In a recent talk at Bournemouth University (and as an extension of a theme also presented at CCT in Madison in the summer) James Fitchett and Andrea Davis set out to challenge the purpose of consumer research and more broadly marketing as an academic discipline. There remains a question about what marketing theory does and about the apparent central role of the consumer in such work. To make such an argument more contentious for students, we might add that if marketing as an academic practice has little or no authority, what is the status of a degree in marketing? Is it no more than training for a job with a dubious reputation? Or can we wear the label BA (Hons) Marketing, Advertising, PR with a confidence that it has the same status as English, Maths, History, or even Ecconomics.
And if consumer research somehow ‘misses the point’ even of marketing theory, why might we press ahead with studies of the consumer?
I currently teach consumer culture and behaviour to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Bournemouth Media School. This is my 9th year teaching; although I now specialise in consumer culture and research I have also taught marketing research and interactive media strategies. I have designed educational material for distance learning, mainly aimed at international students, and have been involved in various steering groups aiming to increase our share of the international student market.
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: