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A cultural exploration of consumers’ interactions and relationships with celebrities

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This paper offers a cultural exploration of young adult consumers’ everyday interactions and relationships with celebrities. Adopting an interpretive methodology, we build on McCracken’s (1986, 1989) important work on cultural-meaning transfer, and integrate a contemporary understanding of consumers as co-creators of meaning, in order to explore their everyday experiences with celebrities. Findings suggest that consumers purposefully interact with celebrities in a diverse range of ways and actively engage in a variety of consumer–celebrity relationships. We conceptualise a range of consumer–celebrity relationship types and demonstrate the roles that celebrities can play in providing meaning and context to consumers’ identity projects.

Summary statement of contribution Our research builds on contemporary understandings of celebrity meaning transfer and in particular explores consumer-driven (rather than managerial) understandings of celebrity meanings. Our findings suggest that consumers’ uses of celebrities are somewhat more active and purposeful than McCracken’s (1989) model and much prior research suggests. Consumers develop portfolios of celebrity relationships, or celebrityscapes (cf. Fournier, 1998), which allow consumers the freedom and opportunity to flit between different (often fragmented) identity positions.

Keywords: celebrity; congruency; endorsement; identity; interpretive method; possible selves

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Manchester Business School, UK 2: Lancaster University Management School, UK

Publication date: 2014-02-03

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