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Abstract

This paper mainly deals with the concepts and issues surrounding the contemporary notion of consumption. Consumption is a complex social phenomenon in which people consume goods or services for reasons beyond their basic use-value. Conspicuous Consumption, Symbolic Consumption, Addictive Consumption, Compulsive Consumption and Sacred Consumption are five main categories defining distinctive consumption styles. Basic characteristics of consumer culture can be summarized in the transforming of needs to desires, utilitarian/hedonic needs-values, commodity fetishism, conspicuous leisure and consumption, cultural values, aestheticization, alienation, differentiation and speed. A consumer society is one in which the entire society is organized around the consumption and display of commodities through which individuals gain prestige, identity, and standing. The paper explores the main factors fueling the engine of consumer society that has over the past few decades gained a global perspective.
CONSUMPTION, CONSUMER
CULTURE AND CONSUMER
SOCIETY
Aytekin FIRAT1
Kemal Y. KUTUCUOĞLU2
Iıl ARIKAN SALTIK3
Özgür TUNÇEL4
Abstract. This paper mainly deals with the concepts and issues surrounding the contemporary
notion of consumption. Consumption is a complex social phenomenon in which people consume
goods or services for reasons beyond their basic use-value. Conspicuous Consumption, Symbolic
Consumption, Addictive Consumption, Compulsive Consumption and Sacred Consumption are
five main categories defining distinctive consumption styles. Basic characteristics of consumer culture
can be summarized in the transforming of needs to desires, utilitarian/hedonic needs-values,
commodity fetishism, conspicuous leisure and consumption, cultural values, aestheticization,
alienation, differentiation and speed. A consumer society is one in which the entire society is
organized around the consumption and display of commodities through which individuals gain
prestige, identity, and standing. The paper explores the main factors fueling the engine of consumer
society that has over the past few decades gained a global perspective.
Keywords: Consumption, Global Consumer Culture, Consumer Society, Consumerism
1. Introduction
The concept of consumer society has recently gained a global perspective. This
study domain attracts researchers from several disciplines such as marketing

1 PhD, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Institute of Social Sciences, Muğla Sıtkı Koçman
University, Turkey. E-mail: aytekinfirat@mu.edu.tr.
2 PhD Candidate, Institute of Social Sciences, Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University, Turkey. E-
mail: kemalyuce@mu.edu.tr
3 PhD Candidate, Institute of Social Sciences, Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University, Turkey. E-
mail: isilas@mu.edu.tr
4 PhD Candidate, Institute of Social Sciences, Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University, Turkey. E-
mail: ozgur.tuncel@hotmail.com
J
ournal of Community Positive Practices, XIII(1) 2013, 182-203
ISSN Print: 1582-8344; Electronic: 2247-6571
CONSUMPTION, CONSUMER CULTURE AND CONSUMER SOCIETY | 183
research and sociology. Understanding the ingredients and drivers of global
consumer culture is key to gaining insight regarding consumer behavior, societal
dynamics and relevant organizational aspects and revealing what makes
consumers respond invariably to the forces driving the engine of consumption.
Therefore, the implicit interrelationship between the concepts of consumption,
consumer culture and consumer society merits further investigation. In doing so
this paper aims to contribute to the relevant literature in the area by adding to the
body of existing knowledge. The discussion in this paper is analytic in the sense
that factors are discussed not only in relation to the big picture of global
consumer culture but also keeping in mind the likely liaison among the factors.
Firstly, the paper looks at the concept of consumption with perspectives from
different consumption styles. Having reviewed the consumer culture, the paper
then delves into the dynamics of consumer society and consumerism.
2. The Concept of Consumption
In the most general sense, consumption means satisfying needs. As it is, the
concept of needs must be defined. A need seems compulsory for existence because
when a need is fulfilled it provides pleasure, and otherwise it gives pain (Dolu,
1993:21). Consumption has social and economic associations also connected to
time and space, depending on demands such as needs, wants and desires; goods,
services and money or some value substituting money that are necessary for
fulfilling demands (Orçan, 2008: 23).
Williams indicates that the very old-dated meaning of consumption is to destroy,
spend and waste (Featherstone, 1996). The non-self-sufficient human being has
various physiological, psychological, social and cultural needs. All activities
towards meeting any of these needs could be stated as consumption. Apart from
this definition, it is also possible to use the concept of consumption for some
other values that are spent even without a real need. Consequently, consumption
could be defined as spending tangible and intangible values that are ventured to
meet some demand, whether real or fake (Torlak, 2000: 17).
According to another view, consumption, which is formed by the purchasing
decision of consumers, is a process that combines behaviors in order to utilize
economic goods. In order to define the concept of consumption, the final aim of
economic activities, Ritzer (2003: 12 – 19) follows Marx’s description classifying
consumption goods as subsistence and luxury. Ritzer claims that consumption
tools enable people to obtain goods and services and also exploits people by
keeping them under control. In simple terms, consumption means to have a good
or a service, to own it, to use or to dispose it in order to satisfy particular needs.
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Consumption concept is also defined as the ideology of today’s world and is
criticized both negatively and positively like all ideologies. The ideology is based
on a wealthier life as a consequence of more production and more consumption,
and it is considered a factor that restricts people’s freedom, makes people
dependent on others, and alienates them (Odabaı, 1999: 4).
Contrary to the views of economists that see consumption as an activity to meet a
need and to gain benefits, Jean Baudrillard (1998: 95) regards consumption as a
desire to any goods to remove usefulness and refers its as an indication system
rather than meeting the needs. Consumption is an interpretation and
communication process in addition to a tool for people to position themselves.
When we consider consumption within the logic of an unequal spread of wealth
instead of individuals owning goods and services for their use-value only we find:
Interpretation and communication processes based on a code that records
consumption activities and makes them meaningful.
Social classification and differentiation processes in which objects are defined as
not only sense-making differences but also values about status.
