Communication and Rhetorical Studies
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Janie Harden Fritz
Marketing, Exchange Value, Use Value, Rhetoric, Narrative
Use value and exchange value, concepts explored by Aristotle, are terms dealing with the natural function of an object and the object's worth in an exchange, respectively. In this work, Aristotle's concepts are applied to contemporary marketing practices and other aspects of culture in order to evaluate the way in which meaning is ascribed to objects. The role of the brand, for example, is to alter the exchange value of an object, while the use value can be left unchanged. Brands are indicative of exchange value because they have no substance to speak of, and they are a matter of convention; what they are and what they stand for is in no way fixed. Marketing practitioners develop brands largely by fusing objects with culture, and culture as well as cultural perceptions can change. As a reflection of culture, marketing practitioners use stories and identities in much the same way that culture independent of marketing would ascribe meaning. While branding and other marketing practices rely extensively on culture to form their bases, they are not the only source of cultural meaning because factors such as family and tradition also have influence. When factors such as these imbue objects with meaning, they, too, can affect exchange value, but they have origins outside the marketplace. I use the term narrative value to differentiate this source of meaning from marketing practices. Narrative value has to do with tradition and collective understandings of community, whereas brands are constructed by external means, as works of fiction. When culture is placed in objects as a reflection of the marketplace, the culture lacks the structure and durability of more traditional culture, and such ascribed meaning can be easily altered or eradicated. Narrative value, then, is an idea separate from marketing yet with the ability to impact worth in exchange.
Lucas, P. (2012). Rhetorically Ascribed Meaning in Marketing: The Role of Narrative in Establishing Exchange Value (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/840