For more information about Royal Holloway, please see this promotional video. To see a promotional video for the MA Consumption, Markets & Culture see here. To see a promotional video for the Royal Holloway School of Management, click here.

For more information about the Royal Holloway MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing and the application process see here.

To get an understanding of the unique values that underly the MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing programme please read these blog posts: Value of Scholarly Values, Importance of Reading and Morris Holbrook and Business Interest in Education.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Thinking of taking a post-Christmas dinner jog?

One of Sarkozy’s earliest scandals as French President was when he took to the streets of Paris to jog. The spectacle of a jogging President revolted France’s soundbite-friendly intellectual community with Alain Finklekraut demanding that Sarkozy immediately curtail his “undignified” jogging adventures. Not only did Finklekraut object to the spectacle of the Presidential knees, but also because “Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation." In a city where Baudlaire had previously extolled the virtues of the flaneur, the intellectual meditative pursuit of strolling and contemplating the cityscape, Sarkozy jogging in his NYPD t-shirt appeared as yet another vulgar and anti-intellectual importation.

Sarkozy, the "iron-clad heterosexual", as described by Alain Badiou, goes for a jog

Central to such concern was the idea that jogging embodies a US-centric neo-liberal order loaded, as it is, with a logic of exhibitionism, individualism and narcissism. For the jogger, the body is reconfigured as technology, an instrument to be perfected and managed through discipline in order to participate in the everyday. It bears witness to the double-bind of consumer culture where hedonistic pleasures must be balanced with the miserable asceticism of diet and fitness regimes. Locked into a trance the jogger is completely closed to any social possibility with their body mechanically and robotically set about repetitive tasks as they expect strollers to stand aside whilst they transform parks into private gymnasia. Yet, unlike running, the regime of the perfected body never arrives as jogging remains an exercise-lite hobby, as consumer researcher Dr. Robin Canniford of University of Melbourne puts it, “jogging is like Ready Brek instead of porridge, Elmlea Cream instead of clotted cream, Flora instead of butter, designer stubble instead of beard and David Cameron instead of Mussolini. Basically, jogging is life in half-measures."

The history of jogging, in its contemporary bourgeois phase, is commercial and widely believed to have been imported into the US by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman who popularised the pursuit and recognised an opportunity to expand the taket market for sportswear. Hence the rise of jogging in the US has been historicised as connected to the rise of Nike yet Bowerman’s vision of jogging was fundamentally social and organised around clubs and group jogs. In particular Bowerman was interested in jogging as an athletic pursuit for the elderly that would bring cardio-benefits. Fifty years later, the widespread practice of jogging is unrecognisable from Bowerman’s enthusiastic vision and its health benefits contextualised by a plethora of knee and hip injuries. Indeed in 2009 Nicolas Sarkozy collapsed whilst jogging and required hospitalisation.

Walking through Battersea Park during marathon season, surrounded by a sea of lycra-clad and suffering-faced joggers who each expect you to stand-aside, it is tempting to conclude that this is a particularly pointless phenomena of consumer culture's half-measured ascetic and trivial bourgeois lifestyles.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas & Muzak

An article that myself and Morris Holbrook wrote a few years ago has been picked up by the Seattle Times (see here) and the Salt Lake City Tribune (see here).

Meanwhile, in the words of Krusty the Klown; “have a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a cwazy Kwanzaa, a tip-top Tet and a ... And now a word from MY God, our sponsors!” 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Consumer Culture Theory Workshop on Methodology

Consumer Culture Theory Workshop on Methodology
Royal Holloway, University of London
June 18-22 2012

This is a week long intensive workshop that explores methodologies for consumer culture theory and is presented as part of the CCT European Doctoral School associated with University of Southern Denmark and University of Bilkent.

We aim to equip doctoral students, early career researchers and junior faculty with practical and theoretical reflections that will serve as training for conducting field research within socio-cultural empirical contexts. The workshop will include various major CCT scholars including Professors Cele Otnes (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Giana Eckhardt (Suffolk University) and Avi Shankar (University of Bath). More names will be announced. The programme of study will offer students an opportunity to study closely and avail of personal contact with leading scholars in the field.

The workshop will take place in Royal Holloway, University of London’s Bloomsbury campus in the heart of London city centre and will be led by Alan Bradshaw and Pauline Maclaran.

The key emphases within the workshop will be:

  • introduction to a range of research strategies from grounded theory, introspection to phenomenology
  • importance of observation and immersion in field sites
  • how to develop theoretical insights during field research
  • how to engage in cultural contexts that are unfamiliar
  • engaging with historical contexts
The cost of the week long course has been set at £500. This will include costs of tuition and also lunch and coffee provisions throughout the course. Attendants will be expected to source their own accommodation (for a list of available local accommodation please see here - with thanks to Birkbeck Institute for Humanities for sharing their list).

Application – please send a one page description of your doctoral research and motivation for joining the programme to

The course will be worth 6 ECTS points.

Advice From a Luminous Alumnus - Liliya Tokmantseva

Alan Bradshaw: So what you think about our new blog?
                                                                Me: Vey nice but probably a bit too formal
`                   Alan Bradshaw: Can you make it better?

Hello MA Marketing generation 2011 – 2012 and all the professors whose lectures I miss so much! My name is Liliya, I’m a freshly graduated MA Marketing student (2010 - 2011). I decided to write in this posting (because Alan Bradshaw asked me: can you make it better?) to share my experiences and give you some advice that can probably simplify your life in RHUL and make it even more enjoyable.

