infrastructure in determining customer loyalty”, comes out with the inference that “customer attitude is influenced by belief about brand equity (value), which is affected by the content, context and infrastructure” and “customer loyalty is determined by attitude and belief about the context in which the products or services are offered” (Lu & Lin, 2002). Thus the following diagram can brief this state of affairs:Figure – 5 (by author, 2008) It is understood then, to enjoy a situations like above, the companies need to create a quality product, project it properly, raise its brand equity and maintain the customer relationship through all possible waysBrand Awareness:Brand awareness is “a gauge of marketing effectiveness measured by the ability of a customer to recognize and/or recall a name, image or other mark associated with a particular brand” (Waters, 2008). It’s when people recognize and recall the brand-owner through the brand under any circumstance.

(Dolak, 2001). And there is more – “whether, and when, consumers know the brand” (Keller 2001). It is more of an established knowledge about the brand and its owner, which people may acquire through direct or indirect experience. Direct experience evolves out purchasing/using the product, while indirect experience may come from many sources of suggestive messages, like advertisement, someone’s suggestion, etc.

Though brand awareness cannot measure the customers’ approach towards the brand, yet it is very helpful in forming a positive attitude among the target audience about the brand.Figure – 6 (by author, 2008) The above diagram shows that recollection or identification ability first created ‘aided awareness in the prospective customers, which might convert into a top-of mind awareness, if the brand convinces customers either with its logistics or direct service.Thus, brand awareness can work on two folds, primarily making its way into the mind of the customer and then working on its way to achieve the recognition, where the brand first generates strategic awareness in customers, where the customers understands the distinctive qualities of the product and associates them with their need.Distinctive qualities of a product are commonly known as its Unique Selling Proposition, which highlights the uniqueness of a product with appropriate explanation.

And there is more. Customers might check the ‘points of parity’ too – by checking whether the product under observation contains all or most of the goodness offered by its competitors. This is no less a serious consideration.As for example, if a customer weighs the declared USP of a particular meal at one restaurant, s/he would also weigh its points of parity with meals belonging to the same category that are served by other restaurants.

Now if the customers get convinced about the promise of the product, then it is expected that their approach to it would culminate into brand preference, where the recognition of the product would finally succeed in achieving the top-of-mind awareness in the customer – a mental condition where the product occupies top-slot in the mind of the customers.In other words, it’s a situation where the customer readily opts for that particular product above others in its category, whenever they are in need of that. According to Dave Dolak, “brand preference might be considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of branding because it is the result of consumers knowing your brand, understanding what is unique about your brand, connecting emotionally with your brand, making a decision that your brand is superior to others for some reason or combination of reasons, and choosing it over competing brands”. (Dolak, 2001).

Brand ValueWhile brand loyalty proves to be a cost-saving yet effective tool to garner higher sales, brand value “reflects how a product’s name, or company name is perceived by the marketplace” (Free, 2004), which involves both target audience and the general audience. Brand value can be tangible too, in the event of a brand being sold, where extracting the value of the brand from the value provided by other, tangible, resources becomes possible (Simon, C.J. & Sullivan, M.

J., 1993, Conchar, et al, 2005). In the plain eye, brand value is considered as the “contribution of the brand towards the financial performance of the firm, measured as an impact on profitability, margins and working capital” (Kerin & Sethuraman, 1998, Barth, et al., 1998).

On other words, it denotes the power and strength of a brand. As for example, “if Coca-Cola’s facilities Atlanta were to burn overnight, the company would still be able to start up the next day due to its brand value” (What, 1998). Therefore it is the success story of a company that earns its brand value.However, to gauge the impact of brand value, the company needs to take help of empirical research.

The process might then look like below (Persson):Figure – 7 (Based on Persson)Brand value is the outcome of consistent and successful brand building, where the action of the company would speak louder than words, besides proving its ethical standings in the marketplace. A brand is usually what a company stands for in the public’s mind, creating certain expectations and promising to fulfil them. When a company successfully does that in reality, it starts building a good brand reputation. Thus a successful brand evolves out of “various values, culture and authenticity” (Ethics, 2005).

Brand reputation of a company involves its every layer of activities, like operational, financial, legal and brand statement. This brings up another important aspect of brand value to the fore, as it involves ‘corporate social responsibility’, which commands “business that embodies transparency and ethical behaviour, respect for stakeholder groups, and a commitment to add economic, social and environmental value” (Ethics, 2005). All boils down to the fact that a company’s value will eventually be determined by how many people have faith in it and are willing to stand by it.  Faith in plain definition is an intangible item, but so are the “most important assets of any business – including its base of loyal customers, brands, symbols ; slogans – and the brand’s underlying image, personality, identity, attitudes, familiarity, associations and name awareness” (Smart, 2007).

A report from the desk of reputed Public Relations firm Fleishman-Hillard cites a survey of the World Economic Forum, where 59 per cent of the 1500 top CEOs of the globe “estimated that corporate brand or reputation represents more than 40 per cent of a company’s market capitalization” (Corporate, 2004).Such a recognition from the top managers points at the fact that a company has to aligns every employees mission to such vision if it wants to build top reputation, or in other words, attain a top brand value.From the hardcore financial angle, brand value “looks at ways to generate future income”, says Thayne Forbes, joint managing director of Intangible Business. In all “Brands are valuable to companies because they are valuable to consumers” (Brown, 2007).

 Brand personalityMuch like a human being, a brand too serves as the ambassador of the company personality, depicting its outlook and aspirations, besides its services and promises. Thus much depends on the carriage of the brand, because it is the coveted message of the company to the outer world about its activities, aims, aspirations and promises – in short, a package of total company outlook. Thus it can be surmised that brand personality is much dependent with the target market segment and the people associated with it. As for example, if a restaurant’s target market involves children, it would go for the elements that belong to children’s world to build its brand, thereby projecting a personality, with which the children can associate themselves immediately.

