Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Marketing Management
For a Special Issue on
Marketing Insights from Popular Culture
06 November 2023
Special Issue Editor(s)
Independent Researcher, Sweden
Kristianstad University, Sweden
Pierre Guillet de Monthoux,
Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Marketing Insights from Popular Culture
‘Madison Avenue and Hollywood are becoming incestuous partners’
– Douglas B. Holt (2004, p. 221)
Iconic brands are embedded in the web of popular culture (Testa et al., 2017). Brand managers can no longer ignore cultural matters. Ads are becoming increasingly similar to other culture industry products such as films. Yet, the research community, even CCT which was initially branded as an alternative to the psychological and economic paradigms that dominate consumer research, often overlooks popular culture in favour of more ‘rational’ and ‘scientific’ ways of collecting data and presenting findings. As Holt (2004, p. 220) points out, ‘business schools [...] treat the texts of the culture industries superficially.’
There are some notable exceptions. Holbrook and Grayson (1986) studied the use of symbolic consumer behaviour to develop plot and character in the film Out of Africa. Brown has gained marketing and brand insights from Harry Potter (Brown, 2001) and Madonna (Brown, 2003). Stevens et al. (2015) explored glamour in the context of Nigella, the famous TV cook. Godfrey (2021) drew on first-person shooter video games to study discourses on war and the military. Södergren and Vallström (2021) elucidated how the queer narratives in films like Call Me By Your Name and Moonlight can be employed to authentically represent gay consumers as a cultural brand strategy. More recently, Stranger Things became a vehicle of retro marketing as it brought Kate Bush’s 1985 hit Running Up that Hill back to the charts (Pitchfork, 2022). Yet, popular culture remains neglected as a data source in marketing research.
Another aspect is that mostly US produced mass culture has been taken into account (Piacentini & Cui, 2010). Hollywood naturally became the one and only target of critical theory and studies on early consumer society (Witkin, 2003). But popular culture of wide diffusion can emerge in many global markets (Leroy et al., 2018; Takhar et al., 2010). When the Hollywood hegemony is challenged and weakened, where do popular cultures emerge? and how do they integrate, mirror and comment on contemporary marketing practices? Today, we even see US remakes of series and movies originally produced in Europe (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Latin America (Secret in Their Eyes) and Asia (The Departed). It is time to turn our attention not only to ‘popular culture’ but widen up the study to ‘popular cultures’ in the plural. For example, some of the most celebrated cinematic productions in recent memory include Korean films (Parasite) and series (Squid Game), not to mention the rise of the K-pop genre and artists like BTS and Blackpink.
In addition to cinema, best-selling literature has also received some attention in marketing research. For example, following the novelist David Foster Wallace, Dunne (2018) accounts for the rhetorical form of ‘murketing’ and how it might inform the practice of advertising and marketing communications. Brown and McGowan (2018) illustrate how Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre tales can be used to understand marketing principles. Patterson et al. (2013) utilise literary insights from Russian literature, comedy literature, and adventure literature to explain how to create an influential anthropomorphic mascot. Shankar and Patterson (2001) used Homer’s Odyssey as a metaphor for the development of interpretive consumer research. Södergren (2022) drew on George Orwell’s oeuvre to describe the dystopian brandscapes that we find ourselves in. Kennedy and Lawton (1992) propose that fiction can enrich the field of business ethics by illuminating moral issues that bring a clearer understanding of ethical theory.
Askegaard and Linnet (2011, p. 381) highlight the importance of contextualising the ‘systemic and structuring influences of market and social systems that are not necessarily felt or experienced by consumers in their daily lives, and therefore not necessarily discursively expressed.’ At an epistemological level, it would seem that fiction, literature and popular culture can provide rich insights into the so-called ‘context of context’ in CCT. As Adorno (2013, pp. 166-167) points out, ‘fictive narration can touch more deeply on the essence of historical reality than can factual reportage.’
Drawing on Coffin and Hill’s (2022) recent special issue Presenting Marketing Differently, we also welcome novel ways of presenting marketing knowledge, such as videography (Hietanen et al., 2022), poetry (Rojas-Gaviria & Canniford, 2022), and zine (Kravets & Karababa, 2022), as long as the data is derived from the source of pop cultural material.
Possible research topics include, but are not limited to:
Epistemological implications of using sources from popular culture as data in research on markets and consumer behaviour
How popular culture can be redefined to reflect its relation to production and consumption today, for example, by shifting focus from popular culture as a monoculture to popular cultures in the plural
How fictional representations in films and literature can be used discursively to understand market structures and consumption experiences
How other aesthetic forms in popular culture such as poetry, theatre, video games, comics, photography, painting, architecture, design, music, and dance can provide insights into marketing
Critical and transformative perspectives on fictional representations and narratives as ‘counterdiscourses’ (i.e. resistance against the dominant discourse) that give a voice to different types of marginalised consumers
Literary criticism as a methodology for the nascent field of decolonial marketing
Methodological complements to introspection and autobiographical literary criticism in marketing and consumer research
How narratives from popular cultures can illuminate moral issues that bring a clearer understanding of business ethics
The full Call for Papers including references can be found at the JMM blog site: https://www.jmmnews.com/
Authors should submit manuscripts of between 8,000–10,000 words (excluding tables, references, captions, footnotes and endnotes). All submissions must strictly follow the guidelines for the Journal of Marketing Management. Manuscripts should be submitted online using the Journal of Marketing Management ScholarOne Manuscripts site. New users should first create an account. Once a user is logged onto the site submissions should be made via the Author Centre. Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from the files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees. When uploading files authors will then be able to define the non-anonymous version as “Complete paper with author details”, and the anonymous version as “Main document minus author information”. To submit your manuscript to the Special Issue choose “Special Issue Article” from the Manuscript Type list when you come to submit your paper. Also, when you come to the ‘Details and Comments’ page, answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is this manuscript a candidate for a special issue’ and select the Special Issue Title of Popular Culture in the text field provided.