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.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Recordings of Talks at Royal Holloway

We are pleased to present recordings of two recent speaker events at Royal Holloway.

Firstly Craig Thompson visited from University of Wisconsin-Madison to discuss questions of gender performativity around derby racers. The recording can be accessed here.

Secondly, the historian Heide Gerstenberger travelled from Bremen to lead our 2013 Marketing Camp discussion which addressed the topic of Markets, Consumption & Violence. Her paper was followed by a panel discussion which included Mike Saren, Kate Soper and Dominique Bouchet. You can listen to it all here.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

British Airways - #lookup in Piccadilly Circus

Following on from a surprising (and particularly well received) sponsorship hit at London 2012 with its Park Live concert/chill out space on the banks of the reclaimed river, British Airways marketing team have #lookedup (sic) for inspiration in their latest marketing initiative.  Since the late 1980's generations of British Airways fmcg trained marketers have trail blazed ahead of other service brands, stylishly presented different aspects of the emotions of flying. 
Claiming this clever use of technology as an advertising first, the ‘magic of flying’ campaign seeks to remind people how magical flying can be by the playful and fresh use of the perspective of a child.  You can perhaps imagine the advertising creative team pitching this concept.  It certainly does stand out and a powerful conceptualisation that is innovative for the British airline that has most recently be plugging its patriotic flag carrier status via the "to fly, to serve" campaign. 
Digital billboards located in London's Chiswick and Piccadilly interact with overhead aircraft. "The system tracks the aircraft and interrupts the digital display just as it passes over the site, revealing the image of a child pointing at the plane, accompanied by its flight number and destination it’s arriving from." (Marketing Week, 19 Nov 2013)
I wonder what it says when a competitor aircraft flies over ?  "Another of Richard's planes" ?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Marketing In Context

My new book, Marketing In Context, attempts to apply a consumer cultural perspective to marketing management and consumer policy issues. I discuss it in a podcast interview with Anna Farmery of website here and there are cover reviews, contents and chapter excerpts on the publisher website here. It can also be purchased on Amazon here .

The book draws on many examples of recent brand marketing campaigns to try to show how the most creative and engaging marketing rests on a nuanced understanding of the cultural contexts of consumption. It uses the theatrical metaphor of the mise en scene to offer a sense of marketing not as a cognitive or neurological science of consumer control, but as method of cultural priming. The aim of the book is not to achieve a thoroughgoing cultural critique or to develop an academic theory but, rather, to sketch out a managerial account of marketing that resonates with current practice in the convergent economy.

One sub-theme of the book echoes Vance Packard's famous critique of marketing's use of depth psychology, which he published in 1957, and called The Hidden Persuaders. Packard's book was a call to arms for consumers to be alert to marketing's sinister use of shadowy social scientific techniques for manipulating consumer behaviour. In Packard's day the fear was of motivation research and 'subliminal' advertising. Today, the suspicion of marketing rests on its uses of neuropsychology ('neuro-marketing') or electronic surveillance and data-gathering.

In Marketing In Context I suggest that, in fact, Packard was tilting at the wrong windmill. Marketing's techniques of consumer control have been oversold. They don't really work. Its truly deep influence is not cognitive or behavioural but ideological, and I try to illustrate this with examples from Edward Bernays's propaganda model of Public Relations in the 1940s to the current fad for marketing that doesn't sell anything, like product placement, sponsorship, 'content' marketing and 'native' advertising.

Unlike Packard, I'm not unduly worried by marketing's subtle influence in framing my buying behaviour. Our sense of agency in consumer culture may be illusory, but there is no place beyond in which we could achieve a more authentic sense of realisation. Unlike the set in the Jim Carrey movie 'The Trueman Show', we cannot crash through the illusion of marketing to find a new world untainted by commerce. The influence of the market is thoroughly integrated into culture and our task is to try to understand how this plays out under the influence of the convergent media-driven economy. I think that the marketing discipline has been distracted by the chimera of consumer control through psychology, and its cultural influence needs to be acknowledged, for the ultimate benefit of consumers, citizens, managers, policy-makers and regulators.                        