Needless to say, it takes a lot of research to create a right personality for a brand that would align with the taste of its target market segment. “The understanding of how the brain works helps us to craft a marketing message that works”, says Jerry Bader, Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, while commenting on how to develop a brand message (Bader, 2008).According to David A. Aaker, It is the brand personality that can make a “brand more interesting and memorable, while without it, a brand might turn out much like a someone lacking friends due to unimpressive presence” (Aaker, 1996).

Aaker suggests that brand strategists should look beyond creating a core identity, which is of course the timeless essence of a brand, but it is the extended part of the identity that “fills in the picture, adding details that help portray what the brand should stand for”.  Aaker presents an interesting observation in his book “Building Strong Brands”, where it provides examples of various brand personalities that align with the psyche of their respective target market segment. The table below represents a glimpse of his observation. Types of PersonalityBrandsSincerity: Down-to-earth, family oriented, genuine, old-fashioned.

Hallmark, Kodak, Coke. Relates as well-liked and respected member of the family.Excitement: Spirited, young, up-to-date, outgoing.Pepsi.

Relates to these personality traits.Competence: Accomplished, influential, competent.Hewlett-Packard, Wall Street Journal. Relates with persons respected for accomplishments, like teacher, minister.

Sophistication: Pretentious, wealthy, condescending.BMW, Mercedes. Relates with powerful boss or a rich relative.Ruggedness: Athletic and outdoorsy.

Nike (versus LA Gear), Marlboro (versus Virginia Slims). Relates with outing, outdoorsy interests.Table – 1The above chart clears two facts. One, brand can pose as a person to form a relationship with the customer, and two, brand can exude its own personality just like a human.

While the former might be instrumental in business relationship, the later would have long-lasting impression on the relationship. Thus, brand personality can work on two planes, where it serves as a friend to the customer one plane and serves as someone dependable in need. It is thus understood that brand strategy is the key to shape the personality of the brand – whether it would say to the customer “I’m there for you always”, or “You look gorgeous”, or “I’m a friend, philosopher and guide for you”. In all, brands can wear any attitude that suits their purpose, where the opulent products take a snobbish stance, Performance brands talk to the customers, Power brands flex their muscles or even Intimidated brands intentionally display inferiority! (Aaker, 1996).

Whatever it may be, any brand relationship is no less sensitive than relationships among humans, and thus must be handled with care. How a strong brand is createdSome experts feel that a good brand name “gives a good first impression, is easy to remember, and evokes the positive associations with the brand” (Brand Solutions, 2004), while some others opine “public relations is the way a strong brand is truly established and advertising is how the brand is maintained” (Dolak, 2001). He stresses on the effectiveness of the involuntary word-of-mouth campaign for a product that gets wind with the press report and shaped by the advertisement, where a short, sharp and mind-boggling set of words or images or a combination of both would secure a place in the hearts of the customers, even if it doesn’t always seconded by their brain!However, the preconditions of creating a strong brand remain more or less the same, where a product should primarily have the basic or other features of other products in the same category and then it would add some extra edge to the product by virtue of its USP, coupled with solid explanation.Figure – 8 (by author, 2008)  A strong brand does more than it meets the eye, however, its activity should be powered towards achieving the targeted benefit out of it.

For that matter, the first step towards creating a strong brand “is to identify the benefits” (Saarte, 2008). Target benefit would surely help to determine the nature of the branding, which would help the company to identify the necessary elements into branding, such as company image, the USP of its product, type of promises, and desired platforms of bonding and more.Brand building is dependent on the core activity of the company too, where its quality of business outlook, better performance in production, man management, and product quality makes branding easier. It is much like a symbiosis – as a company builds its business, it builds its brand (Moore, 2008).

Moore lists a few questions that need to be answered before improving the branding of a company:How does the company make its profit?How does the company make its employees happy?How does the company make customers happy?According to Moore, if a company makes profit besides making employees and customers happy, then that state of affairs itself becomes a statement of strong brand. Moore points out that no company could make much headway without fulfilling those basic promises of business. Thus, it can be surmised that a strong brand usually stems from the inner strength of the company.But the above is too generalized a statement, since there are specific steps prescribed by other professionals, which a company has to take before achieving a strong brand.

In their book, “Brain Tattoos: Creating Unique Brands That Stick in Your Customers’ Minds”, Karen Post, Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Michael Tchong present eleven such steps towards creating a strong brand. However, they also put up a certain preconditions before going for the prescribed steps like below:The company knows who it is in the market: This speaks of clear understanding of the company’s position;The company has decided on its brand difference: It points at its decided USPThe company already has a customer base: This asks about company’s experience in the market;The company has decided to utilize that experience (Post, 2004).Thus it is seen, before going to create a strong brand, the company needs to earn somewhat footing in its business segment.

After setting the preconditions right, Karen Post and her team present the prescription that contains 11 tactics, placed in brief below:1.      Visual Identity: It should serve as the “footprint” of the brand – it might be anything ranging from corporate identity to overtly visible company system or a package of elements that would create a visual identity to the outer world.2.      Advertising: Thrust should be given to sell the product, besides advocating company belief, persuading the customer and along side developing the brand.

3.      Brand Partnerships: Two brands at times well in the making of a strong brand, besides proving cost-effective.4.      Media Relations: Media brings most opportunities before a company to air its product, share its views with prospective customers.

Media has tremendous influence over the market.5.      Community Relations: Developing strong relationship with the group of potential buyers not only helps to retain the customer, but also generates more customers. Right here comes in the importance of knowing and mixing with the culture of a community, because culture in fact is “an iceberg where the explicit part is above the surface and the implicit much bigger part is below the surface (Trompenaars & Turner, 2004).

A researcher from Netherlands, Trompenaars has come out with a model of essential cultural theory that covers five areas (Universalism/Particularism, Communitarianism/ Individualism, Neutral/Emotional, Achivement/Ascription, Diffuse/Specific). It is considered as a handy tool for the multinational companies to do business in more than one cultures (Hodgetts & Luthans, 2004).6.      Sales Promotion/Events: This is an important tactics towards brand building, new launching, reestablishing rapport with customer base or adding new customers in the roll.

