The Möbius strip ofmarket spatiality: mobilizing transdisciplinary
dialogues betweenCCT andthemarketing mainstream
Received: 17 February 2020 / Accepted: 25 November 2020
© The Author(s) 2021
This paper develops the Möbius strip as an ‘ordering theory’ (Sandberg and Alvesson, 2020) that brings CCT studies into
dialogue with mainstream marketing approaches. The aim is to work toward a transdisciplinary understanding of market
spatiality, a topic that has become increasingly important for theorists and practitioners (Warnaby and Medway, 2013;
Castilhos etal.,2016; Chatzidakis etal.,2018). Building on psychosocial interpretations of the Möbius strip as a ‘tactical’
way of thinking, a range of insights and ideas are organized along a single strip of theorization. This paper maps a continuous
plane of logic between the concepts of space, place, emplacement, spatiality, implacement, and displacement. The potential
applications of the Möbius strip are then demonstrated by showing how the transdisciplinary topic of ‘atmosphere’ can be
theorized from multiple perspectives. The paper concludes by exploring how the Möbius strip might also be employed in
other areas of marketing theory and practice, potentially generating further transdisciplinary conversations between CCT
and the marketing mainstream.
Keywords CCT · Marketing· Möbius strip· Space· Place· Spatiality· Emplacement· Implacement· Displacement·
Atmosphere· Atmospherics· Servicescapes· NRT· Customer journey
“Increasing emphasis is being put on the fact that all
social processes take place somewhere, and that where
this somewhere is makes a major diﬀerence.”
(Hien etal., 2008, p.1268).
When Arnould and Thompson (2005, p.868) first
introduced the “academic brand” of Consumer Culture
Theory (CCT) they described it as “a ﬂurry of research
addressing the sociocultural, experiential, symbolic, and
ideological aspects of consumption”, contrasting this with the
“microeconomic theory, cognitive psychology, experimental
design, and quantitative analytical methods” (p.869) found
elsewhere in the marketing discipline. This branding
exercise has been very successful in legitimating alternative
approaches to studying markets and consumption (Arnould
and Thompson, 2015, 2018), but it runs the risk of creating
an epistemic enclave. A simplistic reading of Arnould and
Thompson (2005) would suggest that CCT exists on its own
paradigmatic plane with insights, ideas, and interests that are
incommensurable with those of the marketing mainstream.
However, CCT is best deﬁned as a heteroglossia (Thompson
etal., 2013), an approach to theory and practice that is open-
ended, open-to-change, and comprised of open-minded
academics. Adopting a more open deﬁnition of CCT helps
to discern ways in which this body of knowledge can enter
into transdisciplinary conversations and collaborations with
the marketing mainstream (Arnould etal., 2019). One area
that would certainly beneﬁt from scholarly cross-pollination
is market spatiality, a term which encompasses a range of
research addressing the relationships between geographical
processes and marketing practices (Castilhos etal., 2016).
Management scholars of various stripes have been interested
in the broad topic area of market spatiality for over five
decades (Giovanardi and Lucarelli, 2018), but only recently
have these studies reached a critical mass since described
as a ‘spatial turn’ for marketing (Chatzidakis etal.,2018).
* Jack Coﬃn
1 Department ofMaterials, University ofManchester,
2 School ofBusiness andManagement, Royal Holloway,
University ofLondon, London, UK
Scholars associated with the CCT tradition have contributed
greatly to contemporary understandings of market spatiality
(see Castilhos etal.,2016), but so too have scholars drawing
on other disciplines, like psychology or economics. This is
particularly clear in place marketing. Once an area of inquiry
led by practitioners interested in marketing destinations,
cities and regions, it now attracts academics from a plethora
of philosophical perspectives (Warnaby and Medway, 2013;
Giovanardi etal.,2019). Unfortunately, place marketing stands
as somewhat of an exception to the rule of market spatiality,
where the transfer of ideas between CCT scholarship and
mainstream marketing research is relatively rare.
Take an everyday notion like atmosphere. Managerially-
oriented research tends to gravitate toward Kotler’s (1973)
concept of atmospherics, which has since split into sub-
categories like multisensory atmospherics (Spencer etal.,2014)
and outdoor atmospherics (Bloch and Kamran-Disfani, 2018).
Many marketing scholars are influenced by environmental
psychology, conceptualizing atmospheres as bundles of ambient
sensory stimuli that can exert an often subliminal inﬂuence on
insitu consumer subjects (Turley and Milliman, 2000; Turley
and Chembat, 2002). CCTscholars often employThrift’s (2008)
Non-Representational Theory (NRT) to address this theme of
subliminality,as well as conceptualizinghow atmospheres can
become mobile phenomena, able to move between bodies and
thus between sites (Hill etal.,2014; Hill, 2016). In addition,
the CCT tradition addresses how atmospheres are also local
manifestations of cultural themes like utopia (Maclaran and
Brown, 2005) or home (Bradford and Sherry, 2015). Although
more recent contributions seek to draw together ideas from a
range of theoretical traditions (e.g. Steadman etal., 2020), the
study of atmospheres remains characterized by a series of well-
developed but rather discrete areas of knowledge.
A similar statement could be made for many other
market-spatial phenomena, such as customer journeys
through market spatiality (Hill etal., 2014; Coﬃn, 2019;
Thomas et al., 2020; Grewal and Roggeveen, 2020),
consumer experiences in and of market spatiality (e.g.
Verhoef etal., 2009; Chatzidakis etal., 2018; Roggeveen
etal., 2020), or individual and collective emotional
responses to market spatiality (e.g. Warnaby and Medway,
2013; Debenedetti etal., 2014; Rosenbaum etal., 2017). The
marketing literature addressing these topics can certainly
be described as multi-disciplinary, but rarely are the terms
cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary
as applicable. In response, this conceptual paper seeks
to propose an ‘ordering theory’ (Sandberg and Alvesson,
2020) that helps to reorganize the existing body of research
on market spatiality and, in doing so, highlights hitherto
unseen opportunities for future research that cuts across
disciplinary divides. The mental model for this theoretical
reordering is the Möbius strip, a shape that twists to allow
multiple positions to coexist on the same continuous plane.
Similarly, this paper argues that the ideas and insights of
CCT scholars can be located alongside those of mainstream
marketing academics and practitioners – diﬀerent but not
The remainder of this paper is structured as follows: the
next section details the notion of the Möbius strip as an
ordering theorization in general terms before proposing
the Möbius strip of market spatiality as a more speciﬁc
formulation; the subsequent sections move along the Möbius
strip of market spatiality by addressing 6 common concepts
(space, place, emplacement, spatiality, implacement, and
displacement) that can be applied tostudies from the
CCTtradition and the marketing mainstream; the paper
then returns to the topic of ‘atmosphere’ to provide a
more concrete example of how the Möbius strip of market
spatiality might be applied by future researchers; ﬁnally,
the conclusionconsiders the broader issue of CCT’s
relationship with the marketing mainstream, proposing that
other Möbius strips might be mobilized in order to facilitate
transdisciplinary conversations, insights, and theorizations.
The Möbius strip asanordering theorization
A Möbius strip is created by taking a long thin piece of paper
and twisting it 180 degrees in the middle before attaching both
ends, producing a multi-directional geometry from a single
plane (Fig.1). Looking at the Möbius strip from afar produces
the optical illusion of folds and cuts, yet an insect moving
along its surface would experience an uninterrupted plane
of movement. As Frosh and Baraitser (2008, p.349) explain,
“underside and topside, inside and out, ﬂow together as one,
and the choice of how to see them can be purely tactical, just
like the decision as to whether to look at the subject from
a “social” or a “psychological” perspective”. Analogously,
one may choose to conceptualize market spatiality as a single
plane of transdisciplinary theorization. Although certain
ideas or insights may be more closely associated with one
perspective (e.g. CCT), the Möbius strip points to the beneﬁts
of thinking ‘tactically’, of emphasizing connections and
continuities rather than a priori disciplinary diﬀerences.
The Möbius strip is not unique to any particular scholar,
subject, or sub-discipline. More often than not, it is used
ﬂeetingly as a metaphor amongst many other arguments.
For example, Grosz (1994, p.209) uses the geometry
as a feminist figure of speech, denoting the inexorable
entwinement of the gendered mind and body. In their
study of tailgating vestavals, Bradford and Sherry (2015,
p.130) present their ﬁndings as a Möbius strip in order to
“emphasize not just the simultaneity of stages, but also
the constant sharing of energy”. Their usage points to the
heuristic power of the Möbius strip, but primarily in relation
to a speciﬁc type of market spatiality (the vestaval). Building
on their example, this paper attempts to deploy the Möbius
strip more broadly as an ‘ordering theory’ (Sandberg and
Alvesson, 2020), integrating different types of market
spatiality into a single theoretical framework or ‘plane’.