In early times when the concept of consumption was first put forward,
consumption emerged among human beings as natural and simple; however, as
time went by consumption moved away from the satisfaction of needs and gained
a structure that defines social status. In fact, consumption is a must for social
welfare, and competition is an efficient tool for maximization of social welfare. In
this context, it is impossible to separate consumption and consumption society
from competition process and competition culture. Therefore, the principle of
consumption maximization corresponds with competition culture. However,
these principles are based on the rational consumer, and exclude hedonism,
conspicuous consumption, consumption of counterfeit goods,and word of mouth
consumption. Moreover, modern approach emphasizes more frequently that
creativity and productivity are connected with the consumption.. As a result of
proliferations of hedonism, conspicuous consumption, consumption of
counterfeit goods or word of mouth consumption, the phenomenon of
consumption frenzy is occured. Consumption increases, but there is no increase
in satisfaction causing unlimited consumption. In a circumstance where
consumption is unlimited, competition wakes consumption frenzy up (Rekabet
Kurumu, March 2012, [Online] at http://www.rekabet.gov.tr/index.php?
Sayfa=sayfahtml&Id=765, accessed March 31, 2012). Thusly the concept of
consumption comprises of more than a sole style.
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3. Styles of Consumption
The concepts of production and labor at work are of primary importance in the
early phases of industrialization, and gradually the concepts of consumption,
consumer, consumption society and leisure time have taken over. The social
structure that is built around production and work has been replaced with a new
capitalist social system largely based on consumption and leisure time. Since the
mass consumption of mass production became a problem, the concept of leisure
time occurred with a new meaning, namely consumption time. Previously leisure
time meant freedom, naturalism, optional choice deepness of thought; however,
after the above mentioned transformation it started to mean a new tool to reach
consecrated and approved life purposes of capitalism such as consumerism,
artificial excitement, abetted desire, competitiveness, pretentiousness etc. Leisure
time industry became an important actor of capitalism by marketing the
importance of itself and meanwhile agitating the depressive trauma of society. For
example, shopping centers, casinos, solariums, fitness centers, sport clubs etc.
don’t have authenticity and permanent meaning even though consumers
participate in them. Since they have been organized by a fictional and commercial
logic they can’t create sense of satisfaction. Even leisure time industry seems to
serve many alternatives, and they create similar senses, emphasizing that the
“good life” means “good consumption” (Aytaç, 2006: 118). Each consumer assigns
a different meaning to any product or service. Five styles of consumption are
outlined in following text.
Conspicuous Consumption:
People satisfy their basic physiological (food & beverage & housing) and security
needs by consuming products and services. However, in any society there are
some people who would like to impress others by consuming and splashing out.
Sometimes the priority of splashing out may be more than basic physiological and
security needs. This style of consumption is called as conspicuous consumption (Can
Aktan, The Virtual Library on Social Sciences, [Online] at http://www.
canaktan.org/ekonomi/ekonomik-hastaliklar/hastaliklar/gosteris-tuketim.htm-
accessed on March, 30, 2012). The concept of conspicuous consumption was
firstly analyzed by American sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen in his
study “The Theory of Leisure Class” at the end of 19 century. According to
Veblen, the first generation that became rich in the industrialization era kept on
living a modest life while the second and third generations start to consume
instead of produce. The most important issue in this concept is that consumerism
shows financial power, status, and class in the society while making others jealous.
People endeavor to make up differences in status by performing consumption
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styles of groups of higher status. People also keep on conspicuously consuming in
order to be at the forefront in their current group. Veblen also assumes that the
motive behind the human behavior is imitating others and that wealth grants
honour (Solomon, 2006: 474).
In societies, reputation is based on wealth, and the proof of power is to have a
rich life. Conspicuous Consumption occurs not only among the upper classes but
also among the lowest and the poorest classes (Çınar and Çubukcu, 2009: 284). In
modern societies, the most common aim of Conspicuous Consumption is to
ensure status and increase prestige (ahin, 1992: 42)
Symbolic Consumption
The distinctive feature of humans that other species probably don’t have is the
primary need that prompts his/her objectives, ambitious fantasies, value
awareness and absurd thrills, all of which are clearly unattached from biological
basis. Symbolization needs and the function of symbol creation exist among
primary human activities such as eating, looking, moving…etc. and are basic,
human-specific needs. Symbolic Consumption comprises of evaluation of
products based on their symbolic values, purchase and consumption. People
would like to specify characteristics of their needs and desires or communicate via
consumption. These are the symbolic aspects of products that are called extensive
self or symbolic self-completion. Consumption has a symbolic aspect and
consumers would like to convey something about themselves by benefitting from
symbolic aspects of consumption. Products and services act as a symbolic objects
and represent what the consumer can be and what the consumer cannot be
without these objects (Odabaı, 1999: 69). For example, through a sports car or
casual clothes people may broadcast the message of the importance of their
freedom and individualism.
Consumption of symbolic meanings of products is a social process that makes
basic cultural classes visible and stable. In other words, luxury products are not
consumed physically, and core products become of secondary importance; image
is consumed instead. These kinds of products are viewed as a reflector of social
class or life style. Thus, for the elite consumption choices become a reason for
being. In fact, consumption is an important element to participate in social life
and improve social relations. According to Veblen, there are two different
motives in luxury consumption. One of them is to reflect one’s own image to
other members of elite, and the second is to differ from the others from low-
classes.
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Addictive Consumption
Consumption addiction means to be addicted to products or services as
psychological or physiological dependence, such as alcohol, drug, nicotine…etc.
Even though addiction generally associates to drugs, in fact it includes any kind of
products or services that are consumed in order to overcome problems or satisfy a
need with extreme value. Another important issue in this topic is internet
addiction which is increasingly widespread. Since some internet addicted people
give importance to their virtual lives more that their real lives, this type of
addiction becomes increasingly harmful (Solomon, 2006: 29).
Compulsive Consumption
There are some consumers who were born for shopping and they feel compelled
to do shopping. Compulsive consumption points out a kind of repeating and
over-consumption that occurs due to anxiety, depression and boredom of
consumers. Shopaholics lean on overconsumption in the same way that addicted
people lean to alcohol or drugs. For example, a woman who has forcing
consumption disorder may buy 2000 hairgrips but will never use any of them.
According to reports of therapists, four times more women than men are
diagnosed with forcing consumption. While men trend towards buying
equipment, vehicles or guns in order to get the sense of power, women prefer to
buy cosmetics and clothes in order to improve interpersonal relations. Both
women and men may not control themselves when they are over-consuming like
other addicted people. These people find it especially difficult to control their
consumption of products such as alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate and diet coke.
