Exploring Human Brands


Special issue of Journal of Product and Brand Management; Deadline 28 Feb 2019

SPECIAL ISSUE on “Exploring Human Brands”


Julie Guidry Moulard, Associate Professor of Marketing and the Balsley-Whitmore Endowed Professor in Business, Louisiana Tech University, VP for Programs – Academy of Marketing Science <jmoulard@latech.edu>

Kathrynn Pounders, Assistant Professor, Faculty Affiliate, Center for Health Communication, The University of Texas at Austin <kate.pounders@austin.utexas.edu>


While humans have engaged in identity construction, self-presentation, and self-promotion for millennia, the marketing literature has only recently recognized this phenomenon (Shepherd, 2005). Just like how firms and organizations engage in the branding of their goods and services, humans engage in the branding of themselves.

Human brands refer to well-known persons who are subject to marketing communication practices (Thomson, 2006). Celebrities, athletes, politicians and academics are a few of the contexts in which human brands have been explored in marketing (e.g, Carlson and Donavan, 2013; Close, Moulard, and Monroe, 2011; Kowalczyk and Pounders, 2016; Moulard, Garrity and Rice, 2015; Zamudio, Wang, and Haruvy, 2013). Other contexts in which human brands have been studied include the visual and performing arts (e.g., Fillis, 2015; Moulard, Rice, Garrity, and Mangus, 2014).

Nonetheless, the marketing of a person, sometimes referred to as personal branding or self marketing (Shepherd 2005), also pertains to “everyday” individuals that are seeking employment or, more broadly, seeking to promote themselves or their business. For instance, those offering professional services (e.g., lawyers, physicians) and the self-employed (e.g., hair stylists, small business owners) must also be concerned about building their human brand.

Recent trends, however, have thrust human brands to the forefront. The spread of the Internet and social media has taken personal branding to a new level, allowing “everyday” individuals the potential to be well known human brands. For instance, some social media influencers began as everyday individuals and now have millions of followers (although smaller “microinfluencers” must also prudently manage their human brand to remain viable). Further, the emergence of the “gig economy” has resulted in an increase in the number of independent contractors and freelancers—from Uber drivers to Advocare direct sellers—all of whom must consider factors that increase their brand equity.

Thus, the objective of this special issue is to explore the concept of human brands in a variety of contexts. Papers that emphasize the unique challenges of human brands as compared to traditional brands are highly encouraged. Additionally, papers that further explore celebrity endorsements are welcome.

Possible topics for this special issue may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What are some novel contexts in which to study human brands (e.g., food artisans, airbnb hosts)?
  • How does one manage human brands embedded within a larger branded organization or firm (e.g., athletes as part of a athletic team, candidates as members of a political party, salesperson as part of a larger firm)?
  • How do human brands balance their own needs and desires (i.e., remain authentic, “true to self,” or follow a product orientation) with the needs of their customers (i.e., follow a market orientation)?
  • Under what conditions are consumers likely to form stronger relationships with human brands? To which types of human brands are consumers most likely to become attached?
  • How do the advisors, agents, or publicists of a human brand influence the human brand’s attractiveness, success, or equity?
  • How and when is a person distinct from their human brand, and do consumers perceive this distinction? Relatedly, how, when, or at what point do consumers perceive human brands as distinct from their business (e.g., an architect and her architecture firm)?
  • Do human brands have different target markets and, if so, does the human brand create different brand images across these markets? How are these different brand images managed? Do multiple brand images pose a problem for human brand’s authenticity more so than traditional brands?
  • How can human brands be successfully repositioned?
  • How do human brand transgressions differ from those of traditional brands?
  • How are the human brand producers of hedonic products perceived differently from producers of utilitarian products?
  • Can consumers be perceived as having a human brand that must be managed (e.g., eBay buyers are rated)?

The following is a partial list of human brands contexts authors may wish to consider:

  • Celebrities (e.g., Kowalczyk and Pounders, 2016; Moulard, Garrity and Rice, 2015)
  • Athletes (e.g., Carlson and Donavan, 2013)
  • Academics (Close, Moulard, and Monroe, 2011; Zamudio, Wang, and Haruvy, 2013)
  • Politicians (e.g., Hoegg and Lewis, 2011; Sanghvi and Hodges 2015; Speed, Butler and Collins, 2015)
  • Visual artists: painters, sculptors, architects, photographers, video/film producers, etc. (e.g., Fillis, 2015; Moulard, Rice, Garrity, and Mangus, 2014)
  • Performing artists: singers, actors, musicians, dancers, comedians, models, etc. (e.g., Eagar and Lindridge, 2015; Parmentier, Fischer, and Reuber, 2013)
  • Producers of hedonic products: chefs, clothing, jewelry and furniture designers, wine producers, food artisans, local farmers, etc. (e.g., Dion and Arnould, 2016; Spielmann and Babin, 2011)
  • Professional services: doctors, accountants, veterinarians, lawyers, etc.
  • Self-employed: personal trainers, hair stylists, yoga instructors, etc.
  • Heads of organizations: CEOs, small business owners, university presidents, directors of organizations (e.g., Bendisch, Larsen and Trueman, 2013; Scheidt, Henseler, Gelhard, and Strotzer, forthcoming)
  • Independent contractors: direct sellers, Uber drivers, airbnb hosts
  • Content creators: authors, bloggers, podcasters, social media influencers (e.g., Delisle and Parmentier, 2016; Pihl, 2013).


All papers need to be submitted online to the Special Issue on “Human brands” through the ScholarOne System


For informal enquiries you can contact the guest editors.

Deadline for submissions: 28th February, 2019.

The system will open: 1st September 2018.


Bendisch, F., Larsen, G. and Trueman, M. (2013), “Fame and fortune: a conceptual model of CEO brands”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 47 No. 3/4, pp. 596-614.

Carlson, B. D. and Donavan, D. T. (2013), “Human brands in sport: athlete brand personality and identification”, Journal of Sport Management, Vo. 27 No. 3, pp. 193-206.

Close, A. G., Moulard, J. G. and Monroe, K. B. (2011), “Establishing human brands: determinants of placement success for first faculty positions in marketing”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 39 No. 6, pp. 922-941.

Delisle, M.-P. and Parmentier, M.-A. (2016), “Navigating person-branding in the fashion blogosphere”, Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 211-224.

Dion, D. and Arnould, E. (2016), “ Persona-fied brands: managing branded persons through persona”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 32 No. 1-2, pp. 121-148.

Eagar, T. and Lindridge, A. (2015), “Resolving contradiction in human brand celebrity and iconicity”, Consumer Culture Theory, Vol. 17, pp. 311-330.

Fillis, I. (2015), “The production and consumption activities relating t the celebrity artist”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 31 No. 5-6, pp. 646-664.

Hoegg, J. and Lewis, M.V. (2011), “The impact of candidate appearance and advertising strategies on election results,” Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 48 No. 5, pp. 895- 909.

Kowalczyk, C. M. and Pounders, K. R. (2016), “Transforming celebrities through social media: the role of authenticity and emotional attachment”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 345-35.

Moulard, J. G., Garrity, C. P. and Rice, D. H. (2015), “What makes a human brand authentic? identifying the antecedents of celebrity authenticity,” Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 173-186.

Moulard, J. G., Rice, D. H., Garrity, C. P. and Mangus, S. M. (2014), “Artist authenticity: how artists’ passion and commitment shape consumers’ perceptions and behavioral intentions across genders,” Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 8, pp. 576-590.

Parmentier, M.A., Fischer, E. and Reuber, A.R. (2013), “Positioning person brands in established organizational fields”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 373-387.

Pihl, C. (2013), “In the borderland between personal and corporate brands – the case of professional bloggers”, Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 112-127.

Sanghvi, M. and Hodges, N. (2015), “Marketing the female politician: an exploration of gender and appearance”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 31 No. 15-16, pp. 1676-1694.

Scheidt, S., Henseler, J., Gelhard, C. and Strotzer, J. (forthcoming), “In for a penny, in for a pound? exploring mutual endorsement effects between celebrity CEOs and corporate brands”, Journal of Product & Brand Management.

Shepherd, I. D. H. (2005), “From cattle and Coke to Charlie: meeting the challenge of self marketing and personal branding”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 21 No. 5-6, pp. 589-606.

Speed, R., Butler, P. and Collins, N. (2015), “Human branding in political marketing: applying contemporary branding thought to political parties and their leaders”, Journal of Political Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 1-2, pp. 129-151.

Spielmann, N. and Babin, B. J. (2011), “Testing congruency effects between origin and producer”, International Journal of Wine Business Research, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 338-354.

Thomson, M. (2006), “Human brands: investigating antecedents to consumers’ strong attachments to celebrities”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 70 No. 3, pp. 104-119.

Zamudio, C., Wang, Y. and Haruvy, E. (2013), “Human brands and mutual choices: an investigation of the marketing assistant professor job market”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 41 No. 6, pp. 722-736.