Public and Corporate Workshops

Perspectives on Branding: Ethics, Ambiguity, Persuasion

 This seminar draws on the resources of literature and literary theory to explore the ways audiences experience brands and branded material, and the ways that reception can diverge from the expectations of organizations and business owners. Branding involves compact forms of story-telling, which covey to the audience the ethics, values, and backstory of a particular business or product. Between concept and execution, however, there is a layer of ambiguity which brands can rarely control but can be productively aware of and manage. In this seminar, we will use the resources of literature, literary theory, and ethics to provide insights onto the multiple layers of meaning produced in acts of persuasion, develop greater sensitivity to ambiguity as a communicative byproduct, and develop a framework for telling the story of your brand ethically and inclusively.
    Ambiguity is a core component of literary texts: not only can we not be sure whether what we understand is what the author meant, but we can also not be certain of whether our understanding is correct or useful. In this course, we will learn how to use that ambiguity to pull out a full range of possible understandings, and how branding works to limit or manage these understandings, but not eliminate them. By becoming more sensitive to how different audiences and different context impact a brand’s reception, you can craft a more effective strategy for your brand, predict potential pitfalls, and produce better context that engages audiences more effectively.

You will leave the seminar with a better understanding of the following three take-aways:

1. Ambiguity is always present: we will analyze a number of cases, both literary and real-world, to pull out the various causes and impacts for ambiguity.
   2. Perspective matters: active discussion on how specific configurations of time, place, identity, etc., shape a person’s response to messaging
   3. Audiences are constructed: using political speeches and literary texts, we will think about how the speaker/author actively makes for themselves the audience they need to have. We will then apply it to individual organizational applications, driven by the specific situations of seminar participants.

Offered through HDO at UT-Austin, Nov. 11th, 2023.

“I liked that after each deep dive into a concept we were directed to bring it back to our real world question. So often we have difficulty in bringing the “ideal” educational setting into a real and practical application, and it helped to see so many examples of very different issues being connected back to the instructional concept.” Seminar participant, 2022.

“Favorites were the breadth of roles and expertise included in our group; Ayelet did a fantastic job facilitating discussion stemming from the classic themes and stories resulting in raw emotion in such a short time spent together.” Seminar participant, 2022.

“I appreciated that the seminar was a place where we could feel vulnerable and express vulnerability. (That’s tangential to the topic at hand, but it was really meaningful, and I felt like the instructor honored everyone’s vulnerability as it deserved to be honored.)” Seminar participant, 2022.

“I left feeling very impressed and profoundly impacted.” Seminar participant, 2022.