Special Session Summary Exploring the Relationship Between Popular Culture and Consumer Behavior: Insights From Multiple Perspectives

Cristel A. Russell, University of Arizona
Christopher P. Puto, Georgetown University
[ to cite ]:
Cristel A. Russell and Christopher P. Puto (2000) ,"Special Session Summary Exploring the Relationship Between Popular Culture and Consumer Behavior: Insights From Multiple Perspectives", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 27, eds. Stephen J. Hoch and Robert J. Meyer, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 254.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 27, 2000      Page 254



Cristel A. Russell, University of Arizona

Christopher P. Puto, Georgetown University

This session brought together both experienced and emerging researchers who represented a variety of paradigmatic approaches to present a multi-faceted but integrated approach to better understand the influence of popular culture phenomena on the behavior of consumers in the marketplace. The session was organized around a framework based on the "circuit of communication" approach posited by Johnson (1986), whose work originates in the Cultural Studies discipline. As outlined in the Figure, Johnson posits a four-stage circuit in which the production and consumption of cultural objects form an interlocking "chain," where each stage of the circuit is dependent upon all the other phases, and where transformation of meaning occurs at every connecting point in the circuit. This framework effectively integrates many of the early findings on the influences of popular culture reported in the consumer research literature. It extends and structures these findings by providing an agenda for future research efforts in this topic. Furthermore, this framework encourages the multiple paradigmatic research approaches that comprise the unique character of the consumer research discipline.

To address Stage One of Johnson’s model, the production of popular culture, Craig Thompson and Maura Troester (Wisconsin) adopted a genealogical approach which traced how cultural conventions and practices established in one historical context exert an enduring influence upon ensuing cultural times and places. Based on an analysis of late 19th and early 20th century patent medicine advertisements, they contended tat these advertisements forged a new cultural model of consumers and consumption by intertwining mythic themes and fantasy appeals with "good reason why" ad copy.

Barbara Stern (Rutgers) addressed Stage Two of the framework using a literary analysis of a popular culture text, "Ads R’ Us: The Pilot," a newly developed television show in which real brands were embedded (used in the Russell and Puto experiments). Specifically, she examined the degree of connection between the brands and the fundamental elements of drama: genre, plot, characters, and theme. Her analysis revealed the way that branded products function in a popular cultural form, the sitcom.

Cristel Russell (Arizona) and Chris Puto (Georgetown) addressed Stage Three, the psychological processes associated with the processing of information from a popular culture text. They presented the results of a series of experiments testing the Tripartite Typology of Product Placement (TToPP) through "the theatre methodology." The methodology used a specially designed and professionally acted and videotaped sitcom, "Ads R’ Us: The Pilot" to investigate the processing and persuasive impact of each type and combination of placements.

Finally, Robert Kozinets (Northwestern) addressed Stage Four of the model, the integration of meaning derived from popular culture into individuals’ private lives. His ethnographic research at the Burning Man 1999 festival, held near Gerlach, Nevada was presented performatively. It demonstrated: (1) how themes and ideas from popular culture (e.g., the Wheel of Fortune) become parodied and creolized in cultural expression and, (2) how new objects, meanings and practices constructed in free-flowing and marginal subcultural spaces become culturally available for subsequent commercialization through broadcast at public events.




Johnson, Richard (1986), The Story so Far: And Further Transformations? in Introduction to Contemporary Cultural Studies, Ed. D. Punter, New York, NY: Longman, 277-313.