Alan already made a nice posting about what you need to do in order to succeed in the course. I think it’s time to present a student’s point of view.

What to do in order to succeed during the course

Socialise with your professors. This is the key to success. First of all, you will realise that they are not only academic gurus but, first of all, human beings. They are nice, friendly, helpful, funny... they have their hobbies, strengths and weaknesses. Once you realise that, you will feel less shy and frustrated during the lectures. Besides, according to my experience, knowledge gained during the social events and informal meetings live longer in your head that those which were received in the lectures.

Study your professors. Of course you need to study marketing literature if you want to do really well in your course but apart from that you also need to study....  your professors.  Some people might disagree but I believe that the assignments marks are highly subjective. I wrote one assignment for 1 night and I got a distinction. I was working on another one for a whole month, 5 hours every day and I received 58.  Almost every my classmate can give you the similar examples.

Every tutor has the particular preferences and dislikes. It does not necessary mean that they have to dominate your choice of topic, just be careful and creative with the strings that you can attach to your assignment. A nice coherent discussion with good English expressions for Chris Hackley, a couple of additional references to Daniel Miller’s books for Alan Bradshow, rigorous implementation of Pauline Maclaran’s assignment’s instructions.... To sum up, try to be a good psychologist, it is important both for a student and a marketer =)


I guess that some of you might want to stay in London and look for jobs after the graduation. The bad news about it is that if you don’t have experience, your chances to get a job are close to zero, especially if English is not your first language. The competition is very high and the education is ridiculously insignificant compared to job experience. There you need to get this experience right now! The job can be unpaid but there must be something in your CV. As for me, I found a nice part-time Marketing paid job during my studies. I used the vacancies search on RHUL career centre website. Just register and go! But be ready to invest some time and effort in the job searching process.

Another option is taking an internship. Unfortunately, I have more bad news for you. If you are interested about when you should apply for internships, my answer is: yesterday. Yes, that’s right, you need to apply one year before the start. That is to say, you really need to hurry up.

To look for options check the websites like this or better – make an appointment with the career centre (see, they will give a lot of useful sources.

Good luck to everyone and enjoy your year! It will be unforgettable! 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Roundtable Discussion

Roundtable Discussion
Phenomenology & Consumer Research: The Context of Context
14 December 2011, 12:00, 11 Bedford Square, Bloomsbury

Chair: Pauline Maclaran (Royal Holloway)
Panel: Soren Askegaard (University of Southern Denmark)
          Matthias Bode (University of Southern Denmark)
          Alan Bradshaw (Royal Holloway)

This roundtable panel will discuss matters relating to how phenomenology is approached both conceptually and methodologically in consumer research and how it both opens up and forecloses wider issues: the context of context. Among issues, the roundtable will address topics raised in an important forthcoming paper on phenemonology by Soren Askegaard and Jeppe Linnett to be published in Marketing Theory.

All welcome however if you are external to Royal Holloway, please register your attendance in advance by emailing

Friday, 9 December 2011

A Student Describes Her Dissertation - Asya Medvedeva

All professors in the MA Marketing encourage us to write projects about something that we are especially passionate about. Following this advice I decided to write my dissertation about figure skating. I was particularly interested in the topic of consumer tribes, at which we looked closely during Brands & Branding and also the Marketing & Consumer Research modules. The theory of fandom, studied in the Sports Marketing module, also provided me with an important base for research objectives formulation.

Studies in the area of figure skating are limited to the analysis of the cultural meaning of this sport. There is very little research conducted that explains the way in which figure skating fan clubs and communities are formed and operate. The graph below illustrates the areas that are related to the research and the overlapping area represents the gap in the current studies that this research was aimed to fill.

As a result, the objective of my research was to investigate the complexion of online fan groups dedicated to figure skating and to gain an understanding of how involvement with these groups affects the consumption experience of figure skating.

The subject was studied using the example of online fan groups dedicated to a Swiss figure skater Stéphane Lambiel. Research focused on two Russian-speaking communities: Lambiel_ru community on LiveJournal website and Stéphane Lambiel Group on social networking site These fan groups were chosen on the basis of my personal participation in the communities and my ability to gain access to statistical information about members of these communities. In addition, these particular groups are very distinctive due to a large number of activities and social practices undertaken within and between these communities. Also, the study of Russian fans of a Swiss figure skater was viewed as an interesting object of investigation because it revealed certain non-conventional aspects of motives of fandom, e.g. location and gave an opportunity for deeper analysis.

The research has shown that construction of the image by figure skaters has a large effect on the ways that they are perceived by their fans. It was noticed that the construction of an image embodies such contrasting elements as masculinity, athletic strength, energy and artistry, emotionality and sensitivity (Adams, 2011; Brennan, 1996; Kestnbaum, 1996). The image of figure skaters also determines fans’ ideology and practices.
The examination of existing theoretical concepts of fan groups (Cova, Kozinets and Shankar, 2007; Kozinets, 2010; Jenkins (2006), Kahle and Close (2011) etc.) has demonstrated the complexity of figure skating as an object of consumption by fan groups due to the combination of sports and arts.  Figure skating fans were found to be very conservative and observant. The study has revealed such attributes of sports fandom as obtaining nicknames according to their favourite's name and wearing regalia during competitions. However, figure skating fans were found to be more reserved than typical sports fans and expressed their dislikes of all the conventional attributes of fandom, such as abnormal interest in the favourite's personal life and extreme emotionality.
The analysis of the characteristics of fan groups in the online context (Baym, 2010; Cavanagh, 2007 etc.) indicates the factors that have most influenced the way community operates social parameters and hierarchical power. Technical parameters of the groups determine the type of information that can be provided to its members and possibilities for communication and building relationships with other members. The hierarchical power dictates all other attributes of the groups. Depending on the level of knowledge, personal contribution to the group and access to genuine information, certain members obtain authority among others. The opinion and personal characteristics of these people have a huge influence on other members, because it is those people beliefs and values that determine the group's style of communication and dictate all the processes that happen in the group.