This use of the Möbius strip is inspired by the psychosocial
studies of Frosh (2014, p.161), who uses this to theorize “the
ways in which psychic and social processes demand to be
understood as always implicated in each other, as mutually
constitutive, co-produced, or abstracted levels of a single
Psychosocial studies emerged in the mid-1980s as staﬀ
and students at British universities expressed an interest in
courses that addressed both individual and larger-scale social
experiences (Frosh, 2003). As the unhyphenated appellation
suggests, studies in this area seek to dissolve the disciplinary
distinctions between ‘psychological’ and ‘sociological’
thinking in order to appreciate the human condition as
inherently psychosocial (Frosh and Baraitser, 2008;
Woodward, 2015). Psychosocial scholars sought to avoid the
pitfalls of sociological and psychological reductivism (Frosh
and Baraister, 2008), advocating instead methodological
and theoretical pluralism (Frosh, 2003, 2010; Woodward,
2015). To summarise, psychosocial studies can be thought
of “as an interdisciplinary ﬁeld in search of transdisciplinary
objects of knowledge” (Frosh, 2014, p.161). Like other
areas of theoretical development it provides an “integrated
understanding of the phenomena of interest” (Vargoand
Koskela-Huotari, 2020, p.2), but one that seeks to integrate
ideas and insights from origins that are ostensibly opposed.
Parallels can be drawn to the present attempt to theorize
market spatiality as a combination of CCT and mainstream
marketing approaches. Although CCT is already theoretically
and methodologically pluralistic (Thompson etal., 2013),
there have been calls for more sustained engagement with
mainstream theories and managerial practice (Arnould etal.,
2019). Building on previous reviews of the market spatiality
literature (Castilhos etal., 2016; Lucarelliand Giovanardi,
2019), the novel contribution of a Möbius strip is to order
the literature in ways that encourage transdisciplinary
conversations and collaborations. The Möbius strip of
market spatiality connects space, place, emplacement,
spatiality, implacement, and displacement together along
one continuous plane. The following six sections move along
this plane, oscillating freely between CCT studies and those
from the marketing mainstream. Although diﬀerences can
still be discerned these become less distinct as opportunities
for cross-pollination become more prominent.
From space toplace
Previous orderings of market spatiality have been oriented
around the conceptual contradistinction between ‘space’ and
‘place’ (Chatzidakis etal., 2018; Giovanardiand Lucarelli,
2018). As both terms are used in everyday discourse, it is
perhaps unsurprising that there is some disagreement about
how they should be deﬁned and delineated (Agnew, 2011;
Low, 2016). In contrast to other areas of social theory,
the marketing discipline deploys a relatively consistent
distinction. This conceptual consensus is deftly distilled by
Fig. 1 A Möbius strip
Visconti etal. (2010, p.512), who write that “the notion of
space traditionally refers to something anonymous, whereas
place distinctively accounts for the meaningful experience
of a given site”. Put simply, meaning marks the boundary
between space and place for most marketing theorists.
This is why it makes sense to speak of ‘place marketing’,
which denotes the commercial management of toponyms,
scenic imagery, and other geographical-semiotic assets
(Warnabyand Medway, 2013), but not ‘space marketing’,
which would denote the management of unknown or
CCT scholars have emphasized how places emerge
and evolve through the interactions of various spatial
stakeholders (Kozinets etal.,2004; Maclaranand Brown,
2005; Warnaby and Medway, 2013). Therefore, place-
makingis not simply the benign creation and manipulation
of meanings; CCT research has shown that these attempts
to make-place must generally be understood as ‘territorial’
in the sense of claiming an area then seeking to control how
it is interpreted and appropriated (Cheetham etal., 2018).
Although few places become so tightly controlled as to
be territories in the strictest sense of the term (Castilhos
etal., 2016), territorial tendencies can be discerned across a
range of marketing contexts. Examples in the CCT literature
include consumers rearranging coﬀee shops to ﬁt their
needs (Venkatramanand Nelson 2009), citizens creating
anti-commercial enclaves (Chatzidakis etal., 2012), and
locals co-producing the temporal rhythms of urban parks
(McEachern etal.,2012). Territorial tendencies can also
be identiﬁed in the mainstream marketing literature, from
managerial attempts to intervene in the surroundings of
retail stores (Blochand Kamran-Disfani, 2018), through
the internal organization of stores on the basis of diﬀering
social groups and activities (Baker, 1987; Baker etal.,
1992;Venkatraman and Nelson, 2009), to designs that
create territories for therapeutic recuperation (Rosenbaum,
2009) or “artistic” expression (Vukadin etal., 2019) at
the expense of other potential uses. These can be read
as illustrations of territorial tendencies because they are
characterized by the zero-sum game of place-making actors
competing over the limited resource of space.
In addition to meaning-making, the term territorialization
highlights a second distinction between space and place. The
former is often presented as pre-territorial, as open-ended and
unidentiﬁed, while the latter follows from territorial processes,
with a simple definition of place being a demarcated and
identified area of space (Cresswell, 2004). This is implied
above when Visconti etal. (2010, p.512–3) write of place as “a
given site”, and elaborated further when they add that “inchoate
space (such as “outer space,” “wilderness,” and “wasteland”) is
rendered tractable by dwelling practices (Seamon, 1993) that
can convert it into place.” If space is meaningless but also open,
then place-making is partly about setting physical and psychical
perimeters to separate signiﬁcant areas from the anonymous
mass (Cresswell, 1992). Boundaries have featured in many
CCT studies of place, such as Maclaran and Brown’s (2005)
vivid description of the Powerscourt festival mall in Dublin.
This place created an ‘otherworldly’ and ‘utopian’ experience
though a stark physical contrast between its interior, as
disorderly and nostalgic, and its exterior, the orderly and generic
store environments of the surrounding streets. A more extreme
case is the Athenian district of Exarcheia, which developed
an identity as an ‘other place’ for social experimentation, or
heterotopia (Foucault, 1967), because of the contrast between
the neighborhood’s physical environment and socioeconomic
practices from the rest of Athens (Chatzidakis etal., 2012).
Marketing studies outside the CCT tradition also demonstrate
the importance of boundaries, albeit often in a more subtle way,
for instance by exploring how consumers rearrange furniture
and other features to create smaller personal places within the
shared spaces of coﬀee shops (Venkatraman and Nelson, 2008).
As suggested by the examples above, mainstream
marketing scholars share much in common with their CCT
counterparts when it comes to how they conceptualize space
and place. However, it is worth noting that CCT scholars
tend to be more attentive to the processes by which space
becomes place, whereas mainstream marketing tends to be
more focused on managing market places as pre-existing
entities. Outside of the CCT tradition, many marketing
studies tacitly adopt the common-sense theorization of
space as the static Euclidian container of reality within
which entities (e.g. consumers and products) and events
(e.g. economic exchanges) can be located using Cartesian
coordinates. Meanwhile place denotes smaller containers
within this universal space that can be identiﬁed, branded,
and managed. This logic can be found inscribed in
almost any marketing textbook, with ‘place’ presented
eponymously as one of the ‘4 Ps’ of the marketing mix
(Chatzidakis etal., 2018). From this perspective, managers
are advised to seek out “settings that facilitate utilitarian
exchanges between buyers and sellers, in which both parties
exchange money, goods, or services” (Rosenbaum etal.,
2017, p.281). However, the place-making processes by
which these settings emerge and evolve are rarely addressed
in mainstream theory and practice. This also applies to
more recent notions of “outdoor atmospherics” (Blochand
Kamran-Disfani, 2018) and “out of store retail journey
touchpoints” (Roggeveen etal., 2020), although recent
moves to conceptualise retail atmospherics within broader
social-political-cultural surroundings (e.g. Grewaland
Roggeveen, 2020) suggest opportunities for collaboration
between CCT scholars and marketing mainstream
CCT insights into place-making can also contribute to
mainstream marketing practice. Managers and other market
actors make places through practices as varied as brand
dictated themes (Fosterand McLelland, 2015), the insertion
of artwork (Vukadin etal., 2019), and the inclusion of indoor
plants (Tiﬀeretand Vilnai-Yavetz, 2017). The CCT insight is
that these managerial practices are always co-operating and/or
competing with the place-makings of consumers. The success
of shopping malls, arcades, and other retail environments
are evidence that managers recognize the power of place-
making (Parsons etal., 2016), but their practical knowledge
could be augmented by further analytic and conceptual
insights into the place-making processes of consumers.
Here transdisciplinary collaborations between CCT scholars
and mainstream marketing researchers may be particularly
beneﬁcial. For instance, Medway and Warnaby (2017, p.155)
point to crowdsourced ‘smell maps’ as “a numeric as well
as a narrative data stream” that documents how cities are
experienced as a patchwork of odorous territories: from
a CCT perspective, “the main value of such data is in the
rich sensory discourses”, but it is important to add that
“numeric data feeds should provide a reassuring data stream
for those of a more positivist persuasion.” Smell maps are
a spontaneously-generated data set around which marketing
scholars of various stripes can study olfactory place-making
in real-time, providing powerful insights for store managers,
urban planners, and other meaning-making territorial actors.
Many CCT scholars have been heavily influenced by
phenomenological geographers, for whom “the essence
of human existence... is necessarily and importantly in-
‘place’” (Cresswell, 2004, p.349). This is a subtle yet
signiﬁcant shift in conceptualization; phenomenological
geography treats people and places as intimately and
inexorably entwined, and this co-constitutive relationship
broadens the unit of analysis beyond “the meaningful
experience of a given site” (Visconti etal., 2010, p.512),
to the meanings and experiences generated by moving
between and within sites (Bradford and Sherry, 2015).
Put differently, phenomenological approaches do not
treat places as discrete sites of activity, but rather see
all activities as ‘emplaced’ (Bradfordand Sherry, 2018).
When thinking in terms of a Möbius strip this can be
described as a ‘twist’ in thinking: place and emplacement
are conceptually similar yet they point to a diﬀerent series
of research questions and insights. While the concept of
place stimulated studies of speciﬁc sites, emplacement
acknowledges that “all consumption is in space and
place” (Chatzidakis etal., 2018, p.152). This means that
rather than treat ‘place consumption’ as a sub-category of
consumption practices more broadly, CCT scholars have
increasingly sought to understand how all consumption is
emplaced in more-or-less obvious ways.
Consumption communities illustrate how market
emplacements operate in everyday consumption practices.
Thomas etal. (2013) note how contemporary communities
are usually organized around a brand, product, or activity,
rather than the communities of place found in pre-industrial
societies. However, although this means that the identities
of many communities are ‘placeless’ (Muñizand O’Guinn,
2001), community practices still need suitable locations
in which to ‘take place’. The identities of communities
and other collectives can be created and sustained by the
Internet and other communication technologies (Muñizand
O’Guinn, 2001; Caylaand Eckhardt, 2008; Ardvissonand
Caliandro, 2016), but a stronger sense of identity and
loyalty emerges when these abstract aﬃliations are also
substantiated by face-to-face encounters (Hoelscherand
Chatzidakis, 2020). This stresses the persistent importance
of physical emplacements, even if these are only ephemeral,
as a means through which brand communities and other
consumer groups gather together to share their passions
(Bradfordand Sherry, 2018).
Parallels can be drawn with the term ‘social’ that is
used within the mainstream marketing literature, usually to
contrast with the sensorial dimensions of stores and other
environments. Baker (1987) identiﬁes social factors as an
important determinant of the service environments, giving
examples like the presence of other consumers or service
personnel (see also Baker etal., 1992). Similarly, a key
distinction between Bitner’s (1992) servicescape model
and Kotler’s (1973) atmospherics is the additional emphasis
on social interactions, both between consumers and at the
consumer/employee interface. These can be thought of as
emplacements insofar as social groups are associated with
a particular store environment, sometimes in ways that
managers and designers did not intend (Aubert-Gametand
Cova, 1999). Servicescape researchers have empirically
demonstrated how social identities can aﬀect consumers’
experiences of service environments (Rosenbaum, 2005;
Rosenbaumand Walsh, 2012), but generally these social
identities are presented as pre-existing associations between
people and places. In contrast, CCT studies tend to present
emplacement as an ongoing process (Bradfordand Sherry,
2018), helping to explain how consumers engage with
social identities at a local level but also how these local
engagements can alter social identities more broadly
(Thompsonand Üstüner, 2015).
Emplacements are successful when market actors identify
places with physical aﬀordances and symbolic associations
that are suitable to their objectives. Thomas etal. (2013,
p.1025) describe this as the problem of structural alignment,
whereby actors seek to “alleviate tensions associated with
diverse members occupying the same physical and cultural
space.” Similar tensions are noted by Kozinets etal. (2004),
who explore how the consumers, employees, and managers
of a flagship store co-exist in close proximity but with
diﬀering interests and objectives. These actors engage in
games of inter-agency, following but also breaking the
implicit rules of this enclosed commercial site. The lesson
of this study is that individuals or groups seeking to emplace
their activities must learn ‘how to play the game’, with each
site having its own rules. Skandalis etal. (2018) explored
similar dynamics in their multi-sited ethnography of how
places contribute to the formation of taste in relation to
music consumption. Comparing classical music venues
with indie festivals, their study demonstrates how music
consumers emplace themselves by discerning the implicit
rules of the musical places and acting appropriately (see also
Skandalis etal., 2017; Skandalis etal., 2020).To provide
another example from the CCT literature, Hoeslcher and
Chatzidakis (2020) note how digital technologies now allow
ethical consumers to escape physical restraints and expand
their activities, but also stress how face-to-face activities
continue to add value and vitality to their communities,
necessitating regular emplacements of ethical consumption.
Taken collectively, these studies suggest that emplacement
is still an important skill for contemporary consumers,
and that studying how consumers learn to emplace their
consumption in diﬀerent sites may be a fruitful avenue for
future transdisciplinary research.
Before discussing how mainstream marketers may
collaborate with CCT researchers on the topic of emplacement,
it is worth noting that the need for structural alignment points
to the possibility of misalignments–cases where actors’
emplacements do not ‘ﬁt’ with the ambience of a particular
place. This possibility was explored by Allen (2002), who
studied how the experience of feeling ‘in-place’ or ‘out-of-
place’ was a considerable factor in prospective students’ choice
of college. More successful emplacements emerged when the
atmosphere of the campus aligned with the individual’s habitual
sense of self, which Allen (2002) argues is a product of their
socioeconomic background. A number of otherstudies have
shown how identity positionings along the axes of race, age,
disability and gender can signiﬁcantly impact how a place
is perceived and, subsequently, where consumers choose to
emplace their consumption (Sherry etal., 2004; Gouldingand
Saren, 2009; Thompsonand Üstünter, 2015). CCT studies
are replete with examples of emplacement being entwined
with a consumer’s sense of self, but an especially detailed
illustration is Kates’s (2002) ethnographic study of gay men
in North America. His data describe consumers who feel
‘out-of-place’ in everyday environments due to their sexual
orientation, even when this is not disclosed to, or recognized
by, others. As such, these men chose to emplace the vast
majority of their consumption in ‘gay ghettos’ in order to avoid
discrimination, stigma, and even violence elsewhere. However,
the emplacement patterns of such consumers have altered as
social attitudes to sexuality have changed (Coﬃn etal., 2019),
highlighting the importance of process theorizing for CCT
researchers (Gieslerand Thompson, 2016).
From a more mainstream perspective, Rosenbaum (2005)
makes similar remarks about gay male consumers and
draws parallels with Jewish consumers, conceptualizing
the experience of both as a ‘symbolic servicescape’. While
Bitner’s (1992) concept of servicescapes combined the
sensory stimuli of environmental psychology with the
social factors raised by service marketers, Rosenbaum’s
(2005) work demonstrates how emplacements can go awry
if symbolic considerations are not considered as well (see
also Rosenbaum and Massiah, 2011). Moving beyond the
servicescape concept, such studies suggest moments where
emplacement may not work seamlessly, offering brand
managers, place designers, and other spatial stakeholders
an opportunity to adapt their environments. Thomas etal.
(2020) recently explored the various roles that retailers can
play in collective consumer journeys, such as those made by
families or friends through a service environment, a study
that can be reinterpreted through the lens of emplacement
to consider how managers can empower consumers to have
more fulﬁlling engagements with their service environments.
It is worth noting that such emplacements may go far beyond
an enjoyable service experience: consider Rosenbaum’s
(2009) argument that servicescapes can be ‘restorative’ for
those with Attention Deﬁcit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
As such, discussions should also include policy-makers and
other non-commercial stakeholders insofar as sensory, social,
and symbolic aspects can empower consumers to emplace
themselves and others in beneﬁcial ways.
After twisting from places to emplacements the Möbius
strip seems to move back toward the concept of space once
again. However, because of this twist the approach is now
on the opposite side of the strip, toward spatiality rather
than space. As noted earlier, space is an “anonymous” and
open-ended concept (Visconti etal., 2010, p.512), often
assumed to be an inert container (Harvey, 2005; Murdoch,
2006). However, this is just one of many spatial ontologies
available within the social sciences (Merriman etal., 2012),
and CCT scholars have recently begun to question their
working assumptions about space (Chatzidakis etal., 2018).
Rejecting the container metaphor of Euclid and Descartes,
they have been inspired instead by the relationality of
Liebniz and the relativity of Einstein (Harvey, 2005). Rather
than ‘space’, CCT scholars have started to think and write
in terms of spatiality, a more active or processual term that
theorizes spatial dimensions as relational eﬀects rather than
objective antecedents (Massey, 2005; Murdoch, 2006).
As a simple example, a room is large or small because of
the contingent spatial relationships between four walls, a
ceiling, and a ﬂoor. If the distances between these elements
are rearranged, then the room is also altered. As Doel (2007,
p.810) evocatively explains, spatiality “is continuously
being made, unmade, and remade by the incessant shuﬄing
of heterogeneous relations, its potential can never be
Spatiality is thus unidentified and unbounded, just
like space, but it represents a more active understanding
whereby spatial arrangements can exert an inﬂuence on
social phenomena (Vicdanand Hong, 2018). Accordingly,
it is associated with the notion that spatial arrangements
shape markets and consumption “beneath the surface of
salience” (Coffin, 2019, p.2). Although there are many
theoretical traditions that address the subliminal inﬂuence
of spatiality, CCT scholars have largely been inspired by
Thift’s (2008) Non-Representational Theory (NRT), which
can be used to explore the precognitive, affective, and
atmospheric processes that shape sociospatial arrangements
(Hill etal., 2014; Hill, 2016). NRT has inspired Canniford
etal. (2018) to consider how smells play an important role
in embodied experiences, but in ways that often operate
beneath the cognitive-cultural radar of representation.
