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The elite ethic of fiduciarity: The heraldry of the Jack Wills brand

Introduction

In the award winning British comedy-drama about university students, Fresh Meat, the character of JP is the victim of ‘the worst kind of racism: money racism!’ when his house-mates refuse to let his old-school friend Giles move into their shared house. They claim he’s too posh and they ‘don’t want another JP’ to which he exclaims: ‘Are you seriously saying that something I want isn’t going to happen because of you’.

The slippery relationship between brand ethic and profit

Introduction: The complex nature of ethics

For the past two decades the concept of ethics has become increasingly connected to the notion of brands, branding, consumers (consumers’ decision making & choice) and consumption both within academia and the business world. The relevance-making of ethics within the marketing sphere seems to be connected to a widespread idea that consumers nowadays, to a larger extent than before, include ethical considerations when evaluating and choosing between different brands.

Ethical commodities as exodus and refusal

Introduction

As we witness a rise in ‘ethical branding’, we should interrogate which practices could have any effect on ethical concerns. Capitalism generates the need for ethical consumption and benefits from its sale. Ethical practices must move beyond the sphere of consumption; likewise, analyses of ethical branding should address communication and networking. What we need is a concrete understanding of how brands communicate information about themselves. This can reveal that alternative ethical practices are not only possible, but are already occurring.

Brands beyond good and evil?

Either / or?

Most debates about ethics or the lack thereof are framed around two opposing schools of thought. On the one hand, liberal philosophy advocates values of freedom, the private and the individual; on the other hand there is a more loosely connected set of ideas that advocate society, the common good and justice (Rorty, 1989). The liberal tradition, with its emphasis on free markets leading to all other freedoms including democracy and personal freedom, dominates the debate in mainstream economics and business literature.

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