I believe that findings obtained in this research can be used by marketers who are willing to target their services and products at figure skating fans. The understanding of the nature of figure skating fandom and the social processes that take place in fan groups can provide compelling opportunities for marketing practice and further research.

Adams, M. L. (2011), Artistic Impressions: Figure Skating, Masculinity and the Limits of Sport. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Baym, N. (2010), Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Brennan, C. (1996), Inside Edge. A Revealing Journey into the Secret World of Figure Skating. New York: Scribner.
Cavanagh, A. (2007), Sociology in the Age of the Internet. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Cova, B., Kozinets, R.V. And Shankar, A. (2007), Consumer Tribes. Amsterdam, London: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Jenkins, H. (2006), Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World (eds). New York: New York University Press, pp. 98-109.
Kahle, L.R. and Close, A. G. (2011), Consumer Behaviour Knowledge for Effective Sports and Event Marketing. East Sussex: Routledge.
Kestbaum, E. (2003), Culture on Ice. Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.
Kozinets, R.V. (2010), Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online. London: Sage.
Lambiel_ru, (no date), С'est toi le soleil. Available at:
Stéphane Lambiel (no date), Vkontakte (Group page). Available at:

Monday, 5 December 2011

Students & Lecturers Critical Debates Series

Students & Lecturers Critical Debates Series
Football: More Than Just a Game?
Thursday 8 December, 7:00pm

CONFIRMED VENUE Students Union, Rialto 

Today amid the Rupert Murdochisation of football which sees matches as highly branded events conducted by multi-millionaire players, we pose the question is football more than just a game? 

In order to address the question we are delighted to present an all-star panel.

Seamus Kelly is a goalkeeping coach at Shelbourne FC of Dublin and has previously played for Cardiff City, Bohemians and St. Patricks Atheltic (both from Dublin) and has also played GAA for County Offaly. Since retiring Shay has been conducting academic research into the world of professional football coaching. 

Shay Kelly in action as Bohemians beat Tottenham Hotspurs 3-1. 

Sean Hamil is a lecturer who operates within Birkbeck Sport Business Centre at Birkbeck College, University of London and has co-produced various texts including The Changing Face of the Football Business: Supporters Direct and Football in the Digital Age: Whose Game is it Anyway? He was extensive experience with the organisation Supporters’ Direct who are a government sponsored body who encourage supporters to take shareholdings in their football club.

Gabriel Kuhn is author of Soccer vs The State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics in addition to various other texts. Kuhn is a controversial writer who recently cancelled a 3 month speaking tour of America having been put on the US “no-fly” list.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Psychogeography of Bicester Brand Village

In these times of heightened political consciousness, economic implosion and hand-wringing pessimism, I think it might be helpful to contribute a blog entry focusing on triviality and self-indulgence. So, I decided to write about my recent trip to the ersatz world of Bicester luxury brand Village. The full article is here

I'm not a a member of the brand cognoscenti myself you understand. Its all my lovely wife's fault. She makes me go there, once or twice a year. What strikes me is the emotionally contained, polite, yet slightly glassy-eyed demeanour of the well turned-out and multi-cultural shoppers who throng Bicester's boutique-lined high street. Gucci, LV, Prada, they're all there. Shoppers play with meaning as they test brand after brand against their sense of identity. It's a quest for authenticity in a deeply inauthentic setting. And all at allegedly bargain prices. Pulchritude and parsimony: extravagance and thrift. And the psychogeographical effect on one's emotions is overwhelming. I dressed in brands for the experience, and I fell into the group consciousness, like an extra from Day of the Triffids, somnolently wandering from store to store with an air of quiet intensity. When my wife told me a bag had been reduced from £900 to £400, I actually thought, oh, what a bargain. My first car cost £300.

Guy Debord, the arch-psychogeographer, would have enjoyed Bicester Village. It seems ripe for a Situation, a revolutionary occupation. Its fun to imagine this plastic cathedral of brands full of running, screaming, drunken, vomiting, copulating anti-capitalist protesters. Me? I wouldn't have dared to drop a chewing-gum wrapper on the street. No revolutionary, me.  



Friday, 25 November 2011

Guy Standing - Critical Debates Series

Students & Lecturers Critical Debates - Guy Standing
Tuesday 29 November, 4:00 Rialto Room, Students' Union

Professor Guy Standing of University of Bath will host the first in the Students & Lecturers Critical Debates at Royal Holloway. Standing is the author of the high profile The Precariat which describes an emerging class characterised by insecurity and lack of any occupational identity in an age of transformation of labour (see his article in the Guardian here). 

The event will take place in the Rialto Room at Students' Union between 4 and 6 on Tuesday 29th November.

