Conquering Consumerspace: Marketing Strategies for a Branded World

Jean M. Dean (Senior. Analyst – Customer Relationship Marketing, Talbots, Hanson, Massachussetts, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




Dean, J.M. (2004), "Conquering Consumerspace: Marketing Strategies for a Branded World", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 21 No. 5, pp. 360-361.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

“In consumerspace, each of us charts our own identity by picking and choosing the brands that speak to us. We reward those that do with our loyalty but also with our reverence and, yes, sometimes even our love. Market share is out, share of mind is in. In marketerspace, companies sell to us. In consumerspace, they sell with us” (Preface, p. xiii). These words sum up consumerspace, in a nutshell, as defined by Michael R. Solomon.

His book tells the story of the informed, involved consumer and how marketers are meeting the challenges presented by this “new” consumer. Solomon conveys his message through examples and case studies. He also helps the reader better digest each main concept by adding periodic recaps called “The Bottom Line”. After 17 years of working in the retail arena, in one aspect or another, I have never enjoyed “shopping”. It has always been a necessary evil to me. Until reading Conquering Consumerspace I never realized how involved I am in all aspects of evaluating and purchasing products, as well as communicating my needs to marketers.

In the first few chapters, Solomon addresses the difference between marketerspace and consumerspace. Marketerspace was the “commercial system where producers dictated what we buy, when, and where” (p. 5). Mass‐produced merchandise targeted at large market segments became the practice. However, Solomon feels that “today's segments are smaller, less homogenous and much more subtle” (p. 10). It is more difficult today to target a particular product to a mass audience, as consumers' lifestyles are becoming less cookie cutter. Today's consumer believes that the brands they buy define who they are and help to form bonds with other owners of the same brand. “Consumers view brands as having personalities and prefer those marketing offerings that are similar to how they see themselves or to the type of person they want to become” (p. 26).

Consumers also have brands that they try to avoid so as not to be defined in a negative way. Marketers can use these “avoidance brands” (p. 49) to help their product appear in a more positive light. “An important part of lifestyle marketing is to identify the set of products and services that seem to be linked in consumers' minds to a specific social role. And research evidence suggests that even a relatively unattractive product becomes more appealing when it shows up in the company of other, better‐liked products” (p. 50). Another point that Solomon makes is that the youth of today appear to have more buying power than in the past. These “consumers‐in‐training” (p. 69) offer marketers a chance to try to gain brand loyalty early on.

Consumers want to be treated as partners in the brand. “To enhance relationship building, many marketing experts now advocate customer relationship management (CRM) programs that allow companies to talk to individual customers and adjust elements of their marketing programs in response to each customer's reactions to elements of the marketing mix” (p. 100). Consumers let marketers know in a variety of ways how their brand is performing, by making purchases, sending messages, and chatting with others, both online and offline. They relay to the company, and other consumers, their views of a brand or company. To maintain consumers as partners, marketers can learn a lot by observing them using their product. Also marketers should “give consumers the latitude to configure their own unique products if possible” (p. 130). An example is Lands End customized service for chinos made to order.

Consumerspace is finding its niche in the online world, as well. Solomon positions sites, and the consumers that frequent them, as communities. In a brand community “consumers who share a common allegiance to a brand can now bond with each other online, and these networks often exist independently of the brand's creators” (pp. 149‐50). There are chat rooms, electronic bulletin boards, and interactive games. A pure hype community is a corporate‐sponsored transaction‐based Web site. A pure buzz community is a community based on “consumer‐generated word of mouth” (p. 171). Buzz community sites have potentially little, to no, corporate involvement. If a corporation were involved then it would be wise to maintain anonymity in order to gather as much information from the users of the site without alienating them.

In Chapter 7, “The Disneyfication of reality”, Solomon looks at the “ways companies like Disney are engineering our physical environment to ensure that the places where we work and play are saturated by brands” (p. 178). This takes the form of themed environments, concept stores, ethnic restaurants, and product placement. Themed environments such as Disney can “often depict idealized versions of reality” (p. 179). Concept stores, such as Niketown, “showcase a company's innovations and aim to build and maintain a corporate identity rather than simply sell products” (p. 181). Ethnic restaurants “signify their environments through the use of cultural symbols such as Japanese cherry blossoms or Mexican cacti” (p. 185). Product placement is something I have noticed more and more lately. I often see and hear mention of specific brands or restaurants on television programs or in movies. For example, on a popular sitcom one of the characters specifically said “I'll take you to Applebee's“ rather than simply saying “I'll take you to dinner”.

The theme of Chapter 8 “I buy, therefore I am”, focuses “on ways that marketers can design these spaces to lure consumers to them and make them happy they came” (p. 199). Marketers can do this by encouraging group shopping as it is a social process. Retailers can also design the store/mall to affect the consumer's behavior positively through the use of scented marketing – these are the scents that you encounter while in the marketplace, such as the smell of bread baking while you are standing outside of a bakery. We experience all of this when we got to a mall, which is designed to reel consumers in and keep them there. For example, most malls contain food courts with a variety of food offerings, playrooms/arcades to keep the kids happy while Mom and Dad shop, and pleasurable scents wafting from bath and candle shops to entice a consumer.

Along with these elements of conquering consumerspace Solomon points out trouble spots in our environment, and with consumers, that can affect marketers and purchase activity. Negative word of mouth, brand bashing, protest sites, rumors and hoaxes, consumer terrorism, which includes things such as product tampering and computer viruses, as well as international terrorism, all affect the marketplace and consumer behavior. Marketers need to be alert and informed about their consumer, but also careful not to invade their privacy in the process.

I stated in the beginning that shopping has become a necessary evil for me. However, I am a very well‐informed consumer. I communicate with companies, and I am a loyalty cardholder with a number of retailers. This book helped me understand why I do all of this – it is because I want to be informed about what I am buying and to have some control in the marketplace. In my job, I receive many industry publications, and in recent months many have been touting the same messages as in this book. I think this book would be a beneficial read for all marketers, as well as students of marketing.

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