Making Stories: An Investigation of Personal Brand Narratives in the Scottish Craft Microenterprise Sector

Nicholas John Michael Telford

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the marketing and branding behaviours of a sample of microbusinesses that operate in Scotland’s diverse craft sector by examining brand narratives they create. Context of the sector is first given and demonstrates that this particular topic has received little specific attention in academic literature even though it has been recommended (Fillis 2003a; Fillis 2003b). Such an investigation also offers implications for SME marketing/ entrepreneurship in general, the creative industries in particular and craft brands’ contribution to the overall place branding of Scotland. An empirical methodology is proposed which takes a narrative phenomenological approach, generating narrative texts from depth interviews with creative producers which is subjected to a Grounded Theory approach and narrative analysis in view of craft producer typologies (Fillis 1999; Fillis 2010). The stories of makers are used to generate meaning and outputs to contribute to theory, practice and recommendations for policy. Care is taken to ensure that the testimony of participants is co-created and not entirely the result of the researcher’s interpretation even though this study is interpretive in nature (Rae & Carswell 2000; McAdams 2008; MacLean et al. 2011). Similar to other entrepreneurs or producers in the creative industries, the craft worker in the current era is typified as an individual sole trader who operates in a wider culture, society and economy of increasing complexity and competition (Fraser 2013). This thesis selects those owner/ managers whose businesses rely upon craft practice and are operating in Scotland as its focus, but aims its findings at a wider reach to establish themes for future research to understand how its participants build value into their market offerings by creating personal narratives within larger narratives of craft sector and creative industries discourse. A range of participants from new starts to well-established craft practitioners is featured in the text in order to give depth and breadth to the understanding of current practice in a diverse sector which increasingly interacts with other creative industry sectors (Yair & Schwarz 2011). This thesis posits that creative producers build value through their unique ‘auratic’ persona through their personal brand narrative. This is what differentiates their work and outputs from large corporatized mass-manufacturing systems. The products of individuals’ hand skill may be categorised and classified in many ways – from fine contemporary craft to the vernacular, the utile and that which pays homage to others’ designs. What remains constant, however, is that it emanates from personal identity and the identity of the maker mixing self with story (Leslie 1998). The thesis contributes to the gap in academic marketing literature on microenterprise brand development using the topics of personal narrative, business development, product development, marketing competency/ orientation, and technology use in production and marketing. Additional emergent themes of Microenterprise Social Responsibility, the role of life-work balance of makers parenthood which further ideas of career management in the creative industries are also revealed in the course of this research (see also Summerton 1990; Burroughs 2002; Neilson & Rossiter 2008; McDowell & Christopherson 2009; Banks & Hesmondhalgh 2009). Methodologically, this thesis is hybrid but crucially uses the equipment of story and narrative analysis to offer both insights into practice for the academy and a method that practitioners can use to further marketing development and their brand identity. Through the careful gathering and presentation of various stories – of biography, making and marketing, this thesis presents a current view of craft as created, communicated and exchanged by those working in the field in Scotland today. These case stories act as both informative examples that demonstrate how individual producers create value in their work. The findings are consistent with - but also develop - a maker typology offered by Fillis (1999; 2010) and Burns et al. (2012) thus contributing a methodological and conceptual approach and framework to understand the marketing and branding behaviours of Scottish craft microenterprises (McAuley 1999; Creative and Cultural Skills 2009) but which may also be applied to other types of microenterprise.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Stirling
  • Fillis, Ian, Supervisor, External person
  • Broadbridge, Adelina, Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationStirling
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2014


  • Marketing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Personal Branding
  • Narrative
  • Craft
  • Small business--Scotland
  • Handicraft industries--Scotland
  • Cultural industries--Scotland
  • Handicraft--Economic aspects
  • Industrial art
  • Branding (Marketing)


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