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An embodied approach to consumer experiences: the Hollister brandscape

Lorna Stevens (School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, UK)
Pauline Maclaran (School of Management, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK)
Stephen Brown (School of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, University of Ulster, Belfast, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 4 April 2019

Issue publication date: 30 April 2019

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to use embodied theory to analyze consumer experience in a retail brandscape, Hollister Co. By taking a holistic, embodied approach, this study reveals how individual consumers interact with such retail environments in corporeal, instinctive and sensual ways.

Design/methodology/approach

The primary source of data was 97 subjective personal introspective accounts undertaken with the target age group for the store. These were supplemented with in-depth interviews with consumers, managers and employees of Hollister.

Findings

The authors offer a conceptualization of consumers’ embodied experience, which they term The Immersive Somascape Experience. This identifies four key touch points that evoke the Hollister store experience – each of which reveals how the body is affected by particular relational and material specificities. These are sensory activation, brand materialities, corporeal relationality and (dis)orientation. These may lead to consumer emplacement.

Research limitations/implications

The authors propose that taking an “intelligible embodiment” approach to consumer experiences in retail contexts provides a deeper, more holistic understanding of the embodied processes involved. They also suggest that more anthropological, body-grounded studies are needed for the unique insights they provide. Finally, they note that there is growing consumer demand for experiences, which, they argue, points to the need for more research from an embodied experience perspective in our field.

Practical implications

The study reveals the perils and pitfalls of adopting a sensory marketing perspective. It also offers insights into how the body leads in retail brandscapes, addressing a lack in such approaches in the current retailing literature and suggesting that embodied, experiential aspects of branding are increasingly pertinent in retailing in light of the continued growth of on-line shopping.

Originality/value

Overall, the study shows how an embodied approach challenges the dominance of mind and representation over body and materiality, suggesting an “intelligible embodiment” lens offers unique insights into consumers’ embodied experiences in retail environments.

Keywords

Citation

Stevens, L., Maclaran, P. and Brown, S. (2019), "An embodied approach to consumer experiences: the Hollister brandscape", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 4, pp. 806-828. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-09-2017-0558

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited