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, 30 August 2011

Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis by George Makari

Publisher: Duckworth Overlook

Note this review will be published in the Journal of Macromarketing

The popularity and import of psychoanalysis has waxed and waned over the decades since its inception via the works of Sigmund Freud. Originally conceived as a method for clinical practice, its theoretical richness and inherent fascinating nature ensured psychoanalysis’s broad spread across theory, humanities, popular culture and, of course, marketing practice. Influential figures like Edward Bernays (Freud’s nephew) and Ernest Dichter imported and applied psychoanalytic theory into evolving practices of marketing research and public relations, giving rise to concerns about the potential of commerce to appeal to our subconscious: practices notionally exposed via the publication of Vance Packard’s 1957 bestseller Hidden Persuaders. More broadly, Adam Curtis’s recent excellent BBC documentary series, The Century of the Self, suggests that psychoanalytic applications have extended the logic of the consumer mindset and mediates contemporary life and political economic macro culture. Despite detractors psychoanalysis has been hugely influential.

Link to part one of Curtis's Century of the Self

Makari’s Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis explores the genesis of Freud’s theories and their dissemination across scholarship and clinical practice. The book begins with the arrival of Freud in Paris in 1885 as he embedded himself in the thriving hospital research tradition of great institutions like the Salpêtrière. Freud studied major medical researchers like Jean-Martin Charcot and Auguste Comte, their research into hysteria and innovations relating to hypnosis. Makari reveals Freud to be a master of synthesis, incorporating ideas from various fields into his unfolding intellectual project of the inner world. Freud mined fields of sexology, psychopathology, biophysics and philosophy, borrowing and synthesising ideas and is presented as master of dialectical interdisciplinary engagement. By 1899, Freud had arguably his first serious articulation of psychoanalytic ideas with the Interpretation of Dreams, in which we see the development of what would become theories of the subconscious and Oedipal Complex. The limits of Freud’s ideas were already manifest with Comte critiquing that any psychology so subjective in origin could never transcend personal prejudice and achieve scientific consensus. This critique not only prophesized the hostility from the wider world of clinical practice, but also poses the question of whose psychology was central to analysis: Freud’s, his detractors, a full hysteric?

As a group of Freudians started to gather, discuss and propagate ideas, the intensity of this latter enigma of whose psychology came to dog social interactions between the emerging advocates. Makari fascinatingly explores the formation of a Wednesday Psychological Society who would convene in Freud’s Vienna home and, it seems, feud under Freud’s watchful eye – sometimes distant and allowing diversity to emerge, but other times polemical and set to the bitter task of removing heretics. The emergence of the Zürich School, which included such major scholars as Paul Bleuler, director of the prestigious Burghölzli centre at the cutting edge of clinical therapy and brain research, and also Carl Jung whose work eventually rivalled Freud’s, were to lend empirical, international and institutional credibility to Freud’s ideas. In 1908 a congress was held in Salzburg which eventually lead to the creation of the International Psychoanalytic Association. Almost immediately the Association became defined by its tangled web of envy, jealousy, paranoia and ambition.  

Sigmund Freud

Makari reveals a group sometimes best understood in terms of its own dysfunctions: for example it is suggested that Fritz Wittels’ polemics against women doctors revealed more about his own seething psychosexual dilemmas. Alfred Adler’s insistence on behaviour as a type of compensation for weakness was understood by some colleagues as an act of self-relating whilst Freud was suspected of being obsessed with sex and had apparently became locked into father-son rivalry with Jung. Bitter confrontations ensued with Adler and Wittels forced out of the Wednesday Psychology Society whilst Jung eventually resigned his presidency of the International Psychoanalytic Association amidst acrimony. Meanwhile psychoanalytic practice was regularly undermined by controversial counter-transference sexual relationships with patients and concerns about wild analysts.

For a field with so many Jewish exponents the tragic unfolding of events across Europe lends a dark backdrop to Makari’s account. The book details the sad scramble of psychoanalysts to safety in England and America as the impressive European network that had formed by the 1930s was all but wiped out. Psychoanalysis lived on during the Third Reich with Matthias Göring, cousin of Herman, taking control of the German institutions and identifying Mein Kampf as a text worthy of scientific study. By the end of the war at least fifteen psychoanalysts had been murdered by the Nazis and only two of the original Salzburg congress had survived. Makari concludes with accounts of nomad clashes: the London group suddenly became swamped by Viennese counter-parts and conflict immediately ensued between Melanie Klein and Anna Freud, whilst in the USA, where the psychoanalytic community had not yet established any particular school of thought, the Europeans adopted the manner of “dispossessed royalty” with depressingly predictable results.