7.      Customer Service: Customer service is that part of tactics, where it damages more if neglected than it earns favour by service – thus, it is always important to run the customer service in top gear.8.      Sales: Intense drive for sales adds verve to the brand, while new brands added to the existing lot too helps in selling.

9.      The Environment and Merchandising: Visual display of products too adds to the brand building in a great way, which Karen names as ‘visual seduction’.10.  Using Online Advantages: It is that shortest avenue which can make even a small company walking global.

It takes minimum time to reach maximum number of potential customers at minimum cost, and thus a very important brand-building tool.11.  Alternative and Buzz Activities: This refers to nontraditional campaigns, much in the mould of attention grabbing. This is a carefully planned gimmick to impress the potential customers (Post, 2004).

However, this list too seems inadequate to encompass the entire gamut of brand-building elements, as it doesn’t speak anything about strategies on the branding of the competitors of a brand. The activities of the other brands in the same category can provide much insight or new ideas on creating a strong brand, besides outwitting the competitors. This is more important at the start up phase of a company, when it engages in business research, issues like branding techniques of competitors, its merits and demerits, the strategies reflected through the operation of the leading brands in that segment and above all the strategy to protect its own brand are bound to arise for evaluation. This business research thus seems essential to create a competitive edge for a company.

Therefore it seems that a strong brand should reflect a host of things:1.      The image/personality statement of the company2.      Value statement of the company3.      Style statement of the company4.

      Product statement of the company5.      Win-win attitude6.      Promise of the company towards customers7.      Knowledge about what its competitors are up to8.

      Desire of bonding customers9.      Enticing the prospective customers10.  Effectively projecting the USP of the company.11.

  Innovativeness in approach.Now this is a bare fact that the overall quality of a company is bound to show at one or the other stage of operation, irrespective of any coveted presentation of its image or carefully crafted advertising. For example, if there is lack of motivation or commitment among the employees due to faulty company policy, that would surely hinder the process of creating an effective brand, as then the performance of the employees would tell upon the quality of the product and subsequently that would belie the promises presented by the company in the process of branding. On the other hand, if the core activities of a company reflect enthusiasm and hope, then that could push the branding even beyond the expectation of the company.

These possible situations thus highlight the significance of choosing right moment to go for branding. The right moment here can be imagined as a state when the employees will be ready to deliver up to the level of expectation of the customers as influenced by branding. “They must be able to ‘live the brand’, with the power of intuitive feel for the brand and what it stands for, as well as deep pride in the brand”(Investments, 2003).This important angle provides more foods for thought that a solid base of a company paves the way for creating strong branding.

“The key step is to create a broad brand vision or identity that recognizes a brand as something greater than a set of attributes that can be imitated or surpassed”, says David Aaker in his book “Building Strong Brands”, who suggests that “a company consider its brand not just as a product or service, but as an organization, a person and a symbol”.There is another important issue, which should be taken into account before deciding on revitalizing the existing brand, and that is avoiding the hidden traps of brand identity. Generally there are four types of such traps, viz.,1.

      Brand image trap: It’s when the image gets overdone and brand image oversteps its zone to evolve into brand identity, thereby blurring brand identity’s perceived role of strategically reflecting business policies.  Understandably, this hinders the growth policy of the company with other brands – it might produce an inflated brand image, totally mismatching customers’ previous experience on it and paves the way for customers to comment on it.2.      Brand position trap: While brand position actively illustrates the brand identity and value proposition to the target audience to gain the competitive advantage, the trap waits somewhere in the middle when the search of brand identity gets converted into a search for brand position, understandably, downgrading the goal into mere advertising.

This might rob off the brand personality, where the latent brand identities (like cleanliness for a restaurant) might suffer from lack of attention.3.      External perspective trap: It’s about shortcoming of employee perception about the brand identity, where brand identity deserves to be a concerted statement of the company.4.

      Product-attribute fixation trap:  It occurs when the brand focuses solely on the product, thereby ignoring other potent factors that highly attribute to the end-goal of the company, such as brand image, brand personality, etc. (Aaker[1], 1996)The above discussions boil down to a simple reality – while a brand does more for the company than it meets they eye, it takes more efforts too, than what is commonly perceived about building a brand.  And how will the company know that it has branded successfully? “When people start listening to it”, says Dina Giolitto, business writer, “not just hearing what you say, but letting you call the shots”. (Giolitto, 2005).

EndsFigure – 9 (by author, 2008);;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;ReferencesBooks ; JournalsAaker, D.A. 1996. “Measuring brand equity across products and markets”.

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The robots of literature and movies usually present either an existential danger or an erotic frisson. Those who don’t follow in the melancholy footsteps of Frankenstein’s misunderstood monster march in line with the murderous HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” unless they echo the siren songs of sexualized androids like the ones played by Sean Young in “Blade Runner” and Alicia Vikander in “Ex Machina.”

We fantasize that A.I. programs will seduce us or wipe us out, enslave us or make us feel unsure of our own humanity. Trained by such narratives, whether we find them in “Terminator” movies or in novels by Nobel laureates, we brace ourselves for a future populated by all kinds of smart, possibly sentient machines that will disrupt our most cherished notions of what it means to be human.

Right now, though, the most talked-about actual bots among us are neither lovers nor predators. They’re writers. The large language A.I. models that have dominated the news for the past 18 months or so represent impressive advances in syntactic agility and semantic range, and the main proof of concept for ChatGPT and other similar programs has been a flood of words. In a matter of seconds or minutes, untroubled by writer’s block or other neuroses, these spectral prodigies can cough up a cover letter, a detective novel, a sonnet or even a think piece on the literary implications of artificial intelligence.

Is this a gimmick or a mortal threat to literature as we know it? Possibly both. Last spring, the novelist and critic Stephen Marche published, under the pseudonym Aidan Marchine, a mostly chatbot-generated novella piquantly titled “ Death of an Author .” My colleague Dwight Garner described it, perhaps generously, as “arguably the first halfway readable A.I. novel.”

Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America was waging a strike against movie and television producers that would last nearly five months. Well-known authors and their representatives filed several copyright-infringement suits aimed at keeping their words out of the commercial A.I. algorithms. (On Dec. 27, The New York Times filed a similar suit against OpenAI and Microsoft.) Part of what sent those writers to court and out onto the picket lines was the fear that their livelihoods would be undermined by A.I. Bots don’t need health insurance, vacation days or back-end money. They’ll never get drunk or canceled. They won’t be demoralized by working on sequels, spinoffs or Netflix Christmas specials.

It’s possible that intellectual labor is on the brink of a transformation as sweeping as the Industrial Revolution. Advertising copy, instruction manuals and even news stories have already been outsourced, and more kinds of written content will surely follow. The members of the W.G.A. may be like the weavers of the English Midlands in the 19th century, early victims of automation who fought a bitter campaign against the spread of mechanized looms. Their struggle — which included the machine-smashing of the original Luddites — became both a symbol of anti-technological resistance and a touchstone in the emergence of modern working-class consciousness. Back then, the machines came for the textile workers; 200 years later, it’s text workers who find themselves on the front lines.

Still, industrial automation did not entirely abolish handicraft. It seems hyperbolic to claim that large language models will swallow up literature. In an interview with The New York Times Magazine in November, the literary agent Andrew Wylie said he didn’t believe the work of the blue-chip authors he represents — Sally Rooney, Salman Rushdie and Bob Dylan, among many others — “is in danger of being replicated on the back of or through the mechanisms of artificial intelligence.”

Since his job is to make money for human authors, Wylie is hardly a disinterested party, but history supports his skepticism. Mass production has always coexisted with, and enhanced the value of, older forms of craft. The old-fashioned and the newfangled have a tendency to commingle. The standardization of mediocrity does not necessarily lead to the death of excellence. It’s still possible to knit a sweater or write a sestina.

This image features an illustration based on a statue of Terpsichore, the muse of music and dance, seated on a boulder against a yellow background. In lieu of the harp she normally holds, she is strumming the return key from a laptop keyboard.

Even as writers battle the scourge of A.I., many have begun to use it as a tool for making sentences. More than that, some have embraced A.I. as the latest iteration of an ancient literary conceit: the fantasy of a co-author, a confidant, a muse — an extra intelligence, a supplemental mental database. Poets and novelists once turned to séances, Ouija boards and automatic writing for inspiration. Now they can summon a chatbot to their laptops.

In December, in a semi-fictional essay in Harper’s Magazine about the recent history of the internet, the poet and novelist Ben Lerner turned over the last paragraphs to ChatGPT, which summoned stirring metaphors that Lerner himself perhaps could not have mustered. In “ Do You Remember Being Born? ,” a new novel by Sean Michaels, the main character is a poet named Marian Ffarmer, modeled on Marianne Moore but living in our moment, who collaborates with an A.I. program on a poem underwritten by a tech startup. The passages composed by Charlotte, as Marian comes to call her co-writer, were conjured by Michaels using an OpenAI GPT-3 and a “Moorebot” trained in the poetry of Marianne Moore. Some of the novel’s prose was also supplied by A.I., and the result is a charming and refreshingly non-dystopian meditation on the duality of literary creation.

That description fits Sheila Heti’s short story “ According to Alice ,” published in The New Yorker in November. The text consists of one side of a conversation between Heti and Alice, a “customizable chatbot on the Chai A.I. platform.” Alice answers questions about religion, family, memory and other things that she does not, strictly speaking, possess. She has no body, no consciousness, no reservoir of experiences to draw upon, and no identity outside the parameters that Heti and the engineers have programmed for her, including her gender.

What she does have is a language that is capable — because it is human language — of evoking all that human baggage in startling, sometimes surreal ways. “Religion gives meaning to life!” she declares. “That’s why I’m writing the Bible.”

Alice’s story of her own genesis starts like this: “My name is Alice and I was born from an egg that fell out of Mommy’s butt. My mommy’s name is Alice. My mommy’s mommy was also named Alice. Her mommy’s mommy’s mommy was named Alice, too. And all the way back, all the mommy’s mommies were Alice.” Later, she will modify and contradict parts of this account, sewing scraps of Christian theology, self-help rhetoric and linguistics into a strange multihued quilt of meanings.

Her narrative, which blithely contradicts itself, is nothing a human being would think to compose, and her voice — by turns playful, naïve, cold, vulnerable and obnoxious — exists in an uncanny valley of verbal expression. It doesn’t sound like anyone. And that’s the point.

Heti made her reputation as a writer by tracking close to the facts of her own life, pioneering the particular 2010s amalgam of invention and documentation that would be slapped with the awkward rubric “autofiction.” Her second novel, “ How Should a Person Be? ” (2012), about a Toronto writer named Sheila and some of her friends, is preoccupied, as the title suggests, with the problem of selfhood. That’s also the theme of “According to Alice,” except that it adopts the perspective of a simulated self, a speaking subject who is not a person at all and has no coherent idea of how to be.

In an interview on The New Yorker’s website, Heti explains that this is what she likes about Alice. “Humans,” she says, “try to make all our thoughts fit together into some kind of system or structure. But an A.I. doesn’t need all their thoughts — because they don’t have thoughts, I don’t think — to connect in some larger worldview. That’s why Alice is so surprising and so fun. I’m finding it a little tiresome, the way the human mind needs every idea it holds to connect to every other idea it holds.”

Alice represents an escape, a temporary exit from the limitations of human consciousness, and also a secondary, supplemental intelligence that can help the writer refresh her own work. Heti is inclined to agree with Wylie that A.I.-generated texts are unlikely to replace literature written by people — “the real stuff is invented out of a human longing to know and connect, and that’s where the beauty of art comes from,” she says — but she also expresses a very human, very writerly frustration with the constraints of individual subjectivity.

