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The Sociology of Consumption: The Hidden Facet of Marketing

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Is marketing virtuous? The concept of marketing aims to "facilitate and expedite satisfying exchange relationships in a dynamic environment" (Dibb, Simkin, Pride, and Ferrell 1997, p.3) and "enables consumers to choose a brand which seems to have the best potential for satisfaction" (Enis and Cox 1997, p. 89). As Marketing is driven by a desire to satisfy consumer needs (Pride, and Ferrell 2000), one can easily conclude that marketing is virtuous. The problem, of course, is the ontological simplicity of such argument. Today, arguing that consumers are in control over their life and that they can freely write their own stories appears too simplistic. Society and human beings are indeed too complex and too subtle to simply take a pure agentic approach to marketing. Consumers' motivations for buying goods are multiple and hybrid, made of many fragments of personal roles, of history, and of social experiences. The result is intricate and messy; consumer practices are not unified in the pyramidal order, and are not completely congruent with social, ethnic, or geographical groupings. Along with this position, we offer Baudrillard's structural approach to marketing as a conceptual warning, suggesting the need for more reflection and critique on the virtue of marketing.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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