Special Session Summary Kids, Causes, and Culture: Expansion of Commodities and Consumers in the 1990S

Daniel Thomas Cook, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Linda Scott, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
[ to cite ]:
Daniel Thomas Cook and Linda Scott (2003) ,"Special Session Summary Kids, Causes, and Culture: Expansion of Commodities and Consumers in the 1990S", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, eds. Punam Anand Keller and Dennis W. Rook, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 115.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, 2003     Page 115

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

KIDS, CAUSES, AND CULTURE: EXPANSION OF COMMODITIES AND CONSUMERS IN THE 1990s

Daniel Thomas Cook, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Linda Scott, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

This panel explored how three distinct aspects of social life intersected with new and intensive forms of marketization in the 1990s. Daniel Thomas Cook explored the new and contradictory notions of the "child consumer" that came to occupy an increasingly central place in marketing discourse and practice during this period. Cook detailed the schizoid character of the new child consumer through an analysis of market research reports and trade literature from industries that market to children. He discussed how the discursive transformation of children’s consumer identity had made the 1990s boom in the children’s market morally palatable and thus economically viable.

Inger Stole examined the proliferation of cause-related marketing and questioned whether the altruism behind such efforts is helped or hindered when subordinated to the ultimate goal of branding. Teasing out the differing public relations functions behind cause-related marketing efforts, Stole contended that this new marketing initiative serves to displace other, more effective and direct forms of philanthropy and linked the practice to the long-standing tradition of corporate public relations.

Douglas Holt and David Crockett’s presentation focused on the commercialization of black urban neighborhoods, euphemistically termed "urban culture." Holt and Crockett used "strategic racialization" as a term to describe how marketers, in order to add brand value to their products, had began to use race to reference potent cultural sites. Pinpointing the rise of this phenomenon to late 1980s, Holt and Crockett gave a close reading of the racialized branding in Mountain Dew television commercials. The authors noted the particular challenges facing marketers in articulating racialized value to such brands in a credible manner.

Panel discussion leader, Linda Scott, noted how all the papers took what seemed to be unconnected associations, images and practices and turned them on their head exposing unseen dimensions of ideology and meaning. She also remarked on the highly contextual nature of these investigations, calling for more research to take social and political context into consideration when investigating consumption and consumer behavior.

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