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Ethics of Ambivalence in Corporate Branding

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Iain Munro



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Recent research within the field of organization studies has begun to map out the social and political effects of ethical branding on consumers, employees and society, yet the relationship between employees and brands is still an under-developed area of research. The aim of this article is to investigate how an ethical brand is perceived by its employees and to reveal contradictions that emerge from employee accounts of company brand ethics. The analysis identifies three areas of ‘ethical ambivalence’ in these accounts, notably: (1) the high employee identification with the brand in contrast to their ignorance of its specific values and practices; (2) the aim of the brand pedagogy to change consumer consciousness, and the admission that this had little effect in practice; and (3) the ambivalence in the stated aim to ethically transform the industry in contrast to maintaining an exclusive market niche. This article provides both an empirical contribution to research on company branding that reveals the contradictions in the employee accounts of their company’s brand ethics and a theoretical contribution introducing the notion of ‘ethical ambivalence’ to explain these contradictions, which shows how such ambivalence permits only a very restricted level of critical reflection about ethical issues. This article highlights the limits of critique at work in a company where it is difficult to differentiate between genuine moral concern and the repetition of simple brand messages.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wegerer P, Munro I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organization

Year: 2018

Volume: 25

Issue: 6

Pages: 695-709

Print publication date: 01/11/2018

Online publication date: 10/01/2018

Acceptance date: 10/01/2018

Date deposited: 19/01/2018

ISSN (print): 1350-5084

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7323

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1350508417749736


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