Similarly, Cheetham etal. (2018) studied territorialization
in public parks, stimulated by NRT to expand the analysis
beyond conscious reflection and even human place-
makers to a wider kaleidoscope of territorial negotiations.
Spatiality emphasises the precognitive and subliminal
while emplacement and place-making remain more closely
associated with cognitive deliberation and explicit cultural
representations. Meanings matter and perimeters play a role,
but there are a number of unnoticed and fuzzy forces as well
(Hill etal. 2014; Coﬃn, 2019).
What is worth emphasizing here is how NRT challenges
the assumption that meaningful places are more relevant to
managers than meaningless space. Although the term ‘space
marketing’ may be somewhat nonsensical (as discussed above),
spatial management makes sense when one acknowledges how
spatiality can inﬂuence market actors subliminally. Hill (2016)
provides a case study of spatial management in his account of
soccer matches in the United Kingdom. Although documents,
images, and other representations certainly played a role in
shaping a sense of place, thinking non-representationally
highlighted how positive and negative aﬀects were passed
contagiously between fans in close proximity. In the past
these aﬀects became intense and led to drunken revelry and
violent clashes, but over time techniques were developed by
police oﬃcers and soccer associations in order to manage
the ﬂow of bodies and thus the mood of match days. Given
the commercial value of the soccer industry, such spatial
management is closely entwined into marketing management.
Hill’s (2016) study provides evidence to suggest that the more
‘spatial’ sensibilities of NRT can help to provide a more
fully-ﬂedged understanding of match days and other market
phenomena. The argument for spatial thinking was developed
more explicitly by Coﬃn (2019), who proposed that marketers
should look ‘between’, ‘beneath’, and ‘beyond’ particular
places in order to develop a theorization of market spatiality
that encompasses a broader range of phenomena than that
usually incorporated into the place concept (e.g. conscious
and unconscious, human and nonhuman, static and mobile).
If spatial sensibilities have the potential to revolutionize
certain areas of marketing, elsewhere they will simply
resonate with established assumptions. Marketing scholars
who draw heavily on environmental psychology already
assume that “even those changes to environmental
stimuli that are not noticed, or consciously perceived
by the consumer, are capable of causing shoppers to
change behaviours while in the store” (Turleyand Chebat
2002, p.125). A key contribution of CCT is to take these
experimental and quasi-experimental insights ‘beyond the
store’, just as psychosocial scholars look ‘outside the clinic’
(Frosh, 2010). As a case-in-point, Chatzidakis etal. (2012)
acknowledged how more frequent street intersections in
the Athenian district of Exarcheia allowed information and
bodies to travel more quickly, evade police control more
easily, and therefore contribute to the anarchic identity of
this neighborhood. Their study also observes another source
of the neighborhood’s anarchic and heterotopic identity
which may operate “beneath the surface of salience” (Coﬃn,
2019, p.2); namely, feelings of tension and excitement
that are experienced more unconsciously (Chatzidakis,
2017), echoing psychogeographic (Debord, 1955) and
psychoanalytic (Pile, 1996) theorizations of space. Although
recent research on retail atmospherics has begun to consider
“outdoor atmospherics” (Blochand Kamran-Disfani, 2018)
and “out of store” touchpoints (Roggeveen etal.,2020),
clearly more could be done to develop market spatial thinking
beyond the boundaries of the store environment.
Geomarketers have shown howa store’s location may
have a tremendous impact on shopping behaviour (Cliquet,
2013), but one might also consider the reverse inﬂuence of
stores aﬀecting the surrounding neighborhood’s prestige,
liveliness and walkability (Blochand Kamran-Disfani,
2018). As noted above, CCT researchers have shown how
contrasts between a site and its surroundings can create an
otherworldly experience for consumers crossing the perimeter
(Maclaranand Brown, 2005; Chatzidakis etal., 2012). The
reverse is also true. For instance, CCT studies of ﬂagship
stores have noted the important symbiotic relationship
between a prestigious store and an equally prestigious
surrounding environment (Peñaloza, 1998; Borghini etal.,
2009). Experimental and quantitative research could develop
these insights further. Take Amell etal. (2015), who found
that the relationship between street width and building height
may contribute to feelings of comfort and “enclosure” that
are conducive to customer approach rather than avoidance.
Retailers and other marketing practitioners may therefore
benefit by considering and, where possible, altering the
environments surrounding their stores and other spatial
assets. Ultimately these alterations will have to operate
within speciﬁc geographical, architectural and regulatory
constraints, so research that facilitates collaborations with
urban planners, government agencies, and other not-for-proﬁt
actors would be beneﬁcial.
Research that can contribute to attempts to build a coalition
of spatial stakeholders will be increasingly important in an era
of ecological crises (Care Collective, 2020). Spatiality is an
especially relevant concept here in that it also speaks to the
interests of posthuman thinkers and activists. This is because
spatial sensibilities encourage scholars (and others) to look
beyond human place-making (Coﬃn, 2019), thus facilitating
an exploration of how non-humans, such as animals or smart
objects, might experience spatial arrangements and contribute
to human place-making (Coﬃn, forthcoming). Such ideas may
become more mainstream as store designers, place marketers,
and everyday consumers begin to reconsider how their decisions
impact on wider ecological systems. Indeed, while ‘posthuman’
may be a somewhat esoteric label, it describes interests that
are shared by researchers and practitioners operating with
other disciplinary and sub-disciplinary terminology. Urban
ecologists, as just one illustrative example, are generally
committed to achieving some form of equilibrium in the urban
“ecosystem”, maximizing human and environmental beneﬁts
in the process (e.g. Alberti, 2008; Forman, 2014). Tactical
thinking might encourage one to consider how transdisciplinary
projects might apply concepts from urban ecology to inform
servicescape design (Bitner, 1992), to create places that
facilitate more ethical consumption (Chatzidakis etal., 2012),
or alter place marketing to consider animal welfare (Coﬃn,
forthcoming). Spatiality is a transdisciplinary concept that
may allow posthumanists, urban ecologists, and many others
to work toward a shared understanding that beneﬁts all sorts of
stakeholders, human or otherwise.
From spatiality toimplacement
After passing spatiality the Möbius strip begins to curve
back toward place and emplacement, but from a different
direction that makes a significant difference. Here the
move from spatiality becomes implacement (Casey,
1993). Although some scholars treat emplacement and
implacement as synonymic, this would be to overlook the
subtle nuances between the two terms. As Andéhn etal.
(2019, p.3) outline, implacement “denotes what one’s
being in place means… through the subject’s historical
relations to place”. Therefore, while emplacement
suggests a pro-active choice to ephemerally gather
people, products, and practices in a particular place
(Bradford and Sherry, 2018), implacement points to
lingering associations that cannot simply be abandoned
or dismissed at will (Andéhn etal., 2019). This suggests
a different understanding of the space-place relationship,
one akin to De Certeau’s (1984, p.117) conceptualization
where "space is composed of intersections of mobile
elements" and "a place is the order (of whatever kind)
in accord with which elements are distributed in
relationships of coexistence […] it implies an indication
of stability". This definition seems to accord with
the tacit understandings shared by place marketing
practitioners—after all, what is a place brand other than
an attempt to stabilize (generally but not exclusively)
positive associations to create an attractive biography
of an otherwise ever-changing geography (Brown,
2018)? It may also be thought of as the implicit basis
of atmospherics (Kotler, 1973) and servicescape design
(Bitner, 1992), insofar as both seek to create carefully
controlled environments. However, De Certeau’s (1984)
conceptual contradistinction seems somewhat at odds
with the consensus in CCT, where space is presented as
the less active partner in the pair (Visconti etal., 2010).
From a CCT perspective the crucial innovation is that
implacement emphasises issues of ideology and institutionalism
(Andéhn et al., 2019). This stimulates a more critical
reading of place-making as a process of solidifying spatial,
social, and symbolic arrangements into ossiﬁed images and
identities. Geographical ossiﬁcations may become resources
that individuals and groups use to anchor their sense of self
(Castilhos etal., 2016), but they can also trap individuals and
groups into pre-existing associations, putting them ‘in place’
without their consent. As the geographer David Harvey (1993,
p.4) once noted, “we express norms by putting people, events
and things in their proper place and seek to subvert norms by
struggling to deﬁne a new place from which the oppressed
can freely speak.” The concept of implacement refocuses
attention onto those who struggle to shed the sociosymbolic
consequences of spatial associations (Andéhn etal., 2019), such
as international migrants or those who grew up in ‘the wrong
part of town’. Places can serve an important symbolic function
in communicating the identity of individuals and groups, but for
some there is also value in anonymity (Coﬃn, 2019). To date,
there has been limited marketing research in this area, save for
a few ﬂeeting examples given in empirical data. To cite one
such example, Visconti etal. (2010) mentions the importance
of anonymity for street artists in their study of public place.
