Consumer Culture Theory: Volume 15

Table of contents

(24 chapters)
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Purpose

This chapter fosters understanding of core U.S. gun culture and how it promotes its political ideology through visual means.

Methodology

The research applies key visual theory concepts to investigate a selection of political representations made by gun rights advocates. The images analyzed include photographs, posters, and other ephemera posted on blogs and commercial websites located through informed keyword searches of Google Images.

Findings

Core gun culture in the U.S. aggressively promotes its libertarian and right-wing ideology through tactics of interpellation, intertextuality, and exhibitionism, often in tandem with humor, sarcasm, paranoia, and sex appeals.

Research limitations/implications

Although the findings are preliminary, visual theories and methodologies present a promising direction for further consumer research on American gun culture.

Social implications

U.S. gun culture produces levels of gun violence that far exceed those in other developed countries. Knowledge of how the core gun culture represents itself visually may deliver insights for mitigating this social problem.

Originality

Relatively little consumer culture research has addressed U.S. gun culture and visual theories have not been fully deployed.

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Purpose

The discussion about firearms in the United States often involves a contentious confrontation between two polarized groups: gun owners and those that might increase regulation of guns. The former group often uses rights-based arguments, including the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, while the latter assesses problems related to gun violence from a collectivist perspective, focusing on the health, social, and policy implications of firearm ownership. The National Rifle Association (NRA) adds to the mix through communicating and lobbying activities.

Methodology

The chapter uses qualitative data and interpretive methods to gain an in-depth insight into the values of the gun culture and the role of the NRA in this community. Data used are from nine depth interviews with gun owners and field notes derived from participant observation in addition to examination of email communications sent by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.

Findings

Three significant values espoused by members of the culture – self-sufficiency, safety, and privacy – are based on the individualist perspective and this perspective is reinforced by public narrative provided by the NRA.

Research limitations/implications

A limitation is the geographic limitation on data collection, although it is expected that rural gun culture does not vary significantly throughout the United States. The study has implications for a more nuanced understanding of the gun debate in the United States by suggesting how the narrative is structured by lobbying groups such as the NRA.

Originality/value of paper

This chapter provides insight into the U.S. gun culture that has not been previously addressed through a consumer culture theory lens.

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Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the intersection of identity, culture, and consumption as it relates to multiracial identity development.

Methodology/approach

The authors employed a phenomenological approach wherein 21 multiracial women were interviewed to understanding the lived experience and meaning of multiracial identity development.

Findings

Findings of this study indicate that multiracial consumers engage with the marketplace to assuage racial discordance and legitimize the liminal space they occupy.

Research implications

While there is much research related to the variety of ways marketing and consumption practices intersect with identity (re)formation, researchers have focused much of their attention on monoracial populations. This research identifies and fills a gap in the literature related to how multiple racial backgrounds complicate this understanding.

Practical implications

Due to their growing social visibility and recognized buying power, multiracial individuals have emerged as a viable consumer segment among marketers. However, there is a dearth of research examining how multiracial populations experience the marketplace.

Originality/value

This study provides a better understanding of the ways in which multiracial individuals utilize consumption practices as a means of developing and expressing their racial identity.

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Purpose

This research examines the impact of biculturalism on the decision making, identity perceptions, and consumption patterns of children of parents from different countries of origin and different cultural and ethnic backgrounds (i.e., biculturals from birth).

Methodology

This research uses semi-structured depth interviews with the adult children of binational households. We use our Cross Ball and Jar (CBJ) projective technique, which utilizes a tactile, hands-on sorting and ranking process to facilitate discussion of the multifaceted identities and cultural affiliations of bicultural consumers.

Findings

Our findings reveal that these “true” biculturals, growing up within a bicultural and binational home, have a more fluid, less clear-cut perception of their identity. Four emergent themes are examined: “Openness,” “Splitness,” “Outside the Mainstream,” and “Badge of Honor.”

Research implications

Based on these findings, the complexity of identity perceptions is revealed. Participants’ discussion of their struggles to fit in adds to our efforts to better understand multiculturalism’s impact, an understanding facilitated by the use of our CBJ projective technique.

Originality/value of chapter

This study raises awareness about the consumption behavior of multicultural consumers and their ongoing interaction with mainstream society. Second, our research extends the current literature on multiculturalism and biculturalism, by focusing on this particular type of bicultural consumer. Finally, this research tests the innovative CBJ projective technique, as a simple and flexible interactive tool to assist researchers in exploring complex, multifaceted identities.