The ‘Students & Lecturers Critical Debates’ is a joint initiative between Students' Union and lecturers and is designed to critically engage with issues, foster debate and reduce barriers between staff and students and between departments. It establishes an independent forum for critical debate where lecturers and students from all disciplines can join in debate outside the rigid classroom environment and outside the rigidities of departmental structures. The underlying ethos is to create a forum for raising critical issues and to foster the exchange of ideas and positions.
The debates run in the Student’s Union. Each session draws on the work of leading contributors to a field or topic which affects civil, market and state society. It draws speakers from academe, think tanks, journalism, trade unions and beyond. The debate programme is diverse reflecting the underlying plural spirit and the desire to attract a diverse and changing audience each fortnight.
Our aim is to be inclusive so everyone is welcome and that includes all types of students and all types of staff from all departments.

Universities, Profit and the Creation of Cultural Content

The UK Government Universities Minister David Willetts has expressed his support for more for-profit 'university' provision. The rationale is classically economic- he argues that for-profits will help to lower prices and increase consumer choice.

But there is something missing from the for-profits.They haven't created any of the collectively produced cultural content, the knowledge, that they retail. They play no part in filling the collaborative well from which real, non-profit, universities all draw. And they have no investment in the critical thinking which defines a Western university level education.

Of course, real universities are hardly immune from the commoditization of knowledge. But they have a moral legitimacy because of the stuff they do collectively to build that cultural content. For-profits in general pay their staff only to teach, while non-profits pay their staff to do that and also to review and edit books, articles and journals, to examine PhDs and courses, and to engage in debates around research, policy and public understanding.

This cultural content is mostly free to the user, yet the for-profits are packaging and selling it. So is that cultural plagiarism?                    

This op-ed piece is a shorter version of one on my own blog If you're wondering if the world really needs another self-promoting opinion-fest of a blog, blame Dr Bradshaw, whose solicitations to contribute to the MA Marketing blog led to my blog-epiphany. Thanks Alan!        

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Benetton revisit old advertising techniques

I was giving my undergraduate advertising students a history lesson this week about Benetton's strategic use of controversy in their ad campaigns under Toscani almost twenty years ago. Then just yesterday they come up with a reprise of one of their most famous ads. Their 1990s image of a nun and priest kissing (you can see it on this AdAge story) won creativity awards in some countries, but was banned in Italy.

It looks as if someone from Benetton has been studying their own history too- just yesterday a splurge of media chatter rose around a new campaign which includes a picture of the Pope and and a Turkish Imam kissing. Cue Vatican outrage and thousands of free column inches on Benetton's 'new' unhate ad camapign. Job done.

Story here, courtesy of the Daily Mail (warning: the pics are not pretty)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Exarcheia Now!

Event to discuss contemporary economic crisis, radical activity, radical space and political economies of consumer culture. Will include contributions by Andreas Chatzidakis (Royal Holloway), Antonis Vardis (London School of Economics), Costas Douzinas (Birkbeck), Orsalia Dimitriou (Goldsmiths), Emma Dowling (Queen Mary) and more. To register attendance please email:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Berman on Foucault

Michel Foucault was a highly influential French social theorist who died in 1984. In the words of Alain Badiou, he was "a scholar, the excellence of that term, full of humour, modest and capable, when necessary, of great rational violence" (Badiou, 2009: 119). Within Critical Management Studies, Critical Marketing and Consumer Culture Theory, Foucault's work has been particularly influential.

At one stage in Critical Management Studies, Foucault-scholars seemed to have become pitted against Marxists and division lines were set accordingly across several British business schools. From the Marxist perspective, his work often is seen as cited in a way that forecloses radical analysis and can be, despite himself, mobilised as a conservative and even reactionary frame of analysis leading Zizek to refer to the "tragedy of Foucault".

Like Adorno, it often seems that Foucault has been overtaken by representations. With such thoughts and divisions in mind, it is interesting to refer to Marshall Berman's impassioned perspective in All That is Solid Melts Into Air (recently re-issued by Verso), worth reproducing at length:

 Marshall Berman, author of All That is Solid Melts Into Air

Just about the only author of the past decade who has had anything substantial to say about modernity is Michel Foucault. And what he has to say is an endless, excruciating series of variations on the Weberian themes of the iron cage and the human nullities whose souls are shaped to fit the bars. Foucault is obsessed with prisons, hospitals, asylums and what Erving Goffman has called "total institutions." Unlike Goffman, however, Foucault denies the possiblity of any sort of freedom, either outside these institutions or within their interstices. Foucault's totalities swallow up every facet of modern life. He develops these themes with obsessive relentlessness and, indeed, with sadistic flourishes, clamping his ideas down on his readers like iron bars, twisting each dialectic into our flesh like a new turn of the screw.
Foucault reserves his most savage contempt for people who imagine that it is possible for modern mankind to be free. Do we think we feel a spontaneous rush of sexual desire? We are merely being moved by "the modern technologies of power that take life as their object," driven by "the deployment of sexuality by power in its grip on bodies and their materiality, their forces, their energies, sensations and pleasures." Do we act politically, overthrow tyrannies, make revolutions, create constitutions to establish and protect human rights? Mere "judicial regression" from the feudal ages, because constitutions and bills of rights are merely "the forms that [make] an essentially normalising power acceptable." Do we use our minds to unmask oppression - as Foucault appears to be trying to do? Forget it, because all forms of inquiry into the human condition "merely refer individuals from one disciplinary authority to another," and hence only add to the triumphant "discourse of power." Any criticism rings hollow, because the critic himself or herself is "in the panoptic machine, invested by its effects of power, which we bring to ourselves, since we are part of its mechanism."
After being subjected to this for a while, we realise that there is no freedom in Foucault's world, because his language forms a seamless web, a cage far more airtight than anything Weber ever dreamed of, into which no life can break. The mystery is who so many of today's intellectuals want to choke in there with him. The answer is, I suspect, that Foucault offers a generation of refugees from the 1960s a world-historical alibi for the sense of passivity and helplessness that gripped so many of us in the 1970s. There is no point in trying to resist the oppressions and injustices of modern life, since even our dreams of freedom only add more links to our chains; however, once we grasp the total futility of it all, at least we can relax. (p34-35)

