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Branding in Turkey

Branding as Technology in the Turkish Denim Sector 

Eminegul Karababa

Lecturer in Marketing, Business School, Exeter University


The basic idea behind this project is that as a result of major changes in the global trade in denim products and the importance of this to the Turkish economy, most especially the fear of competition from China, the response has been to integrate branding itself as form of technology that is intended to add value to Turkish denim products and therefore move the sector from one largely dependent upon traditional forms of technology as in manufacture and milling and transform it into one in which tertiary services such as symbolic and service systems are viewed as an integral part of the overall commodity chain.

In order to do this both the state and commerce in Turkey is conceptualising the entire system of branding as a kind of import-substitution strategy, by which they hope to no longer be dependent upon other countries expertise in these technologies of branding which allow those countries to gain value through controlling the highly profitable final moments in the commodity chain. Instead they intend in the future that this technology become part of Turkeys own denim production knowledge and expertise and therefore give Turkish firms the ability to complete the entire commodity chain from the growing of cotton right through to the global recognition and appreciation of brands that are constructed in Turkey itself.


There are obvious reasons for an academic intervention into this process at this time. Partly because part of the process itself that is the training of Turkish industry into this branding process relies upon the way academics have constructed models and educational materials which are then used as part of this training programme. Partly also because it is a rare opportunity to study such a large scale, systematic and deliberate attempt by a major and highly successful national industry to undertake this transformation of the sector. Thirdly because in practice this involves a complex network on institutions ranging from state sponsored training schools, to in-house training within the commercial sector, and it would be valuable to have an external academic vision of the overall programme from someone teaching with branding and marketing who can also start to assess its larger consequences, which may reach much more widely that the initial intentions behind this programme. In effect then the project proposed here will also act as an audit of the entire sector and an evaluation of the ways investments have been made and how they might be targeted efficiently and effectively in the future.


In order for this to be accomplished the research programme proposed here will include a sense of longitudinal analysis by carrying out fieldwork over a three year period. It will also bring together two essential but different traditions of academic research. On the one hand the researcher is based in the department of marketing at the University of Exeter which includes some of the internationally best known expertise on the theory of branding itself, and on the other hand they will be collaborating with the material culture studies unit at University College London with its international reputation for ethnographic intensive research on the commercial sector. Within Turkey the project will be affiliated with the department of marketing at Bilkent, Ankara and more specifically with the Centre for Transitional Societies.

The proposal is based on six periods of ethnographic research (totally 12 months) starting in 2008 through to 2011. Funding is being sought from both the Turkish government and British research bodies. But the ethnography will start with pilot projects even prior to securing the full funding.