THE RADICAL SOCIAL MOVEMENT BURNING MAN AS A BRAND: RETHINKING ITS IMPLICATIONS
Elina Koivisto & Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä
This paper examines the intersection between alternative social movements and corporate actors, focusing on the shared practices and potential overlap between these spheres. By analyzing the case of the Burning Man community and its globally recognized brand, this study explores three key research questions: the elements of a brand and its application in the context of counter-cultural social movements, the role of radical social movement members in brand co-creation, and how brand management can support co-creation within counter-culture social movements.
Grounded in social movement literature and theories of brand management, this conceptual paper draws from the Burning Man Journal publications to investigate the relationship between branding and the Burning Man community. Burning Man, a participatory culture and annual event held in Black Rock City, Nevada, represents a unique case of a counter- cultural social movement. The paper challenges the notion that a brand is solely represented by a logo, highlighting the duality of brand identity and brand image. Burning Man’s perspective on branding aligns with the concept of co-created brands, emphasizing the dynamic and iterative nature of brand identity.
The paper also explores the linking value of brands within communities and discusses the formation of brand communities based on shared consciousness, rituals, and traditions. Drawing on Consumer Culture Theory, the paper emphasizes the co-creation and negotiation of brand meanings by consumers within the Burning Man community. It highlights the potential benefits of adopting brand management practices within non- commercial movements and suggests that brand management can facilitate the co-creation process.
Further research is need to examine the co-creation of brands in counter-cultural social movements to provide insights into how these movements can make a meaningful impact and contribute to a shared purpose of creating transformative spaces in the world. To do this, the paper proposes investigating the meaning of Burning Man among participants and non-participants, exploring how Burning Man projects contribute to the construction of brand meaning and participant identity, and examining the implicit brand management practices within the Burning Man organization.
Keywords: social movements, brand co-creation, brand management, Burning Man