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Purpose

By stepping outside of the consumer socialization model (Ward, 1974) which for many years has resembled a ‘body of verified truths’ when it comes to understanding the complex intimacy between young consumers’ identities and the marketplace, this research aims to offer a theoretical and empirical reconsideration of the tangible light and shade, indeterminacy and yet ambition in which these young adolescents’ consumption practices and social contexts are inextricably intertwined.

Methodology

Five different data collection methods were employed; namely personal diaries, in-depth interviews (which were conducted at two separate intervals), accompanied shopping trips, e-collages and researcher diaries. Each method was chosen so as to fulfil a specific purpose and reflect a specific angle of repose on the lived experience and consumption practices of a liminar – those at the heart of marketing’s newest strategic boundary.

Findings

This chapter describes some of the constituent elements of metaconsumption; the proposed theorization of the liminars’ consumption practices and a suggested diversion from ‘the effects’ perspective on young consumers’ socialization.

Research implications

This chapter adds to those which problematize the tendency to view young consumers’ interactions with consumption as measurable by having to pass through pre-defined stages if they are to become recognized as complete consumers. Instead this research aligns with the perspective that young consumers, like adults, must mediate the shifting milieus of their social lives through engagement with a myriad consumption practices.

Originality/value

This perspective responds to an acknowledged empirical dearth (e.g. Martens, Southerton, & Scott, 2004). However, secondly in line with Arnould & Thompson’s (2005) original motivation that CCT encapsulate those who see our discipline as ripe with the potential for new theory generation and widespread applicability, this research aligns micro understandings and theorizations of children’s social worlds and consumer culture practices with existing meso- and macro-levels of consumption theory.

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Purpose

This chapter explores the symbolic connections between coming of age liminality and identity-oriented consumption practices in postmodern American culture, specifically among adolescent girls.

Methodology/approach

Forty-two female participants (ages 20–23) participants were asked to answer the general question of “Who am I?” through creating identity collages and writing accompanying narrative summaries for each of three discrete life stages: early adolescence (past-self), late adolescence (present-self), and adulthood (future-self). Data were analyzed using a hermeneutical approach.

Findings

Coming of age in postmodern American consumer culture involves negotiating paradoxical identity tensions through consumption-oriented benchmarks, termed “market-mediated milestones.” Market-mediated milestones represent achievable criteria by which adolescents solidify their uncertain liminal self-concepts.

Research implications

In contrast to the traditional Van Gennepian conceptualization of rites of passage, market-mediated milestones do not necessarily mark a major transition from one social status to another, nor do they follow clearly defined stages. Market-mediated milestones help adolescents navigate liminality through an organic, nonlinear, and incremental coming of age process.

Practical implications

Rather than traditional cultural institutions (e.g., church, family), the marketplace is becoming the central cultural institution around which adolescent coming of age identity is constructed. As such, organizations have the power to create market-mediated milestones for young people. In doing so, organizations should be mindful of adolescent well-being.

Originality/value

This research marks a turning point in understanding traditional rites of passage in light of postmodern degradation of cultural institutions. The institutions upon which traditional rites of passage are based have changed; therefore, our conceptions of what rites of passage are today should change as well.

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Purpose

To investigate possibilities for integrating recent interdisciplinary research on materiality with basic issues in consumer culture theory, this chapter discusses understandings of materiality-based concerns and concepts in consumer research and maps possibilities for the future.

Methodology/approach

A review focuses on concepts of materiality, agency, and intention that mark a shift to a relational metaphysics in consumption contexts. Drawing from design theory, digital humanities, and philosophy, notions of flickering and witnessing evoke models of relations and interactions between consumers and consumption objects.

Findings

In this chapter, a disciplinary proposition emerges: consumer research is a form of materiality studies wherein the consumer is designated an element of interest in the relationships and interactions that bring forth the world.

Research implications

An awareness of the fundamental role played in consumer research by materiality-related assumptions may inspire concomitant animation and explication of a relational metaphysics, opening opportunities to recognize processes and practices at the core of consumer behavior previously obscured by prevailing interpretations governed by a singularly agentic, autonomous, and effective human subject. Power relations must not be ignored.