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

2013 MA Marketing Camp - The Market, Violence & Consumers

2014 MA Marketing Camp
The Market, Violence & Consumers

7 November, 2013, 6:00 pm
Senate House, Room 264
Keynote Speaker: Heide Gerstenberger, University of Bremen

The Markets, Violence and Consumers

There is no doubt about it. Capitalism has been one of the great hopes in the development of mankind. And not only proponents of capitalism but also many of its Marxist critics have agreed that its development marks, indeed, an advancement in humanity. Contracts would – and they eventually more or less did –replace the use of direct violence in labor relations. And international trade relations, while not the civilising force which had been expected of them in the eighteenth century, are no longer most often established by force of arms. In some sense capitalism has become domesticated. It is no accident that it was in the 1970s that Johan Galtung has suggested to grasp the new forms of imperialism through the analytical concept of “structural violence”. Though it differs markedly from the Marxian analysis of the violence inherent in capitalist labor relations it is useful to capture trends of development which have become dominant after the Second World War.

I will endeavour to explain:

(1) that these dominant trends and dominant theories have neglected to take into account the amount of direct violence against persons which has been part and parcel of the real history of capitalism,

(2) that globalization has counteracted trends of domestication, and

(3) that from the use of sugar in the 18th century to the purchase of cheap T-shorts in the 21st century consumer practices have sustained slavery and slave-like labor relations. 

Heide Gerstenberger has been a professor for the “theory of state and society” at the University of Bremen. She is now retired. Her research, though covering a wide range of topics, has been centered on the development of capitalist states. Since the end of the 1990s she has also been engaged in empirical research of  maritime labor in the epoch of globalization. At present she is working on “markets and violence”.

Panel Discussion:

Dominique Bouchet founded the Marketing Department in the University of Southern Denmark with a view to understanding marketing in conversation with economics, philosophy and sociology. His positioning of the subject has come to be especially influential and the department he developed is recognised as a space that has fostered cultural and theoretically informed scholarship in marketing in general and in consumer culture theory in particular. He is a public intellectual figure in Denmark. 

Kate Soper is a retired Professor of Philosophy and arguably the foremost philosopher of consumption today. She was particularly active with feminist and peace movements during the 1970s and regularly contributed to such journals as the New Left Review. She is author of various books including To Relish the Sublime and has co-edited influential texts like The Politics and Pleasures of Consuming Differently and Citizenship and Consumption.

Stephen Dunne is lecturer in Social Theory and Consumption at the University of Leicester. Stephen is a co-editor of Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization and has published in a variety of journals including the Sociological Review, Philosophy Today and Marketing Theory

To register attendance for this event please email

Friday, 4 October 2013

From Royal Marketing - Marketing Employment Week on 8th, 9th, 10th October

Royal Marketing is proud to present its first networking event of the year. Come along to meet speakers from the CIM and TeachFirst. You will have the opportunity to network with them and listen to their advice and insight.

8th October

  • What is TeachFirst?
  • My Career in Digital Marketing
  • Up your Presentation Skills
  • Develop your identity
Followed by a Networking Reception
When: 6pm
Where: Arts Building Lecture Theatre 1 (ALT1)

9th October

  • A Day in the Life of a Technology Marketer
  • Marketing Communications in an ‘On-Demand’ World
  • Marketing yourself as a Candidate
Followed by a Networking Reception
When: 6pm
Where: Arts Building Lecture Theatre 2 (ALT2)

10th October

  • Why you need to be a T-shaped Marketer
  • Developing your Personal Brand
  • Managing your Career
Followed by a Networking Reception
When: 6pm
Where: Arts Building Lecture Theatre 1 (ALT1)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Macromarketing 2014 - Update

Provisional Programme for Macromarketing 2014
Royal Holloway, University of London
July 2-5, 2014
Conference chairs: Alan Bradshaw ( & Alex Reppel (