Badiou, Alain. 2009. Pocket Pantheon. London: Verso.
Berman, Marshall. 2010. All That is Solid Melts Into Air. London: Verso.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Has the ASA gone crazy?

Marketing ethics is a recurring feature of our MA. I like to follow the UK Advertising Standards Authority rulings, and this one strikes me as very strange. A Marc Jacobs perfume ad has been banned by the ASA for being too sexualised. The story is on the link below. I can't see that interpretation at all- am I naive? Or has the ASA just gone crazy?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Vera Hoelscher, MA Marketing Student 2009/2010

Hello everyone! My name is Vera Hoelscher and I am a graduate of the MA Marketing 2009/2010 class. I would like to share some of my Royal Holloway experiences with the readers of this blog.  What made this course so unique was how it combined a focus on consumer collectives and social media with critical marketing theories and ethics.  This was supplemented with lectures held by special guests talking to us about topics such as completely turning around a major Russian airport from a marketing services perspective, or awareness of different cultural contexts in marketing.

Although students worked hard, there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy the lightness of being on our beautiful campus and in close by London.  Such included culinary evenings with friends, Founder’s Dining Hall dinners, the legendary Summer Ball as well as partying in London.  For me, one of the most important aspects of life at Royal Holloway was the friendships I found within its international student community.

The most strenuous and yet rewarding experience during my MA was working on my dissertation. In order to keep pushing through months of research, analysis and writing, the key was to choose a topic that I was truly dedicated to.  Befitting the summer months of dissertation writing, I combined three previous research interests of mine – Generation Y, services marketing and luxury consumption – in my dissertation, which came to be titled Marketing Luxury Holidays to a Young German Leisure Class.  The most exciting parts of this process were carrying out the primary research and seeing how my results formed findings that were beyond what I had anticipated. 

Together with my supervisor, Dr Sameer Hosany, I was able to take this dissertation further and publish it as a conference paper at the Travel and Tourism Research Association Conference in Archamps, France in April this year.  After my presentation, fellow academics congratulated me on my research and encouraged me to keep going.  This experience was made yet more special by a Gala diner, which took place at the Cesar Ritz College.  After a Swiss wine tasting session, we were served exquisite courses cooked by the students of the prestigious hotel school all while enjoying the view over Lac Leman.

A final high point of my master’s programme was being able to attend the graduation ceremony in July together with my fellow course mates, friends and family.  It is hard to imagine a venue more festive than the University’s own chapel for such an occasion.  What made the obligatory picture taking and cap tossing so memorable was being reunited with those Royal Holloway people, who have grown to be good friends.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Royal Holloway Students' Union at National Demonstration

East Meets West

With China rapidly emerging as leading global economy, questions of how East and West encounter one another form the basis of numerous texts such as Martin Jacques' recent When China Rules the World and Scott Lash et al's Global China. Within this burgeoning genre can be found an obscure but potentially seminal text by the consumer sociologist Colin Campbell, Easternization of the West: A Thematic Account of Cultural change in the Modern Age.

Colin Campbell is best known within consumer research for his 1985 landmark The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism. By contrast his more recent Easternization of the West: A Thematic Account of Cultural change in the Modern Age (2007) has yet to exert such impact although, I submit, it holds the potential to be an even more significant work. Campbell returns to the Weberian mode of analysis of the Romantic Ethic but this time the focus is on the Western imagination of Eastern spirituality and its impact in shifting Western ethics.

Max Weber

For Campbell a core conceptual basis for his project emanates from his reading of Weber and the idea of ‘worldview’, a term which Weber used instead of ‘culture’, and relates to a human need to conceive of the world as a meaningful cosmos. Campbell states that no religious worldview can be entirely satisfactory in meeting the basic human need for meaning and this produces tension. Further, there is an inherent drive towards a systematizing and rationalizing of any worldview. Critically, Campbell argues that rationalizing can take one of only two directions and that these are logically, not empirically, derived hence Campbell acknowledges that what is being theorised are ideal-typical religious orientations and that there have always been elements of the East in the West and vice-versa. It is also important to note, as Campbell does, that the social and economic circumstances that people find themselves in will affect the kind of meanings that people need.

Colin Campbell

The first direction that rationalization of worldview can take is that ultimate reality becomes envisaged as a separate form above or beyond this world, which becomes increasingly profane in distinction: “these alternatives tend to result in the first case in the postulation of a personal god who transcends the world he created and who intends the resolution of all discrepancy by establishing a “Kingdom of God on Earth” at some future time”. (p12). This rationalization is identified as being the direction followed by the major western religions including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The second rationalization typifies religions of the East:

“... the postulation of an immanent divine principle, which working itself out over millennia through a moral mechanism involving the transmigration of souls, will also eventually achieve closure once all life has progressed through to the highest level of unity with the “all-soul”. (p12)

Hence we are provided with two worldviews that give rise to the meanings and ethics that we find with Western thought identified as predicated on the idea of an external ultimate reality whilst the East is predicated on the idea of immanent divinity. An important clarification is needed to say that for Campbell the ‘East’ at stake is actually the West’s image of the East, or perhaps a Western alter-ego available for anybody alienated from the Western system, and is not, therefore, an authentic form of cultural importation. Campbell’s core argument is that a shift in worldview has taken place and that we are now amidst an era of Easternization: “it concerns fundamental changes in the dominant worldview that prevails in the West, and as such changes that are apparent in all areas of life, including religion certainly but also medicine, the arts, political thought and even science. In that respect the Easternization thesis refers to a fundamental revolution in Western civilisation, one that can be compared in significance to the Renaissance, the Reformation or the Enlightenment” (p41). Concurrent with an Easternization of the West is, of course, the de-Westernisation of the West. The import of these claims is huge.

Over the course of Campbell’s text a series of instances of Easternization are provided. An example of the process, at a very basic level, is yoga. At first yoga is imported divested of its spiritual content –merely a means to achieve fitness and physiotherapy - however over time its spiritual dimension becomes re-inscribed amidst a general popularization of Zen,Taoism and other Eastern beliefs. Hence the tendency “to Westernize, that is to secularize it, (is) replaced by an acceptance of its essentially spiritual nature” (p35). Of course the process of Easternization probes deeper than an embracement of yoga and over the course of several hundred pages, Campbell iterates the rise of the New Age as a major cultural transformation to Easternization with enormous consequences. Christianity becomes piece by piece re-packaged as a more Eastern friendly religion; the Devil disappears from theology, as does the idea of God as a “distant, awesome and terrifying judge” (p255) as indeed does the idea of the Bible as a text that needs to be read literally – as Campbell states the “form of Christianity that flourishes in the West today... bears a considerable resemblance to the New Age movement” (p345). Leftist politics are undermined as scepticism of religious dogma and orthodox doctrine spill over and so projects of social transformation turn away from institutional reform towards existentialism. Hence concerns with an excess of materialism, free sexual subjectivity and the notionally emancipated and non-alienated subject become more resonant; a “shift of the focus of radicalism in the West from the political to the cultural and quasi-spiritual realm” (p239). In science the shift is away from “old, classical Newtonian-style scientific worldview” of linear, uni-directional cause and effect towards a more associated holism; a self-organising system that is biological and organic rather than physical and mechanic, a reality that embraces consciousness, mind and intelligence. Across these various channels we see the same general Easternization processes at work consistent with a reconfiguration of culture according to alternative beliefs. For Campbell, this leads to a undermining of authority of the pillars of the West –politicians, scientists and religious leaders - who are forced into transformations in order to accommodate the new ethic. By contrast Campbell identifies rises in discourses that are consistent with immanent divinity and Easternization; the human potential movement, astrology, animal rights, ecology and so on.

The question, then, arises which forms the basis of Campbell’s text – how does a major cultural transformation take place? Intriguingly for consumer culture scholars, the cultural change takes place in popular consumption and he identifies England during the 1960s as the critical time which finally brought about, in real terms, a transformation that had been coming for centuries. For Campbell, transformation becomes possible when the existing system is no longer sufficient for a large group of people and so the case proved to be in the 1960s amongst divergent youth subcultures. To all-too rapidly summarise Campbell’s expanded argument, a convergence took place between disaffected youth subcultures in a 60s counterculture that was predicated on alternative philosophies of radical Eastern spirituality and Romanticism. Campbell argues that such was the explosive impact of this convergence – marked by the radical uprisings of 1968 (generally retrospectively understood as a youth culture war against alienation) – that the process of Easternization became entrenched.

Zizek, in bed

Campbell seeks to pre-empt critiques of Easternization as simply re-labelling postmodernity by arguing that, to the contrary, postmodernism is a misreading of Easternization. As he argues, much of the defining features such as ontological dualism, an emphasis on the orderliness and rational comprehensibility of the cosmos together with a distinct historical sense” (p361) are distinctive of the West rather than of modernity itself therefore a more accurate description would be post-Western rather than postmodern. Critique is indirectly provided by Zizek (2001) who seems to pre-empt Campbell by imagining Weber writing a book entitled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism - arguably the closest possible thing! For Zizek such a phenomenon is entirely reconcilable with the postmodern – in fact it represents the “ultimate postmodern irony” in that at the very moment that the Judeo-Christian legacy is threatened within the European space by the onslaught of the “New Age Asiatic thought”, Taos itself is establishing itself as the hegemonic ideology of global capitalism; a “perfect ideological supplement” (Zizek, 2001:p12). As such this “recourse to Taoism” offers the solution to coping with the acceleration of technological progress and social change. In this way Western Buddhism functions, according to Zizek, as a fetish: it does not resolve any problems raised by Western modernity but displaces the critique. Hence, the West continues in its productive and destructive capacity but rather than respond to the crises generated, the subject can “fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it, that you are well aware how worthless the spectacle is – what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always withdraw” (p15). Of course as Campbell is working within a Weberian mode, the truth of such critiques are beside the point – the task is merely to arrive at a sociological analysis of practice rather to evaluate their intrinsic goodness; as Weber himself nicely put it “whoever wants a sermon should go to a conventicle” (p29).