Three main elements of negative consumer behavior are as follows: 1) behavior is
not by choice, 2) pleasure occurs due to shortness of behavior duration, 3) people
experience sense of regret or culpableness after consuming (Solomon, 2006: 30).
Sacred Consumption
Generally consumer activities tend to create binary opposition such as good-bad,
woman-man. One of the important binary opposition in consumer activities is
sacred and non-sacred consumption. The distinctive feature of sacred
consumption is to contain products and services which are served with some
degree of respect and awe. Sacred consumption may be related to religious beliefs
or not, but most probably people tend to respect holy elements and events as
sacred. Sacred consumption has mixed with consumer experience. Sacred places,
sacred people and sacred events are created from the non-sacred world and are
filled with sanctity. For example, theme parks are a new style of mass produced
fantasy that assume sanctity in all respects. Disneyland especially is a pilgrimage
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destination for consumers all over the world. Many consumption activities are
presented in a spirit of sanctity in order to sanctify the consumption. Thus,
sacralization normalizes the activity of spending money and helps to complete the
process of consecration (Solomon, 2006: 558 – 559).
4. Consumer Culture
Culture, as Williams pointed out in 1958, “is one of the two or three most
complicated words in the English language”. The complications arise because the
concept has evolved differently in different European languages and in different
disciplines. The word derives from the Latin “colere”, which had various meanings,
including to cultivate, protect, inhabit and honor with worship. Williams noted
that some of these meanings dropped away although they remain linked through
derived nouns such as cult, for honor with worship and colony for inhabit. The
Latin noun cultura evolved and its main meaning was cultivation in the sense of
husbandry. Much later after it passed into English early in 15th century, it came
also to include cultivation of the mind. Williams argued that the noun culture
began, in the mid-19th century, to develop as an abstract concept, away from the
specific cultivation of something, and this is where the complications were
compounded. In French, culture started to become linked with civilization, and in
German Kultur (which evolved from Cultur in the19th century) was a synonym
for civilization (Harvey and Stensaker, 2008: 427).
Culture is a complex and abstract construct that consists of various implicit and
explicit elements (Groeschl and Doherty, 2000), that makes it difficult for
academics across disciplines to agree on a common description. Over 200
descriptions of culture have been found; however, the most broadly known and
used definition in marketing literature is the one specified systematically by
Taylor in 1881, who defined culture as a "complex whole which includes
knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals and law, customs and any other capabilities and
habits acquired by man as a member of society" (Lindridge and Dibb, 2003).
Furthermore, culture has been defined as the collective mental programming of
the people in an environment by Hofstede. Hofstede uses the term “software to
mind” based on an analogy to computers that are programmed by software. Since
this mind software is rooted in a person’s social environment, obviously this
software varies from one environment to another. He clearly expresses his point
by saying that: “cultures are to society what personality is to individuals”
Consequently, some common aspects of “culture” found among the list of
descriptions include that culture is learnt through social interactions, that culture
is not genetic, that culture is shared by members of a specific society, and that
culture is transmitted from generation to generation, (Hofstede, 1991).
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Cultural influences on consumer behavior and consumption can be summarized
in propensity to change (Sheth and Sethi, 1977) , purchase behavior; post purchase
behavior (Samli, 1995), why people buy products — function; form and meaning,
specific products people buy, the structure of consumption, individual decision
making and communication, (Engel, Blackwell and Miniard 1995) product
acquisition and consumption behavior, adoption/diffusion of innovations,
complaining/complimenting behavior, responses to advertising/marketing
communication, responses to distributional aspects, responses to pricing aspects
(Manrai and Manrai, 1996), and consumption characteristics: product versus
service consumption in culture, cultural orientation, social class/ reference group
influences, urban versus rural sector consumption patterns and disposal (Raju,
1995). Cultural factors (values and belief systems, communication and language
systems, rituals, artifacts, symbols etc.) influence people’s decision. In this way, it
is understandable that culture has a strong impact on consumer behavior. (Craig
and Douglas, 2005). There are many examples in regards to cultural impact on
consumption. For instance, Americans like big and convenient cars, Japanese
rather small and fuel efficient vehicles. In France, McDonalds adapted their
famous menu to the French appetite by introducing smaller burgers.
Featherstone entitles three perspectives on consumer culture: The first one
emphasizes the expansion of capitalist commodity production leading to the
deployment of leisure and consumption activities in contemporary western
societies. This situation is welcomed as enabling individual freedom and equality
by some, while criticized by others as increasing the capacity for ideological
manipulation. The second perspective underlines the satisfaction derived from
goods related to their socially constructed meanings. Consumption functions as a
source of status differentiation as people use goods and experiences to “create
social bonds or distinctions”. The third perspective considers consumption as a
source of fantasy and pleasure “celebrated in consumer cultural imagery and
particular sites of consumption such as malls which generate direct physical
excitement and aesthetic pleasure” (Featherstone, 1991; 1996).
Basic characteristics of consumer culture can be summarized in the
transformation of needs to desires, utilitarian/hedonic needs-values, commodity
fetishism, conspicuous leisure and consumption, cultural values, aestheticization,
alienation, differentiation and speed.
Since the consumer does not give money for just any product or service, the
consumer reflects some needs and desires in his/her purchase decision. Individual
“needs” are influenced by both culture and personality. These needs are translated
into “wants”, which coupled with purchasing power, become “demands”
(Cleveland and Laroche, 2007). For Barthes “there is always a dual aspect to
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consumption – that it fulfilled a need, as with food or clothing, but also conveyed
and was embedded within, social, cultural symbols and structures.” One does not
need to buy and own dresses, furniture items, any objects, but by thinking about
them, dreaming about them, experiencing the spectacle presented with the display
of images, shortly through the “idea of that practice”, one can get pleasure.
Accordingly, the ideology of consumerism is not limited to those who can
actually afford goods, but surrounds those who can dream about them, who can
have access to that dream-world. Bocock defines consumerism as: an active
ideology in which the meaning of life is to be found in buying things and pre-
packaged experiences that spread through modern capitalism. This ideology of
consumerism serves both to legitimate capitalism in the daily lives and everyday
practices of many people in global world and motivate people to become
consumers in fantasy as well as in reality. (Bocock, 2005).