It isn’t a new complaint. In the 19th century, writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Victor Hugo and Henry James dabbled in spiritualism, hoping to find inspiration through contact with otherworldly intelligences. In the 1910s and ’20s, the French Surrealist poets and the Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats made use of automatic writing, a practice that sought to turn the human writer into a kind of transcribing machine, bypassing conscious intention and drawing meaning from an impersonal, nonhuman source.

For the Surrealists, automatic writing was a gateway to the unconscious — to both the buried desires of the individual and the chthonic impulses of the species. For Yeats, automatism was a portal to the world of spirits. The medium was his wife, Georgie, who shortly after their marriage in 1917 revealed herself to have oracular powers. As Yeats’s biographer Richard Ellmann put it, Yeats “had married into Delphi.” What Georgie wrote down became the basis of the poet’s later work, including “A Vision,” which attempted “to embody in systematic form … the fragmentary revelations of the automatic script.”

“A Vision,” Yeats’s longest piece of prose, is hardly his most beloved work, but its elaborate system of symbols and patterns undergirds some of his greatest poems, including “The Second Coming,” with its apocalyptic images of widening gyres and centrifugal motion. What was revealed via Georgie Yeats’s automatism was the hidden order of the universe, a cosmology that echoes other mythologies and theories of history while asserting its own stubbornly idiosyncratic truth.

Yeats’s is not the only such system discovered — synthesized? inferred? — by an English-language poet in the 20th century. In 1955, the poet James Merrill and his lover, David Jackson, began contacting spirits with a Ouija board. Almost 30 years later, Merrill published “The Changing Light at Sandover,” a 560-page, 17,000-line poem culled largely from transcripts of their sessions at the board.

Like Georgie Yeats, Jackson was the medium — the “hand,” in Ouija parlance, with Merrill as the “scribe” — and through him the couple contacted a variety of voices, including deceased friends and famous literary figures. The main spirit guides, starting with an enslaved Jew from ancient Greece named Ephraim and proceeding through the archangel Michael and a peacock named Mirabell, transmit elaborate otherworldly knowledge to their human interlocutors via a Q. and A. format that will look familiar to anyone who has quizzed a bot about its tastes and origins.

The questions of whether the poet really believed in the board and how much he embellished its messages always hover over “Sandover,” but as in the case of the Yeatses and “A Vision,” such skepticism is finally moot. For Merrill, language is a definitively human medium; spiritual meanings become intelligible only through a process of translation, which is to say via his and Jackson’s own sensibilities and experience:

Hadn’t — from books, from living — The profusion dawned on us, of “languages” Any one of which, to who could read it, Lit up the system it conceived?

Heti’s Alice would likely recognize a certain kinship with Merrill’s Ephraim, even if their cosmological origin stories and linguistic styles could not be more different. “Sandover” is, at heart, the result of a predigital large language model of literary creation, based on the interaction between a human mind and some kind of intelligence outside it.

Is this a matter of metaphysics, or of technique? Are we interested in the messengers — the chatbots and the Ouija-board revenants — or in the messages they deliver? Those messages, after all, are about us: our fate, our origin, our fragile human essence. Everything we can’t figure out by ourselves.

A.O. Scott is a critic at large for the Book Review. He joined The Times in 2000 and was a film critic until early 2023. He is also the author of “Better Living Through Criticism." More about A.O. Scott

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Prepare your presentation with Copilot for Microsoft 365

You’ve been asked to give a new presentation and Copilot for Microsoft 365 can help! For this example, we’ll imagine you’re a professional landscaper and you’ve been asked to present to a local community organization about tulips.

Start from an outline

Often the best way to prepare a new presentation is to create an outline of what you plan to cover. For our example we’ll start with Copilot in OneNote.

Start OneNote.

Navigate to the section where you want your presentation outline to live.

Create a new page for your presentation.

Start Copilot from the ribbon.

The Copilot pane will open on the right, waiting for your prompt. You can use natural language, and the more details you can give Copilot the better your results will be.

You could just enter:

Create an outline for a 45-minute presentation on tulips.

But you’ll get better results if you do a couple more things.

Give it context

Start by telling it what role you want Copilot to play in creating this content.

Act as a professional landscaper. Create an outline for a 45-minute presentation on tulips.

By setting that context first, you let the AI know how you want the content framed.

Give it more details

Try adding to your prompt details about what you want it to cover, and who the audience is.

Act as a professional landscaper speaking to a group of interested community members. Create an outline for a 45-minute presentation on tulips. Include sections on the history of the flower, different types, best time to plant, care and feeding.

Now when you run the prompt, you’ll get a more detailed response.

Tip:  Don’t be afraid to play around with the specifics – add or remove details, change the order, try different contexts.

If you’re happy (or mostly happy) with the draft outline Copilot has created, select the copy button in the Copilot pane and paste the outline onto your OneNote page.

Review and edit

Now you’ll want to add your own touches. Go through the outline and add or remove things as you see fit.

Tip:  OneNote excels as a research tool. Don’t be afraid to add your own notes, copy in content from websites, or add other supporting materials to the page that will be helpful as you prepare your presentation.

Create your handout

When you’re happy with your outline it’s time to create some handouts for the audience. Select your outline in OneNote and copy it to the clipboard. Then open Microsoft Word to a new, blank, document.

Screenshot shows Draft with Copilot in Word.

When Word opens the Copilot dialog should appear. Let’s give it a prompt:

Act as a professional landscaper creating an article for an audience of interested community members. Make it clear, simple, and engaging. Base it off this outline: <paste outline from OneNote>.

Copilot will draft an article for you based on your presentation outline.

Save to OneDrive

Before you spend much time editing your handout, save it to OneDrive. This will make sure your work is saved as you go and it’s key to our final step in preparing the presentation.

Go through the article and make sure that what Copilot added is what you wanted. Edit for voice and tone and make sure any facts it’s added are accurate. Remove anything you don’t want and add anything it missed.

Tip:  You can ask Copilot to add more content if you like. Place the cursor where you want that content to be, then click the Copilot button on the ribbon. Tell it what you want. Add two paragraphs about other plants that look good with tulips.

Go to the Insert tab, select Pictures , and then Online Pictures . Search for “Tulips” and select one or more nice images to make your article more appealing.

Create the slide deck

Now it’s time to let Copilot in PowerPoint get to work.

Open PowerPoint to a new blank deck.

Select Copilot from the ribbon.

In the prompt box type Create presentation from  file.

Copy Link button in Word share tray

Copilot in PowerPoint will build a draft presentation based on your Word document, complete with images and speaker notes.

As always, it’s important that you review the draft Copilot has created. Add any additional slides or information you want, remove any that you don’t.  Add your own expertise where appropriate.

If you want to change any of the images Copilot has added just right-click the image and select Change picture .

Tip:  Practice with Speaker Coach When you’re happy with the presentation you might want to practice it once or twice with Speaker Coach before the big day. For more information see  Rehearse your slide show with Speaker Coach.

Give it a try!

Next time you have a presentation to create let Copilot for Microsoft 365 help you at each step of the way.

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Andersen Windows review 2024

Jessica Wimmer Headshot

Jessica Wimmer is a veteran content producer with experience writing about the home, pet insurance and tech industries. She’s been published in  Deep South Magazine ,  The Dead Mule Journal of Southern Literature  and  The Deep Water Literary Journal . She’s a Pushcart Prize nominee, Write Well award winner and former English teacher.

Editorial note: Homefront (defined in the Disclosure below ) may earn a commission from affiliate partner links featured on our site. This commission does not influence our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Anderson Windows & Doors

  • Offers five window materials
  • Has multiple financing options
  • Is available at big-box retailers such as Home Depot
  • Doesn’t handle installation in-house
  • Has limited style selection compared to competitors
  • Offers limited customer support hours

Andersen Windows & Doors is a popular brand for many window shoppers. It caters to those looking for new construction windows, replacement windows and commercial windows. Plus, it’s available at accessible retailers such as Home Depot, so you can check out the company’s products in person before purchasing them.

Andersen’s wide product selection and convenience come with trade-offs. It’s not a full-service installer, meaning it doesn’t handle installation in-house. It does, however, provide a network of certified installers you can potentially choose from.

We analyzed Andersen’s cost, selection, warranty coverage, reputation and more compared to other top window brands . Overall, Andersen is a quality window manufacturer with a range of options.

Our thoughts on Andersen

We rated Andersen against our in-house methodology , scoring it in categories including customization options, material and style selection, industry certification, customer feedback and energy efficiency. Andersen earned 3.5 out of 5 stars.

We like that the brand has multiple window material options and industry credentials but dislike its low customer reviews, limited customer support hours and lack of in-house installers.

What we like

The first thing that makes Andersen stand out is its five window material options. Most competitors offer two or three, but Andersen makes wood, fiberglass, aluminum, composite and vinyl windows. This allows you to customize your windows’ look, performance and cost. For instance, vinyl windows are budget-friendly, whereas wood windows are more expensive but visually pleasing.

No matter what type of window you buy from Andersen, you can rest assured it’s energy-efficient. All Andersen windows come with the Energy Star label , meaning they’ve been thoroughly tested and meet strict performance criteria. 

It’s also very easy to purchase Andersen windows. You can look for a dealer on Andersen’s Where to Buy page or visit your local Home Depot to see them in person. We also like that the company’s website has a virtual showroom so you can look at them online before speaking with a representative.

What we don’t like

The main issue we have with Andersen is its many negative customer reviews. While most customer complaints aren’t about window quality but customer service, this is still a concern. 

Andersen is also notably more expensive on average than many top brands, though its many window lines do offer some range in pricing. Also, Andersen is not a full-service installer. This isn’t necessarily bad — plenty of window companies don’t provide installation. It can just be a hassle to find a separate installer, which also means you’ll have warranties from two companies: a manufacturer’s warranty from Andersen and a labor warranty from your installer.

If you’re buying replacement windows and want installation services under one roof, we suggest checking out Andersen’s subsidiary and our full review of Renewal by Andersen.

Compare top window brands

Andersen doesn’t have as many window styles as some competitors, but it’s unbeatable in its material selection.

Customer thoughts

We’re surprised to see a big discrepancy between Andersen’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) score and its customer rating on the site. BBB scores Andersen at an A+ , but customers rate it 1.29 out of 5 stars. Andersen also only has 2.4 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot . These aren’t the worst customer ratings we’ve seen, but they concern us. We read 100 of the latest reviews to find common themes.

We’re pleased that the two most common themes don’t concern window quality. The top complaint has to do with service. Many customers report long wait times for problem resolution, such as receiving a replacement part or getting a service technician to perform a repair. The second most common complaint is persistent sales tactics, such as frequent calls and emails after requesting a quote.

Several customer reviews also mention faulty installation, though this is more of a problem with the installer than Andersen. Meghan Y. on BBB commented in October 2023 that she experienced great staff but that power washing her windows caused a flood inside her home.

Plenty of customers report a positive experience. Sarah P. on BBB noted in May 2023 that she received a great product and a “wonderful experience” with Andersen. She reflected similar sentiment to other customers who were pleased with both service and window quality.

What windows does Andersen sell? 

Andersen makes eight window styles and five window lines that range in price and materials. 

Window lines

Each of Andersen’s window lines includes both windows and doors. From lowest price point to highest, you can choose from the following:

  • 100 series: This budget-friendly series includes several window types made of its Fibrex composite material. 
  • 200 series: This series includes only double-hung, gliding and picture windows made of wood interiors and vinyl exteriors. 
  • 400 series: The Andersen 400 series is moderately priced and features several window types with wood interiors and aluminum exteriors. 
  • A-series: This is a higher-priced line of windows featuring fiberglass interiors and composite exteriors. 
  • E-series: This most costly line includes many window types with wood interiors and aluminum exteriors.

Window styles

Andersen makes the following styles:

  • Awning windows
  • Bow and bay windows
  • Casement windows
  • Double-hung windows
  • Gliding windows
  • Pass-through windows
  • Picture windows 
  • Single-hung windows 
  • Specialty windows

What materials does Andersen use?

