Andy Warhol: Consumer Researcher

ABSTRACT - This paper "breaks out of the box" by discussing the work of the artist Andy Warhol as a form of consumer research. The paper asserts that Warhol’s career- successful artist, experimental filmmaker, prolific writer and diarist, celebrity-offers insights into consumer culture that reinforces, expands, and illuminates aspects of traditional consumer research. Through illustrations, criticism, and interpretation, five specific areas of consumer research that Warhol’s work might contribute to are introduced: brand equity; clothing, fashion and beauty; imagery; packaging; and self-concept. This project joins recent efforts by consumer researchers to include humanities based methods such as literary criticism and semiotics into the consumer researcher’s toolbox.


Jonathan E. Schroeder (1997) ,"Andy Warhol: Consumer Researcher", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 24, eds. Merrie Brucks and Deborah J. MacInnis, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 476-482.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 24, 1997      Pages 476-482


Jonathan E. Schroeder, University of Rhode Island


This paper "breaks out of the box" by discussing the work of the artist Andy Warhol as a form of consumer research. The paper asserts that Warhol’s career- successful artist, experimental filmmaker, prolific writer and diarist, celebrity-offers insights into consumer culture that reinforces, expands, and illuminates aspects of traditional consumer research. Through illustrations, criticism, and interpretation, five specific areas of consumer research that Warhol’s work might contribute to are introduced: brand equity; clothing, fashion and beauty; imagery; packaging; and self-concept. This project joins recent efforts by consumer researchers to include humanities based methods such as literary criticism and semiotics into the consumer researcher’s toolbox.

I love America and these are some comments on it. The image is a statement of the symbols of the harsh impersonal products and brash materialistic objects on which America is built today. It is a projection of everything that can be bought and sold, the practical but important symbols that sustain us.

- Warhol 1985, p. 78

Humanities based research has changed the parameters of consumer research. Groundbreaking applications of semiotics (Mick 1986), literary theory (Stern 1988; 1989) postmodernism (Firat and Venkatesh 1995), history (Jones and Monieson 1990), visual studies (Scott 1994)to- name a few-have broadened the consumer researcher’s alette, adding useful tools to an interdisciplinary paintbox. Belk proposes that art offers a useful medium to study consumption-citing literature, comics, painting, photography, etc., as valuable records of materialism and non-traditional sources of data for consumer researchers (Belk, 1986). Art and science do differ in their methods, biases, and purposes, Belk insists, but there is much more overlap than is usually thought. He concludes by suggesting that uses of art in research "are attempts to draw on art as data for evidence to validate a point or to provide a thicker, richer description" (Belk, 1986, p. 27).

This paper proposes that Andy Warhol-through his worldwide success as an artist, his choice of subject matter, his public statements, and his marketing techniques-may offer insights into several issues of consumer research as an additional way of learning about consumer behavior (Belk, Wallendorf, and Sherry 1989; Hudson and Ozanne 1988; Sherry 1991). Through a turn to the tools of art criticism and art history, Warhol’s "contributions" to our understanding of consumer behavior are placed within the frame of consumer research. Warhol, while not trained in experimental methods, nonetheless offers unique insights into consumer behavior through his success as an artist who focused on the mass produced world of brand names, fame, and consumption.

In his career as a commercial illustrator, artist, filmmaker, and author, Warhol produced a voluminous output of material. After his death in 1987, his estate helped fund an Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh (Sozanski 1994); another museum houses his work in his ancestral home of Slovakia (Gruber 1993). His name lives on in the news; his estate auction garnered millions and elevated cookie jars into the realm of valued collectors’ items (Bourdon 1989). A protracted battle over the value of his estate also served to generate heated interest in his stature as an artist and cultural icon (Peers 1996). Warhol transcended the rarefied world of fine art and became known simply as Andy Warhol throughout the world. His obituary in Advertising Age remembered Warhol this way: "His work pointed out the similarities between mass produced goods-soup, cleaners, celebrities, news "events"-in a way that made clearer how images are manufactured. In this pop culture, Andy Warhol saw America. Through him, America saw itself." (Skenazy, 1987). Breaking out of the box, this paper sketches Warhol and his work for their relevance to consumer researchers.

To frame Warhol as a consumer researcher, this discussion focuses on four aspects of the Warhol oeuvre: several famous artworks, his own writings, critical discourse, and Warhol himself. The methods, training, and outlook of artists and consumer researchers may be quite different, but the underlying issues they are interested in often overlap considerably. Five content areas were selected to paint a portrait of Warhol as consumer researcher: brand equity; clothing, fashion and beauty; imagery; packaging; and self-concept. Two levels of analysis are offered-one focuses the production of Warhol’s art, another considers Warhol himself as the ultimate commodity. Thus, Warhol’s artistic output can be scrutinized for insights into consumer behavior as well as his self-generated production of the Warhol "brand." Suggestions for systematic application of art criticism and art history are offered, along with a call for broadening the conceptions of who might contribute to the interdisciplinary field of consumer research.


Art Criticism is the humanities discipline that investigates art and its objects as cultural documents-reflecting and shaping the culture that both produces and preserves them. Discourse on art has ancient roots-visual images preceded written language as a means of communication. Closely linked to the related fields of aesthetics, art history, art theory, and archeolgy, art criticism requires an understanding of the styles and functions of art, the social and cultural contexts in which artists have worked, and the technical factors that affect artistic execution. Issues that art criticism addresses include evaluation, value, classification, identification, comparison, etc. (Stokstad 1995). Commentary on art has its origins in Plato’s dialogues, in which he established representation as the main function of art; the field of art history became institutionalized within academia during the nineteenth century (Roskill 1989). Like literary criticism, writing on art is characterized by a myriad of schools employing a variety of approaches to the subject, context, meaning, and production of art (cf. Stern 1989). Because art has physical-as in architecture-as well as cultural functions, the object of study varies considerably, depending on the purpose of the analysis. For example, one writer distinguishes between journalistic criticism, pedagogical criticism, and scholarly criticism (Feldman 1987). The art world of museums, collectors, scholars, and the public has increasingly included 'low’ forms of art, for example graffiti, advertising, comics, etc. within the realm of fine art-thus focusing critical attention on a wide range of visual communication (e.g. Stich 1987).

