Product Soul

No one doubts the increasing pace of daily life in the United States. The new technologies as well as increasingly complex work and social roles and shedules for husbands, wives and children have put considerable pressure on time, money and mental resources. As with most major trends, however, a countertrend has emerged. In books (e.g., Smollin l996, Canfield and Hansen l993), lectures, and newspaper columns, Americans are now admonished to slow down and experience daily life more deeply and spiritually. There are now Proustian-type instructions on how to consume daily life, on how to draw expressive as well as instrumental gratifications from a wide variety of products and services. Membership in organized religion is up (McCourt, l998), and television and movie programming with spiritual themes are drawing larger and larger audiences.



Citation:

Jeffrey F. Durgee (1999) ,"Product Soul", 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: 287-292.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 1999      Pages 287-292

PRODUCT SOUL

Jeffrey F. Durgee, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, U.S.A.

BACKGROUND

No one doubts the increasing pace of daily life in the United States. The new technologies as well as increasingly complex work and social roles and shedules for husbands, wives and children have put considerable pressure on time, money and mental resources. As with most major trends, however, a countertrend has emerged. In books (e.g., Smollin l996, Canfield and Hansen l993), lectures, and newspaper columns, Americans are now admonished to slow down and experience daily life more deeply and spiritually. There are now Proustian-type instructions on how to consume daily life, on how to draw expressive as well as instrumental gratifications from a wide variety of products and services. Membership in organized religion is up (McCourt, l998), and television and movie programming with spiritual themes are drawing larger and larger audiences.

One of the most popular writers on the new spirituality is Thomas Moore. One of Moore’s best-selling recent books, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life (1996) is interesting because it is basically a how-to book about how to find soul in the consumption of everything from foods to architecture to automobiles and hotel rooms. Moore, an ex-priest, draws on theories and experiences from psychotherapy, Zen, Islam, art therapy, psychology and anthropology to describe how to live a soulful life.

Moore’s book should interest consumer researchers for many reasons:

1. It is a good case study of one person’s subjective experiences of practically everything in daily life. For consumer researchers interested in the impact of spirituality, the book is a great place to start. While the data are introspective, Moore goes to great depth to describe a wide range of consumption experiences. From his book, it is possible to distill a set of "rules" on how to consume soulfully.

2. Many consumer researchers as well as marketing scholars are trying to make consumer research and marketing more accountable. There is a growing interest in products which are not only liked by consumers (and therefore market successes) Bbut are also good in a deeper and broader sense, that is, good for the environment, society, and for the individual consumer’s physical and emotional well-being (Porter and van der Linde 1995, Hamel and Prahalad l994, Maio l999). Simply put, there is a desire for products to have an inherent goodness. Products which are liked and which have this "goodness" quality are "win-win" opportunities for manufacturers and consumers. Many manufacturers are aware of this, and make advertising claims like "We Bring Good Things to Life" (General Electric) and "Good for the body and good for the soul" (Quaker Oats). When industrial design got its start in the 20s, many (Bayley, Garner, Sudjic, l986) saw it as an opportunity to improve not only products’ outward appearances but also to elevate peoples’ lives morally, aesthetically and spiritually. While this effort was not entirely successful, the underlying motives still deserve attention. The graphic designer Milton Glaser (l991) said that great art makes people feel good about life in general.

3. Moore’s ideas have direct relevance for theories about materialism. Many of the items he consumes and describes are the sort of luxury items which are examined in studies of materialism. His ideas, however, are somewhat different from those in consumer research. In consumer research, materialism is defined as "importance attached to worldly possessions" (Belk, l984), and materialism is generally equated with negative, anti-social values, for example nongenerosity, envy, and possessiveness. Not surprisingly, Belk (l985) notes a negative correlation between materialism and happiness in life. Moore, in contrast, suggests that soulful consumption includes consumption of many luxuries. As he says, "the soul requires luxuries"and, while "luxury can get out of hand and represent a division of society into the haves and have-nots, (it)can be virtue when it is part of a life-affirming, soul-centered way of life. (Moore, l996, p. 38) This tacit approval of luxuries and the suggestion that they nourish the soul points to a more constructive approach to the person-object relationship in research on materialism.