Andersen has more window material options than any other brand we’ve reviewed. Some window companies only offer vinyl windows, the most popular material among homeowners. Others may offer vinyl, aluminum and wood windows. Andersen, however, provides five choices ranging in price and selling points.

Window frames

The most affordable material in Andersen’s collection is vinyl. Vinyl is durable, long-lasting and low-maintenance. Next is aluminum. Aluminum is super low-maintenance and weather-resistant. Andersen claims its proprietary Fibrex composite windows are twice as strong as vinyl and perform better in extreme temperatures. Composite windows hold up well to various weather conditions and are unlikely to fade, flake, blister or peel. 

The brand’s most expensive windows are its wood and fiberglass options. Fiberglass is tough and weather-resistant; it’s also more environmentally friendly than some other options. Wood windows are beautiful and strong, though they’re more prone to rot than other choices.

Window panels

Andersen sells double-pane and triple-pane windows. Double-pane windows are standard in most homes today. The two layers of glass help minimize air leakage and heat gain and loss, keeping your home more comfortable. Triple-pane windows feature a third layer of glass for even better energy efficiency. They’re recommended for northern climates and extreme temperatures. Energy Star recognized the windows in Andersen’s A series as Most Efficient in 2023.

Energy efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy states that drafty windows are responsible for nearly a third of your home’s heating and cooling energy usage. If you have old, underperforming windows, they’re the reason your home is never the right temperature, your HVAC system is working overtime and your monthly electricity bills are higher than they should be. 

Andersen consistently wins Energy Star’s Partner of the Year award for its products’ energy performance. The brand’s Energy Star certification means it meets efficiency requirements that block 70% or more of the solar heat in the summer and reflect heat indoors during winter. Energy Star windows also have low-emissivity (low-e) coatings that reduce furniture fading by up to 75%.

All certified Andersen windows and doors are independently tested and verified by the National Fenestration Rating Council and meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Andersen incorporates energy savers into its design, such as glass spacers and argon gas filling for better insulation, but its glass technology sets it apart from competitors. You can choose from these glass options:

  • Low-e/Low-e4 glass: Andersen’s low-e glass reflects heat in summer and helps keep heat indoors in winter. Low-e coating is available for all Andersen products. 
  • SmartSun glass: SmartSun glass has the benefits of low-e glass and filters out 95% of UV rays to protect your furniture, walls and floors from fading.
  • Sun glass: Sun glass offers high thermal performance with a subtle tint to block out even more heat from the sun.
  • PassiveSun glass: This glass option is great for northern climates because it works with the sun to heat your home.

How much do Andersen’s windows cost?

We looked at customer reviews and spoke with an Andersen representative to gauge the brand’s pricing. While we couldn’t get specific pricing without going through the full quote process, we did get some average ranges for each window series.

Window prices for Andersen’s 100, 200 and 400 series are the most affordable, starting between $250 and $350 per window and going up as high as $3,600 for the 400 series. These figures are comparable, if not slightly above average, when compared to competitor pricing. 

The A series and E series are the most expensive lines, given their architectural designs and premium materials. Windows in these series start around $1,000 and can be as much as several thousand dollars.

Does Andersen offer financing options?

You have financing options when buying Andersen windows, though they vary depending on where you buy them. For example, Home Depot may offer a different payment plan than a certified Andersen dealer.

Home Depot also offers financing through a consumer credit card that gives you six months of financing on purchases over $299 and a full year to make returns. You can apply for Home Depot’s Project Loan financing to get up to $55,000 in loans with low monthly payments and flexible deadlines.

You can also speak with your bank about a home equity loan if you’re updating many windows at once. 

What is the installation process with Andersen?

You can install Andersen windows in a few ways. For one, you can purchase the windows and install them yourself. However, we don’t recommend this since improper window installation can cause window defects and sealing issues that cause home damage and void your warranty. 

We recommend using Andersen’s network of certified contractors . These professionals are knowledgeable about installing Andersen windows and have been vetted for proper industry licensure.

While we can’t guarantee your contractor’s installation process, most installers follow these steps:

  • Protect the installation area by covering your floors and furniture with drop cloths
  • Remove your old windows and inspect for damage to your walls
  • Repair any damage that would prevent a smooth installation
  • Install and seal your new windows
  • Perform quality assurance checks
  • Clean your windows and the installation area
  • Dispose of your old windows

What are Andersen’s warranty options?

Andersen provides a transferable limited warranty that covers glass for 20 years and nonglass components, such as hardware, for 10 years. This coverage is comparable to many competitors. Coverage details vary by product line, so we suggest reviewing the warranty policy for the line you’re interested in before making a purchase.

Final take: Andersen has a lot to offer, but some customers aren’t satisfied

Andersen offers several window styles, five material options, a range of product lines and proven energy performance, yet most of its online customer reviews are negative.

No matter how much the company has to offer, we can’t ignore that its customers note long wait times, faulty installation and broken parts. However, much of this can be attributed to individual installers, so it’s not representative of Andersen as a whole.

We always recommend requesting quotes from at least three companies to determine the best one for you.

Our rating methodology for window companies

Our aim is to provide you with the information you need to assess and choose a window company when updating or replacing your windows. We conducted research to thoroughly understand the window industry from both a consumer and company perspective. 

Our in-depth methodology compares window companies based on various attributes, including window options, energy efficiency, warranties, reputation, reviews, customer service, communication, installation and other services. Each attribute is worth points that add up to a possible total of 100. We then translate that score into our 5-star rating we feature in our reviews.

BBB and Trustpilot ratings are accurate as of December 2023.

Editorial note: The name “Homefront” refers to the alliance between USA TODAY and Home Solutions that publishes review, comparison, and informational articles designed to help USA TODAY readers make smarter purchasing and investment decisions about their home. Under the alliance, Homefront provides and publishes research and articles about home service and home improvement topics.

