A review on The Unmanageable Consumer (Yiannis Gabriel and Tim Lang, 1995) By Amy O’Connor and Rosanna Neophytou
In this useful and easy to read text the authors examine a selection of different views on “the consumer” including those of the new right economists, consumer activists and cultural theorists to name a few.
The vast amounts of views on what inspires and drives a consumer are evaluated and critiqued. The text not only focuses on academic conversations but also on everyday viewpoints on the consumer.
Yiannis and Lang argue that today’s consumer is over managed. A point we see as concerning, since in our role as communicators it can be argued we will attempt to manage and persuade the consumer even more.
After evaluating existing theory the text introduces the idea of “the unmanageable consumer.” A consumer that is ever changing, unpredictable and cannot be pigeon holed. Another concerning point for those of us who wish to work with brand who will attempt to talk to specific types on consumer on mass with one message. Although reading this text Rosanna and I agreed the consumer has more than one face we don’t fully believe the consumer is completely unmanageable.
The quality of the argument is great and the text is a really good starting block as it opens your eyes to other perspectives and types of consumer. It was written after the demise of the Soviet Union and at the end of the cold war, at a really tough economic type where consumers were “shy” and spending was low. Although the date of this book effects its applicability to the modern day setting we can compare current times of financial hardship to previous in history. We can also see how the text has become dated as it is wary of globalisation claiming it will cause a decline in the elements that boosted western consumerism such as steady jobs and full employment. As globalisation is now something that is upon us it makes the text an interesting read, although slightly irrelevant.
We also discussed that in the decade since the book was first published consumerism has changed beyond belief. The world of apps and vast online and mobile consumerism is something that any book of this year cannot provide insight on.
PROMOTIONAL CULTURES & COMMUNICATION CENTRE
Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University