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The Don Draper complex: Consuming work, productive leisure and marketer boundary work

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Although the identities of brands and consumers have been extensively explored, less is understood about the subjectivity of marketers themselves. In the ambiguous and dynamic exchange process of marketing, the articulation of identities is fundamental to demarcate the activities and actions that take place between market actors. In recent times, growing importance has been placed on a different breed of marketer in these exchanges – the cultural intermediary. For these marketing practitioners, knowledge about the interplay between culture and economy generates the cultural capital that legitimises their expertise and value. Yet, this simultaneously gives rise to the difficult navigation and accomplishment of boundaries between their work and pleasure. Through a case study of two coolhunting agencies, this paper examines how marketers discursively perform boundary work in the construction of their identities. The findings show that, for coolhunters, a tension exists in drawing on discourses of renegadism and professionalism to construct their identities, resulting in their engagement in chameleon-like identity work. The research proposes that the tensions pervading the construction of boundaries and identities for marketers can be usefully understood through a paradox lens, and offers the metaphor of the nomad as a theoretical representation of interwoven identity conflicts for marketers.
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Keywords: boundary work; coolhunting; cultural intermediaries; discourse analysis; identity; marketing practitioners

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Griffith University, Queensland, Australia

Publication date: 2012-07-01

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