Overall Makari’s Revolution in Mind presents an excellent and high quality overview of the emergence of psychoanalysis. Makari’s summarizing of complex positions is enormously helpful for those of us seeking to trawl through the confusion of conflicting schools. The text provides brilliant analysis of the social process of paradigm formation against background tensions spread across temporal, sectarian and geographic terrains. Makari is strongest demonstrating Freud’s dialectical process of theoretical development and locating Freud’s early works amongst the various intellectual traditions that he was borrowing from but a question that perhaps remains unanswered is how Freud’s ideas spoke to the cultural transformations of modernity that defined early twentieth century Europe. Just why were Freud’s ideas so charismatic and how are we to understand the wider diffusion of psychoanalysis into popular culture and imagination? Whilst Makari leaves us wondering, these very questions form the basis of Zaretsky’s recent Secrets of the Soul: a Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis providing a neat complementarity between the two important texts. Revolution in Mind is to be recommended for anybody interested in Freudian theory, paradigm development, European history and the development of theory fundamental for understanding identities, subjectivities, consumption and culture in modernity. 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Student Describes His Dissertation

Studying Automobiles & Class Performativity Amongst the Mexican Upper-Middle Classes

Alejandro Galindo Diego, MA Marketing Student Representative, describes his thesis.

The idea for my dissertation developed due to my fascination with social classes and the marketing of branded lavish objects. Specifically I wanted to understand how social classes and families relate to and consume luxury products. I became intrigued with such issues after taking the Brands and Branding class with Dr. Alan Bradshaw, where we received insightful, intellectually stimulating and engaging lectures and studied works from authors like Bourdieu, Miller, Holt, Borgerson, De Botton, Arvidsson, Moor, Kozinetz, etc.

Similar to my case other students in the MA Marketing figured out what specific marketing topic they wanted to pursue for their dissertation, via academic and practical lectures on distinct subjects. It is important to note that the MA Marketing academic level is highly rigorous as is the marking and so requires a high level of student commitment (reading, studying, preparing essays, etc.). As Dr. Bradshaw did in my case, many other highly qualified and passionate professors inspired the incoming body of students of the 2010-2011 term. Many students were quite interested in work related to technology issues such as Digital Marketing and Marketing Metrics, which were guided by Andrew Whalley and his realistic focus, others were interested in Advertising and Communications through a critical approach by Professor Chris Hackley, and Dr. Benedetta Cappellini, others were interested in Consumer and Contemporary Issues via reflexive analysis done by Professor Pauline Maclaran, and the list goes on and on.

For my dissertation, I was initially captivated by works by Daniel Miller, who is a renowned author in the field of anthropology and materiality, primarily for his marvels A Theory of Shopping (1998), and Stuff (2010), which were both thought in the Brands and Branding course. The aim of my thesis was to understand how two different upper middle class families in México relate towards lavish vehicles. As per Miller’s (2010) Stuff, I also based my research on Hegel’s dialectic, which basically has three important elements: thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. Miller uses Hegel’s dialectic, and substitutes the idea of subjects instead of thesis, objects instead of anti-thesis, and the resulting relationship as synthesis. Similarly, my study substituted families for subjects, luxury cars for objects, and the idea of class emerged as the combined result. The importance here, as in Miller’s works, is that all three elements are important in the equation and result process, meaning that objects represent more than just objects, they can represent ideas, desires, etc. The following diagram, denotes the conceived initial conceptualization.

The study’s methodology was based on micro-ethnographies, which basically means that I lived with both families and through observation and participation, I sourced my primary data. After, an interesting voyage, which lasted around 3 months, having read around 30 books and articles, having live two weeks with two different families and travelled to another continent, and having completed much hard work, was I able to explore the families’ emotions and feelings, as well as the complex relationship between the families and their lavish automobile. Theories from authors such as Goffman, Paz, Veblen, Holt, Bourdieu, Careaga, Borgerson, etc; came into play throughout the study. A very important theory was Veblen’s (1899) Conspicuous Consumption in The Theory of Leisure Class, where he discusses the necessity for a wealthy class to continuously show off and perform their imminent power and class through obtaining and conspicuously consuming expensive objects. Similarly, the other theories were used in order to establish possible connections between luxury vehicles, individuals, social classes and class mobility.

The importance of the research lies on gaining more knowledge of the middle and upper middle class, class mobility, extravagant brands, and their products; for marketers to better understand and tailor products to this specific segment. It is also quite beneficial, in order to grasp the aspirations of a class or segment, and entice them with the possibility of reaching that dream.

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Value of Scholarly Values

At Royal Holloway we typically emphasise a teaching and learning experience that is both critical and fundamentally scholarly. We see the study of marketing as an intellectual affair and we expect no less than intellectual scholarly engagement from our students, meaning that we expect you to read a significant amount of literature, to be open-minded and to be willing to think, discuss and write at a level that is both abstract and non-utilitarian. For students expecting vocational training for a career in marketing, this can be frustrating and even exasperating. However in this post I want to argue the case for why such an approach is the best way to go. 

 Bradshaw, Hackley and Maclaran all use critical approaches in their teaching at Royal Holloway

Marketing occasionally mirrors a classical economic discourse of free markets hence the marketing toolkit, as developed across textbooks, is never held accountable for market failures. Rather failures of implementation are pointed towards; a lack of marketing research, a lack of consumer focus and so on. Whilst there may well be an element of truth in such claims, there is also the current spectre of failure that hangs over western corporate practice marked by the spectacular collapse of markets in 2008 and a severe recession that continues through the present. The market collapse was brought about by several of the highest paid executives, in other words at that very highest level of corporate enterprise we are left with a stark impression of not just business failure but worse, even massively destructive criminal neglect. How many of the business models thought at university business schools are implicated in this failure and neglect? Which models should be discarded and which should be retained? In other words, what and how do we think when the models that we have been thought to think with turn out to be flawed?

At moments like this the value of a critical dimension becomes clear. To teach students business models, but not to teach students how to critique those models and to think beyond them is to only do half the job. The intellectual project of critique goes deeper, of course, than merely adapting and improving managerialist models but extends to macro questions that can range from the political economic, the ethical, the historical, the aesthetic and so on. As a European college we tend to draw upon the rich history of critique that includes German critical thinking and French post-structuralism however we encourage students from outside Europe to enliven, enrich and deepen inquiry by bringing with them their own theoretical traditions. Lastly it must be stated that, in contrast to merely memorising managerial models, a critical education never ends and hence we want to equip students with a critical curiosity that will leave you reading and thinking about these issues for the rest of your lives.

Therefore we want our students to approach the MA Marketing at Royal Holloway not as a process designed to equip them with a qualification that will add value to their career prospects, but as a place to spend a year embedded in rich ideas and discussions.

In short we are not looking for business school customers, we are looking for university students. Are you willing to make the journey with us?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Amidst the Wreckage with Žižek & Harvey

Book review 

Published in Ephemera here:

The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism by David Harvey
Living in the End of Times by Slavoj Žižek

Analyses of the crises, instability and precariousness of the entire capitalist enterprise are presented in two new works: The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism by David Harvey and Living in the End of Times by Slavoj Žižek. Both texts provide eschatological treatises of financial collapse and ecological catastrophe whilst both, in their idiosyncratic styles, are as terrifying as they are comprehensive in terms of portraying the seriousness and the violence in which we find ourselves.

Harvey’s Enigma of Capital is presented as part response to Elizabeth Windsor’s characteristically regal question posed to faculty at the London School of Economics: why had they failed to see the financial crisis coming? In response a group of economists admitted to having neglected “systemic risk”, an economic phenomenon immediately recognisable to Harvey, as ever the devoutly close reader of Marx, as the contradictions of capital accumulation. Hence Harvey sets about the task of analysing geographies of capital accumulation as capital flows through countries, expands exponentially and exerts systemic crises that increase in volume and devastation.

David Harvey

The greatness of Harvey’s analysis must reside in his ability to render as blindingly obvious and simple that which is typically over-looked, or never considered at all. For example, he demonstrates that if the notional healthy rate of capital accumulation is maintained at 3% then this effectively commits us to a doubling of the global economy over the next twenty years, a $300 trillion global economy by 2030 (imagine the consequences for our individual productivity and consumption). A number of urgent realisations arise. First, given this phenomenal growth it is surely nonsense to imagine any meaningful corporate sustainability. Second, given that in the last twenty years we have witnessed the opening of China and the former Soviet Union to capitalism, as well as the arrival of women en masse into the work force, we might ask from where the next market opening might arise to facilitate additional compound growth. This leads to the third realisation, which serves as the basis of Harvey’s analysis: that when capital encounters obstructions to accumulation it responds by causing often devastating crises and that the more capital at stake, the bigger and more catastrophic each crisis becomes. The final realisation is that this trend cannot continue indefinitely.