In hedonism, Epicurus theorizes that the most important human pursuit is
pleasure. He claims that humans at a congenital level focus on maximizing
pleasure and minimizing pain. Accordingly, value lies in the pursuit of pleasure
(Ueda, Takenaka, Vancza and Monostori, 2009). According to Solomon’s model
of “Motivation Process”, the consumer recognizes a need. This need may be
utilitarian or it may be hedonic. Utilitarian needs imply that product utility
having a useful function, quality and minimum cost for consumers. Hedonic
needs are subjective and experiential; that is, consumers may rely on a product to
meet their needs for excitement, aesthetic impression, the symbolic associations,
self confidence, fantasy, and so on. Consequently, product may have two types of
benefit at the same time for consumers (Solomon, 1996).
Mental connection of objects with meaning beyond their use-value that Marx
conceptualized as commodity fetishism lies at the physical foundation of
consumer culture. We purchase the meanings of objects rather than the objects
themselves. Symbolic dimension of consumption has expanded to lower classes
with the availability of mass-produced goods in which pursuit of pleasure is not
limited to the upper classes. However, consumption does not bring equality since
privileged groups find new ways for distinction, and stylistic distinction has
become important. Therefore, the aestheticization of everyday life operates as a
new distinction tool mostly in the form of cultivation of the self. On the
consumer side, cultivation of the self means consuming cultural products as an
artist’s experiencing himself. The claim of the artist for freedom to create without
limitations brought a consequence on the modern consumer side as a claim for
freedom to experience all artistically mediated experience (Marx, 2004).
Veblen had observed the American nouveau riches in the late nineteenth century
as a new class imitating the aristocratic life-styles of the European upper classes.
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These groups used consumption to differentiate themselves from other groups
and constitute an identity. For Veblen, people used two ways to demonstrate
their wealth: conspicuous leisure that is also part of lifestyle construction (such as
wining and dining, jewelry design, driving an expensive car, adventure holidays)
and conspicuous consumption. Furthermore, both conspicuous consumption and
conspicuous leisure are indicators of social status and prestige. With the rise of the
capitalist society the upper classes began to set the standards to which the rest of
the society aspired. In this way, consumption patterns in society became more
and more imitations of upper-class behavior. Veblen assumed that all classes want
to emulate higher classes, rather than they might live according to different and
competing principles (Veblen, 1994).
Holbrook defines consumer value as an “interactive relativistic preference
experience”. The typology of consumer value framework categorizes eight
obvious types of consumer value against three dimensions. Each cell correlates
with an obvious type of consumption value: efficiency (input/output,
convenience), excellence (quality), status (success, impression management),
esteem (reputation, materialism, possessions), play (fun), aesthetics (beauty), ethics
(virtue, justice, morality) and spirituality (faith, ecstasy, rapture, sacredness,
magic). The three key dimensions of consumer value include: extrinsic versus
intrinsic value; self-oriented versus other-oriented value and active versus reactive
value. An example of a single product fulfilling multiple types of value is perhaps
the purchase of a cashmere sweater. The sweater may be valued for its efficiency
because it keeps the individuals warm. The sweater provides excellence value
because it is made out of a high quality material, such as cashmere. The sweater
may be valued for its status because the individual shows to others they are able to
afford such a luxurious material. The sweater is valued for its aesthetics because it
looks beautiful. Additionally, the sweater may be valued for its ethics because the
individual believes they are supporting the economy by purchasing the sweater
(Holbrook, 1999).
Featherstone divides the aestheticization of everyday life into three categories
(Featherstone, 1991: 66-68): These are: the attempt to break the boundary
between art and everyday life, the avant-garde and the surrealist movements.
Thus, the boundaries between art and commodity are blurred. The realization of
Featherstone’s blurry boundaries can be seen in advertising and popular media
within consumer culture. The project of turning life into a work-of-art is the
dandyism movement. This approach emphasizes personal affections, aesthetic
enjoyment in life and new sensations. It is appropriated by postmodern theory,
where ‘the criteria for the good life revolve around the desire to enlarge one’s self,
the quest for new tastes and sensations.’ The concept of lifestyle is developed
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through this approach; constructing one’s life with the ‘achievement of originality
and superiority in dress, demeanor, personal habits and even furnishing’, saturate
everyday life with a rapid flow of signs and images in contemporary society.
Featherstone cites from Haug: “Commercial manipulation of images through
advertising, displays performances and spectacles of urban life which entails a
constant reworking of desires through images. Thus consumerism confronts
people with dream-images which speak to desires and aestheticize and de-realize
reality”.
Estrangement in the labor activity, writes Marx (2000) in the Economic and
Philosophical Manuscript of 1844, involves first “The relation of the worker to
the product of labor as an alien object exercising power over him” The product
that the worker creates is not his but is appropriated by the capitalist. This
product stands opposed to him as capital. Second, ‘labor is external to the worker,
i.e., it does not belong to his intrinsic nature; in his work, therefore he does not
affirm himself but denies himself’. Man’s powers and ‘nature’ are transformed
into objects, into material creations. Labor, too, is transformed into a commodity
because now it has exchange-value (wages) and becomes an abstraction measured
by money (Thompson, 1979: 25). Consequently in the light of alienation,
consumption increases the dependency to others, limits freedom and changes the
meaning of happiness- prosperity.
The World’s consumers are to be served by the same few global associations, the
same fast-food restaurants, hotel chains, and clothing chains, wear the same jeans
and shoes, drive similar cars, receive the same films, music and television
exhibitions, live in the same kind of urban landscape and engage in the same kind
of agriculture and industrial development schemes, while carrying the same
personal, cultural, and spiritual values - a global monoculture (Cavanagh and
Mander, 2002). The rise of a global culture doesn't mean that consumers share the
same tastes or values. Rather, people in different nations, often with conflicting
viewpoints, participate in a shared conversation, drawing upon shared symbols.
One of the key symbols, in that conversation is the global brand (Holt, Quelch
and Taylor, 2004: 70).
