Special Session Summary Symbols of Our Time: Current Research on Products As Symbols



Citation:

Kent Grayson (1999) ,"Special Session Summary Symbols of Our Time: Current Research on Products As Symbols", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Bernard Dubois, Tina M. Lowrey, and L. J. Shrum, Marc Vanhuele, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 21.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 1999      Page 21

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

SYMBOLS OF OUR TIME: CURRENT RESEARCH ON PRODUCTS AS SYMBOLS

Kent Grayson, London Business School, U.K.

SESSION OVERVIEW

It is widely accepted that products are symbolsBthey stand for things that are important to consumers. This special session was assembled by researchers who, rather than focusing exclusively on what products stand for, examine how they come to stand for what they do.

 

THE "SYMBOLIZATION" OF BRANDS: A SOCIOCULTURAL INVESTIGATION OF CONSUMERS AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF BRAND SYMBOLS

Jennifer E. Chang, Penn State University, U.S.A.

Based on extended household-level field studies this presentation shows that consumer culture is neither passive nor merely interpretive, but strongly participatory in nature. Consumers are "poachers" of text and media, as well as seemingly mundane household brands. In the household, consumers become "alchemists" and "manufacturers." Brands are unpackaged and repackaged, manipulated and assigned new identities. Interviews, participant observation and photoelicitation techniques will be reported to provide a rich understanding of the sociocultural aspects of brand-related behavior. Findings converge on a typology of symbolization related to household culture and personalization.

 

A PURPOSE FOR CONSUMPTION? EXPLORING THE CONTRAST BETWEEN FUNCTIONAL AND SYMBOLIC PURCHASE MEANINGS

Mark Ligas, University of Connecticut, U.S.A.

The meanings that a consumer associates with products (and services) tend to fall into either a functional or symbolic meaning category. Regardless of category, the resultant meaning depends not only on the individual consumer and product but also on the situation in which one acts with the purchase. In-depth interviews with single, female homeowners offer exploratory data on consumers’ intended product meanings. The data speak to the existence of two specific types of behaviors that the informants undertake with their purchases, depending both on the context and on the purchase meaning. When focusing on functional meanings, the informants identify problem solving behaviors that they undertake in specific contexts in order to make their lives easier or more productive. Discussions about symbolic product meanings usher in the notion of value expressive behaviorsBi..e., behaviors that the informants are able to experience because of the purchases.

 

A SYMBOL IS JUST A SYMBOL? INDEXICALITY AND IRREPLACEABLE SPECIAL POSSESSIONS

Kent Grayson, London Business School, U.K.

David Shulman, Lafayette College, U.S.A.

Researchers have long noted that special possessions can represent personally relevant events, people, places and values. However, although researchers have focused considerable attention on what possessions mean (and to whom), little empirical research has centered on the processes through which a special possession acquires and communicates these meanings. The field of semiotics provides a useful theoretical base for understanding these processes. It highlights the fact that there are many ways by which an object can acquire meaning, and that the meaning of an object may change because of the semiotic mechanisms that support its meaning. By introducing the semiotic concept of indexicality and by then testing it via open-ended interviews and a cross-national study, will illustrate the usefulness of semiotic frameworks in contributing to our understanding of how products function as symbols.

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Authors

Kent Grayson, London Business School, U.K.



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 1999



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