chapter  1
33 Pages

Marketing, ideology and an excess of reflex

This book is about marketing and social construction. In my dictionary of choice about is a synonym for ‘on all sides of’, ‘all around’ and ‘near to’, each of which would be more appropriate than ‘about’ to describe the proximity of my book to its subject. The metaphoric about duly ‘deconstructed’ (in the broad American sense of deconstruction) my postmodernist, reflexive and quirky intellectual positioning should be aptly signified in the first paragraph, notwithstanding the dangers of setting down a scholarly intellectual marker with definitions from an ‘English Dictionary’ produced by ‘Children’s Leisure Products of New Lanark, Scotland’. But to get to the point (another misleading metaphor I’m afraid: my dictionary tells me that ‘point’ means things like ‘location’, ‘a unit on scoring or judging’, ‘a railway switch’ and ‘to extend the finger (at or to)’, any of which would be more appropriate to my style of discussion), some readers very interested in marketing might find it hard to recognise the marketing in this. The social construction, too, will seem quite different from the kinds of social construction many researchers in marketing and management are accustomed to. In the book I ‘extend my finger’ (at or to) a popular view of the scope and nature of marketing studies which I presume to label as ‘mainstream’ and I ‘locate’ my own view in a region far removed from what I call ‘mainstream’ marketing texts and business school courses. I adopt several ‘railway switch’ positions within the interpretive tradition of marketing and consumer research which are not necessarily typical of the kinds of interpretive positions for which Burrell and Morgan (1979) are often cited in support. Finally I issue a ‘unit on scoring or judging’ with regard to social construction which is more informed by post-structuralist and critical traditions than by the phenomenological social constructionism social researchers know from Berger and Luckman (1966). So I invoke unities like ‘marketing’ and ‘social construction’, and indeed ‘mainstream’ merely in order to destabilise and then reconstruct them in the pursuit of my own literary marketing agenda. I try to do this while writing in a textually selfconscious manner, drawing attention to my own literary devices even as I

invoke them in an unrestrained rhetorical claim for authorial privilege (but I promise to put my children’s dictionary away and to stop digressing about every metaphor that intrigues me). You will have grasped by now that the idea of ‘research’ in my idea of ‘marketing’ is unlike the kind of research familiar to many marketing academics. My research interests are not centred around the measurement of all things marketing and the inducement from these of management maxims, concerns which occupy a major place among the priorities of many marketing academics and professional marketing institutions. But please, before you consign my book to the remainders bin along with the other deviants, drop outs and doppelgängers of the postmodern marketing fringe, let me assure you that my ‘location’ of view does indeed make use of unities, fundamentals and essentials of a most gratifyingly solid textuality. For those of you who actually enjoy reading the works of marketing nihilists and nontenured professors I have to tell you in honesty that much of the ensuing text will disappoint because it often drops into a resoundingly un-reflexive discourse, concrete, unconsciously metaphoric (or metaphorically unconscious) and, at times, downright turgid. I enjoy textual play but I use it as a distraction from the modernist spirit within me which yearns for a sense of linguistic coherence, meaning and progress, however momentary or provisional. I want this book to contribute to the marketing field in an inclusive way by drawing more varieties of scholarship and research within a broadened conception of the empirical and philosophical scope of research in marketing. And naturally I advise a reconciliation of opposing viewpoints, a truce, a warm and fuzzy collective hug, a rapprochement in marketing and consumer research no less (Heath, 1992; Hunt, 1991a, cited in Foxall, 1995) as a rhetorical device to make textual space for my own idiosyncratic viewpoint. Inclusiveness is all very well but if it doesn’t include me then I’m not playing. I try to set out this broadened agenda by using a version of social constructionism as the main organising theme.