The culture construct is continuously evolving and the identification of the core
of any specific culture is increasingly challenging. Furthermore, the boundaries
between cultures are blurring and people are more than ever exposed to a variety
of prominent cultural elements through human mobility and mass media. As a
consequence, there is an appearance of new hybrid cultures integrating elements
of different origins (Craig and Douglas, 2005). These changes in cultural
comprehension are started by five global flows (Appadurai, 1990): (1) mediascapes,
i.e. flows of images and communication, (2) ideoscapes, ie. Flows of political ideas
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and ideologies, (3) ethnoscapes, ie. flows of tourists, migrants, students and
delegated workers carrying with them their cultural heritage, (4) technoscapes, ie.
flows of technology, (5) finanscapes, ie. flows of capital and money. These flows
allow individuals from around the globe to input similar symbols and meanings
into their daily lives. Mediascapes and ethnoscapes have been described as the
fastest, the most far-reaching and the most influential global forces affecting
today's societies and eliminating the barriers between them (Craig and Douglas,
2005).
Conventionally, culture has been characterized by its geographic properties;
however, previously mentioned global flows have blurred culture’s territorial
boundaries. Consequently, cultural patterns and consumer behavior are no longer
bound to a specific territory, but rather they interconnect across vast geographic
areas. Craig and Douglas identified five outcomes (cultural interpenetration, de-
territorialization, cultural contamination, cultural pluralism and cultural
hybridization) that result from the abovementioned global flows (Craig and
Douglas, 2005). For an example of cultural interpenetration, a large number of
Turkish immigrants, who moved to Germany and the Netherlands, retained a
strong ethnic identity, produced a significant demand for their ethnic food,
opened restaurants, and exposed the mainstream population to the “doner kebap”,
which quickly became incorporated into the German and Dutch eating habits.
As a consequence, the globalization phenomenon is today creating a global
culture that consists of many "subcultures". Worldwide consumers are familiar
with many international brand names nowadays in different industries such as
McDonald's, Hugo Boss, Nike, lkea, and so on; however, each consumer behaves
differently from another because of different acculturation levels of the
individuals belonging to each "subculture". Acculturation to the global consumer
culture (GCC) relates to “how individuals acquire the knowledge, skills and
behaviors that are characteristic of a nascent and de-territorialized global
consumer culture” It is a multifaceted construct composed of the following seven
dimensions (Cleveland and Laroche, 2007): (1) exposure to and use of the English
language (for instance; reading many of the books in English, watching English
language TV, carrying on conversations in the English language) (2) exposure to
global and foreign mass media (for example watching American/European/Asian
films, favorite actors/actresses are from the America, listening American music)
(3) exposure to marketing activities of multinational corporations (for instance
many of the TV commercials are placed by international or foreign companies;
there are many billboards and advertising signs for foreign and global products)
(4) social interactions (travel, migration, and contact with foreigners), (5)
cosmopolitanism (for example exchanging ideas with people from other cultures
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194
or countries) (6) openness to a desire to participate in the GCC (a person’s
lifestyle is almost the same as that of people of this person’s age group and social
class in other countries) and (7) self-identification with the GCC (Advertising by
foreign or global brands has a strong influence on people’s clothing choices).
5. Consumer Society and Consumerism
The first section of this article has attempted to explain what the concept of
consumption has become to mean to people who currently consume goods or
services for reasons beyond their basic utilization value. Clearly the global
consuming culture, elements of which have been examined in the previous
section, is a driving factor behind such a transformation. Societies are groups of
people who share identical cultures or cultural elements. Global consumer culture
implies a society that transcends national borders and that has certain behavioral
patterns. The similarity of the patterns is due to the members’ inclination to
respond invariably to the forces driving the engine of consumption.
In its simplest form, a consumer society is one in which for Baudrillard (1998) the
entire society is organized around the consumption and display of commodities
through which individuals gain prestige, identity, and standing. Similar to the
Veblen's notion of "conspicuous consumption" (1994), Baudrillard (1998) claims
commodities are not merely characterized by use-value and exchange value, as in
Marx's theory of the commodity, but also in sign-value - the expression and mark
of style, prestige, luxury, power, and so on - that becomes an increasingly
important part of the commodity and consumption. Just like words take meaning
in a system of language, consumer society uses a system of signs to signify prestige
and status.
Within consumer society, objects are used fast and disposed wastefully. Recently
this rapid use and disposal has been largely associated with the corruption of
values and thus often carries a negative meaning. (Penpece, 2006).
Baudrillard (1998) argues that the consumer society needs its objects in order to
exist, and in a way, consumer society needs to destroy its objects. The difference
between abundance and absence is the connection to wealth. Thus, it is in
destruction that consumption gains its meaning. Baudrillard (1998) believes
consumption is merely an intermediate term between production and destruction.
Goodwin, Nelson, Ackerman and Weisskopf (2008), explains how consumer
society can only make sense in its social context:
“The modern consumer is not an isolated individual making purchases in a vacuum. Rather, we are
all participants in a contemporary phenomenon that has been variously called a consumerist
CONSUMPTION, CONSUMER CULTURE AND CONSUMER SOCIETY | 195
culture and a consumer society. To say that some people have consumerist values or attitudes
means that they always want to consume more, and that they find meaning and satisfaction in life, to
a large extent, through the purchase of new consumer goods. Consumerism has emerged as part of a
historical process that has created mass markets, industrialization, and cultural attitudes that ensure
that rising incomes are used to purchase an ever-growing output.”
It is clear from the above account that the origins of the consumer society are
related to the historical evolution of society around the concept of production
and the resulting form of society. The next section deals with the origins of the
consumer society.
The Evolution of Consumer Society: From Mass Production to Mass
Consumption
Just a few centuries ago before the Industrial Revolution consumption patterns
were very different from those that exist today. People had limited time and other
sources to spare for shopping for goods, particularly those produced far from
home with the exception of a few elite who had long enjoyed higher consumption
standards. Most clothing items and household possessions were expected to last a
life time with repairs if needed, and there was neither social pressure nor another
forcing mechanism driving people constantly to make new purchases. Then the
Industrial Revolution drastically transformed production. Production levels in
England soared significantly. In the early 19th century about two-thirds of the
increased output was sold to other countries around the world. However, growth
through expansion into foreign markets had its limits that required the rise in the
domestic consumption. English patterns of consumption were changing and
leading to a growing middle class and working class, allowing these classes to
become consuming classes. Workers would no longer prefer to work just to earn
their traditional weekly income and stop to enjoy more leisure; rather they would
prefer longer hours to earn and spend more. The former attitude was not
compatible with mass production and mass consumption (Goodwin, Nelson,
Ackerman and Weisskopf, 2008).
