A multimodal perspective highlights the importance of attending to the different modes, mostly verbal and visual, which organizations use when conveying messages. We complement this perspective by adding an additional layer, namely the medium through which messages appear. We suggest that organizations can fine-tune messages not only by playing with possible interactions across modes, but also across media. We build our reasoning around the communication of identity claims. Specifically, we are interested in how identity elements are referenced in verbal and visual modes of meaning making, and how these modes interrelate both with one another and with the respective channels of communication on which they appear. We propose that organizations differentially select identity elements across diverse media and draw on specific identity elements modally in their quest for legitimate distinctiveness. We propose three ways in which multimodal identity claims interact: intensifying, in which messages draw from the same theme to reinforce claims; complementing, in which messages complement each other to enhance meaning; and transposing, in which a dominant theme in one message is transposed into another theme elsewhere. We provide an illustration with identity claims made by single-malt Scotch whisky distilleries.


Bernard Forgues, and Tristan May. 2017. Message in a Bottle: Multiple Modes and Multiple Media in Market Identity Claims, in Markus Höllerer, Thibault Daudigeos, and Dennis Jancsary (Eds), Research in the Sociology of Organizations (Volume 54B: Multimodality, Meaning, and Institutions: 179-202), Emerald: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/S0733-558X2017000054B006