In any case for consumer culture theory, in particular, the implications of Campbell’s thesis are immense. Not only does the text provide a systematic analysis of the contingencies of the sacred and the devotional but it locates such a fundamental transformation in culture at the very front-line of issues of interest to consumer researchers – hence the radical individuality, hedonism and experientialism, the return to nature, ritual, magic, drug consumption, aesthetics, ethical and green consumption, new forms of community and tribalism, the recurrence of romantic mythology, the idea of brands that are iconic, the identification of servicescapes as utopian, the sacred dimensions and more besides can be located within a larger system or worldview; arguably Campbell presents consumer culture theory with its missing link! Overall however, the import and relevance of Campbell’s text locate the spiritual dimension of consumption to be of critical importance to understanding the world and culture that we inhabit.

Campbell, Colin, 2005. The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism. London: Blackwell.
Campbell, Colin, 2008. The Easternization of the West: A Thematic Account of Cultural Change in the West. London: Paradigm Publishers.
Weber, Max. 2003. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Mineola: Dover Publications.
Zizek, Slavoj, 2001. On Belief. London: Routledge.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

X Factor

I've been telling my students about my favourite TV show of the minute, X Factor, and why it tells us much about current priorities in marketing. The X Factor brand has solved the two key problems of contemporary marketing: 1) how to generate consumer engagement, that is, how to get consumers passionate about the brand so that they want to do stuff with it, and 2) how to generate revenue streams out of that engagement via digital platforms. So the show seems to be fading a bit, 2,00o,000 viewers down on last year and counting- no surprise really, with Simon Cowell absent from the UK version the show just doesn't have quite the liminal resonance it did with Shaman Simon running the process. But for now it remains by far the biggest show on commercial TV in the UK, commanding some £250,000 for a 30 second advertising spot. Here is a link to a pre-print draft of a paper myself, Professor Steven Brown and Dr Amy Tiwsakul have put together explaining how the X Factor brand achieves its unique consumer engagement (by tappinginto our latent need for liminal ritual, as it happens)

and here are some links to the way UK newspapers tried to interpret our research- with varying results (and a D minus to the Sun sub-editor- we never mentioned sacrifice, and there's no institution called London University) ):

The Mirror

The Sun

Financial Times (you need to scroll down the page to get this one)


Advertising Age

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

MA Marketing Camp 2011

The Marketing of Comedy, the Comedy of Marketing
Marketing Camp at Royal Holloway, University of London
Wednesday 12 October 2011, 7:00pm
Arts Lecture Theatre

NB - if you are not an MA Marketing student or are MA Marketing alumni and wish to attend, please email me at

Stephen Brown, Jonathan Kesselman, Finola Kerrigan, Dean Craig, James Fitchett and more...

“By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising… kill yourself. Thank you.” Bill Hicks

Writer, director and producer Jonathan Kesselman will address this year's Marketing Camp.

From Boomerang (1992) to How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) to What Women Want (2000) the portrayal of marketers tends not to be particularly reverential but rather one of morally bankrupt shysters in urgent need of redemption. Even early movies like the Travelling Saleslady (1935), Ex-Lady (1933) or the Easiest Way (1931) present such dark humoured representations leading us to suggest that ever since the emergence of cinema, the medium has been used to laugh at marketing as a site of morally bankrupt production of, at best, nonsense or at worst, corrupting ideology. Where the gaze is turned inwards to examine the impact of marketing upon filmic production as in, say, What Just Happened (2008) the representation is no less complimentary with marketing revealed to be a conservative force undermining directorial vision and true art.
Such is the extent of the phenomenon that the esteemed Marketing Professor Steven M. Shugan writing in Marketing Science (2006), with a tiny hint of hubris, encourages marketing scholars to take such content seriously as “the depiction of business and businesspeople in motion pictures might have as great an influence on public perceptions of business as all of our research combined” (p681) leading us to wonder if the real comedy of marketing is to be found not in its depiction but in its scholarship, in all its pseudo-scientific, clichéd, po-faced, power-pointing self important glory. If not inadvertently or unknowingly hilarious marketing is often at its best when embracing comedy itself – see for example the work of Stephen Brown.

Stephen Brown, will make a rare appearance at the event speaking on the topic Sex With Philip Kotler.

Meanwhile advertising has often been a great source of comedy with many of the great and good of the comedic world trying their hand in the trade, though sometimes via clandestine trips to Japan. More recently given the rise of social media and increasing levels of disintermediation we live in an age where comics can be found promoting themselves via blogs, tweets webpages and beyond. Of course this continues the tradition of comics as entrepreneurs carving out careers in the circuit via self-financed and self-promoted shows at places like Edinburgh.  If it was ever true that a division between marketing and comedy existed in the first place, then it is a division that is increasingly difficult to discern.

Finola Kerrigan, author of Fim Marketing
In this context of convergence of comedy and marketing we gather at Royal Holloway to provide discussions, encounters and interventions between marketing scholars and comedians. A variety of topics shall be considered: stories from comedians who struggle in a world of marketing, marketers who struggle in a world that is profoundly funny, best practices and lessons learnt from marketing comedy and indeed anything at all that fits the bill of the comedy of marketing, the marketing of comedy.

