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Marketing Theory

Traditional commercials often set up a narrative situation of some sort, which, though trivial, has a beginning, a middle, and an end—as when Mrs. Olson saves her young neighbors’ marriage by introducing them to Folger’s Coffee. But in Calvin Klein’s postmodern campaign for Obsession perfume, it’s virtually impossible to tell just what is going on. A tormented young woman seems to be torn between a young boy and an older man—or does the young boy represent a flashback to the older man’s youth? Maybe it’s her kid brother? Her son? She touches his face for an instant but [he] refuses to be touched and glides away. Tears run down her glacial Art Deco face, but it isn’t clear what she’s crying about. She speaks a few words but their meaning is obscure. A surrealistic dream vision rather than a coherent narrative, the Obsession commercial substituted eccentric imagery for narrative significance. What matters is the “look, ” in inscrutable aura of postmodern chic.

Jack Solomon, The Signs of Our Time: The Secret Meanings of

Everyday Life

Hyperreality. The spreading of simulations and the loss of the sense of the “real” and “authentic,” as in cases of re-engineered environments... or in shopping centres simulating ancient Rome (The Forum in Las Vegas) or a Parisian street (West Edmonton Mall, Canada). Finally, products can be hyperreal to the extent that they simulate something else; for instance, sugarless sugar, fat-free (olesteral).... In fact, it has been argued that marketing may be the most important contributor to the creation of hyperreality, since the essence of marketing and particularly advertising is to create simulated reality by resignifying words, situations and brands.

Gary Barmossy, Soren Askegaard and Michael Solomon, Consumer

Behavior: A European Perspective

© The Author(s) 2016

A.A. Berger, Marketing and American Consumer Culture, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47328-4_14

Abstract The chapter begins with a discussion on some of the different cultural studies disciplines and the way each of them perceives marketing. A distinction is made between a theory and its concepts. This is followed by statistics on the enormous number of pages on Google dealing with marketing theory and the huge number of books at on the subject. The scope of marketing is then discussed and it is suggested that it involves more than advertising and must consider people’s needs, wants, and demands. This is followed by a section on postmodernism and the problem it poses to marketers. Postmodernism is contrasted with modernism and the mindset that stems from it. Finally, there is a discussion on the way people often identify with certain brands and become brand advocates.

Keywords Theory • Google • • Postmodernism • Modernism

As we have seen in this book, there are many different disciplinary perspectives on marketing that focus on one or another aspect of the subject. People within a given discipline tend to see everything they deal with by look through their discipline’s conceptual goggles that shape their findings. Thus, for example, psychoanalytic theorists rely on concepts within their field, such as the unconscious, the id-ego-superego relationship, the Oedipus complex, defense mechanisms, and so on, to analyze marketing. I make a distinction between a theory, such as psychoanalytic theory or semiotic theory or Marxist theory and the concepts within that theory that explain human behavior. Thus, the Oedipus Complex is a concept within psychoanalytic theory. We use the concept to make our analyses and apply them to whatever topic the theory is being used to understand. Some scholars use a number of theories, which explains the existence of fields like social-psychology or Marxist semiotics.

But scholars within marketing also have theories about marketing that make use of some of the theories I’ve been discussing in this book and other I’ve not dealt with—such as feminist theory and post-colonial theory. My chapters on semiotics and marketing were written from the point of view of a semiotician. That is different from a marketing theorist, writing from within the field of marketing, applying semiotic theory or psychoanalytic theory.

I searched for marketing theory on Google and found 303,000,000 sites on marketing theory and 4,110,000 sites on marketing theory and practice (accessed March 20, 2016). has more than 15,000 books on marketing theory, which deal with the evolution of marketing theory, controversies in marketing theory, and related concerns. We find, then, that there is an enormous interest in marketing theory and applied marketing theory. If you search for marketing and advertising on Google, one of the main subjects of this book, you get 478,000,000 sites. There are also books on specialized aspects of marketing, such as global marketing or tourism marketing.

The most recent marketing theory book I found on the first page of selection of books on marketing is Byron Sharp’s Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice, which sells for $110 and is more than six hundred pages long. Obviously, I cannot deal with marketing theory in detail, like the encyclopedic marketing texts found in bookstores, but I can suggest several topics of interest to marketing theorists.

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