4. Moore’s ideas can serve as what Schon (l993) calls a "generative metaphor" to help us see consumption behavior in a new light. We can lay out Moore’s ideas about soulful consumption and hold them up to regular consumption in order to see new aspects of symbolic or "deep" consumption. Moore, for example, suggests that all thingsBfrom trees to cars Bare embodied with spirit or "soul." Whereas Belk, Wallendorf, and Sherry (l991) stress differences between sacred consumption and profane consumption, Moore suggests that all things are sacred. Obviously, from an empirical standpoint, the idea that a person or thing might actually have a soul or spirit would be impossible to validate. It would be impossible to establish the existence of these spirits independently of the subjectivities of individual respondents. Suppose, however, that all things emanate spirituality. Some emanate a lot while others emanate only a little. Would the quality of life be improved if "low soul" items could be given more soul? How could this be done?

The purpose of this paper is to explore Moore’s theories about soulful products and what "soulful consumption" means more generally. The paper describes products Moore personally feels are "soulful" and why they have this quality. It also provides results from an ongoing program of research about soulful consumption. Specifically, it summarizes results from a small pilot study in which 45 adult respondents were shown pictures of different product designs and asked to indicate which they liked, which had the most soul, and why. The goal in the research was to understand soulful consumption, and, more importantly, to identify products which score high on likeability and soul. The latter products represent the win-win condition described above. If we understood consumption of items which are liked and have "high soul", we could help manufacturers design new products which are commercially successful and which have deep positive impacts on peoples lives.

In terms of existing consumer research, this paper is close to the research on sacred consumption, for example, the research of Belk, Wallendorf, and Sherry (l991), Hirschman (l988) and Rook (l985). Rook’s (l985) research, for example, is very applicable inasmuch as ritual behavior, like soulful consumption involves actions which are carried out with an awareness of the underlying spiritual significance and deep meaning of the individual actions. Moore says he enjoys the ritual of washing dishes by hand because of the sensory enjoyment as well as the sense of a larger, deeper significance of cleaning per se.

This paper is particularly close to the Belk, Wallendorf, and Sherry research insofar as these researchers carefully examine cultural processes through which an artifact becomes sacred or profane. They note, for example, how items become sacred through inheritance and gift-giving. As we will see, many of the same phenomenon account for a heightened feeling of "soul" in many personal possessions. People feel heightened soul in items which were inherited and items which were gifts from loved ones. The concept of "soul" is broader, however, than sacredness. Belk, et al. ground their notions of sacredness in religion. While there is a lot of overlap, the soul concept over time has touched on everything from other worlds described by Plato (in Van Peursen 1966) to Freud’s notions of the unconscious (Bettleheim, l983). The soul concept also differs in tone from these researchers’ideas of sacredness. The soul concept is generally a happy, positive conceptBwhile the dominant tone in Rook’s research on ritual and the Belk, Wallendorf, and Sherry research on sacred possessions is more solen.

Moore’s book is essentially a how-to book about how to consume more soulfully. He defines soulful consumption as "enchantment" and says that, "enchantment is an ascendancy of the soul, a condition that allows us to connect, for the most part lovingly and intimately, with the world we inhabit and the people who make up our families and communities.." (Moore, l996, p. p. 32). If "soulful consumption" exists, this raises many interesting questions. What is it? What criteria define it? Are these criteria measurable? Is there such a thing as a "high soul" product? How are high soul products different from low soul products? What attributes of a product most account for its soul? Does high soul necessarily mean high market appeal? Given the trend toward spirituality, are high soul products gaining in popularity? Are the criteria for high soul products very different from one person to the next? What would a life be like that consisted entirely of high soul products? How are high soul criteria translated into design specifications? As we will see, Moore finds soul in many older items such as antiques and old homes. Can new designs have soulful properties of older items? How would consumers react to products which had been redesigned in terms of increased soulfulness?

This paper is a very early exploratory look at some of these questions. The next section reviews Moore’s definitions of soul and soulful consumption, and describes products he cites as particularly soulful products. Subsequent sections describe results of a small study of perceived soul in eight product categories.

MOORE’S IDEAS ABOUT THE SOUL

Like many other writers, (see Van Peursen, l966) Moore notes the differences and independence between soul and body. Amorousness, for example, was thought to be a concern of the body while love was a concern of the soul. Moore also suggests that the soul is an entity which has its own needs and desires. He says it is, "not a mechanical problem that needs to be solved but rather a living thing that needs to be fed." (Moore, l996, p. 61) It’s main function is to be receptive. It thrives, he says, on time for reflection, conversation, reverie, beauty, and rest. At the same time, he also gives it many active properties: "It loves to wanderit craves novel sights and new belongings" and that it is "essentially epicurean; It’s primary objective is pleasure.." (Moore, l996, p. 141) As we will see, people perceive eating and good foods as highly soulful pleasures. Art is also felt to be pleasant to the soul, an issue which has obvious importance to product design and aesthetics. While Moore’s definitions have an abstractness that might frustrate empirically minded social researchers, they provide a general sense of what the soul is about:

"Soul is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart and personal substance.." (Moore, 1992, p. 5)

As we will see, product soul is deeper than concepts such as product image or essence. Product image, according to Levy and Glick (l973) consists of a condensation of all experiences a person has had in conjunction with the product. An image of a motorcycle, for example might coalesce around a theme of masculinity insofar as riders are mainly men, the bikes are physically hard to ride, advertising usually shows males, etc. The soul of the motorcycle, however, is much deeper, more emotional and more narrowly experienced.

While Moore sees the soul as being independent of the body, he also sees it as an important connection medium to the rest of the world. He notes the Renaissance idea that the soul is part of a larger soul, the soul of the world, "anima mundi." According to him, "this orld soul affects each individual thing, whether natural or human-made. You have a soul, the tree in front of your house has a soul, but so too does the car parked under that tree." (Moore, l992, p. 268)

This last point should interest marketers. The object of marketing is to give a tangible product a personality or soul, to make it "come alive" (Durgee, l985/86). Marketers do this through names, advertising, package design and product form. According to Moore, the modern approach (what marketers do) of projecting life and personality onto things is troublesome in that it brings too much focus back to the ego. In the modern approach, that is, the person feels that all spiritual qualities and personality an item might possess are the result of his or her own action and subjectivity. It is quite a different approach to allow things themselves to have vitality and personality. In short, the difference here is the difference between an advertising copywriter and an American Indian. The copywriter says "the apple has personality and spirit because I gave it to it". The Indian says, "the apple already had spirit in it."

Moore likes art which enables the spirit of the object to come out. He says, for example:

"When the artist Merit Oppenheim got the crazy idea to line her teacup with fur, she was shocked to find her inspiration was thought to be a major artistic event. But she had found an elegant way to reveal the personality of the cup by eclipsing its function. Her revolutionary act was a breakthrough to soul, achieved by penetrating our dominant, blinding myth of use." (Moore, 1996, p. 277)

ENCHANTMENT OR "SOULFUL CONSUMPTION"

Post-modernists (Firat and Venkatesh, l995, Brown l995) argue that the emphasis on rationally constructed, technologically ordered life has caused much consumer disaffection and alienation. Two results, they say, are trends toward interest in hyperreality and things of the past. Similarly, when Moore speaks of re-enchantment, he is referring to the act of reconnecting to the ethereal world of the soul. Also, he says that 1. we need to regain the sense of awe and wonder about the world that we felt as children, and 2. that we need to regain conditions from a mythical Golden Age. This age, common in the lore of many cultures, was a time of wholeness and perfection. It is reflected in peoples’ general desires for "the good old days."

Enchanted or "soulful" consumption involves seeing mystery and sacredness in everyday life. It requires proximity, contemplation, time, ritual, and a spirit of piety. As he says, "the values of the soul sometimes stand at odds with other values: speed versus a slow pace, efficiency versus quality, function versus imagination, and productivity versus creativity" (Moore, l996, p.131)

This is very important and very interesting. It goes against the direction that technology pushes us inBbut would seem to suggest that designers may be able to address this in their product designs.

In soulful consumption, the goal is a feeling of emotional connectedness. As he says, "enchantment conjures up the juices of vitality and a renewal of childhood, play, poetry, art, natural religious virtues, and community. Its characteristic emotion is joy, and its goal, deep pleasure." (Moore, l996, p. 242)

Enchantment requires consumption that is patient and attentive to the smallest details. Daily life, he says, is full of epiphanies. Similarly, as Virginia Woolf wrote, "One can’t write directly about the soul. Looked at, it vanishes. But look at the ceiling, at the cheaper beasts in the Zoo which are exposed to walkers in Regents Park, and the soul slips in."(Muschamp, l998)

Moore recommends education which teaches us how to be enchanted: "In an enchanted school, music and the other arts are primary and omnipresent. Science and technical skill are incomplete without them. The presence of soul requires a vivid and honored imagination, one that is developed over time through exposure to the arts, to intimate discussion." (Moore, l996, p. 380)

ITEMS MOORE WOULD CHARACTERIZE AS "HIGH SOUL"

To illustrate soulful consumption, Moore provides a number of everyday items and usage rituals that he finds particularly enchanting. These include:

Foods and cooking     Professional sports      Washing dishes

Cotton and Wool        Travel                         Hanging laundry

Gardens                      a rock fountain                  out to dry

Family                         live music                     Nature

CRITERIA FOR HIGH SOUL PRODUCTS

In describing items he feels are particularly spiritual, Moore often refers to the same criteria. These criteria can be summarized as follows.