The Market and the Household in Times of 
Austerity- Benedetta Cappellini ( & Liz Parsons ( 
Quality of Life –Joseph Sirgy ( 
Marketing Theory – Mike Saren (
Neoliberalism – James Fitchett ( & Olga Kravets (
Violence & Exploitation - Norah Campbell ( & Mandy Earley (
Psychoanalysis & Macromarketing - Robert Cluley ( & John Desmond (

Extending social imagination beyond the social: The role of natural service in marketing systems - Helge Löbler ( & Michaela Haase (

Art & Culture  - Alan Bradshaw ( & Derrick Chong (
Macromarketing Research Methodology - Ben Wooliscraft ( 
Sustainability, Markets & Marketing - Andreas Chatzidakis (, Laura Spence ( & Andy Crane ( 
Gendered Subjectivities and Marketplace Ideologies - Catherine Coleman ( & Pauline Maclaran (
Energy Consumption and Energy Policy in Europe: New perspectives and marketing challenges for the “old continent” - Doreén Pick ( and Stephan Zielke (

Marketing Ethics & Corporate Social Responsibility (with macro dimensions) -  Patrick E. Murphy (
Illegal & Dark Markets – Mark Tadajewski ( 
Extending social imagination beyond the social: The role of natural service in marketing systemsMichaela Haase ( Helge Löbler ( 
Complementary currencies and alternative local marketplaces - Mikko Laamenan ( & Mario Campana (
(Re)-Exploring The Managerial Dimensions of Macromarketing - Stan Shapiro ( 
Marketing for Higher Education - Alex Reppel (
Panel Discussions
Religion & Marketing - Ray Benton 
The Future of Macromarketing Society - Mark Peterson
Microenterprise in Urban Slums of Emerging Markets - Mark Peterson
Quintessential Macromarketing - Cliff Schultz

Globalisation of Marketing Ideology - Giana Eckhardt & Rohit Varman
International Society for Markets & Development Special Interest Group
SIG Chairs - Detlev Zwick ( Polsa (
Theoretical and practical insights from emerging markets - Janice Denegri-Knott (
To serve the people? Exploring the market’s role in Chinese development - Giana Eckhardt (
Development, Marketing, and Subalternization - Rohit Varman ( &  Per Skålén (
Migrant workers and consumption in emerging markets - Rongwei Chu ( 
Digital Marketing Consumptionscapes in the Developing World - Janet Ward (
ISMD plenary discussion


Submissions of papers to track chairs should be sent no later than Monday 3, February, 2014. 
In addition to papers submitted to tracks, we will also peer review other papers that address topics not covered by tracks. In this circumstance send full paper to

Acceptance of a paper implies that at least one of the authors must attend the conference and present the paper. All papers must show a clear indication of the purpose of the research, research method, major results, implications and key references. Authors should also indicate the track in which they would like to present their paper. Papers will be evaluated through a double blind review process, and authors will be notified of acceptance/rejection by early March 2014. Papers submitted to tracks should be sent to track chairs and can take the form of full papers or long abstracts (2 pages). 
Special Sessions 
Proposals for special sessions should be sent no later than Monday, January 13,
2014 and must include a rationale, an outline of the issues to be discussed, as well
as names and relevant qualifications of the proposed panel, workshop and session 
participants. A minimum of two double-spaced typed pages will be required to provide the necessary information. For the special sessions, paper abstracts must be 
attached to the session description (see paper submission information). Contributing authors are encouraged to consider achieving a gender balance for special session proposal. Authors will  
be notified of acceptance/rejection by early March 2014. 
Tony Pecotich Doctoral Colloquium (July 1, 2014) 
A  doctoral workshop will be conducted at the same site as the proposed
conference, on June 1. We hope that a significant number of participants in 
the doctoral workshop will also attend the conference (a special rate for doctoral students shall abet this). 
For further information, please visit:

Thursday, 5 September 2013

History, Heteroglossia and Institutional Power in Consumer Culture Theory

History, Heteroglossia and Institutional Power in Consumer Culture Theory
Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, 19th September 3-6pm

Eric Arnould, University of Bath will speaking about ontology and method within consumer culture theory. Then, we have an esteemed panel to respond to the presentation consisting of James Fitchett, University of Leicester, Paul Hewer, University of Strathclyde and Shona Rowe, University of Westminster. Giana Eckhardt of Royal Holloway will chair the discussion.

Wine reception to follow.

If you wish to attend this event, please email

History, Heteroglossia and Institutional Power in Consumer Culture Theory

Eric J. Arnould

Consumer culture theory focuses on consumers’ deployment of cultural, social and material resources in combination with firm supplied materials in the pursuit of individual and social projects. Consumer culture theory engages with a number of distinct but overlapping paradigmatic scientific and humanistic world views. Reflecting on the short eventful history of consumer culture theory suggests a number of points for discussion among which are the intersection of institutional power and the evolution of method; the desirability of recognizing the theory ladenness of method and the method ladenness of theory; method as rhetoric, rhetoric as method; whether disciplined inquiry remains essential to meaningful work; and how recognition of and respect for paradigmatic heteroglossia is essential to the health of this field of inquiry.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Adults to Kidults- Alcohol Advertising for Infants

Older people like me remember a time when alcohol ads on the TV looked as if they were made for adults. They had actors who were clearly over 40 years of age, usually a lot over, and straplines aimed at that same wrinkly demographic. Today, we're used to alcohol ads that seem to be targeted at pre-teens. They're often colourful, surreal, ridiculous, and, above all, fun. What does this infantilisation of advertising mean? Was it a deliberate strategy to instil alcohol brands into the world-view of pre-schoolers? Or does it just reflect a change in mentality as people are getting younger, older?

I remember when it all began. The Hofmeister Bear was a character invented by an advertising man named John Webster. Webster worked for a London agency called BMP. He got the idea from an American TV show, and then he used a version of the character to sell Sugar Puffs, calling it the Honey Monster. Previously, he'd had success advertising Cadbury's instant mashed potato with characters called the Smash Martians, so Webster knew very well that a wise-cracking character that appealed to our inner-child engaged consumers with the brand (see some examples here ). No-one had done it before, though, with alcohol. At that time, in 1985, Britain was nation of bitter beer drinkers. The typical drinker's profile was male, 30-60, and a drinker of dark, bitter beer. Webster's brief was to make light, lager beer seem cool to young male drinkers. He made a series of TV ads (see some here ) featuring George, the pork-pie hatted, girl-chasing bear who was pictured on the label. Soon, Britain was changed utterly, and continental lager beer was the avant garde young man's tipple of choice.                  

Webster had sniffed out a major market opportunity with his actor-in-a-bear-suit shtick, and soon all sorts of brands were getting in on the kiddy appeal. Today, practically everything is marketed with characters once seen only in children's picture books, from insurance to loans, mortgages to car tyres. It is fair to say that this infantilisation is by no means confined to advertising. The same tendency toward child-oriented visual imagery, themes and story-telling techniques can be seen throughout popular media, in movies, the press, and broadcasting. As far as the marketers are concerned, we're all children now.

Critical theorist Theodore Adorno remarked that advertisers would like everyone to be ten years old. They made it happen by acting as if it were so, along with their colleagues in the other media industries. To be sure, marketing today is colourful and fun, and as an oldster I quite like not having to act my age in the way that my father did. It is entirely in keeping with the tone of postmodern marketing that the signs and symbols of childhood are mixed up with those of adulthood, rendering us all kidult consumers. But UK hospitals are reporting huge spikes in alcohol-related liver disease amongst people in their early thirties. This is the first generation who grew up enjoying TV ads featuring the Hofmeister Bear. Should we blame John Webster for the UK's alcohol culture? Well, no, not at all. But I think it's interesting to reflect on the way advertising has deployed childish imagery and themes during the past forty years. Today, it seems that the cultural distinction between child and adult seems quite confused.

