Various streams of literature in organizational theory, the sociology of consumption, and marketing argue that organizational identity work is a critical component of consumer identification with an organization. Identity work generates feelings that engender consumer loyalty to, and feelings of oneness and belongingness with, the organization. Organizational characteristics such as mission, espoused values, specialization, quality, and form are understood to drive a bonding relationship between consumer and producer (Dutton and Dukerich 1991; Bhattacharya, Rao and Glynn, 1995; Bhattacharya and Sen 2005).
Furthermore, this literature finds that consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that enable them to signal this relationship, in part because they derive status from the products’ symbolic values (Velthuis 2005; Ravasi and Rindova 2008). For a number of markets, this archetype of socioeconomic relationship is bound up in an identity movement, an expression of “we feeling” among a band of actors for whom production and consumption of specialized products – most often in the domain of cultural production – is seen as an expression of individuality, cultural discernment, anti-mass consumption sentiments, and distinction (Rao, Monin and Durand 2003; Greve, Pozner and Rao 2006; Weber, Heinze and DeSoucey 2008).