1. High in Detail, High in Contemplative Content

As Moore says, "what most satisfies the soul is that which is captivating, spellbinding, and full of charm." (Moore, l996 p. 132) He experiences high soulfulness in items which have a sense of mystery, which involve what he calls high "interiority". These items require time to contemplate and appreciate. Art, for example, arrests attention. He says, "decoration can magically transform a door from a functional entry into an initiatory rite" (Moore, 1992, p. 78).

2. Involve Hands-on Manufacture, Hands-on Consumption

He tends to find soul in hand-made products. Like Marx, he feels that, "machines increase production, shorten the time of manufacturing, and make work easier and more convenient, but these are not virtues of the soul. Anything of the soul requires timeBand therefore lowering of productivityBand effort." (Moore, l996 p. 71). Directly opposite from machines in this regard is the artist: "A painter’s brush stokes on a canvas give us the supreme model of the hand’s imprint in our work. In those personal marks we can almost see the fingers and hand at work and trace in imagination the artist struggling to transfer inner images into color and line" (Moore, l996, p. 72).

3. Close Connections with nature and natural forces

Moore particularly feels soul in items which reflect or are somehow connected to nature: " My gardener friends are always telling me about the value of establishing a link, in the form of low bushes or tall grasses around the home, between the civility of the house and the wildness of the woods." (Moore, l996 p. 47) Other writers have noted the importance of nature and natural forces in effective design. (Alexander, l966)

4. Designed by someone who understands the spiritual context, the "Temenos"

Moore finds it fascinating that Japanese temple carpenters must be well versed in Buddhist theology and ritual, and are treated as members of the clergy during certain ceremonies. He mentions the concept of "temenos" or Chinese "Feng Shi" which refers to the sacredness of a site or location. As evidence of the power of temenos, he cites studies of people’s reactions when they learn that their home or apartment has been robbed. All report that the sense of sacredness in their homes has been violated.

That effective designers are well versed in the relevant theology is not new learning. Shaker furniture is thought to reflect many of the spiritual values of the Shakers, and many new Moslem mosques were specifically designed to reflect Moslem spirituality. (Muschamp, l998).

5. Ties to the past, archetypal themes

Moore especially finds sacredness in ruins. He attributes the character and enchantment of Rome to its ruins, and suggests that with ruins, "we are left with objects that have a hollowness that we can fill with our own wonder and fantasy.." (Moore, l996 p. 86)

6. Has Imperfections

In describing soul in a house, Moore notes that "A home will never be perfect, for perfection is an idea and an ideal, and our home is always an approximation of our dream. I wouldn’t want to live in a perfect home, because enchantment and perfection do not lie in the same order of things. If you’re looking for perfection, you don’t pursue enchantment, and vice versa." (Moore, l996 p. 82) Frank Lloyd Wright buildings were reported to contain many flaws. Also, this criterion mirrors a recent finding regarding perceptions of "product rightness." (Durgee and O’Connor, l997). In this research, respondents were asked to list and discuss "objects in their daily lives which gave them a feeling of rightness." Many itemsBfrom Big Bertha golf clubs to a Saab automobileBall contained imperfections. The Mercedes rode too hard, a Movado watch often stopped, and a favorite runners watch was felt to be ugly.

7. Versatile, Touches People in many different ways.

Moore’s appreciation of gardens and foods and how these impact many of our senses have already been described. He also appreciates soulful items for their versatility, for the many ways we can experience them. With a tree, for example. "We can sit on a tree’s limb, rest against its trunk, enjoy its fruits and nuts, sit under its shade, and watch it dance in the wind. The lessons we can learn from a tree are infinite, and its pleasures indescribable.." (Moore, l996, p. 23) Further, Moore says we cannot experience soul or spirit directly. Rather, we should be attentive to the smallest elements, or as he quotes Emily Dickinson on food, "the smallest ingredient is the most powerful." (Moore, l996, p. 63). In a paper on brand personality (Durgee, l988), small attributes or what the authors called "irrelevancies" were found to be responsible for much of a brand’s image. People tended to store memories and total brand images in terms of tiny details. Images about the popular nighttime cold medicine Nyquil, for example, were stored in terms of images of the tiny plastic communion-like (or shot glass-like) cup.