As Akbulut (2006) puts it, consumption society came to the scene with the
development of a capitalist economic system. Similar developments were taking
place in the United States of America, and the epitome of these developments can
be found in the ‘Fordist’ mass production and the policies trying convert workers
into consumers by trying to make it easy for them to buy a car.
The period just after World War II saw a crisis when factories previously
producing war-related goods started to produce consumer goods. Americans were
made to believe that consumption was the solution for poverty and it would
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generate a more equal society. Saving - the opposite of consumption- became
associated with anti-patriotic behaviour. Americans were urged to spend, to buy,
to consume and also to pay on credit. Mass consumption took off
(http://leaparis10.free.fr/l3s2/anglais/civilisation/civiusp2c1.pdf).
Ekin (2010) argues this post-war crisis also marked the eradication of Fordism.
The new era was called the post-fordism stage of capitalism or, as the prominent
cultural theorist Frederick Jameson puts it, “late capitalism”. Consumption was
replacing production as the dominant factor in the society. With new technology
transforming the production methods and factories getting smaller, labour lost its
primary production element.
There was only one minor obstacle in the way of these changing roles: western
society was largely based on a Protestant work ethic that previously shaped the
society around production and work. Bauman (1999) explains how the protestant
ethic gave in to the aesthetics of consumption. Bauman (1999) discusses how the
societal norms and certain roles within society have changed:
“The reason for calling that older type of modern society a ‘producer’ society was that it engaged its
members primarily as producers; the way in which that society shaped up its members was dictated by
the need to play this role and the norm society held up to its members was the ability and the
willingness to play it. In its present late-modern, second-modern or post-modern stage, society engages
its members –again primarily- in their capacity as consumers. The way present-day society shapes up
its members is dictated first and foremost by the need to play the role of the consumer, and the norm
our society holds up to its members is that of the ability and willingness to play it.”
Consumer society has recently gained a global perspective. Ger and Belk (1996)
examine how the consumption patterns of the western society – or as they called
‘More Affluent Societies’ spread to the rest of the word – ‘to the Less Affluent
Societies’. Ger and Belk (1996) find that rising consumer expectations and desires
are fueled by global mass media, tourism, immigration, the export of popular
culture, and the marketing activities of transnational firms. They also talk of four
distinct but interrelated ways in which global consumer culture has been
conceptualized. The first is in terms of the proliferation of transnational
corporations producing and marketing consumer goods. The second one is the
proliferation of global capitalism. The third perspective is that of global
consumerism, or a globalized consumption ethic. Shopping and consumption
desires infiltrate daily life such that the meaning of life is pursued, identity is
formed, and relationships are shaped and maintained more and more in and by
consumption. Individuals interpret happiness more and more exclusively in terms
of their relative success in gaining access to high levels of consumption. The
fourth perspective on global consumer culture is an extension of global
consumerism to global consumption homogenization. Increasingly consumers
CONSUMPTION, CONSUMER CULTURE AND CONSUMER SOCIETY | 197
throughout the entire globe eat the same foods, listen to the same music, wear the
same fashions, watch the same television programs and films, drive the same cars,
dine in the same restaurants, and stay in the same hotels.
The Features of Consumer Society
The paper already touched on certain attributes of consumer society (CS).
Following is a more comprehensive list of these features which was a blend of the
views of McGregor Consulting Group (www.consultmcgregor.com), Ekin (2010),
Çınar and Çubukçu (2009) and Baudrillard (1998):
CS builds identities largely out of things
Obey the ‘consume now’, do not postpone the desire.
Economic growth depends on the consumption
the key issues of enjoying life are consumption of goods and services
to consume is the surest perceived route to personal happiness, social status
and national success
you are what you own and the more you own, the happier you will be
in a consumer society, people use spending and materialism as a way to build
a new ego or become a new person by buying products which support their
self-image
to keep the economic machine moving, people have to be dissatisfied with
what they have; hence, who they are
in a consumer society, consumption must be organized so production can
continue
the demand for consumer goods has to be sustained and accelerated or the
consumer society cannot survive
widespread lack of moral discipline; glorification of greed and material
accumulation
everybody is a walking advertisement
things have symbolic meanings
social space is reorganized around leisure and consumption as central social
pursuits and as bases for social relationships
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mainstream economics believes that marketplaces are abstract, stripped of
culture (except the culture of consumption), of social relations and of any
social-historical context
a tension exists because the isolated, personal, private moment of
consumption (purchase, use and enjoy), work within the home and cultural
endeavours are seen by those engaged in them as private when they are
actually inherently tied to global economic and political processes
commercialization of leisure and mechanization of the home (free up time
and energy to shop and provide more things to buy)
consumer choices (taste and style) are seen to be indicators of who they are as
a person and of their moves within the games of class, prestige, status,
hierarchy, fashionability
consumer culture at worst as an entity that manipulates its citizens (mass
deception) or at best as a resource for their creativity and needs
CS is the religion of the market (a system of beliefs) co-opts aspects of our
humanity and spirituality
in CS, people eventually begin to think that things are in disorder, priorities are
mixed up, moral center is being lost - so they spend more to cover up the fear
loss of cultural diversity via cultural homogenization
a consumer society is based on round the clock in CS,
all problems have a material or money solution
It appears that altogether the very spirit of consumer society dictates that
consumers are beings living in a material world. Consumers are encouraged to use
their purchasing power to exercise their freedom and choose from a variety of
goods to make their life more meaningful. Consumers’ sovereignty is
presupposed. This freedom is not attributed to their civil rights but comes from
the ability to make personal choices in the market that let them identify
themselves. At this point the sovereignty of the king or queen becomes irrelevant
in comparison to that of the consumer in the market (Gay, 1996: 76).
