Aarhus University Seal

Joseph Scarpaci


During his AIAS Cofund Senior Fellowship, Professor Joseph Scarpavi has been working on project "Consumption, Semiotics and Iconic Branding in Welfare States: A Latin American and Nordic Comparison".

Project at AIAS

The product marketing mix in developing countries faces particular challenges. On the one hand, basic goods and services need to reach consumers through direct (the market) or indirect (subsidized) means. Increasingly, product placement through social media, print, popular culture, film, celebrities, and the Internet extol purported values of certain (foreign) goods and services. Rightly or wrongly, consumers perceive a value or certain cache when they associate with foreign brands, which often exude ‘exotic’ and better attributes. On the other hand, national products may serve equally as well and often at a lower price, or, perhaps, satisfy a cost-benefit assessment that consumers perform in choosing between national versus foreign brands.
National goods additionally convey messages and meanings (semiotics) that may trump foreign competitors. A guiding research question is: To what extent do national symbols embedded in local products connect with residents because they convey key messages about the homeland (la patria)? These branding messages include myriad elements such as color, symbols, storytelling, images, jingles, perceptions, local place names, nationalist elements (flag, country colors, national heroes/saints/places) and values.
To further explore how national brands shape consumption, I extend these questions to two other important Latin American nations: Chile and Argentina, as well as the original ‘Nordic’ welfare states (Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway). How do these three national models, anchored in strong social-welfare histories from the 20th century, message their national brands? How have they balanced aspirational consumer needs of price compared to status-enhancing foreign products?

Short bio

Dr. Scarpaci former Director of the Latin American Studies Program at The University of Iowa, the former chair of the Department of Marketing and Management at West Liberty University (USA), and is presently Emeritus Professor of Virginia Tech and Executive Director of the Center for Cuban Culture + Economy. His most recent co-authored book, Marketing without Advertising: Brand Preference and Consumer Choice in Cuba (Routledge) sets the stage for the cross-national work driving his AIAS Fellowship at AARHUS. He is a five-time Fulbright award recipient to Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay and is the recipient of the Carl O. Sauer Award for Lifetime Achievement given by the Conference of Latinamericanist Geographers, the recipient of the American Library Association’s “Choice” book award for his co-authored book, Havana: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis (University of North Carolina Press). The U.S. National Science Foundation, The Social Science Research Council, and The National Institutes of Health have also supported his research, among others. 

Project title:

Consumption, Semiotics and Iconic Branding in Welfare States: A Latin American and Nordic Comparison

Area of research:

Social and Political Sciences

Fellowship period:

01 Oct 2014 – 31 Mar 2015