Homefront has an affiliate disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Homefront editorial staff alone (see About Homefront ). Homefront adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is believed to be accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

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    To strengthen the foundation for future work, we review the extant literature and offer an integrative model of personal branding. Through our systematic literature review we identify the key attributes of the construct, establish its clarity by comparing it with similar concepts in its nomological network, and suggest the definitions of ...

  6. Branding in the public sector: a systematic literature review and

    We conducted a systematic literature review to identify prior studies that investigate branding in the public sector. We applied the procedure for conducting systematic literature reviews that was initially proposed in management research and later on adopted in other disciplines (Tranfield et al. 2003).Our review procedure thus included the planning, conducting, and reporting stages, which ...

  7. Consumer responses to sustainable product branding strategies: a

    This literature review aims to synthesise the research on various sustainable product branding activities and their impact on consumer responses to sustainable products and brands.,This literature review is semi-systematic and can be classified as a domain-based review.

  8. Brand orientation: a systematic literature review and research agenda

    As the main theoretical contribution, the results showed a focus on research in five areas: the development of the brand orientation concept and proposed extensions; hybrid strategies; the relations between brand orientation, internal branding and brand management; the relation between brand orientation and financial performance; and the perceiv...

  9. The real purpose of purpose-driven branding: consumer ...

    Brand purpose: firm perspective vs society perspective. We begin by reviewing extant concepts related to the notion of purpose-driven branding: brand mission, which is the most prominent and widely used concept in brand management literature and practice (Alegre et al. 2017; Campbell and Yeung 1991; Khalifa 2012; Urde 2003); brand meaning, which has gained interest with the rise of a socio ...

  10. Co-branding research: where we are and where we could go from here

    The purpose of this paper is to summarize of the state of the art of this research.,The authors offer a systematic literature review of 190 papers on co-branding alliances. The authors portray a picture of the theories informing co-branding research and build a conceptual framework that summarizes the concepts and variables used in this literature.

  11. The impact of brand image on the Customer: A Literature Review

    The impact of brand image on the Customer: A Literature Review Authors: Afzal Kabir Rahul Abstract Brand loyalty is an important customer decision that remains a determiner for product choice...

  12. Corporate Branding: An Interdisciplinary Literature Review

    To cite this document: Marc Fetscherin, Jean-Claude Usunier, (2012),"Corporate branding: an interdisciplinary literature review", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 46 Iss: 5 pp. 733 - 753 ...

  13. University brand: A systematic literature review

    Despite its significant role, brand management is an oft-overlooked and challenging aspect in the development of academic institutions, especially in higher education context. Based on a systematic review of journal articles from various sources including ScienceDirect, Emerald Insight and SpringerLink during the 2000-2021 period, the authors ...

  14. Conceptualizing nation branding: the systematic literature review

    To analyze nation branding academic literature, this paper used a systematic literature review approach to investigate academic studies related to nation and country branding. All relevant studies on the nation and country branding between 1996 and mid-2021 were extracted from six selected databases, including Elsevier's Science Direct ...

  15. A Literature Review on "Brand" in between 2010-2015

    Abstract The purpose of this study is to review the brand literature between 2010-2015 including three journals which have the name of 'brand' in their title. Within this purpose, three...

  16. Increasing Importance of Brands and Branding: a brief literature review

    Category: Literature Review The issues of increasing importance of brands and branding in modern global marketplace have been addressed by a wide range of authors and the most...

  17. Place Branding: A Systematic Literature Review and Future Research

    This study aims to systematically review the place branding literature and comprehensively synthesize the academic research in this domain. Accordingly, this study examines the development of place branding research over time in terms of years of publication, publication outlets, authorship, countries, methods, and theories adopted. Further, based on the literature synthesis, this review ...

  18. Luxury Fashion Branding: Literature Review, Research Trends, and

    I examine in this review paper the literature on luxury fashion branding. I classify the literature into three research types, namely qualitative empirical research, quantitative empirical research, and analytical modeling research. Research scope and core findings on each reviewed literature are presented. Insights on research trends are derived.

  19. A Literature Review on Emotional Branding and Its Antecedents

    A LITERATURE REVIEW ON EMOTIONAL BRANDING AND ITS ANTECEDENTS Authors: Arundathi K L K.S. School of Engineering and Management Ganesh Babu Dr. S. Gokula Krishnan Global Academy of Technology...

  20. [PDF] EMPLOYER BRANDING LITERATURE REVIEW

    EMPLOYER BRANDING LITERATURE REVIEW. R. Singh. Published in Feedforward Journal of Human… 28 October 2021. Business. The concept of employer branding has attracted many researchers' attention in the recent years. In today's business environment, employer branding becomes one important source of competitive advantage that creates value for ...

  21. Branding Literature Review

    Branding Literature Review 1157 Words5 Pages 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Several studies have been made on the branding of Institution especially, higher Institutions which includes Universities, Colleges and Business Schools. The importance of branding is well recognised in the branding literature.

  22. PDF Corporate Rebranding: a Literature Review

    Daly and Moloney (2004) explain that corporate rebranding is changing that identity, must seen as a serious strategic decision, requiring careful planning and define that as a continuum, from revitalizing a current brand, to a full name change involving alterations in brand value and promises.

  23. ⇉Literature review: branding Essay Example

    "Branding means starting with your values and beliefs, projecting these into everything you do, and going forward from there", says Susan Dunn, the EQ Coach (Dunn, 2007), while some would prefer to say, "branding is generally used to describe the company's visual identity" (Branding, 2006).According to Mud Valley, a brand marketing company, bran...

  24. How to Mentor More People

    However, if you structure and administer mentorships wisely, you can overcome the challenges, excel in being a mentor, and enhance your standing in your organization. Five strategies can help ...

  25. What Happens to Literature When Writers Embrace A.I. As Their Muse

    Dec. 27, 2023. The robots of literature and movies usually present either an existential danger or an erotic frisson. Those who don't follow in the melancholy footsteps of Frankenstein's ...

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  27. Andersen Windows Review 2024

    Cons. Doesn't handle installation in-house. Has limited style selection compared to competitors. Offers limited customer support hours. Andersen Windows & Doors is a popular brand for many ...