Putting assumed emotion in fashion brand literacy: Understanding brand-identity relationship in the interdependent asian context

Man Lok Lam, Wing Sun Liu, Kin Man To

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past decade, consumer researchers have been interested in understanding symbolic relationship between consumers and brands, especially on identity construction (Elliott & Wattanasuwan, 1998; Escalas & Bettman, 2005; Kirmani, 2009) and its implications on brand management (Arvidsson, 2005; Holt, 2002; 2004). Following a cultural-psychological view to study how culture shapes brand-identity relationship, Eckhardt (2000) addresses that little attention have been paid to understand consumer behavior within interdependent cultures when compare with the prolific account of western literatures that reported the consumption behavior with an independent self-construal. This paper strives to address this absence through researching how a group of Chinese youngsters internalize their cultural values with a sense of assumed emotion and developed local specific brand literacy towards fashion brands’ perception and consumption. Following Bengtsson and Firat (2006)’s concept of brand literacy, this interpretative research aims to extend our current understanding of symbolic brand consumption and brand-identity relationship in particular to the interdependent Asian context. The literature review discusses previous studies on brand symbolism in formulating brand-identity relationship and how social psychological understanding of interdependent construal of self can be applied to consumer researches. The cultural characteristics of Chinese consumers are also discussed with reference to previous indigenous consumer researches on symbolic brand consumption. As part of a greater project on fashion and brand consumption experience among young Chinese in Guangzhou, 18 Chinese volunteers aged around 20 are recruited from local universities and colleges and become the main research informants. The fieldwork is conducted in Guangzhou. In-depth interviews and participant observations are the main data collection method. Triangulation analysis technique has been adopted to review and cross-check data collected. Our findings and discussions demonstrate different dimensions of assumed emotion (Hu, 1949) among the Chinese youngsters in structuring their brand literacy. We discuss how cultural concern towards their social identities, including as students, sons/daughters, friends, and changing identities expected in the future, may significantly impact the youngsters’ fashion and brand value, perception and consumption. Through symbolic consumption, the Chinese youngsters depict a sense of culturally specific fashion and brand knowledge as demonstrated in their fashion choice, taste and consumption, in a way that is culturally appropriate in fitting themselves in a complex social network. Guided by this sense of assumed emotion, Chinese youngsters adopt the signs and meanings embedded in brand names and its associated symbols to engage in the different social situations within their cultural setting. This has resulted in a different construct of brand literacy within the interdependent cultural context. An emergent theme is also found as there is a major difference in fashion brands perceptions and choices between the urbanities (i.e. Guangzhou localities) and peripheries (i.e. outsiders) because of a cultural difference in constructing their cosmopolitan identities (Thompson & Tambyah, 1999). To conclude, this study has contributed to our understanding of brand-identity relationship in the interdependent Asian context. Consumers in the eastern cultures tend to be subjected to integrate a larger socio-cultural context than maintaining individualistic pleasures as in western cultures. A greater concern of understanding the assumed emotion and how consumers asserted their social identities with symbolic fashion and brand consumption would be a key to understand the consumption cultures with interdependent self-construal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-129
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Global Fashion Marketing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • Assumed emotion
  • Brand literacy
  • Chinese consumers
  • Interdependent self-construal
  • Qualitative consumer research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Strategy and Management
  • Marketing
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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