EXPLORATORY RESEARCH ON HIGH SOUL PRODUCTS

To begin exploring people’s feelings about soulful consumption, I have conducted a series of small pilot projects. The purpose of the projects was not only to learn about soul but also to learn about howto explore this area, that is, what type of research designs would be most productive.

Obviously, this area is very subjectiveBand, all of the ideas above about soulful consumption are from Moore. The purpose of the first project, therefore, was to explore how a small sample of randonly selected adults would describe soulful consumption. Specifically, 12 adults (equal male and female) were interviewed in depth and were asked to list and describe their feelings about products or things they use in daily life that are "good for (their) soul, that are good in a deep, spiritual, life-enhancing sense."

Results reflected a wide range of items: classical music, cats, dogs, woodworking tools, books, beds, refrigerators, outdoor hiking items, old houses, Dove soap, Italian food, Finesse shampoo, a window seat, teddy bear, mountain bike, Barbie doll, Lancome Skin Freshener. These items had "soul" because A. they were felt to be intrinsic or autotelic sources of soul (e.g., old house, Italian food) Bor B. they gained soul by association, that is, they were closely connected to places or activities that were high in soul (e.g., mountain bike used to get into nature). What’s important is that reasons for the soulfulness of these items mirrored "high soul" criteria from Moore:

-hand-made, hands-on

-multi-sensory consumption

-high arresting properties and slow consumption

-high in detail, high contemplation, high involvement (Belk, Wallendorf, Sherry l991)

-involve nature, natural forces

-don’t know what to expect, high surprise, high mystery

-designed by someone who understands "temenos"

-involves ties to past, to archetypes

-has imperfections

-high versatility

The purpose of the second project was to expose items with different "soul quotients" to people and see how they would respond. Specifically, I used the criteria above to select pictures of "high soul" and "low soul" items from hundreds of pictures of different consumer products. We wanted to see how they could classify the items in terms of soul content, and what dimensions of soulfulness they would use to support their choices. At the same timeBand more importantlyBI also wanted to see how a separate sample of respondents would rate and describe their feelings about the same items in terms of overall liking. The most interesting items here would be the "win-win" items, that is, items with high soul and high likeability. These would be items mentioned above that address deep goals of the manufacturer and the consumer. To repeat, the goals here were to A. learn more about soulful consumption and B. learn how to research it.

METHOD

Pictures of new, currently-for-sale, market items from eight categories of consumer products were selected: coffee pots, briefcases, popcorn makers, stools, teapots, children’s storybooks, easy chairs, and desks. Items were selected so they matched high and low soul criteria from above:

1. Coffeepots: An old, glass "French press"design (high soul), a modern, round, Krups design of plastic (low soul), and a l950s percolator (low soul)

2. Briefcases: An old vinyl black briefcase (low soul), a newer design of leather (mid soul) and a new design of distressed leather (high soul)

3. Popcorn makers: microwave popper (low soul), electric countertop popper (low soul), hot air popper (low soul), handcrank stove-top, old-style popper (high soul), fireplace popper (high soul).

4. Stools: wood, hand-made "look" stool (high soul) and modernchrome and vinyl stool (low soul)

5. Teapots: whimsical, ceramic pot with feet (high soul) and a modern design of glass and steel (low soul)

6. Storybooks: A regular book ("Crocky Dilly") (mid soul) and a book which consisted of a series of pages of text and cut-out pictures that the parent could use with a flashlight to throw story images on the wall (high mystery and high soul).

7. Easy chairs: An old-looking distressed leather chair (high soul) and a modern, black leather chair (mid soul)

8. Desks: A stained wood designers table (high soul) and a black, medal and formica office desk (low soul).

Respondents were shown the items on separate pages in a notebook. Twenty Bthree adult respondents (16 women and 7 men, ages 25-51) were asked to indicate which items on each page had the "most soul." They were also asked which item had the most soul of all items and why that item had so much soul. A separate sample of 22 respondents (13 women, 9 men, 25-50) were shown the pictures and were asked to indicate which they most liked on each page, which they most liked overall, and why they liked that item. Open questions about "most soul" items and "most liked" items enabled us to learn about motivations regarding each dimension.