I went through a few of these ideas when a TV researcher called me up who was working on a new TV show about the changes in advertising and British culture. I lent them some old VHS video reels I had of 1970s beer advertising. The show is hosted by a man called Ade Edmondson and is scheduled for 8PM on Tuesday September 3rd, ITV. Should be an interesting show for advertising and popular culture fans. I've put a few more examples of kiddy-oriented ads for adult products and services on the corresponding article on my own blog .

Update: I'm quoted on this topic in a feature on the decline of British pubs in Spiked magazine and I shall be discussing the same topic at the Barbican, London, on October 20th at the Battle of Ideas event.  



Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Learning to Play in the New Share Economy by Giana Eckhardt

I recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), along with my colleagues Susan Fournier (Boston University) and Fleura Bardhi (City University of London), which explores how companies should approach and adapt to the share economy. The share economy refers to the explosion of organizations that have arisen recently that cater to consumers' desire to access goods and services rather than own them. This desire stems from space and time being at a premium in today's urbanized, digitally connected world, and some of companies that typify the share economy include Zipcar (car sharing) and AirBnB (house sharing), not to mention numerous organizations that facilitate bike and music sharing. But is access based consumption really as anti-consumerist, pro-environment and pro-community as the popular press portrays it to be? Or do consumers just want cost savings and convenience? We explore these issues in this HBR article by embedding them in a debate between managers at a fictional car sharing company trying to decide how to manage their brand. After you read the article, you can see expert commentaries from executives at AirBnB and RelayRides, and also leave your own comments. What has your experience been with accessing goods rather than buying them and how does your experience impact the debate?

You can access the article here

Giana Eckhardt
Professor of Marketing Royal Holloway

MA Marketing Video

Saturday, 27 July 2013

39th Annual Macromarketing Conference

39thAnnual Macromarketing Conference

July 2 – July 5, 2014

Doctoral Colloquium, July 1, 2014

School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London

Macromarketing and the Crisis of the Social Imagination

Call for Papers

This age of crisis and austerity is not just an economic crisis, but also a crisis of the social imagination. During an era of neoliberalism that stands on the verge of engulfing universities and other walks of life, we are approaching a hegemony of thought in which the knowledge that counts is knowledge that serves capital, often to a brutal cost-benefit calculus. For macromarketers, the study of how markets and society intersect and produce one another forms the basis of the subject. In this conference we look at Macromarketing during crisis and wonder how the subject might engage with theoretical and practical insights that arise from such conceptual areas as neo-liberalism, globalization, financialization, precarity, semiocaptalism and beyond.

This is a conference that seeks to develop dialogue and rich exchange of knowledge and, in particular, seeks an analysis that connects us to the actions that we see on the ground, be they in in the austerity measures that cut through the world, revolts and giant-scale protestsat the time of writing in Brazil to Turkeyto consumer technology interfaces used for espionage purposes on an epic scale.

In 2014 we bring Macromarketing to Royal Holloway, a college of the University of London. The college itself is a beautiful 19th century Victorian building located in the outer reaches of the city, close to Heathrow Airport and the Great Park. The conference promises to offer a community-based intense setting for discussing issues of wider importance.

Please see the Macromarketing Society's website ( for forthcoming updates on track chairs and registration details. Further information on the doctoral colloquium will also be posted.

Doctoral Colloquium (July 1, 2014)
On July 1, a one-day doctoral workshop will be conducted at the same site as the proposed conference. We hope that a significant number of participants in the doctoral workshop will also attend the conference (a special rate for doctoral students will be made available).

Conference chairs
For further information please contact conference chairs Alan Bradshaw ( and Alex Reppel (

Friday, 7 June 2013

Applicants Wanted for the New MA in Consumption, Culture & Marketing

Are you a perfect applicant for our Masters programmes? We are looking for students who have a 2.1 degree (or national equivalent) in a related subject area which might include business but could include such subject areas as history, philosophy, sociology, culture studies, classics, music, geography, English literature, etc. Most of all, we want students who are fascinated in the topic, who will accept the challenge of trying to engage with difficult-to-read texts, who are willing to stay up all night long with class mates discussing new ideas.

