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Beyond semiotics and hermeneutics: Discourse analysis as a way to interpret consumers' discourses and experiences

Lionel Sitz (EM Lyon, Lyon, France)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 4 April 2008




This paper contends that the central question in understanding consumers' experiences is not what is said (lexical analysis) or why (ideological analysis), but how consumers relate these experiences. The purpose is to present a method called discourse analysis (DA) to examine consumers' narratives. This interdisciplinary perspective advantageously complements the lexical, content analytic or semiotic approaches traditionally used in marketing.


In order to show the potential of DA as a method to analyze qualitative data, the paper reports on a research concerning consumers' shopping experiences. Data used stemmed from in‐depth interviews that are analyzed through a critical DA informed by discursive psychology and foucauldian approaches.


DA allows marketers grasping the experiential value of shopping activities by depicting these experiences as ongoing constructions which meaning is constantly reinterpreted. DA also gives access to the various ways informants' manage their identity through narration. Hence, it challenges the simplistic dichotomy between consumers and producers and allows marketers to look at consumers as co‐producers of their lived experience. Given the scope of the study, the obtained results are situated and further researches should be conducted to critically analyze various types of discourses, produced by different actors. This paper shows the potential of DA in analyzing qualitative material. DA could be usefully employed to grasp the thoughts and feelings of the consumers. Rather than solely conducting lexical and/or semiotic analyses, marketers could use DA as a complementary investigation tool.


Through DA, this paper suggests new ways for seeking knowledge about the consumers and the market. To this end, it presents DA principles and shows that it is too often neglected by marketers trying to analyze consumers' narratives.



Sitz, L. (2008), "Beyond semiotics and hermeneutics: Discourse analysis as a way to interpret consumers' discourses and experiences", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 177-191.



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