Another defining characteristic of consumer society is that consumption became
the ultimate goal rather than being a means to fulfilling of the needs. Aslan (1996:
14) notes that nowadays people spend their weekends and holidays at shopping
malls instead of going for picnic or walking leisurely in a park. They purchase
regardless of their need. People go to shopping malls as a family to spend their
leisurely time and relax.
CONSUMPTION, CONSUMER CULTURE AND CONSUMER SOCIETY | 199
In consumer society, there appears to be organized mechanisms manipulating
peoples’ desires and needs. In line with this Bauman (1999) believes in consumer
society nothing should be embraced firmly and in terms of people and their
relation to consumption objects there is no lasting commitment, no ultimate
desires and no needs can be fully satisfied either. Any commitment or pledge for
loyalty is only valid ‘until further notice’. This is how new desires for future
objects are assured.
Consumer society also has other helping mechanisms and institutions assuring its
continued existence. Advertising, consumer credit (Goodwin, Nelson, Ackerman
and Weisskopf, 2008) and mass-media culture (Baudrillard, 1998) are the main
drivers in nurturing consumer society. The concept of fashion (Çınar and
Çubukçu, 2009) and planned obsolescence strategies and perhaps the hyper reality
created in ‘shopping cathedrals’ are also some of the elements that propel
consumer society.
6. Conclusions
Consumption is a social and cultural process involving cultural signs and symbols
beyond an economic, utilitarian process (Bocock, 2005). Culture defined as a
"learned, transmitted, and shared phenomenon" is one of the most important
factors affecting consumers' attitudes, behaviours and lifestyles. Each individual
gets exposed a large number of thoughts, values, norms, and cultures and thus
learns to differentiate between the good and the bad ones, thereby choosing a
certain belief system that keeps on changing with more and more experience
(Kim, Lee, Kim and Hunter 2004).
In the light of globalization consumers in almost every corner of the globe are
increasingly able to eat the same foods, listen to same music, wear the same
fashions, watch the same television programs and films, drive the same cars, dine
in the same restaurants and stay in the same hotels (Ger and Belk, 1996). The rise
of a global culture doesn't mean that consumers share the same tastes or values.
Rather, people in different nations, often with conflicting viewpoints, participate
in a shared conversation, drawing upon shared symbols. One of the key symbols,
in that conversation is the global brand (Holt, Quelch and Taylor, 2004: 70).
Global culture, is eclectic, timeless, technical, universal and cut-off from the past;
unlike national cultures which were particular and time bound (Smith, 1990). In
this context, basic characteristics of consumer culture can be summarized in the
transforming of needs to desires, utilitarian/hedonic needs-values, commodity
fetishism, conspicuous leisure and consumption, cultural values, aestheticization,
alienation, differentiation and speed.
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Acculturation to the global consumer culture (GCC) relates to ‘how individuals
acquire the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are characteristic of a nascent
and deterritorialized global consumer culture’. Major dimensions of GCC can be
portrayed in exposure to and use of the English language, exposure to global and
foreign mass media, exposure to marketing activities of multinational
corporations, social interactions, cosmopolitanism, openness to a desire to
participate in the GCC and self-identification with the GCC (Cleveland and
Laroche, 2007).
Alternative outcomes or strategies of global consumer culture can be summarized
in integration, assimilation, separation, marginalization and creolization. The
integration strategy represents adopting some specific characteristics of the new
culture while maintaining other aspects of the original culture. The assimilation
strategy consists of a complete acculturation to the new culture while rejecting all
aspects of original culture. The separation/segregation strategy is about rejecting
all aspects of the new culture while maintaining all traditional values and beliefs.
The marginalization strategy is when an individual rejects or shows little interest
in both his/her traditional/original culture and the new culture. Creolization
describes the creation of an entirely new behaviour or object, via the
transmutation of local and foreign or global influences. Each of these strategies
strongly affects consumer behaviour and consumption.
From the center-periphery, culture flow perspective, Appadurai (1990), has
declared that as rapidly as forces from various metropolises are brought into new
societies, they tend to become indigenized in one way or another. This
fragmentation wrought by globalization is portrayed by Fırat (1995: 115): Yet
what seems to be occurring is a globalization of fragmentation. All images,
products, brand names and lifestyles that create excitement, sensation, attraction
and interest can and do find their markets. The consumers, regardless of their
nationalities and countries are willing to experience and sample the different styles
and cultural artifacts, if at different times and for different purposes.
Globalization, therefore, does not seem to be an event in which one form or style
dominates and eliminates all others. Rather, globalization is the diffusion of all
different forms and styles all around the world. Because postmodern consumer
experience is not one of committing to a single way of being or a single form of
experience, the same consumers are willing to sample the different, fragmented
artifacts. The consumer is ready to have Italian for lunch and Chinese for dinner,
to wear Levi’s blue jeans for an outdoor party in the afternoon and to try the
Gucci suit at night changing not only diets and clothes but also the personas and
selves that are to be represented at each function.
CONSUMPTION, CONSUMER CULTURE AND CONSUMER SOCIETY | 201
Consequently, ethnic and cultural fragmentation and modernist homogenization
are not two arguments, two opposing views of what is happening today, but two
constitutive trends of global reality. The cultural and by implication intellectual
fragmentation of the world has undermined any attempt at a single interpretation
of the current situation.
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Acronymes
GCC: Global Consumer Culture
... Consumption is defined as satisfying needs and desires of consumers. This definition has social and economic dimensions (Firat, et al., 2013;Orcan, 2008). Any activity to meet and satisfy need is called consumption (Featherstone, 1996). ...
... Consumer is the most important part in the marketing process. Consumer is a person who identifies needs or desires also he/she searches for products or services to satisfy his/her needs or desires, buys product and then consumes product to satisfy him/her needs and desires (Noel, 2009;Firat et al., 2013). Consumer behaviour include not only the way that individual buy tangible products but also consumer ideas and activities. ...
... There have been many studies on consumer acculturation (Berry, 1980;Penaloza, 1994;Ownbey and Horridge, 1997;Steenkamp, 2001;Sam and Berry, 2010;Vijaygopal, 2010;Kizgin, 2015;Watchravesringkan, 2010;Mbombo-Dweba et al., 2017;Firat et al., 2013). Berry (2005) is considered a pioneer in acculturation studies defined acculturation as the dual process of cultural and psychological change that takes place as a result of contact among two or more cultural groups and their individual members. ...