In addition, the following type of person is especially welcome:

"decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie: vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème"

also "nihilists converted to Marxism and Marxists converted to shit, every kind of chip on the shoulder: sexual, political, economic, psychological, social, cultural, sporting and electronic; practising Zen Buddhists, Catholics, witches, voodoists, Islamists, santeria animists, a Mormon and two Jews, a pitcher from the Industriales team who pitches and bats with either hand; fans of Pablo Milanes and enemies of Silvio Rodriguez, expert oracles who know who will be the next Nobel Prize for Literature as well as Gorbachev's secret intentions, the last pretty boy adopted as nephew by the Famous Person in the Higher Echelons, or the price of a pound of coffee in Baracoa; seekers after temporary or permanent visas, dreamers, femmes and hommes, hyper-realists, abstract artists and socialist realists who'd reneged on their aesthetic past; a Latinist; the repatriated and the patriotic; people expelled from everywhere one can be expelled from; a blind man who saw, disillusioned and deceivers, opportunists and philosophers, feminists and optimists, followers of Lezama, disciples of Virilio, Carpentier, Marti and one adept of Anton Arrufat; Cubans and foreigners; singers of boleros; breeders of fighting dogs, alcoholics, rheumatics, dogmatists and head-cases; smokers and non-smokers; and one macho-Stalinst heterosexual"

also "Born Again Losers and the Lavender Boozers and some crack team from Washington Heights, the boys from Avenue B and the girls from Avenue D, a Tinkerbell in tights"

also "Postgraduates who never finished their studies, who broke themselves against the texts of Heidegger and Derrida and Delueze... Undergraduate geniuses, brighter than a thousand suns, who never received funding for postgraduate study... thinkers who were kept outside the university, obscure Judes who lived their entire lives in employment precarity; thinkers of unimaginable integrity, unimaginable will, reading Leibniz in their lunchbreaks, reading Canguilhem on the commuter train... thinkers too mad to think, institutionalised thinkers; alcoholic thinkers lying ruined on park benches, who were never given a chance."

and if at all possible "Thinkers who hate other thinkers. Thinkers who'd broken with old friends over intellectual matters. Over political matters. Thinkers at war, for whom philosophical enmity had become personal enmity, had become name-calling, and hair-pulling. Thinkers who'd shot away half their faces in despair, W. says. Thinkers with deep scars across their wrists. Thinkers who wept as they spoke. Thinkers whose pauses were longer than their talks. Thinkers in breakdown, their lives careening. Thinkers who spoke frankly about the misery of their existence.  Thinkers who told of why they couldn't think, why thought was impossible, why the end had come: their end and the end of the world. Wild thinkers. Drunk thinkers. High thinkers, nostrils flared, pupils tiny, staying up for whole weeks at a time. Thinkers with missing teeth. With missing eyes. Thinkers with missing fingers, and with great clumps of their hair torn out. Thinkers with terrible rashes around their mouths. Sick thinkers, walking with two sticks, W. says. Coughing thinkers, who could hardly get out a word. Thinkers who spoke too quietly to be heard. Thinkers who spoke too loudly, half-deafening the front row. Think-declaimers, thinker-prophets who might as well have set themselves on fire in the seminar room. Exiled thinkers, forced out of their home countries for crimes of thought. Lost thinkers, left over from vanished intellectual movements. Bereaved thinkers, in mourning for dead thinker-partners. Betrayed thinkers, who spoke of backstabbing and purgings, of auto-critiques and revolutionary punishment. Thinkers with neck-kerchiefs, W. says. Thinkers with cravats. Thinkers with Hawaiian shirts. Thinkers in plus-fours. Thin thinkers, in roll-neck sweaters, with sharp cheekbones and shaved heads. Tubby thinkers, epicureans full of joy, with great, jolly faces and think folds of fat at the back of their necks and spadelike hands, who'd laboured alongside others in the fields and the mines. Serene thinkers, half godly, looking into eternity with widely-spaced eyes. Laughing thinkers, who laughed because could think, because they were free to think. Thinkers who'd escaped from imprisonment and war. Saintly thinkers, of unimaginable integrity, of absolute purity. Nomadic thinkers, who, like swifts, never touched down, moving only from conference to conference as invited speakers. Traveller thinkers, who had forsaken the lecture circuit for private voyages through jungles and deserts. Ascetic thinkers, who spoke of great solitudes, great retreats. Thinkers who had seen things, lived things that were greater than they were. Thinkers who knew what it meant to live. Thinkers who served life. Thinkers who thought in order to live, to be alive. Thinkers who spoke of the ecstasy of thinking after their talks, in the student bar. Thinkers who spoke of the beatitude of thought, tears glittering in their eyes. Thinkers who said, the only thing that mattered was to think. Bearded thinkers, with great bushy beards like Marx's, or tidy, trim beards like Lenin's, or goatees like Trotsky's, or - very rare - neckbeards like William Empsom's. Nonagenarian thinkers. Centenarian thinkers! And thinker-youths, no more than 20 years old, mere pups, with minds like steep traps. Thinkers who'd been imprisoned for thinking, W. says. Thinkers who'd been half-crucified for blasphemies of thought. Thinkers whose tongues had been ripped from their throats. Mute thinkers, whose papers were read for them. Thinkers whose voices were hoarse from screaming. Thinkers who refused to think, out of shame, and refused to read their own paper, out of modesty. Humanist thinkers, dripping with pathos, W. says. Anti-humanist thinkers, siding with viruses, siding with plagues, waiting for the demise of 'man'. Thinker-fanatics, full of hatreds and ecstasies. 'Your kind', W. says."

