A day of critical consumer research with James Fitchett and Andrea Davies

Next Thursday (23rd of September), our colleagues James Fitchett and Andrea Davies from Leicester University are holding an informal talk about their research interests: namely critical marketing and consumer research, an area that they have been active in developing and promoting. The overview of what they plan to discuss on the day is tantalising and provocative: Unpack marketing’s relationship with its hero, its agent of history, the consumer. In this relationship, the consumer is the hero of marketing discourse and the only subject it is entitled to talk about with any level of authority. This relationship is not without problems. As they note this “ideology of the consumer has produced a legacy which overshadows both critical and mainstream potential”. This is what they write on the subject: Hero in History: Critical Marketing Research for an Ideology of the Consumer There is little in marketing that marketers can claim as theirs and theirs alone. It would be unlikely for popular media to seek out a marketing expert to comment on the structure and operation of markets, or indeed to ask for a marketer to comment on the practices of management. Marketing, it would seem, has no particular claim to relevance or authority, no vantage point from which to claim to be able to offer unique analytical insight into either management or the market. In terms of professional practice marketing insights can often quickly dissolve into questions of organisation. In terms of its context – that is the market, the views from marketing have most commonly been overshadowed by economics and, more recently, sociological and cultural studies. In light of this difficulty of defining disciplinary space, marketing continues to defend its value in terms of being able to insights into the consumer. Marketing, or so its scholarly and professional membership would claim, is uniquely placed to comment on the consumer. Within organisations marketers continue to insist that they and they alone are able to represent the will, purpose and intention of the consumer, to offer ‘consumer insight’. In a similar way academic marketers retain an identity based on an understanding that it is their field, their discipline and methods, which are best placed to describe and document the consumer interest. As marketers then, we might say that the consumer is our hero, our agent of history. It is the consumer, located at the site of consumption, where so many questions regarding choice, self determination, well-being, and empowerment are best raised. Our presentation will seek to discuss and question some of the problems and limitations that this ideology of the consumer has produced as a legacy for the discipline of marketing – a legacy which overshadows both critical and mainstream potential. Our intention is to use this overall framework of critique to introduce some of our own recent research initiatives, which have looked at issues surrounding motherhood and the marketization of maternity and critical marketing theory.

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PROMOTIONAL CULTURES & COMMUNICATION CENTRE
PROMOTIONAL CULTURES & COMMUNICATION CENTRE
Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University