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Titanic: Consuming the Myths and Meanings of an Ambiguous Brand

Stephen Brown, Pierre McDonagh and Clifford J. Shultz II
Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 40, No. 4 (December 2013), pp. 595-614
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.1086/671474
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Page Count: 20
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Titanic: Consuming the Myths and Meanings of an Ambiguous Brand
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Myths have come of age in consumer research. In the 22 years since Levy’s inaugural article, the literature has grown at an impressive rate. Yet important questions remain unanswered: What makes some myths especially meaningful to consumers? Why are certain consumer myths more prevalent and less perishable than others? This article argues that ambiguity is an influential factor. Using the RMS Titanic as an empirical exemplar, it unpacks the principal forms of myth-informed ambiguity surrounding “the unsinkable brand.” Predicated on William Empson’s hitherto unsung principles of literary criticism, the article posits that ambiguity in its multifaceted forms is integral to outstanding branding and consumer meaning making, as well as myth appeal more generally.

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