Originality/value of chapter

The chapter makes several contributions: organizes and explicates often taken for granted concepts such as materiality, materialism, and agency, connects consumer research to high-level theorizations of materiality, and synthesizes diverse discussions in consumer culture theory with the possibilities of new materialities.

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Weddings as Waste

Pages 145-165
Purpose

This chapter builds on Georges Bataille’s analysis of waste as a constitutive element of social life. We argue that two separate but intertwined dimensions included in the idea of waste, waste as sacrifice and waste as competition, can enhance our understanding of the role of the lavish wedding in contemporary consumer society. We suggest four categories of waste as constitutive of the meanings of the wedding universe: pure waste, lavish waste, simulated waste and anti-waste.

Methodology

We use a combination of netnography and long interviews to explore notions of waste in Danish weddings. The netnography was conducted in a Danish wedding forum, where informants for the long interviews were also recruited among the members.

Findings

We find that the four dimensions of waste suggested in our theorization are indeed found in the way consumers plan and enact their weddings. In particular, the notion of sacrificial expenditure – what we call “pure waste” in our context – is indeed present in contemporary weddings.

Research limitations/implications

This research is undertaken in a Danish context, which represents a particular historical and cultural framing of the wedding ceremony and its types of expenditure. We encourage research in other cultural contexts to elaborate on our findings.

Originality/value of chapter

Without denying the fundamental symbolic character of consumption activities, we argue that, more generally, a Bataillean perspective on consumption and waste can further our understanding of the limits of the symbolic character in consumer research, since it underlines the more corporeal experience of certain consumption rituals.

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Purpose

Individuals use money, time, and effort to consume, yet implicit in most consumer research is the availability of these resources, particularly money. While the literature provides an explanation of many aspects of consumption experiences, an explanation of how money is used to fund consumption is needed.

Methodology

In the present research, I explore ordinary consumer behaviors through depth interviews with individuals regarding everyday experiences to develop an understanding of the relationship between earmarking money and consumption.

Findings

Prior research finds consumers earmark monies thereby allocating it to distinct purposes, such that this earmarking influences consumer behaviors. Emergent from these data, I find evidence for two categories of consumer behaviors: protective, which are those addressing responsibilities in daily life; and, prospective which are those for shaping and representing identity. Further, I find protective or prospective behaviors are systematically associated with earmarking of money to either indexical or prosaic accounts, respectively, to fund consumption in support of the behaviors.

Research limitations/implications

This study explores everyday experiences to develop an understanding of how monetary earmarks are used to fund consumption. Other resources necessary for consumption, specifically time and effort, were not examined, yet are influential in consumption experiences and therefore are in need of study.

Originality/value of chapter

These findings contribute a distinct pattern of funding evident in the relationship between types of earmarks and categories of everyday behaviors.

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Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the interaction between access-based consumption (ABC) and consumer culture in the specific context of baby products, and connect the two streams of consumer research and design theory, by associating ABC with product service systems (PSS) which are seen as desirable as they offer a promise of sustainability.

Methodology/approach

Within an action research approach consisting of the establishment of a pilot service provision, we conducted ethnographies including in-depth interviews and focus groups.

Findings

The adoption of access-based provisions is constrained by low compatibility with consumer culture. Consumers are concerned with the provision’s ability to satisfy their needs, what this mode of consumption says about them, and the extent to which it associates them with communities of practice.

Research limitations

The limitations are the typical ones of action research, which is linked to a unique, researcher-generated context where the researcher is also a participant, and therefore are difficult to generalize.

Research implications

The large-scale implementation of PSS underpinning ABC is problematic as it challenges consumers’ needs for self-expression and affiliation; however, we found that consumers in this specific context are responsive to the environmental efficiency of PSS.

Originality/value

Our research explores the intersection between consumer research and design, and consumers’ response to sustainable business models which underpin ABC.

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Purpose

The purpose of the chapter is to engage with the relationship between the gift and the market in the context of philanthropic micro-lending. We seek to move beyond theorizing separate, ex-ante gift or market regimes and transactors who independently navigate between oppositional modes of transaction.

Methodology/approach

We turn to recent efforts of hybridizing charity and venture finance, exemplified by microfinance platforms such as Kiva.org. We combine data from an existing study of Kiva and its online community, with additional participant observation and third-party accounts detailing the evolution and workings of microfinance.

Findings

We illustrate how market-like elements are productively and problematically deployed in philanthropic giving and address the need to consider a broader range of socio-material relations involved in the framing of transactions.

Research limitations/implications

A complex network of actors and (trans)actions needs to be assembled for the philanthropic loan to be enacted. We touch upon the making and role of the socio-material devices that actively participate in such enactment only tangentially. Further research is needed to flesh out the respective transaction complex, taking additional note of the work of borrowers, local loan officers, and other less visible actors.

Practical implications

Organizations need to recognize and creatively address the complex interplay of gift and market elements. They need to pay attention and take advantage of the tensions and synergies emergent in hybrid gift-market contexts.

Originality/value of chapter

We engage with a complex, less studied transaction context. The chapter shows that philanthropic gift relations can be reproduced through market-like elements and arrangements. Such production entails complex socio-material networks mobilizing a broad array of human and nonhuman actors.

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Purpose

This conceptual chapter explores the role of embodiment in phenomenological experience of lived time, and the implications it may hold for studying consumption.

Methodology/approach

Conceptual chapter.

Findings

We argue that though consumer research scholars have become increasingly cognizant of the embodied foundation of temporal experience, the relation between embodied experience of time and consumption activity still remains under-theorized and researched. Through a phenomenological perspective we are able to understand the consumer as temporally directed toward the world where value is realized emergently through embodiment of affordances.

Originality/value of chapter

We build an existing work in consumer research to open up a possibility for a phenomenological experience of consumption that is, to a great extent, precognitive, temporal, and based on the ability to experience lived time.

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Purpose

In this essay, two purposes are of importance. One is to frame anti consumption as a social marketing issue on micro and macro levels. The second is to set forth dance as a persuasive element in anti consumption social marketing strategy, which heretofore has been under utilized and under theorized.

Methodology/approach

This essay draws from relevant existing literature in social marketing and builds and extends dance theory in television ads to conceptualize dance as a viable consumer culture aesthetic in anti consumption social marketing campaigns.

Findings

Effectively employing dance images in anti consumption social marketing campaigns may contribute to redesigning of the self-image and identity of consumers. Moreover, through linkages of positive behaviors to dance celebrations and rituals, aligned with an overall social marketing campaign, dance may facilitate reduction of negative consumption behaviors.

Social implications

Social marketers’ strategic success in high involvement behavior change depends in part on the target audience’s favorable response to message processing. The social marketing field encompasses a variety of such behaviors that if changed, improves both society as a whole, and the lives of individuals.

Originality/value of chapter

There are three aspects of value and originality in this contribution. They include forwarding anti consumption as a social marketing issue in consumer culture; theorizing dance as a somato-visceral and kinesthetic approach to anti consumption social marketing behavior change; and demonstrating dance as a positive persuasive element that can reside within the boundaries of social marketing ethics.

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Purpose

This chapter explores the nature of the cultural context that frames value creation and provides insight to the way in which value is collaboratively created, or co-created, in markets.

Methodology/approach

We develop a conceptual framework and research propositions for studying the co-creation of value-in-cultural-context through the intersection of consumer culture theory (CCT) and service-dominant (S-D) logic and the integration of a practice-theoretic approach for value co-creation.

Research implications

The integration of CCT, S-D logic, and practice theory provides a conceptual framework for studying the co-creation of value among multiple stakeholders and the (re)formation of markets.

Practical implications

Drawing on this framework, marketers can contribute to the co-creation of new markets by influencing changes in cultural contexts – practices, norms, meanings, and resources – that frame value co-creation and exchange.

Originality/value of chapter

This chapter explores the integration of CCT and S-D logic by focusing on value co-creation and applying a practice approach to further weave together these distinct research areas. In addition, the proposed framework elaborates the conceptualization of value-in-context to consider the cultural context that influences and is influenced by the co-creation of value.

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Purpose

This chapter addresses the concept of loyalty from a consumer culture theory perspective.

Methodology

We investigated loyalty in the context of annual (French) music festivals and their ritualized meanings for consumers with a multi-method approach, both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Findings

From our study loyalty appears as: (a) social rather than individual; (b) outcome of a social evaluation of emotional experiences rather than individual satisfaction; (c) temporally and (d) spatially structured and structuring. This stands in contrast to dominant conceptualizations of loyalty that emphasize individual’s satisfaction as antecedent of loyalty.

