Key finding: “non elite” journals are increasingly influential in the research people do. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1410.2217.pdf
Everyone agrees that people communicate through the things they consume. If we buy a certain brand, consumer researchers argue that it allows us to show everyone else what kind of person we are. To put this another way, we could say consumption allows us to communicate without speaking.
In my forthcoming paper in Marketing Theory, I explore how we communicate through consumption – specifically the things we don’t want to say out loud because we too embarrassed. I argue that we can stop others from speaking about something we don’t want them to talk about through our consumption. For example, when an adulterous husband/wife lavishes gifts on their partner, they might be doing this in a way that both shows they have something to feel guilty about and also provides an incentive for the partner to not ask too many questions (as much as the gift says “I have to make something up to you” – it also says “If you like getting expensive presents, don’t ask where I’ve been”).
In psychoanalysis the term for communicating in such a way as to keep something hidden is “repression”. As Billig puts it, repression is a way of saying think or talk about this but not that. If you want to find out more, read my paper. It’s fun. I illustrate how consumption allows us to repress with examples from Sigmund Freud’s own life.
Reviewing 6,877 newspaper articles from the Sun, Guardian and Telegraph, we have found that marketers are presented remarkably consistent ways.
For every one article that mentioned a female marketer, three articles mentioned male marketers. Yet industry stats suggest the balance of male and female marketers is more even than this.
Marketers were presented as listening to consumers in just 7% of the articles. Far from responding to customer requirements, marketers were presented as telling their consumers what they wanted in 47% of the articles.
The overall trend is for marketers to speak on topics when they are trying to spin them in favor of their organization. No wonder the Chartered Institute of Marketers notes that marketers suffer from an ‘image problem’ in the wider society.
I missed this story from a couple of years ago but it nicely illustrates my issue with ‘Native Advertising’. Here, Stewart Lee raised an issue with a Foster’s Comedy Award which sought to celebrate the best act from the last 30 years at Edinburgh. Lee points out that this is so obviously designed to spread the Foster’s marketing message rather than celebrate hidden gems. Ironically, though, Lee’s own commentary went viral in precisely the way Foster’s would have wanted their award to go viral with respected comedians and industry players supporting Lee’s point (they call this ‘earned media’ – it is valuable). Foster’s changed the award and buried the announcement of the winners. As Lee explains on his website:
‘Without wishing to downplay the amount of effort thousands of heroic cyber-nerds all around the world put in, it was comparatively easy for the public to sabotage the stupid Foster’s poll. The kids had on their side a number of things that are an anathema to The Man, for it is he, in his world of inane corporate speak, his shit-trough of marketing disguised as philanthropy. In short, the kids had wit, intelligence, taste and honesty. And a communications network that bypasses the mediated information we are usually fed, the advertisers’ lies, the PR people’s spin, the news wank.’
I call this ‘going native’.
As we learn from the history of anthropology (ironically the business press tells us corporations are increasingly hiring anthropologists), going native involves either:
1. Tainting the precious thing you are trying to capture and repackage for another audience. In this case the researcher/brand ruins the community/art they are seeking to exploit
2. Losing your ability to speak with credibility to another audience. In this case, the community/art ruins the researcher/brand.