Harvey’s text becomes an anatomy of crises not of capitalism, but rather for capitalism, as crisis is re-cast as a means of capital’s agency for re-structuring and rationalising markets, economies and countries in accordance with its own insatiable demand for accumulation. An historical overview is presented of decades of crisis after crisis, ranging from property market crashes and oil price hikes during the 1970s, the developing countries debt crises of the 1980s, the Mexican peso rescue of the mid-90s, the Argentina debt crisis, the dot-com bubble-burst to the current ‘sub-prime’ market collapse. Harvey identifies that these crises are not temporary errors that could have somehow been avoided or contained, but rather are endemic to and a function of the paradoxical nature of capital accumulation in which each solution creates the circumstances for the next crisis. For example, recent British history is read as a cycle of crises starting with capital encountering the obstacle of trenchantly organised labour, an obstacle dutifully overcome by the Thatcher government. Having disciplined labour and brought about significant reduction in the real value of worker’s salaries, a further obstacle arose as there was a corresponding reduction in consumer buying power. The solution to this was to make cash available in the form of generous/wreckless credit, which brings us to our current sorry predicament. As Harvey demonstrates, such is the agency of capital that the role of government is to ensure that whenever habitual crises arise, everything will be done to rationalise the country to ensure a prompt return to the 3% ‘healthy’ growth, no matter the human cost.

If Harvey’s book patiently builds arguments, never shying away from repeating core points for the benefit of the reader, Žižek’s Living in the End of Times is surely its opposite: a crazed and spectacular book that attempts that grand task of reviewing both conceptually and contextually just about everything at stake as the entire captilo-parliamentarian structure arrives at its end point. Terrifying and captivating are many of the vivid details provided of ecological catastrophe, social exclusion, biological revolution, profound inequalities within global capitalism, all taking place amidst an ideologically infused climate of passive post-politics and its violent counter-point found in acts of terror. In short, Žižek argues that we are in no less than the latter days of arrival at the apocalyptic zero-point of capitalism itself.

This vast scope of analysis jumps from detailed discussions provided by dozens of philosophical encounters, while films are reviewed, science labs inspected, theology catechized, architecture observed, art studied, Muslim veils pondered, politics probed, geo-politics considered, heavy metal listened to and literature analysed. To be sure, Žižek presents himself at his most heroic and gripped with infinite self-confidence as he sets about the task of writing a book so enormous in scope.

Slavoj Žižek

Ingeniously, Žižek finds the perfectly simple structure for such a mammoth undertaking. It is the five stage model of grief that follows, for example, learning that one has a terminal illness, as described by the psychologist Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (viewers of the Simpsons will remember Homer going through each phase within a thirty-second period). Hence every chapter is structured around a specific phase. Denial, for instance, is reviewed in terms of the ideological liberal utopia presented as an erasure of the background noise of apocalypse. Anger is to be found within the bubbling theologico-political tensions and its manifestation as a series of crises within a multi-centric world. Bargaining appears in the return of critique of political economy, as though an appeal to a rejuvenated Marxist-fuelled politics might somehow offer us an escape route, or similarly desperate proposals for survival such as the progressive capitalism of Bill Gates (with charity problematised as an act of non-love and aggravation of difficulty as though, for the price of a couple of cappuccinos you can save a child). Depression allows for an exploration of the psychological condition of trauma as socio-political reality imposes multiple versions of external intrusions and the subjective forms of life within a context of devastation and all the libidinal, obscene and kitsch manifestations of the hopeless case. Finally, a discussion of acceptance is presented with re-imagined ideas of communism emerging as the inevitable outcome; a communism predicated upon a total form of immersion into a social body, a dissolution of the critical individualities celebrated within liberal consumerism but with a preservation of what Žižek presents as “authentic idiosyncrasies” and a commitment to maintaining universal spaces for rational thought.

Of course, although it is a book about apocalypse and severe pessimism, Life in the End of Times nonetheless remains saturated with humour, obscenity and mischievousness. Tellingly, Adorno’s mastery of the maxim is subjected to Adorno’s own critique of Wagner’s use of leitmotif, leading Žižek to ask whether Adorno’s maxims generate idiotic pleasures for the reader by focusing attention on Adorno himself. Žižek speculates that Adorno’s critique of Wagner was an allegorical critique of Adorno’s own writing, an exercise of self-relating which I imagine he expects us to infer is, in turn, a pre-emptive critique of Žižek’s own spectacular writing style. To be sure, Living in the End of Times is a wunderhaus for the id with characteristic boisterous humour and a penchant for all things scatological surfacing whenever possible. The restless jumping from topic to topic, the ridiculous allusions, the seductive analyses from such films as Kung Fu Panda and Batman to the stage craft of Rammstein, the incessant and funny twisting of language (for example, the statement “I love you all’ is read by Žižek as implying “I hate some of you” and a recent atheist poster proclaiming “There is no God, so don’t worry and enjoy life!”, lead to an Orthodox church counter-poster which proclaimed “There is a God, so don’t worry and enjoy life!” This complementarity leads Žižek to generate a series of variations: “Whether there is a God or not, life is shit, so one cannot really enjoy it!”, “There is no God, so everything depends on us and we should worry all the time!” and “There is a God who watches what we are doing all the time, so we should be anxious and worry continuously”) all serve to cultivate the increasingly popular cult of Žižek and will no doubt lead detractors to dismiss Living in the End of Times as a grandstanding act of affectation. But there is no denying the pay-off for the reader in terms of the richness of theoretical analysis and the urgency of the questions raised by Žižek. In the mind of this reader, the quality of writing should not be read as masking a lack of substance, but as wonderful writing in its own right. Like Harvey’s Enigma of Capital, this is an important intervention at a time of theoretical possibility and paradigm shift.

Taken together, both texts provide masterful critiques and explanations of why the here and now is not sustainable, forcing attention to the violent agency of capital, its overarching fetishes and the consequent crazed death march.. These are two books that jolt us awake and, for this reason, are to be heartily recommended.

Alan Bradshaw
Royal Holloway, University of London

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Book Review - Inside Marketing by Zwick & Cayla

Inside Marketing: Practices, Ideologies and Devices
Detlev Zwick and Julien Cayla

Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0199576742 , Hardback: 320 pages

Note this book review is published in the Journal of Consumer Culture 2012 12: 106.

Zwick and Cayla have assembled an excellent series of commentaries and empirical reports into the strangely pervasive world of marketing. Spread across analytical categories of studying marketing differently, marketing as performance, political economy and the ideological diffusion of marketing practice, this comprehensive exploration leaves marketing best thought of, as Sherry puts it, as “a well intended but impoverished philosophy”. Despite intentions, marketing’s ideological operations, strategic interventions and logical short-circuits are revealed to be globalising, incoherent and politically dynamic but also ingenious and downright hilarious.

The editors resists conventional understandings and frame marketing as a process of engagement through which products and services come into being, acquire meaning, obtain value and are determined, contested and provisionally given stable forms. Throughout the volume we see processes of valorisation, stabalisation and destabilisation of market boundaries, strategic cultural interventions and political economic acts in which consumers are subjects of bio-political injunctions. The conceptual high point is provided by Slater’s analysis of marketing as monstrosity because its immateriality, cultural orientation and empirical unproveability offend and contaminate ordinary commercial practice. Marketing, then, is a fault line between commercial practice, economy and culture and this produces messy and contradictory conceptions: ‘consumer culture’ is argued to be contradictory because a culture driven by market needs is not a culture whilst economists’ invocation of the analytic framework of a market, as though there is such a stable entity, is a methodological violence that brackets marketers’ efforts to disrupt fixity. The outcome for Slater, paraphrasing Latour, is that ‘we have never done marketing’.  Also Latourian, Cochoy opposes focussing upon interplays of consumers and marketers whilst neglecting the objects that modify the actions and identities of both on the basis of an Actor-Network-Theory account of changing grocery shop designs.

Zwick and Cayla visiting Royal Holloway in 2010

However for incoherent marketing practice, see Sunderland and Denny’s tale of slippage, false assumptions and all-too-human consumer research that rendered a large-scale study a pitiful fare-thee-well. More market research farce is revealed by Granclement and Gaglio who explain the focus group: eight strangers gathered on the basis of their connection to categories to which they are deemed to belong, asked often nonsensical questions and on the basis of their responses, knowledge regarding how the consumer sees the world emerges for the benefit of researchers behind one-way mirrors who sneer at the spectacle of real consumers as though they are a discovered anthropological other. Inevitably Grancelment & Gaglio report a product manager – I would like to think of him as the Great Unknown Marketer – exasperating “they just repeat what I kill myself explaining to colleagues”, demonstrating his ingeniously emphatic understanding of these mysterious subjects that we call “real consumers”. Further strangeness is documented by Desroches & Marcoux’s account of L’Oreal marketing managers’ quest to get close to sensuous consumers which entails going to women’s apartments, observing them in their bathrooms and conducting weird “sniff tests”.

Comedy is never too far away yet the text trawls marketing’s dark side. Brown’s analysis of black models and the invention of the US “Negro Market” presents advertisements that invoke slave tropes. Here, the inclusion of black people in advertisements and market segments became a civil rights campaign and a means through which consumption could serve to achieve inclusion into US citizenship. Meanwhile Arvidsson & Malossi reveal customer co-production in the fashion world and the transformation of networks of urban cool into social factories of immaterial production where innovations are rationalised then internalised as professional practices. Also concerned with immaterial production and its bio-politicality is Zwick & Ozalp’s study of regenerating downtown Toronto. Home buyers are attracted by cool downtown living, but this lifestyle does not exist and must be produced by the residents as exchange becomes inverted as the higher price paid by consumers reflects an extra value that they must produce as an output of their ‘leisure time’.

Exploring the  diffusion of marketing ideology Cayla & Penaloza demonstrate how Indian marketing promotes Western consumerism as development; a teleological essentially consumerist view where marketers understand their country to be primitive because consumers have not embraced breakfast cereals. Cook charts how child marketing became normalised and valorised through appealing ideas like the ‘savy child consumer’. Applbaum explores public interest and private commodity via the inverse relationship between quality of health care and marketing practice, revealing that pharmaceutical R&D is typically marketing research that develops the means of convincing people that they need a medical intervention. Applbaum attacks marketing humanists who advocate marketing solutions to societal ills and their logic of privitisation. Neo-liberalism is further critiqued in Moor’s analysis of social marketing and the governance of populations; practices that reify logics of consumers in a fully fledged market society and economisations that bracket political intervention.

The question of efficacy, located across incoherent dubious ideology emerges as a central enigma – does this marketing actually work? Where do we draw the line between a Packard fantasy of effective hidden persuaders versus Dilbert-esque nonsense? As Slater implies, the question is naive given marketing’s unproveability. However the volume points towards two answers. First, the cultivation of the real consumer serves an agenda for what matters managerially rather than for actual consumers: it must 'work' for the client paying for the research and it must 'work' for the agency and marketing’s effectiveness exists across these corporate networks. Second, notwithstanding Ponzi-esque logic, it is clear that consumer culture can be consequentially re-arranged in terms of what people do and how they do it; in other words, marketing works despite itself.

The volume presents an excellent, comprehensive and high quality analysis into pervasive and determinate practices. How strange that such political economic analysis and consideration of the impact of the diffusion of marketing ideology via practice seem rare. Given the stakes and reach of marketing, it is hard to imagine anybody who ought not to read this outstanding collection (except those who cannot meet the astronomical hardback price). My final comment is, notwithstanding the crisis of reproducing the object of critique, BUY THIS BOOK!

Alan Bradshaw
Royal Holloway, University of London

Friday, 12 August 2011

Rodrigo Ferreira's Review of Marketing – A Critical Introduction, by Chris Hackley

Go to a Brazilian bookstore and you will find all kinds of literature. In between communication and self-help books, a grey area will be placed, reserved for Marketing textbooks with content difficult to categorize, usually closer to a cake recipe or a medical prescription than to science. It is in the core of this discussion that Marketing – A Critical Introduction by Chris Hackley takes its place.

The popularity of the “Five steps to...” or “Twenty Five rules for...” types of books is not a perfect reflection of the marketing line of thought, but illustrates with many examples the hardest prejudices that marketing, as a science, can face from its critics. Marketing studies are constantly attacked because of the ‘problem-solving’ recipe, a sales success and also by its new normative taught courses appearing daily all over the world.

Marketing - A Critical Introduction is written for all audiences, from young students to business people trying to understand their own work from a different level. It brings a concise overview of the most important topics about the marketing field to establish the discussion between theoretical and practical studies of marketing. Hackley constructs a strong base by explaining the history of marketing studies, presenting different theories and, also, some important concepts that may be obvious for the experienced students or workers, but are fundamental to understand the whole issue. The created structure takes the reader to a higher viewpoint to evaluate the critics that put the academic marketing studies back to the wall.

Commonly, managerial marketing is perceived as a tool to achieve organizational success. A useful list of processes and behaviors that can be understood in a world in which almost everyone starts to see themselves as consumers and, logically, as part of the market. This perception made the writings about marketing a popular “to do” guide based on experiences of different companies. “Conventionally, Marketing studies is thought of as an applied discipline which consists of ways to make money (or win clients/market share/ donations) by finding out what people want and selling it to them (p.43)”, says Hackley. In contrast to this commodified discipline, the author presents a study of the social and personal implications of the research in marketing as a more intellectual work, placed as, or trying to be recognized as, a science. For Hackley and some of his references, marketing may be understood as “a social scientific and humanistic field of study oriented around the process and practices of markets, including not only the study of organizational management but also the social study of consumption and consumers, public policy and so on (p.107)”.

Chris Hackley, photographed at Royal Holloway

The conclusion is a changeable definition that corresponds to a mutable world and is related to academic and consumer experience. “Marketing is no different to any other field of thought. The educational point, if we need to state it, is to encourage and enable critical thinking, so that students learn to assimilate and evaluate competing viewpoints in order to better understand the thing itself (pg.17)”. So, Marketing – a Critical Introduction enables its readers to think in a critical way, just like Chris Hackley has set: “Critical thinking is, simply, good thinking (p. 11)”.

The book by Chris Hackley is a small and prosperous seed for those minds, which want to be opened to a new marketing discussion. An issue as real as the marketing problem-solving capsules sold all around the world. As Philip Kotler said, “marketing is all around us”. In response, the question Hackley asks us in Marketing – a Critical Introduction might be: what will we get from all this marketing that surrounds us?
Rodrigo Ferreira is an incoming student for the MA Marketing. Chris Hackley is a professor and will teaches the core module Critical Marketing for the Royal Holloway MA Marketing. With thanks to Rodrigo for giving permission to reproduce his review. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Muzak and Marketing

During recession the recovery of an iconic multinational and its escape from bankruptcy would generally be received as good news. But for many the salvation of Muzak, that US corporation who pioneered piped music, will not cause celebration. This is the organisation that heavy metal guitarist Ted Nugent attempted to buy so to destroy their entire catalogue. Muzak beamed bland music from orbital satellites claiming ‘Boring Music Makes Boring Work Seem Less Boring’ and ‘Music is Art, Muzak is Science’ whilst its scientific jargon, such as the Unique Stimulus Progression Programming,  lead them to rename the popular song Funky Town as S-3293 A-6.

The use of background music in religion, court, markets and warfare long pre-dates Muzak. For example, Mozart often composed for court, Telemann developed Musique de Table and the Dada exponent Satie created Musique d’ameublmement (furniture music) consisting of pieces like Phonic Floor Tiles – to be played at a luncheon. However it took US Army innovation to take background music into modernity with General George Owen Squire developing a wireless telegraphy that lead to the foundation of the Muzak Corporation – a name Squire coined to reflect music and sound like the corporation he admired, Kodak. Muzak arrangements typically consisted of popular songs re-arranged to fit easily into the background with heavy rhythms and vocals replaced by soft lounge piano, guitar, saxophone or vibraphone and then piped into shops, elevators, work places, bus stations, airplanes and eventually spaceships.

With the promise of boosted retail sales, Muzak soon became all-but ubiquitous throughout the business world. Muzak came to make outlandish claims not just relating to the boost in sales that clients could expect but also regarding worker productivity and they did so in their published reports such as Effects of Muzak on Industrial Efficiency and Research Findings on the Physiological and Psychological Effects of Music. Muzak would, they claimed, increase metabolism, speed up breathing, increase muscular energy, delay fatigue, facilitate attention and produce marked impacts on blood pressure and pulse.