RESULTS

As indicated above, this work represents a small, early foray in to a new area. The sample is small and the research design is not one that can provide much more than suggestions and some new hypotheses. Nevertheless, the data (Table 1) are interesting.

Based on these results, it appears as though there might be four types of products of interest:

1. High Soul- High Like

These are the win-win products described above. In our small study, they include a new (but old-looking) briefcase, a distressed leather easy chair, a wooden designer’s desk, and, to a lesser extent, a French- styled coffee pot. In describing their feelings about the briefcase and distressed leather chair, respondents who rated these highly in terms of soul said that they "looked like they had been through a lot" and that "they would have many stories to tell." Those who rated them "most liked" said that they "looked comfortable" and very "versatile". These answers mirrored answers across all products, that is, that respondents felt an affinity with the "soul" items because of their drama, how they "lived another life"whereas the "most liked" products were liked because of their functional properties ("can hold a lot" or "good for many different uses.") One woman said of the designer desk, "It gives me more than baseline functionality; it works on several different planes.." Many people project themselves into these items: (Male R on desk) "It’s alive, it says 'come work with me’"

2. Hi SoulBLow Like

This category includes items such as the fireplace popcorn maker and the wooden stool. People felt these had a lot of soul because they were simply old-looking. These comments reflect a common feeling about high soul items, namely, that they are somehow attached to "another life." The fireplace popcorn maker and woodstool, however, were items people seemed to feel were "fine (that is, soulful), but not for me."

3. Low SoulBHigh Like

This category included items such as the chrome stool and the microwave popcorn maker. These items were felt to be especially functional. They were felt to be nice-looking but mainly valued for functional reasons.

4. Mixed Items

These are the most interesting items. They were selected as "high soul" and "high like" by at least a third of the respondentsByet were not predicted to be high soul items. The modern teapot, for example, was felt to have more soul than the legged teapot and was generally well-liked. The round coffee pot was chosen as "most soulful" by a third of the respondents and was liked by forty percent of the second sample. These items appealed to unusual motivations. Respondents liked the mix of functional and aesthetic properties in these designs. As one woman said of the teapot, "it reminds me of simple, functional elegancemore artful with great functionality" Another said of the coffeepot that "I like the whole feeling of fit..It fits nicely in the maker and would fit nicely in my kitchen.."

TABLE 1

PERCENTAGE OF SAMPLE ONE ADULT RESPONDENTS INDICATING WHICH PRODUCT DESIGNS HAVE "MOST SOUL" AND PERCENTAGE OF SAMPLE TWO RESPONDENTS INDICATING WHICH "LIKE MOST"

SUMMARY

It appears as though there are a set of products on the market that might have high soul and high general appeal. These products are based on old designs and probably draw much of their soul and appeal from associations with earlier times. More interesting are newer designs which are felt to be soulful and have high appeal.

As indicated earlier, a goal of this research was to learn how to learn about this area. The idea of researching the soulBand defining it in broader terms than previous research (e.g., Belk, Wallendorf, Sherry l991 definition in terms of religion)Bis so new in consumer research that it is difficult knowing what questions to ask. The fact that this study suggests the existence of high soulBlow like items suggests a new set of questions. Retailers such as the Pottery Barn and the Nature Company can offer products with "soul" built it. Pottery Barn items are made to look old, and the Nature Company features items containing "natural" components. It’s very possible that people would look at these items and say that they have a lot of soul because reflect common social definitions of what "soulful items" are (e.g., old, wooden, weathered. etc.) Our goal is authentic high soulBhigh like items. It is possible that the results came out as they did because respondents were asked "what items do you likeBand what items have soul." Liking here is about the person ("what I like or dislike")Bwhile perceived soul might simply reflect social definitions of what soulful items are supposed to be like. Future research will focus on asking respondents to describe items that they like and that warm their souls. The focus will be shifted from perceived soul in the product to the impact of the product on the respondent’s soul. Rather than research how and when an item becomes sacred or profane (Belk, Wallendorf, Sherry l991), future probing will deal with the effect on the respondent’s soul.

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----------------------------------------

Authors

Jeffrey F. Durgee, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, U.S.A.



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 1999



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