The speakers will include Jonathan Kesselman, US-based writer, director, producer and comedian best known for his production of the cult classic The Hebrew Hammer. Jonathan will speak about his experiences and encounters of marketing practice. Professor Stephen Brown, is an enigma. Finola Kerrigan of King's College is author of Film Marketing and is a well established author whose work relating to the marketing of independent movies spans a decade.

Dean Craig, maker of Death at a Funeral
Professor of Marketing James Fitchett
Also speaking on the day will be Professor James Fitchett from the University of Leicester, Dean Craig - maker of the hit movie Death At a Funeral, with more guests to be added closer to the day.

Shugan, Steven M. (2006), "Antibusiness movies and folk marketing," Marketing Science, 25 (6), 681-85.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Why Defend Education?

I will be addressing a Students' Union debate on the topic of Why Defend Education? on Thursday 29th September from 7:00 to 9:00. The event will take place in Rialto, in the main Students' Union Building. I will be speaking alongside Daniel Cooper (Students' Union Royal Holloway, University of London), Sean Rillo-Raczka (University of London Union) and Vicki Baars (National Union of Students Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender). The discussion will address the context of cuts being made to third level education. Come along and participate in wider questions of the university and society.

Social Media and Netnograhpy, by Andrew Whalley

Hello, my name is Andrew Whalley, I teach Marketing Metrics, Digital Marketing and Sports Marketing on the MA Marketing at Royal Holloway. I’m going to present a few thoughts on the changing face of social media and its impact on marketing, and in particular in an area of growing significance for businesses, using the internet as a source of competitive advantage through netnography.

A revolution in both marketing thought and practice is at hand; the new social world is online.

Internet penetration rates continue to rise, whilst the 'net isn't ubiquitous yet, within industrially developed and developing nations it is almost so. Reasonably, we can say that well over a billion people now participate in various forms of social media. Indeed  to the point that even non-capitalist societies are embracing its power; the Communist Party of China now offer training in social media to its members so strong has been the growth of social media within China.

It is no exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of a technology-led communal revolution. The need to understand this, to apply a PESTLE approach to marketing 
per se, continues to grow.  The implications for marketers, marketing researchers, and managers of all stripes are vast. Consumers are sharing all sorts of emotions and information with each other about an incredible panoply of products, retailers, and brands. Consumers are not just being 'positioned' by our marketing they are co-producing value in terms of the brands and their values; Burberry and its problems with 'Chavs' is a case in point.

The online environment offers us nearly unlimited access to consumer-to-consumer communications that are:
  • relevant and detailed
  • from a naturally-occurring context
  • unelicited
  • obtained in an unobtrusive way, and
  • obtainable in a timely, effective, and efficient manner

This data is raw, authentic, spontaneous, indigenous, unforced, unadorned, unfiltered, powerful, highly involved and often spectacularly creative. It has the potential to be a Marketer's dream source; valid, reliable, accessible and cheap!

Marketers are beginning to build social media into their marketing plans, their advertising and promotional campaigns. But in terms of consumer insight, marketing is dominated by the same old methods; Focus groups, Surveys, Data models. Whilst these are tried and trusted, reliance on them when we have also have social media sources is myopic, to paraphrase Ted Levitt.

The move to build rich understanding with the cornucopia of online consumer data is just beginning; it provides us with a range of overlapping opportunities. Applied to business and marketing needs, netnography builds deep consumer insights that provide:
  • All-embracing descriptions of the marketplace—segments, product groupings, attribute sets
  • Realistic comprehension of online communication—categories, trends, symbols, images
  • Social understandings of consumer choice—influencers, adopters, WOM properties
  • Natural views of brand meaning—decoding authentic consumer language and terms, as well as visual
  • and audiovisual analysis
  • Embedded discoveries of consumer innovation—based in lead user, inno-tribe, and prosumer creativity

Compare netnography to the focus group or survey data dominating the world of consumer insight research.
  • Focus groups offer detailed and relevant data. But they are elicited, obtrusive and completely artificial.
  • The one-time group dynamics are synthetic and strange.
  • Surveys are artificial, obtrusive, and elicited. We often have no way of knowing if our survey questions are relevant to the consumers’ world.
  • Both focus groups and surveys can be expensive. Consider that a national set of focus groups can easily run in the hundreds of thousands.

Recognizing the implications of the development of the internet as a socialising media, Lusch and Vargo (2006) argue that cocreation will increasingly induce firms to collaborate with customers to cocreate the entire marketing programme, indeed many are now running 'fan' sites for their products and brands. Such developments are also consistent with open-source innovation and 'crowd-sourcing' (Etgar 2008; Von Hippel 2005) and with emerging corporate practices that tap into brand communities. Good examples of this are LEGO, which explicitly sought and harnessed consumer innovation to refine the successful LEGO robotic kit Mindstorms (Koerner 2006), and skinnyCorp’s Threadless, which manufacturers consumer-designed and critiqued T-shirts.

This means marketing needs an edge - a tool to help understand how and what is being said in what context about brands, products, etc - that's where netnography comes in; as a Marketer’s secret weapon to customer understanding. This is also why this topic is highly relevant to those studying for business degrees – the internet is an immersive media where customers to talk to each other and to businesses, understanding this and building it into the marketing planning and strategy of businesses is fast becoming a core competence of the contemporary marketer.