Internal marketing and the enactment of sexual identity

Sam Bairstow (Glamorgan Business School, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK)
Heather Skinner (Glamorgan Business School, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK)

Equal Opportunities International

ISSN: 0261-0159

Publication date: 26 September 2007



The purpose of this paper is to explore issues surrounding the enactment of a lesbian, gay or bisexual person's sexual identity and their role as an internal customer of mainstream service organisations.


This article is written from a critical marketing perspective, the prefix “critical” signifying adoption of what may be considered somewhat radical philosophies and theories, allowing questioning of not only generally accepted theories of marketing, but also the assumptions upon which they rest. The “radical” approaches, i.e. the lenses through which the critique is offered, are postmodernism and queer theory. The theoretical perspectives critiqued in this article are internal marketing and emotional labour, and the assumptions questioned are those surrounding the importance of the role of the internal customer's identity in consumption of the work role.


The findings suggest a link that needs to be made between an individual's status as an internal customer (particularly in a front‐line service job), their identity (as defined by the individual themselves), and its impact upon their consumption of work (which viewed through a postmodern lens can be seen to help create, maintain and communicate such identity).

Practical implications

For those charged with the management of people in organisations, this paper offers critical insights into the complex practical regulation of organisational diversity in service industries.


The paper has drawn together various perspectives in the literature that have not previously been linked. If an external customer consumes products and services in order to create or display an identity, and if we accept the argument that employees should be treated as internal customers then the logical conclusion of this perspective is that these internal customers also create their identity through the consumption of work, and not just through their consumption of goods and services. The complexities of this proposition have been considered, using sexual identity management as one example, but the principle could equally apply to other areas of diversity among internal customers within the workplace.



Bairstow, S. and Skinner, H. (2007), "Internal marketing and the enactment of sexual identity", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 26 No. 7, pp. 653-664.

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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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