Originality/value

Our findings take off from Fournier and Yao’s (1997) and Fournier’s (1998) suggestions that loyalty can be reconceptualized as relationships. However, we argue that these relationships are as much a matter of social relations between people than between people and brands (or brands as anthropomorphized by brand communities) that are performed ritually and repetitively. This research highlights the necessity to reconsider both the definition of loyalty and organizations’ main loyalty strategies, which are individual-centric and do not consider the social and cultural environment of consumers.

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Purpose

Brand backstories enable consumers the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes of their favourite brands. This chapter explores the role of the brand backstory experience in the consumer–brand relationship, detailing the manner in which these experiences are structured to immerse consumers within the brand storyworld.

Methodology/approach

A qualitative analysis of two brand backstory experiences, a museum exhibit documenting the television series Outrageous Fortune and a factory tour of snack foods brand Herr Food Inc. was carried out using in-depth interviews with backstory creators and observatory field notes of the backstory exhibit and tour.

Findings

This study reveals how temporal and spatial elements craft the overall architectonics of the brand backstory experience and how the brand backstory reveal progresses to ultimately unite consumers with the brands’ imagined and real families.

Originality/value of chapter

By illuminating the dynamism and evolution of brands and branding practices, this chapter offers exploratory insights into a scarcely explored aspect of the brand experience.

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Purpose

Confessions are said to be important for members’ tribal experiences and they are usually ascribed religious meanings in existing research on consumer tribes. This suggests that confessions have a regulative role for tribal life. By employing the Foucauldian notion of pastoral power, the present study explores confession practices and examines how control is manifested.

Methodology

The study is based on a netnographic study and analysis of tribal members’ confessions across three online consumer tribes devoted to opera (Loggionisti, who are opera aficionados of the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy), sports (football and hockey fans of Djurgården, Sweden), and cars (Alfa Romeo owners).

Findings

We demonstrate how confessions align consumers with the common tribe ethos and how this constitutes members into various subject positions, which are fundamental social processes for reinforcing the tribe. More specifically, it demonstrates four types of subject positions: the ‘pastor’, ‘regular sheep’, ‘good sheep’ and ‘black sheep’, and how these subject positions regulate the actions of tribe members.

Research implications

The present study theorizes how control is manifested and facilitated in consumer tribes. The study also explicates the confession and its role as a religious regulating practice fundamental for the life of a consumer tribe.

Practical implications

Community managers can recognize the different subject positions that emerge within a community and help facilitate the interactions among community members.

Originality/value of chapter

Previous studies are silent about how confessions reproduce control in consumer tribes. The present study highlights confession practices and the constitution of subject positions, which regulate as well as reinforce consumer tribes.

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Purpose

This research reviews numerous studies of the relationship between consumer knowledge and external search in conventional marketing channels to investigate differences among these studies that have produced conflicting results. The findings provide a benchmark for future researchers and practitioners seeking to gain insight into consumer information search processes unfolding in the new environment of online, mobile, and social networking channels.

Methodology

A meta-analysis of an extensive array of empirical studies of the relationship between consumer knowledge and external information search was conducted. Regression analysis was used to test whether certain characteristics in the studies can explain variability in the effect sizes in which effect sizes are entered as dependent variables and moderators as independent variables.

Findings

Objective and subjective knowledge tend to increase search, while direct experience tends to reduce search. Consumers with higher objective knowledge search more when pursuing credence products. However, they search relatively less when pursuing search products. Consumers with higher subjective knowledge are much more likely to search in the context of experience products, but as is the case for objective knowledge having little effect on search for experience products, subjective knowledge has no significant effect on information seeking for search products. In addition, objective knowledge facilitates more information search in a complex decision-making context while higher subjective knowledge fosters more external information search in a simple decision-marketing context. Finally, the findings indicate that the knowledge search relationship reflects strong linkage in the pre-Internet era.

Originality

Relatively little is known about how the relationship between knowledge and information search varies across different types of products in simple or complex decision-making contexts. This study begins to fill this gap by providing insight into the relative importance of objective knowledge, subjective knowledge, and direct experience in influencing consumer information search activities for search, experience, and credence products in simple or complex decision-making contexts.

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DOI
10.1108/S0885-2111(2013)15
Publication date
Book series
Research in Consumer Behavior
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78190-811-2
eISBN
978-1-78190-811-2
Book series ISSN
0885-2111