By the 1970s Muzak seemed uniquely aligned with the US zeitgeist: President Nixon piped Muzak to the crowds during his Capitol Hill inauguration. Muzak could be heard at a Dog and Cat Hospital in Baltimore, a Bronx Zoo, a Turkish Bath in San Francisco, a High School in New Jersey, a mango plant in Florida, a mental hospital in Austin, a 39-storey, 21,000 tomb high rise cemetery in Rio de Janeiro and a dump in Minneapolis. There were plans to install Muzak into a police interrogation area and Muzak was used to keep staff vigilant at the US nuclear missile stations, the Pentagon, the White House and for crew members on board the so-called ‘angel of death’ Polaris missile carrying submarines and for astronauts on Apollo Missions. Muzak slogans then included ‘The New Muzak – A System for Security for the 70s’ whilst a Muzak bulletin put out by British franchisee Associated Television read ‘A Muzak transmission studio is a dream of 1984 automation’. Muzak often encountered opposition, for example 1969 UNESCO’s International Music Council passed a resolution in support of the International Council of Women denouncing these practices; as UNESCO activist and musical maestro Yehudi Menuhin commented “our world has become a sounding board for manmade sounds, amplified to suffuse and suffocate us”.

By the 1980s marketing academics were keen to conduct experiments demonstrating impacts of background music upon consumer behaviour following adjustments to tempo, pitch, rhythm and modality. A series of positivistic studies was conducted, often with contradictory results, in the spirit of perfecting retail space as sites of Pavlov-esque control. By the late 1990s, the practice had begun to shift towards developing background music amidst a more integrated retail atmospherics strategy that would fit with or reinforce organisational brand identity. The contemporary practice is increasingly to play cool music and sell consumers a hip idea of who they might be. Consequentially demand for formulaic bland music was replaced by an interest in licensing original recordings and gradually the demand for Muzak’s enormous back catalogue of “syrupy strings, homogenised horns and whipped-cream Wurlitzers languidly labouring to make us relax”, as described by Lanza, decimated. Instead we live in an age where marketers mine esoteric music in search for something dynamic, edgy and authentic, an age in which we are arguably more likely to hear interesting new music in advertisements and in stylish boutiques than we are on FM Radio, and more likely to hear edgy indie music in a bar than we are to hear Muzak’s kitsch.

The rise and fall (and rise again?) of Muzak reveals a fantasy at the heart of marketing in which marketers are cast as scientists that develop psychologically assessed and mathematically master-minded environment in which consumers are subliminally affected and controlled according to commercial agenda. The shift from playing bland to cool music registers a cultural transformation within marketing imagination. The goal of social control remains yet methods have shifted away from positivism towards a cultural charge, a transformation in which the marketer produces a new fantasy for her/himself: as historian Thom Franks put it, “no longer was he the other-directed technocrat, the most craven species of American businessman but the coolest guy on the commuter train, turned on to the latest in youth culture, rock music and drug-influenced graphic effects”. In any case the tale of Muzak reminds us to listen closely to our branded environment so to both see and hear marketing practice in action and transformation.

(for further reading see Conquest of the Cool by Thom Franks, Elevator Music by Joseph Lanza, Music in Everyday Life by Tia DeNora and the wonderful Paradise Programme by Haden-Guest)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Why study Marketing at Royal Holloway?

Q. What are the main objectives of the course?

The main objective is to approach the subject of marketing in a way that is intellectually rigorous and ambitious but also sensible to the cutting edge of marketing knowledge and practice. It seems to me that often business studies become over determined by short-term managerialist thinking and this neither leads to good vocational training or intellectual development. Instead our approach emphasises the role of the consumer and the location of marketing activity within a wider sphere of cultural, political, economic and technological phenomena. To be sure, the world in which marketing takes place is one of colour and is complex to understand. Often business programmes approach the field as though it were black and white and with an aim to simplify phenomena. Our pledge is to resist developing theoretical frameworks that are less complicated than the world itself. In other words, we take marketing seriously and as too important to subject to simplified, easy-to-digest models.

Q. How would you summarise the course content and your teaching styles?

Over the course of the year students are exposed to radically different ways of thinking about marketing and consumer subjectivity that range from a more humanities lead philosophical approach to more technical and mathematical orientations.

Q. What qualities do students need in order to succeed?

An open mind, intellectual ambitious, humility and patience to work through complicated texts and ideas, an ability to work in teams and the self-confidence to participate in class work.

Q. What advice would you give to students who are applying to enrol?

If you are looking for a course that will challenge your worldview of what marketing is, how we perform it and how it is done to us, then this is the course for you.

Q. What career options are open to graduates from this course?

Royal Holloway has a very good record in terms of the employability of the students. We have an excellent department that gives students feedback on interview skills and CVs and keeps them informed about graduate programmes. Beyond this our students graduate with a University of London masters degree which is prestigious and of course they have the benefit of understanding marketing in a different, and I would say, superior way to their competitors on the job market.