Investigating Branding and Brand Communities

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2019
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


A brand can be seen as a communication device, which represents the functional and physical touchpoints such as logos, packaging and signage yet also includes intangible elements such as symbolic values, personality and an organisation’s vision (Kapferer, 2008; Pich et al., 2018). Indeed, brands are co-created by multiple stakeholders including both internal and external to the organisation with the aid of tangible and intangible elements (Baumgarth, 2018). The application of branding concepts, theories and frameworks can provide products, services, organisations, individuals and communities with an emotional dimension with which consumers’ can identify and allow brands to differentiate from competitors (Baumgarth, 2018; de Chernatony, 2007). Nevertheless, despite significant work on the application of branding concepts, theories and frameworks to different settings and contexts, branding remains a topical, complex, under-researched and under-developed sub-discipline. This is particularly the case with research on brand communities. Brand communities are often conceptualised as a “specialised, non-geographically bound community based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand” (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001:412). Brand communities have the potential unite advocates or opponents around an entity by structuring a group of people with a common interest in the brand’s culture, heritage and the potential to create and share tangible and intangible brand artefacts (McAlexander et al., 2002). Further, a ‘brand community’ only exists if three elements are present; conscious of kind, rituals and traditions, and moral responsibility (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001; McAlexander et al., 2002). Existing research in this area, call for more understanding on offline and online brand communities particularly in different settings and contexts. Subsequently, future research should focus on how brands are co-created, strategically managed and structured and how brand communities are created, developed and managed from a multi-stakeholder perspective. This in turn will enhance our understanding of branding and brand communities, which in turn will advance knowledge development in this area. There is a clear opportunity for future research in branding to fuse insights from different research areas, perspectives and disciplines, which will support and develop the research on branding and brand communities.

Project Titles Can Include:

  • Personal brand creation: The case of prospective graduates and marketing alumni
  • Customer-to-customer interaction in online brand communities
  • Exploring political brand communities: creation, development and engagement from an offline and online perspective
  • Brand Architecture
  • Factors affecting consumers’ intention to participate in online community.
  • Understanding Consumers’ Willingness to Pay More for Green vehicles
  • Managing creative outcome in advertising and new product development.


Baumgarth, C. 2018, “Brand management and the world of the arts: collaboration, co-operation, co-creation, and Inspiration”, Journal of Product and Brand Management 27 (3), pp 237-248

de Chernatony, L. 2007, From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann

Kapferer, J.N. 2008, The New Strategic Brand Management: creating and sustaining brand equity long term, London: Kogan Page Ltd

Muniz, A.M. and O’Guinn, T.C. 2001, “Brand Community”, Journal of Consumer Research, 27 (4), pp 412-432

McAlexander, J.H. Schouten, J.W. and Koenig, H.F. 2002, “Building Brand Community’”, Journal of Marketing, 66 (1), pp 38-54

Pich C., Armannsdottir G., Spry L. 2018, “Investigating political brand reputation with qualitative projective techniques from the perspective of young adults”, International Journal of Market Research, https://doi.org/10.1177/1470785317750817


Dr Chris Pich

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

How to apply

For more information about our PhD programme, and how to apply, please visit research degrees in business.

Please email the university's Doctoral School for an application pack.

For informal enquiries about this project, please contact: Dr Chris Pich on marketingPhDs@ntu.ac.uk (please put Dr Pich’s name in the title line of your email).

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Chris Pich