(Above links bring you to the original sources from Marx, Sedgewick, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Padura, Reed, Iyer and Herzog)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hello Kitty ! How to grow brands with human characteristics

Ever since my French exchange partner (Jean-Francois) managed to pull a garden rotivator up his leg on day two of my Easter ski trip I have been a bit of an Asterix fiend.  To this day I am pretty good at reading French, even if my accent is 'un petit peu franglais', because this accident meant I got to read three or four Asterix Bande Dessinee each day for the remainder of my stay.  BD, to those in the know, cartoon books if you were still wondering, are very popular even amongst adults in France, many homes will have a collection of these. Oddly, Tin Tin (who is Belgium and a good answer to the 'name three famous Belgians' question) never quite did it for me.  I have collected Asterix stuff over the years, and even visited Parc Asterix, near Paris, as a grown up to taste the theme park branded experience.

The Japanese Manga craze came to late for me, even though my boys are Pokemon mad. I was therefore intrigued when my marketing colleague Sameer mentioned he had just been published a peer reviewed journal paper about Hello Kitty, the cat like character that is a global marketing phenomenon.  A cooler, younger, Asian cartoon character that, without much of a back story seems to have grown to become a global player.  Extremely feminine, cutesy, pink, fluffy and kitch, my oldest son begged me not to buy Hello Kitty branded (and scent impregnated) tissues.  I care not what I wipe my nose with and given that both my sons were encouraged to hang out with girls at dance classes in their early years, I really didn't see pink tissues as an issue.  Joel, however, was insistent.  "They are for girls ! If you get those I won't use them."  They were £1/box on special offer, cheaper than the alternatives.  Decision made.

Must buy Hello Kitty Pomegranate Branded Iced Tea

Hosany et al, (2013) in the Journal of Marketing looked at the theory and strategies of anthropomorphic brand characters from Peter Rabbit, Mickey Mouse, and Ronald McDonald, to Hello Kitty, a topic the marketing literature has not yet considered much.  It draws on Aaker theory, that is close to my heart, on brand extensions and line extensions and seeks to explain how Hello Kitty has achieved the venerable status of being the third most counterfeited global brand.  It considers the use of nostalgia and contemporary resonance to ensure that Kitty fans continue to find the brand proposition relevant even in adulthood.  A good thing ?   With its diamante sparkle and fluffiness I am surprised the anti-everything gang hasn't dubbed the brand "Hello Kitchy". 

VW lashes:  Are you making eyes at me ?
Not everyone is into the cutsie humanisation concept, of course.  VW camper van and Beetle owners are renowned for naming their vehicles and treating them as though they were part of the family.  One of my metrosexual dad chums refused to put eye lashes made from windscreen wiper rubber on his middle aged crisis sports car.  Not even for a day !  I taunted him over email with this picture (left).  He stood firm.

I know it might not be perceived as cool by others, (I transcend notions of coolness) but take this recent example of personalisation that I captured on the side of what otherwise would be seen as yet another dull, functional, delivery vehicle.  White van man was a bit of a negative cultural stereotype in the UK for a while, synonymous for a type of bad mannered driver who lacked common courtesy, but didnt' care. 

Surf chic on this White VW van ?
I love the sense of fun, the celebration of an iconic brand in a spray of blue hibiscus flowers.  The owners sense of fun, pride in his alloy wheeled van, that includes the tropical flower silhouette, so evocative of the beach surf scene.

It's almost as though you would expect to see a couple of surf boards nestling in the back of the van with a sand encrusted wet suit.

I haven't tried this before, but why not share below your own stories for cartoon characters ? What name would you give this white van ?

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Special Issue of Ephemera: Politics of Consumption

I am proud to announce that a special issue of Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, that I guest edited along with Stephen Dunne and Norah Campbell, is published. As always, Ephemera is open access publishing so you can freely access content here.

The special issue follows from a conference that we organised last year in Dublin addressing the theme of the Politics of Consumption. We had an excellent conference with keynote addresses provided by Ben Fine and Kate Soper, we had an excellent panel discussion about the consumption of law by Gerry Hanlon and Stefano Harney and a panel discussion reflecting on how to think of the relationship of consumption with austerity Ireland that included the Marxist sociologist Kieran Allen. In addition, we had many excellent papers all presented in the Irish Royal Antiquarian Society in the heart of Georgian Dublin.

The special issue includes several of those papers and also a set of commentaries prompted by Stevphen Shukaitis concerning whether objects and commodities can be comrades. In this section you will find some very interesting and often counter-intuitive pieces about fascist rice, the re-radicalisation of the image of Che Guevara, the artist David Mabb discusses his radical encounters of the artwork of Popova with Morris and Olga Kravets gives an outstanding overview of how objects were consumed during the Soviet era. There is much more inside the issue as well - not least an article by leading brand theorist Adam Arvidsson and a consequent exchange between he and Detlev Zwick.

At a time when academics increasingly wonder why our labour becomes privatised by commercial publishers, Ephemera remains open-access. Please click through the links and enjoy!

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Body, Consumption & Marketing

The Body, Consumption & Marketing

11 Bedford Square on Thursday, May 23rd at 2:00

Marketing and consumer behaviour models typically frame the consumer as a decision-maker who evaluates options. At its most alienated conception, marketers are accused of imagining the person to be akin to a computer; an information processing machine that arrives at both rational and irrational outcomes. In moving away from rational model-making, experiences become privileged sites of understanding consumption but, again, analysis takes place at the level of the mind with research often taking the form of interpreting oral testimony. What happens when the body is brought to bear more strongly within our analytical frames?

There are numerous ways of thinking about the consumer body; as the central site in which consumer desire becomes stimulated, as the actuality of behaviour itself, as an externalised technology that needs to be governed through fitness regimes and bodily ideals, as the object that fails governmentality injunctions because we are always too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, etc., as the principle site through which gender norms are experienced and performed.

This seminar seeks to consider the role of the body within consumption and marketing. Norah Campbell of Trinity College, Dublin explores futuristic conceptions of the body within science fiction depictions of the post-human whilst Liz Parsons and Emma Surman of Keele University explore the embodied experiences of marketing workers.   A panel discussion will follow in which we will be joined by the philosopher, William Large of University of Gloucestershire.

The event will take place at 11 Bedford Square on Thursday, May 23rd at 2:00.

To reserve a place, please email