Thesis
Increasing the number of refugees in the world is important to study refugee’s behavior. The objectives of the study were to examine the factors influencing food expenditure, points of purchase choice, and the food security status among Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Samsun province of Turkey. The data were gathered on the period of October 2019 – March 2020 from surveys conducted with 252 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Samsun province. Person’s correlation (r), Chi-Square, t-test, and ANOVA tests were used for descriptive analysis of the variables, while factor analysis (FA) and multiple linear regression were used, to reduce the number of explanatory variables and to explain influencing factors on food expenditure, points of food purchase, and food security. The results indicated that average household size was 5 members and food expenditure on five categories represented 38% of the total household income. The study also resulted that the local markets were the preferred choice for fresh vegetables and fruit, supermarkets for meat and dairy products, and markets for cereal products. The food expenditure of refugee households was dominated by meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and cereals, respectively. The findings suggested socio- demographic variables as household size, length of stay in Samsun province, economic variables as level of income and behavioural variables as purchasing out of season and wasted amount had significant effects on the food expenditure of refugee households. Price, product characteristics, and health dimensions seem to be the most influential factors on store choice of refugees. However, socio-demographic factors as nationality, gender, marital status, age, and district, economic factors as number of workers and income level, and behavioral factors as buying off-season and payment way had influenced on the refugees’ store choices at least for two food categories. The research findings also showed that 61.8% of refugee households could not access to enough foods. The influencing factors on food security were determined by socio-demographic variables as nationality, age, level of education, residence period and district, economic variables as job status and level of income had significant effects on food security status of refugee households. Consumers should pay attention to healthy products such as food safety and organic products more than price. Food retailers should improve marketing strategies taking account into refugees' preferences to fulfill their desires and needs. In order to improve food security status of the refugees, new business opportunities together with the improvement of the economic and employment situation should be created. To reduce food insecurity for especially the most vulnerable refugees, special strategies and programs should be implemented. Keywords: Refugees, Food Expenditure, Store Choice, Food Security, Samsun.
... Consumption is defined as satisfying needs and desires of consumers. This definition has social and economic dimensions (Firat, et al., 2013;Orcan, 2008). Any activity to meet and satisfy need is called consumption (Featherstone, 1996). ...
... Consumer is the most important part in the marketing process. Consumer is a person who identifies needs or desires also he/she searches for products or services to satisfy his/her needs or desires, buys product and then consumes product to satisfy him/her needs and desires (Noel, 2009;Firat et al., 2013). Consumer behaviour include not only the way that individual buy tangible products but also consumer ideas and activities. ...
... There have been many studies on consumer acculturation (Berry, 1980;Penaloza, 1994;Ownbey and Horridge, 1997;Steenkamp, 2001;Sam and Berry, 2010;Vijaygopal, 2010;Kizgin, 2015;Watchravesringkan, 2010;Mbombo-Dweba et al., 2017;Firat et al., 2013). Berry (2005) is considered a pioneer in acculturation studies defined acculturation as the dual process of cultural and psychological change that takes place as a result of contact among two or more cultural groups and their individual members. ...
Thesis
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Increasing the number of refugees in the world is important to study refugee’s behavior. The objectives of the study were to examine the factors influencing food expenditure, points of purchase choice, and the food security status among Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Samsun province of Turkey. The data were gathered on the period of October 2019 – March 2020 from surveys conducted with 252 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Samsun province. Person’s correlation (r), Chi-Square, t-test, and ANOVA tests were used for descriptive analysis of the variables, while factor analysis (FA) and multiple linear regression were used, to reduce the number of explanatory variables and to explain influencing factors on food expenditure, points of food purchase, and food security. The results indicated that average household size was 5 members and food expenditure on five categories represented 38% of the total household income. The study also resulted that the local markets were the preferred choice for fresh vegetables and fruit, supermarkets for meat and dairy products, and markets for cereal products. The food expenditure of refugee households was dominated by meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and cereals, respectively. The findings suggested socio- demographic variables as household size, length of stay in Samsun province, economic variables as level of income and behavioural variables as purchasing out of season and wasted amount had significant effects on the food expenditure of refugee households. Price, product characteristics, and health dimensions seem to be the most influential factors on store choice of refugees. However, socio-demographic factors as nationality, gender, marital status, age, and district, economic factors as number of workers and income level, and behavioral factors as buying off-season and payment way had influenced on the refugees’ store choices at least for two food categories. The research findings also showed that 61.8% of refugee households could not access to enough foods. The influencing factors on food security were determined by socio-demographic variables as nationality, age, level of education, residence period and district, economic variables as job status and level of income had significant effects on food security status of refugee households. Consumers should pay attention to healthy products such as food safety and organic products more than price. Food retailers should improve marketing strategies taking account into refugees' preferences to fulfill their desires and needs. In order to improve food security status of the refugees, new business opportunities together with the improvement of the economic and employment situation should be created. To reduce food insecurity for especially the most vulnerable refugees, special strategies and programs should be implemented. Keywords: Refugees, Food Expenditure, Store Choice, Food Security, Samsun.
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Chapter
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Book
Over the past two decades, the face of the world consumer has truly changed. Goods are more available, information about these goods is more open and accessible, and the ability to buy these goods from any corner of the earth has become possible. As a result, international marketing is more important now than ever before. In this book, Josh Samli explores the challenges facing modern international marketers. He explains what it is to have successful communication with the target market: using social media to share consistent information about products and services, communicating directly with culture-driven consumers who already communicate online amongst themselves and with competitors, and mastering people-to-people communication with both privileged and non-privileged consumers. Any company dealing with international marketing must learn how to handle these new challenges in order to survive in the 21st century. © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013. All rights are reserved.
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Introduction PART ONE The Subjects of Production The Production of Subjects Governing Organizational Life The Cult[ure] of the Customer PART TWO Retailing and the De-Differentiation of Economy and Culture Re-Imagining Organizational Identities Consuming Organization Setting Limits to Enterprise Appendix: Research Details