The Performative of Branding is a work term report I wrote for the Department of English at the University of Waterloo as part of their co-op program. The purpose of the report was to connect my studies to my experiences during my internship at the Union Pearson Express during its launch. In this paper, I explore how J. L. Austin’s theory for the performative can be compared to branding, and how brands take on a life beyond words and images when executed well. I was awarded the Outstanding Work Term Report Award for Winter 2015, in the Senior category for this work.
Here is an excerpt from the report:
J. L. Austin’s theory for the performative—words which not only state an action but embody said action—is very similar to the practice of branding as I have experienced it at UP Express. Set standards are outlined in the Brand Guidelines, just as Austin outlines rules of convention required for the performative to existed, and dilution (infelicities, as Austin calls them) will occur if not everyone applies the rules correctly. In fact, I will extend Austin’s theory to say that not only words or phrases can be performative but an intangible like a brand—made up of differentiating character traits, copyright, and associated colours and logos—can be a performative in-and-of-itself based on the branding principles, and their effects, as seen during my four month term at UP Express.