Yet, there remains a need to consider why consumers and other
market actors might seek to escape from implacement and how
they might achieve this. A ﬁrst step, theoretically-speaking, is
to invert the positive associations of place, treating it instead as
“the reproduction of economic or sociocultural phenomena and
their situatedness within speciﬁc locations”, and to value space/
spatiality more highly as “associated with the idea of being
in motion and becoming” (Giovanardiand Lucarelli, 2018,
p.149). This can then be followed by empirical studies of spatial
arrangements that aﬀord freedom for implaced individuals and
Linking place with the term reproduction hints at the
ideological character of place-making as an institutional
process: places implicitly further and favour established
interests at the expense of alternatives, whereas spaces
open up to new opportunities. Approaching from this side
of the strip therefore suggests a more critical approach, one
where the premises of place marketing and other forms of
place-making are not taken-for-granted but rather subjected
to academic scrutiny. Compare Diamond etal. (2009), who
studied how ﬂagship stores can be used to bring together
various elements into a cohesive ‘brand gestalt’, and Borghini
etal. (2009), who took a more critical approach by studying
how such stores encourage proﬁtable consumer activities
and thus materialize pro-capitalist ideologies. Both papers
emerged from the same research team and addressed the
same empirical context, American Girl Place, yet their style
of theorizing diﬀered dramatically. Looking at the Möbius
strip, the work of Diamond etal. (2009) reads more as a study
of brand emplacement with clear managerial implications,
while Borghini etal. (2009) is a more critical reading of
implacement whose implications may be more relevant to
policy-makers and pro-active consumers.
Several CCT studies might be located alongside Borghini
etal. (2009) thanks to their critical stance, but also due to their
focus on critical actors in the market: Thompson and Arsel’s
(2004) study explores the hegemonic impact of Starbucks
on the aesthetics and social purposes of coﬀee consumption
and how this is resisted by anticorporate consumers and local
independent producers; Chatzidakis etal. (2012) show how
radical activists may even go further by burning down and
vandalising stores that are symbolic of global capitalism; Roux
etal. (2018) explore how the sidewalk can be transformed
during Bulky Item Collection days, creating temporary
sites of exchange sounlike traditional in-store experiences
that theycan encourage passers-by to question consumerist
values. In recent years consumers and marketers have become
far more critical in response to issues like climate change,
animal welfare, and modern slavery (Carrington etal.,2020),
suggesting that the notion of implacement may become more
prominent in the years and decades to come.
Despite the growing criticality of consumers and other
market actors, mainstream marketing scholars only tend
to think critically about theoretical frameworks, research
designs, or data sets. Critiques of the capitalist system are
far rarer. Yet, even if they continue to accept and endorse
the system itself, mainstream studies of market spatiality
may ﬁnd the notion of implacement useful to challenge the
less favourable consequences of capitalism. To illustrate
this point, consider the ﬁnding that lowering the volume of
in-store music/noise can increase sales of healthy food by
making customers more relaxed (Biswas etal., 2019). CCT
scholars and mainstream marketers might share the critical
impulse to use this insight in order to dissolve unhealthy
implacements and engender more healthy alternatives,
especially given the relative ease with which store managers
can manipulate volume levels. Implacement may also inspire
larger-scale projects. As aforementioned, Rosenbaum (2009)
argued that carefully designed sensory environments can
be therapeutic for those with ADHD. In this vein, future
transdisciplinary research may seek to consider how
servicescapes may be entirely redesigned to alleviate other
psychological conditions, like loneliness (Rosenbaum etal.,
2007) or stress (Johnstoneand Todd, 2012), and social issues,
such as homelessness (Eckhardtand Dobscha, 2019).
The choice to critique onlythe negative consequences
of capitalism is a political and ideological one, as is the
choice to criticise capitalism as a system. The Möbius
strip does not promote a particular stance but presents
them as two positions along the same plane–differing
greatly but capable of dialogue–and suggests that a tactical
approach may be beneﬁcial. The burgeoning literature on
critical place marketing provides empirical proof that these
diﬀerent approaches to criticality can co-exist. On the one
hand, scholars in this area have critiqued place marketing
campaigns for displacing less profitable residents and
businesses; on the other hand, they seek to work with place
marketing managers to develop more ‘inclusive’ campaigns
and initiatives (Warnabyand Medway, 2013; Giovanardiet
al., 2019). Here the oscillation between seemingly opposing
orientations can lead to theoretical developments but also
policy recommendations and changes in managerial practice,
enabling critical academics to produce impactful research
in collaboration with powerful non-academic partners. The
open question is how other transdisciplinary topics within
market spatiality, from place attachment (Debenedetti etal.,
2014; Rosenbaum etal., 2017) to customer journeys (Thomas
etal., 2020; Grewaland Roggeveen, 2020), might also beneﬁt
from this collaborative style of critical scholarship. Thinking
critically one might also ask: are there any drawbacks to
adopting such a compromising approach?
Displaced frommarkets…or displacing
As suggested by theexample of critical place marketing,
interest in ideological and institutional implacement also
draws attention to the closely-related concept of displacement
(Giovanardi etal., 2019). Critical place marketers have
highlighted empirically how spatial stakeholders may be
displaced by those who are more likely to engage in proﬁtable
activities (Warnabyand Medway, 2013; Castilhos, 2019).
Yet, while place marketers tend to focus on larger-scale
geographical entities like cities or regions, CCT studies have
also shown these displacements at work at smaller scales by
studying consumers who struggle to access market places at
all or ﬁnd themselves forcibly removed if they do manage
to secure access (Castilhos, 2019). Physical displacement
excludes individuals from the material and symbolic resources
required to be a consumer, which is particularly problematic
in consumerist societies (Saren etal., 2019). While scholars
working in the critical tradition of place marketing have been
most vocal about the ‘dark side’ of spatial marketization (see
Castilhos, 2019), issues like ‘service inclusion’ have begun to
emerge in the marketing mainstream also (Fisk etal., 2018).
If the similarities between these diﬀerent concepts can be
foregrounded, scholars of varying backgrounds and interests
can work toward a shared aspiration of helping displaced
Displacements thatare not so obvious to third parties
may yield equally disastrous results. Maclaran and Brown
(2005) documented how the festival mall of Powerscourt
was refurbished in order to attract new customer segments.
The old environment had created a ‘utopian’ experience of
otherworldly escape that was highly valued by a loyal group of
consumers. The renovation dissolved these utopian qualities
and left these consumers feeling displaced. Maclaran and
Brown’s (2005) research demonstrates that displacements may
involve physical movement but also cognitive and cultural
changes. In other cases, displacements may not involve change
but instead take a more chronic form. Regany and Emontspool
(2015) show how ethnic minority consumers experience
supermarkets as sites of exclusion and marginalization when
marketing managers ‘take them for fools’ by commodifying
their cultures incorrectly or insensitively. These consumers are
physically located within the market-place (in order to make
some necessary purchases), but they are psychologically and
socially displaced by the experience.
The notion of psychosocial displacement may also be
applied to the aforementioned studies of consumers who feel
‘out-of-place’ (e.g. Allen, 2002; Sherry etal., 2004). These
studies highlight how feeling displaced can lead consumers
to pro-actively place themselves somewhere more suitable.
In order words, the disempowerment of displacement is
very close to the empowerment of emplacement. A crucial
question for future transdisciplinary research is how displaced
consumers can be transformed into consumers capable of their
own emplacement. CCT scholars have shown that only certain
consumers have the economic, social, or cultural capital to be
able to move freely (Bardhi etal., 2012; Bardhiand Eckhardt,
2017), but these insights are generally ignored in mainstream
accounts of customer journey (Thomas et al., 2020;
Grewaland Roggeveen, 2020) and experience (e.g. Verhoef
etal., 2009; Roggeveen etal., 2020) because these studies
focus on consumers who have already been able to access the
site in question. Displaced consumers have been precluded
by conceptual and methodological decisions in extant studies,
but as exclusion and inclusion are moving up the agendas of
marketing academics from multiple disciplinary backgrounds
(e.g. Saatciogluand Ozzane, 2013; Fisk etal., 2018; Castilhos,
2019; Giovanardi etal., 2019; Hutton, 2019) it is likely that
displacement will represent a fecund area of future research.
Although the term displacement may refer to those pushed
out of place, whether psychosocially and/or physically, it
may also refer to the deterritorialization of people, practices,
products, and other phenomena into more nomadic forms
(Bardhi etal., 2012). In other words, displacement refers
to a process of transforming something place-bound into
something no longer determined by place, such as the
displacement of community by communication technologies
(Anderson, 1983; Muñiz and O’Guinn, 2001). These
alternative understandings can befiguratively framed as
crossing the ‘twist’ in the Möbius strip, but this time from the
other side of the plane. Just as place shaded into emplacement,
this twist represents how these two understandings of
displacement are simultaneously similar and dissimilar.
This twist also allows a return to the starting point of space.
Recalling that place-making practices are characteristically
territorial, the de-territorializations of displacement represent
a mirror-image to the space-place relationship. As argued
above, nothing can become entirely ‘placeless’ or ‘aspatial’
(Chatzidakis etal., 2018). However, the relationships between
social, symbolic, and spatial phenomena can certainly become
more ﬂuid (Bardhi etal., 2012).
Displacement may be applied to many market-spatial
phenomena, but none is as pertinent as the market itself.
Whereas once a ‘market’ was a specific site in each town
or city where people came to trade (e.g. the agora), the
onset of modernity deterritorialized the market into more
pluralistic and abstract forms (Guattari, 1989; Roﬀe, 2016).
The logics of markets are now applied to almost every area
of contemporary life (Kozinets, 2002; Eckhardtand Bardhi,
2016). This can be clearly seen in public space, such as streets
and squares increasingly given over to commercial frontages
and advertising billboards, but is also resisted through local
territorial practices, such as street art (Visconti etal., 2010).
Such everyday acts ofresistance can be thought of asacts that
generate parasitic heterotopias, spaces of ‘otherness’within
quotidian environments, operate beside the dominant market
logics of commercial exchange, and inspire critical thinking by
creating a temporary arrangement that is somewhat alien to the
geographical body(Roux etal., 2018). Mainstream marketers
may use this concept to re-analyse their own data sets, discerning
inconspicuous moments of resistance in seemingly mundane
arrangements of market spatiality–consumers rearranging chairs
in Starbucks may be read as an act of idiosyncratic appropriation
(Venkatramanand Nelson, 2009) or as an act of resistance in the
face of a hegemonic brandscape (Thompsonand Arsel, 2004).
As ever, the Möbius strip recommends a tactical approach that
incorporates multiple readings.
Despite local resistance, markets continue to deterritorialize.
Cuts to government funding have forced art galleries and other
social organizations to adopt a more consumer-centric approach
to their operations, which in turn affects the environments
that they create for their key stakeholders (Ekström, 2019;
Panozzo, 2019). Similarly, Airbnb and other property-renting
platforms encourage property owners to displace personalplace
attachments in order to monetize their spaces (Miles, 2018;
Roelofsenand Minca, 2018). In the face of such trends, CCT
scholars have found Lefebvre’s (1991) notion of ‘abstract space’
helpful (Saatciogluand Ozzane, 2013; Vicdanand Hong, 2018).
The etymological root of abstraction is the Latin abstractus,
“meaning to draw away from” (Roﬀe, 2016, p.49), and as noted
by Saatcioglu and Ozzane (2013, p.33), space is abstracted
when it is “measured, mapped, and generally devoid of social
or cultural meaning […] allowing space to have the exchange
value that is essential for the movement of capital.” Marketization
encourages the displacement of meaningful places in favour
of more malleable spaces (e.g. Maclaranand Brown, 2005),
especially as consumers who are attached to places actively resist
change (Debenedetti etal., 2014). From a managerial perspective
this suggests that each store, neighbourhood, or other place may
possessan optimal level of ‘stimulation’, with higher and lower
intensities having a negative eﬀect on shopping behaviours
(Blochand Kamran-Disfani, 2018). The transdisciplinary
question becomes: when and where is place-making desirable?
Analyzing atmosphere: anillustrative trip
The previous sections have demonstrated how the
Möbius strip of market spatiality provides an “integrated
understanding of the phenomena of interest” (Vargoand
Koskela-Huotari, 2020, p.2). They have drawn together
literature from across marketing theory and practice,
seeking to emphasize how the Möbius strip may mobilize
conversations and collaborations across disciplinary or sub-
disciplinary divides. This section seeks to develop another
useful function of the Möbius strip–the analysis of a single
topic from a range of diﬀerent positions–by exploring how
CCT scholars and mainstream marketers account for the
phenomenon of atmosphere.
As noted by Kotler (1973, p.50), “one hears a restaurant
described as having an atmosphere […] as having a
“good” atmosphere or “busy” atmosphere or “depressing”
atmosphere.” However, although the word atmosphere is
widely used and understood, this is not to suggest that it is
a simple phenomenon that can be easily explained from
one disciplinary tradition. Rather, marketing theorists
have demonstrated that a variety of theoretical approaches
are needed to fully understand the multi-sensory, multi-
sited, and multi-directional character of atmospheres(e.g.
Steadman etal., 2020). Understanding atmosphere may also
be particularly important for managerial audiences; Kotler’s
(1973) early example of atmospherics was a restaurant and this
has been followed by a substantial range of applications since
(e.g. Spence etal., 2014; Roggeveen etal., 2020). More recent
CCT research adds that consumers and other actors may make
atmospheric alterations to their own ends (e.g. Maclaranand
Brown, 2005; Debenedetti etal., 2014; Hill, 2016). Thus, a
fuller understanding of atmospheres may produce a range of
theoretical, managerial, and societal implications.
As a point of departure, it is worth positing that the
concept of atmosphere is more closely aligned to space. An
atmosphere is the je ne sais quoi quality of an environment,
often keenly felt but diﬃcult to identify or describe (Hill,
2016). One approach to understand an atmosphere is to break
it down into its component parts, such as the sensory elements
of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile stimuli
(Kotler, 1973). These stimuli can then be isolated through
experimental research designs, testing how each aspect
of an atmosphere may inﬂuence consumers’ experiences
and behaviours (Baker etal., 1992; Turleyand Milliman,
2000). Another approach is toconceptualizean atmosphere
holistically, treating it as a whole that is greater than the sum
of its parts. Here the notion of atmosphere is similar to the
genius loci, or ‘spirit of place’, and best understood through
detailed analyses of ﬁrst-hand accounts from consumers and
consumer researchers (Maclaran and Brown, 2005; Sherry,
2013). This holistic conceptualization of atmospheres might
be located somewhere between space and place, insofar as
market actors can describe a particular atmosphere but only
in an imprecise way. This contrasts with fully-ﬂedged place-
making projects like a place branding campaign, which seek
to create a geographical biography and communicate the
beneﬁts of visiting the place in question (Brown, 2018), but
also the entirely anonymised conceptualization of space as
unknown or undeﬁned (Visconti etal., 2010).
Methodologically the Möbius strip would suggest combining
discursive data (e.g. consumers describing atmospheres
in interviews) with observational data that do not rely on
representations (e.g. comparing variations of in-store music
tempo with changing sales patterns) in order to fully understand
how atmospheres emerge, evolve, and exert eﬀects within a
given site. Methodological pluralism may also be advantageous
for practitioners. In place marketing similar transdisciplinary
dialogues have already generated a call fora more multisensory
approach to place branding, seeking to expand marketing
materials beyond their presently ocularcentric focus on words
and pictures (Medway, 2015; Henshaw etal., 2016). Whilst
recognizing the methodological and practical difficulties
of such a task, Medway and Warnaby (2017) argue that the
theoretical and managerial beneﬁts are worth the eﬀort. The
scholarship on in-store atmospherics, which is ahead of the
multisensory curve and has demonstrated the value of thinking
beyond sight and sound (Spence etal., 2014), adds credence to
this argument but also provides a body of literature that might
be a fruitful interlocutor for place marketers, CCT scholars, and
others. Thinking ‘tactically’ (Frosh, 2014), it may be argued
that moving the concept of atmosphere along the Möbius
strip between space and place may help to provide a more
sophisticated understanding that would beneﬁt academics of
various disciplinary denominations, as well as non-academic
stakeholders of various stripes.
In addition to combining different methodological
approaches, a fuller understanding will require theorizations
that attempt to accommodate those atmospheric phenomena
that are diﬃcult, if not impossible, to represent in language or
imagery (Hill etal., 2014). Although CCT scholars have been
the primary proponents of the ‘non-representational’ rhetoric
(e.g. Canniford etal., 2018), a more mainstream formulation is
the distinction between “aﬀective” and “cognitive” phenomena
(Spence etal., 2014). As such, a more tactical approach to
terminology may help to emphasize similarities and encourage
scholars from different backgrounds to appreciate one
another’s insights about atmospheres. For instance, while the
aﬀective/cognitive distinction may share much in common
with nonrepresentational theorizations, the latter also points
toward other manifestations of atmosphere that are novel to
the former. Hill’s (2016) non-representational study of ‘mood
management’ is a case-in-point, showing how crowds of
sports fans create moving atmospheres that must be carefully
harnessed in order to maximise commercial conviviality but
also avoid violence and thuggery. This is quite unlike the
in-situ studies of store atmospherics (e.g. Kotler, 1973; Spence
etal., 2014) or even earlier CCT studies of spaces and places
(e.g. Maclaranand Brown, 2005; Debenedetti etal., 2014).
On the Möbius strip of market spatiality this means
ﬂipping over the plane from space to spatiality and from place
to implacement. The atmospheres being described by Hill
(2016) are mobile and mutable, à la spatiality, but as these are
also atmospheres that ‘follow’ the participants then they have
lingering eﬀects that transcend a particular place, echoing the
notion of implacement. If atmosphere can describe both the
genius loci of a speciﬁc site but also the lasting aﬀects carried
between sites (Hill etal., 2014), thinking tactically about
atmospheres means swivelling the strip to consider locality
and mobility, ephemerality and institutionalization. Such
swivelling might be retrospectively applied toextant studies,
such as the work of Chatzidakis etal. (2012): they described
how the arrangement of the physical space allowed riots to
spread easily through Exarcheia as spatial ﬂows of bodies and
moods, contributing to the anarchic sense of place and thus
attracting and retaining those who identiﬁed with this implaced
ideology. Multiple studies may also be integrated together:
Amell etal. (2015) demonstrate that outdoor shopping areas
are often designed in ways that subliminallyreproduce an
atmosphere of safety and enclosure, building on the earlier
work that designers of shopping areas should make “pleasing”
places (Alexander etal., 1977) with deﬁnitive shapes and walls
that resemble the safety of one’s own home. The archetypal
place of ‘home’ serves as an institutional implacement that
shapes how many commercial atmospheres are evaluated, as
shown by studies of emplacement drawing on the consumer-
centric CCT tradition (Debenedetti etal., 2014; Bradfordand
Sherry, 2015) but also more managerially-oriented scholarship
(Rosenbaum etal., 2017).
Understandings of atmosphere may also be enriched by
considering emplacement. Emplacement evokes consumers
and other spatial stakeholders adopting a pro-active approach
to choosing and using sites (Bradfordand Sherry, 2018).
When actors gather together in an area their ‘structural
alignments’ create a dialectical relationship whereby the
group and the site are both transformed (Thomas etal.,
2013). Mainstream marketers have recognized the important
role of people in creating spaces and places, but generally
they emphasize the agency of store designers, managers,
and employees (e.g. Bitner, 1992). Using the terminology
of the Möbius strip, these actors may be described as ‘place-
makers’. In contrast, CCT scholars tend to balance these
against the interpretations and appropriations of consumers
(Kozinets et al., 2004; Maclaran and Brown, 2005;
Venkatramanand Nelson, 2009). Thus, while place-makers
make important contributions to an atmosphere, especially
when they follow Kotler’s (1973) suggestion to consciously
design an atmospheric, it must be noted that atmospheres also
emerge from the pro-activities of consumer emplacements.
Everyday experience demonstrates that a store without
customers tends to lack atmosphere, except perhaps the eerie
atmosphere of an abandoned ruin (Warnabyand Medway,
2017). Furthermore, CCT research has demonstrated that
unconventional consumption can make a commercial site
more unique (Maclaranand Brown, 2005; Debenedetti
etal., 2014). The managerial implication of emplacement is
that diﬀerent kinds of consumer and diﬀering consumption
practices may alter the atmosphere of an environment in
ways that deviate from managerial design. For instance,
although “neighbourhood richness” is often viewed as a
positive feature of a store’s location, too much stimulation
by other consumers and activities may distract or avert them
from actual shopping, undermining managerial control
over their customers’ journeys (Blochand Kamran-Disfani,
2018). On the other hand, “lifestyle hotels” such as ACE
hotel are heavily based on customer-customer interactions,
but managers have greater capacity to control and moderate
this sociality with a range of carefully-designed experiential
activities that resonate with the principles of emplacement
but retain a commercial focus (e.g. Cheng etal., 2016).
The Möbius strip serves as a reminder that that these
emplacements should be considered alongside spatiality and
implacement. In regard to spatiality, scholars have shown the
subliminal inﬂuences of spatial arrangements from a variety of
theoretical perspectives (Turleyand Milliman, 2000; Turleyand
Chebat, 2002; Hill etal., 2014; Coﬃn, 2019). If empirical
research suggests that manipulating factors like music tempo
or ambient smells can aﬀect customer’s moods and activities,
most notably sales (Milliman, 1982, 1986; Sprangeberg etal.,
1996, 2005; Knoferle etal., 2012), then this adds nuance to the
concept of emplacement by suggesting that scholars should look
beneath, between, and beyond moments of conscious decision-
making in order to fully understand emplaced phenomena
(Coﬃn, 2019). CCT studies add that such subliminal spatial
inﬂuences also operate outside of stores, when people are
not playing the role of ‘shopper’ but rather that of resident-
activists (Chatzidakis etal., 2012), football fans (Hill, 2016;
Steadman etal., 2020), or park user (Cheetham etal., 2018).
Here CCT studies of spatiality may ﬁnd a fruitful dialogue
with mainstream areas of inquiry like “outdoor” atmospherics
(Blochand Kamran-Disfani, 2018), but generally mainstream
marketers have focused on the less conscious inﬂuences found
within store atmospheres (e.g. Dijksterhuis etal., 2005; De
Lucaand Botelho, 2019), so out-of-store atmospheres remain
a fruitful area for transdisciplinary collaboration.
In terms of implacement, CCT scholars have long
noted that commercialized environments can “have
a narrative design that also directs the course of
consumers’ mental attention, experiences, and related
practices of self-narration” (Arnould and Thompson,
2005, p.875). These narratives are partially created by
the brand (Borghini etal., 2009), but primarily they are
drawn from the prevailing culture (Maclaranand Brown,
2005). Such cultural inﬂuences have been acknowledged
in the literature on customer journeys, but these studies
have typically drawn on Hofstede’s definition of
culture (Grewaland Roggeveen, 2020). CCT provides
a more complex theorization of culture than Hofstede
(Arnouldand Thompson, 2005), and may therefore help
to appreciate how atmospheres are created by an interplay
of emplacements and implacements as consumers journey
through a particular service environment. In turn, the
concept of the customer journey helps to translate the
CCT work on emplacement (Bradfordand Sherry, 2018)
into a more managerially-relevant context (Thomas etal.,
2020), thus creating another opportunity forpotential
transdisciplinary collaboration. A connection back to
spatiality may also be made thanks to recent research on
“out of store retail journey touchpoints” (Roggeveen etal.,
2020), suggesting that consumer journeys need not remain
contained to an in-store environment.
Finally, a conceptualization of atmosphere will be rounded
oﬀ by considering displacement and connecting back to the
starting point of space. The notion of displacement raises the
question of how an atmosphere might be deterritorialized in
ways that allow it to be replicated (at least in part) elsewhere.
First, although most studies of atmospherics focus on stores
as carefully controlled commercial settings (Kotler, 1973;
Spence etal., 2014), the insights of these studies can be
transferred to other environments such as airports (Hietanen
etal., 2016; Moon etal., 2017), or river rafting experiences
(Arnould etal., 1993) and other “outdoor” atmospherics
(Blochand Kamran-Disfani, 2018). Second, the emergence
of themed environments shows how managers and consumers
value the ability to ‘capture’ an atmosphere and recreate it
elsewhere. One high proﬁle example is Hollister, which
seeks to recreate the ambience of a Californian beach
hut (Brown etal., 2018), but transdisciplinary studies of
Mexican restaurants (Campbell, 2005; Muñozand Wood,
2009) and Irish Pubs (Muñoz etal.,2006; Pattersonand
Brown, 2007) provide other illustrations of atmospheres that
are deterritorialized from one place and reterritorialized in
countless other sites. As shown by the mainstream literature
on Country-Of-Origin eﬀects, products and services also
seek to evoke the atmospheres of certain geographies
in order to appeal to consumers (Andéhn etal., 2016;
Rashid etal., 2016). Connecting back to the interests of
implacement, the ideological question becomes whether
these innumerable commercialconnections to countries
and other places makes it more diﬃcult for individuals to
freely deﬁne their own identity (Andéhn etal., 2019). Indeed,
certain sites may be deﬁned by refusing to reterritorialize
a typical atmosphere, such as independent coffee shops
that are attractive to consumers because they are so unlike
the dominant coﬀee shop template provided by Starbucks
(Thompsonand Arsel, 2004). Meanwhile, Venkatraman and
Nelson (2009) detail how Chinese consumers use Starbucks
but make small personal adjustments like rearranging seats,
thus transforming the coffee shop template into a more
idiosyncratic place for working or socializing. Both describe
attemptsto form local responses to the displaced atmospheres
of global and generic environments: the former turns away
from displacement toward novelplace-making while the
latter is evidence of consumer emplacement.
The displacement of atmospheres may also continue,
eventually describing atmospheres that are akinto abstract
space. Take the example of airports: Augé (1992) described
them as non-places because they are rarely distinctive and
share a very similar atmosphere. However, this is not to
suggest that these spaces are innocuous. Hietanen etal.,
Table 1 Illustrating How the Möbius strip of market spatiality Might be Implemented to Facilitate Transdisciplinary Dialogue
Substantive Theme / Topic CCT Idea / Insight Opportunities for Dialogue with Mainstream Marketing
Place Marketing Places are ‘made’ through the meanings, dwellings and territorializations of multiple
•Encouraging researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers to consider the power
dynamics in place marketing processes (i.e. implacements), potentially working toward
a more inclusive approach to place marketing (building on Warnaby and Medway,
•Consider how places are made by designers and other powerful actors but also how
places are (re)made by consumers (i.e. emplacements).
•Consider the extent to which some placial features can be subjected to managerial
interventions whereas others are beyond managers’ control.
•Diﬀerentiate between implacements and emplacements that beneﬁt consumers and
those that create a feeling of being ‘out-of-place’(i.e. displacements). Of the latter,
distinguish between those that are physical and those that are psychosocial, as well as
those that may lead to emplacements and those that do not.
•Consider the boundaries between indoor/outdoor and inside/outside, analyzing how
these aﬀect the place brands that result.
Consumer Experience as Multisen-
In situ experiences are always multisensory but often marketing practice focuses on
visual and aural stimuli, especially when these can be easily represented as images or
other cultural content
•Continue to enrich theorizations by analyzing nonrepresentational or aﬀective phenom-
ena alongside their representational and cognitive counterparts, particularly by blur-
ring the boundaries between these terminologies (Hill etal. 2014; Spence etal. 2014).
• Explore how senses such as smells operate as multifaceted phenomena: encompassing
psychic, social, political, cultural, ideological, materialfactors (Canniford etal. 2018;
De Luca and Botelho, 2019).
•Continue to advocate that sensory studies of market spatiality require a transdisci-
plinary and multi-method response (Medway and Warnaby, 2017). Ultimately, all
consumption activity is both multi-sensorial and embedded in place and space.
Subliminal Spatial Inﬂuences Areas of space can become meaningful places that shape people’s lives at a conscious
level. However, spatial arrangements are also inﬂuential at a subliminal or uncon-
•Explainhow spatial arrangements act upon consumers and other market actors through
conscious and non-conscious processes. Discern instances where spatial arrange-
ments can operate subconsciously/subliminally (Turley and Milliman, 2000; Turley
and Chebat, 2002; Coﬃn, 2019), and thus come into consciousness through disruptive
reﬂections (Hill etal. 2014), but also cases where spatial inﬂuence is unconscious in
the psychoanalytic sense(Pile, 1996), resisting attempts to become known or knowable
•Studies of subliminal inﬂuence are also found in neuroscience (Albanese, 2015) and
have been popularized by mass market books like Why We Buy (Underhill, 2009),
Buyology (Lindstrom, 2009), and Thinking Fast and Slow (Kahneman, 2011). As such,
studies of spatiality represent a fecund area for transdisciplinary research, but also for
conversations that traverse the often-troublesome divide between theory and practice
•Where abstraction is fully achieved places become meaningless space once again,
returning to the open-ended and anonymous status described by Visconti etal. (2010).
Yet, studies of spatiality serve as a reminder that although abstract space may be per-
ceived as insigniﬁcant, it still has the power to inﬂuence consumers and other market
actors. Research should be attentive to spatiality’sactive inﬂuence as spatial arrange-
ments can support established interests in ways that are ‘hidden’ by “the apparently
innocent spatiality of social life” (Soja, 1989, p.6).
Table 1 (continued)
Substantive Theme / Topic CCT Idea / Insight Opportunities for Dialogue with Mainstream Marketing
Consumer Journeys Consumers move through and between a range of diﬀerent sites, with each environ-
ment able to inﬂuence the pre-purchasing, purchasing and post-purchasing decision
•Reconceptualize journeys in the broadest sense to encompass the full range of move-
ments within stores (e.g. Thomas etal. 2020; Roggeveen etal. 2020) but also between
storesand other sites (Coﬃn, 2019).
•Concepts and methods for managing journeys, such as atmospherics (Kotler, 1973),
could continue to be applied to out-of-store settings (Arnould and Price, 1993; Bloch
and Kamran-Disfani, 2018), with further consideration of the ways in which journeys
may map together.
•Transdisciplinary research should consider how each customer journey has diﬀerent
beginnings and end destinations that are constantly made and re-made by a range of
diﬀerent actors (consumers, managers, planners etc.), such that the same trajectory
of movement may have very diﬀerent meanings and material consequences for those
•Likewise, the spatial arrangements between stores must also be considered insofar as
they might inﬂuence subsequent in-store activities (Coﬃn, 2019). Market spatialities
that are seemingly mundane and non-commercial, such as transportation, may need to
be revaluated and reconceptualized as inﬂuential (Canniford etal. 2018; Glasgow etal.
Country-of-Origin Eﬀects Associating products and services with geographies is more than a marketing tech-
nique, but a practice with multiple consequences
•Individual country-of-origin labels can be thought of as attempts to abstract or de-
territorialize geographical phenomena (e.g. atmospheres) from a particular place.
This conceptualization allows researchers to connect research that is psychologically-
informed (e.g. Andéhn etal. 2016) and managerially-oriented (e.g. Rashid etal. 2016)
with perspectives that are sociologically-informed and critically-inclined (e.g. Andéhn
•Although existing research primarily considered country-of-origin eﬀects at the rep-
resentational level, a more transdisciplinary stream could work toward amore multi-
faceted, aﬀective and non-representational understandings of country-of-origin eﬀects.
•Critical research could seek to understand the reasons why country-of-origin eﬀects
may be empoweringfor some consumers in certain contexts, but disempowering for
otherconsumersor for the same consumers in diﬀerent circumstances.
•In terms of empowerment, products and services allow consumers to emplace them-
selves even when suitable places are not available. For instance, previous research
suggeststhat emplacement eﬀects may be especially important for immigrant consum-
ers who want to continue to connect to their own country of origin (e.g. Campbell,
2005; Muñoz and Wood, 2009). In terms of disempowerment, Regany and Emontspool
(2015), demonstrate, for instance, how ethnic minority consumers may be made to feel
‘out-of-place’ by ‘cultural’ products, services, and store arrangements that are poorly
implemented. Conversely, even well-placed relationships between people and products
can be experienced as restrictive when these become institutionalized implacements
(Andéhn etal. 2019).
(2016) demonstrate how airports function as machines that
condition bodies and reproduce social distinctions, implicitly
reproducing ideological infrastructures like class and self-
governance. Research such as this may lead to the conclusion
that airports have abstract atmospheres, disassociated
with any particular place(read: displaced) but still spatial
arrangements that standardize sociosymbolic relations (a
combination of spatiality and implacement). Thus, although
space may be presented as inert when taken at face value,
when combined with the other concepts on the Möbius strip
a more critical stance may be adopted in relation to abstract
atmospheres, which may appear more sinister when space is
contrasted with spatiality, implacement, and displacement.
Juxtaposing contrasting conceptual angles along the same
strip may also highlight opportunities to resist the negative
inﬂuences of abstract atmospheres and mobilize change.
Critical scholarship on atmospheres may therefore wish to
critique how most atmospheres are designed with managerial
interests in mind, but it may also wish to help commercial
actors to work with consumers, policy-makers, and other
actors for the beneﬁt of society. Here the quotidian example
of transport is illustrative. For Augé (1992) cars and other
methods of transport are also non-places. Yet environmental
psychologists have shown how transport inﬂuences mood
(Glasgow etal., 2019), reinforcing insights from recent non-
representational studies by CCT researchers (Hill, 2016;
Canniford etal., 2018). Looking between stores and other
managed places (Coﬃn, 2019), it might be argued that the
mood-altering eﬀects of transportatmospheres may be of
interest to place marketers, bringing them into alignment
with local governments and other non-proﬁt stakeholders.
Concluding remarks: mobilizing theMöbius
As noted in the introduction, a simplistic reading of Arnould
and Thompson (2005) would treat CCT as a discrete area of
marketing scholarship, one that might even be considered
‘at odds’ with the marketing mainstream. The present paper
subscribes to a more nuanced reading of the CCT-mainstream
relationship as one characterized by distance rather than
discreteness. Unlike the incommensurable diﬀerences implied
by a paradigmatic framing (c.f. Kuhn, 1962), the Möbius strip
suggests that the insights and ideas of diﬀerent disciplines
can be organised along a single theoretical plane. This is
achievable, in part, because a Möbius strip is not tethered
to any particular theoretical tradition, acting as an agnostic
framework that can facilitate transdisciplinary theorizing
(Frosh, 2014). Actor-network theory (Latour, 2005) and
assemblage theories (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987; DeLanda,
2006) provide ‘ﬂat ontologies’ that are similar to the Möbius
strip in terms of integrating ideas. However, they necessitate
philosophical commitments that create divisions between
adherents and dissenters. In contrast, the Möbius strip does
not impose a preferred philosophical paradigm and therefore
facilitates dialogue across conventional disciplinary divides.
Integrating insights, ideas, and interests from diverse
disciplines along a single strip will certainly be diﬃcult, but the
beneﬁt of transdisciplinary thinking may outweigh the costs. As
an ordering theorization (Sandberg and Alvesson, 2020), the
value of the Möbius strip may be to reduce the costs and make
the beneﬁts more accessible. To be clear, this is not to suggest
that the strip provides a single, synthetic theorization that can
dissolve paradigmatic distinctions altogether. Rather, it seeks to
create a single plane of theorization along which shared topics
of interest can be arranged and alternative approaches can be
broached through collaborative conversations. Scholars with
incommensurable perspectives may not be able to overcome
their diﬀerences, but they maybeneﬁt from tactically translating
insights from other areas of research into the terminology and
styles of thinking of their own, as shown in Table1.
Mainstream marketing academics and practitioners were the
intended audience of this paper. An ordering theorization can
be especially useful for an audience unfamiliar with a particular
area of research (Sandberg and Alvesson, 2020), and the primary
purpose of this paper was to build a compelling case for the
value of CCT scholarship on market spatiality for mainstream
marketing audiences. However, CCT scholars canbeneﬁt from
this Möbius strip,insofar as ordering theorizations help scholars
to see familiar topics anew with novel distinctions or unexpected
connections (Sandberg and Alvesson, 2020). As discussed
above and distilled in Table1, there may also be opportunities
to bridge the theory–practice divide and engage with non-
academic audiences (MacInnis etal.,2019). In concluding, it is
worth noting that the ordering theorization of the Möbius strip
can also be applied to other transdisciplinary topic areas that
matter to wide and varied audiences, such as sustainability or
de-colonization (Arnould etal.,2019). In areas such as these,
there is a pressing need to develop an “integrated understanding
of the phenomena of interest” (Vargo and Koskela-Huotari,
2020, p.2). It is hoped that the Möbius strip may be helpful in
mobilizing a more transdisciplinary and tactical approach to
building knowledge for the beneﬁt of all involved.
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