Whereas the field of art criticism conceivably offers consumer researchers an astonishing array of tools with which to interpret and understand images, few studies within consumer research have taken advantage of a art-centered approach. However, many art historians have ventured into issues of consumer behavior. For example, Simon Schama discusses many aspects central to consumer research in his monumental study of Dutch art, such as collecting, demand, luxury goods, etc. (Schama 1988). Other art historians take a consumer research approach to the art market, demonstrating that art is governed by market forces similar to manufactured goods (e.g. Watson 1992; Goldthwaite 1993; Jenson 1994). For example, Goldthwaite (1993) includes a chapter titled "Consumer Behavior" in his thorough analysis of the art market during the Italian Renaissance. While art historians are surveying consumption of art, consumer researchers have been slow to turn to art to analyze consumption-a central feature of the culture that art depicts, packages, comments on, and is sold within. One recent paper recognizes the influence of the art market in corporate strategy, dubbing corporate sponsors of art "the Modern Medicis" (Joy 1993). However, most consumer research from an art centered approach focuses on advertising-an important, but limited, application of the rich tradition of art history (Ball and Smith 1992).

For example, Scott’s (1994) exceptional system for analyzing visual rhetoric, which borrows language and systems from art history, focuses on advertising imagery. Stern and Schroeder’s (1994) turn to literary and visual theory to analyze a Paco Rabanne cologne advertisement. Promising extensions of the use of art based approaches include Percy’s (1993) use of art history to look at brand equity; Heisler and Levy’s (1991) photography based research technique, autodriving; and Havlena and Holak’s work on nostalgic images (1996). Following Belk’s (1986) call for art based research on materialism, Schroeder (1992) investigated the connections between materialism and the Pop Art movement, demonstrating the complex links between a consumer research derived concept and artwork. The draw toward art based criticism prompted this observation: "investigating the Pop Art movement through a consumer research framework can shed light on consumption; Pop Art provides impressive and eloquent content to examine materialism" (Schroeder 1992, p. 13).

Another stream of consumer research has focused on aesthetics-an important branch of art history useful for scholars interested in the phenomenology of consumption (e.g. Holbrook and Zirlin 1985). Aesthetics within the consumer context usually refers to a response to a sensory stimulus produced by media, entertainment, or the arts (Holbrook 1980). What sets artistic responses apart is an appreciation of the stimulus for its own sake. Painting, then, enjoys a esthetic reaction due to its existence as a end in itself, rather than a means to some other end. For example, Holbrook has called for a study of the experience of art and its creation as a basis for understanding aesthetics within artistic organizations (Holbrook & Zirlin, 1985). Aesthetics and our perceptual systems are integral to our understanding and appreciation of art (e.g. Arnheim, 1966). The role of the image is critical in understanding issues central to mainstream consumer research-perception, categorization, brand image, advertising response, for example. Thus, borrowing from art criticism seems a logical choice for a more complete analysis of consumer behavior, with the goals of understanding the historical, cultural, and representational contexts of consumption.


By preempting the celebrity of his subjects-from Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley-[Warhol] parlayed his own name and face into commercial commodities that became recognized-and valued-around the world -Bourdon 1989, p. 9

Pop art utilized subjects "that anybody walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second-comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, Coke bottles-all the great modern things" (Stokstad 1995, p. 1130). Pop borrowed from the world of advertising, grocery stores, billboards, television, etc., to an unprecedented degree. Warhol, in particular, focused on the objects he consumed on a daily basis-Campbell’s soup, Coca-cola, money, famous people, and newspapers. These are stimulus materials for many consumer behavior studies, and provide an important link between the world of art and the realm of consumer research. Depicting material goods and consumer artifacts was not entirely new to the art world. The history of painting is replete with examples of scenes of wealth, possessions, and display (e.g. Berger, 1972). The Dutch, to illustrate, favored paintings of the abundant goods an affluent society produces (Schama 1988). What set Pop apart is the critical and commercial success of a group of artists, all having a common concern with the problems of the commercial image and popular culture (Mashun, 1987).

The Pop movement was, in part, a reaction to the current dominant form of painting of the day, Abstract Expressionism, which focused on the inner imagination of the artist and the technique of creating art. In contrast, Pop artists drew from the popular culture in achieving an easily recognizable and reproducible art form. Warhol realized that people receive the same message over and over, and often like messages or images sheerly through repetition exposure (see Figure). He claimed to eat the same thing day after day, including-yes, indeed-cans of Campbell’s soup and lots of Coca-cola.

Unconcerned with painterly style and brushwork, many Pop artists utilized mass production techniques in their work. Indeed, several influential Pop artists, inluding Warhol, were trained in commercial art and printing and advertising techniques. Pop Art gained commercial and popular (if not always critical) acceptance in the early 1960s. Along with Andy Warhol, success came rapidly for artists such as James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann, Claes Oldenburg, and Roy Lichtenstein. Warhol, however, became an icon for the movement, and was dubbed the Pope of Pop.

Warhol was trained in commercial art at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University) and was a highly successful commercial artist in New York City during the 1950s. His advertising work won him several awards and constant work (Bourdon 1989). Warhol’s forays into fine art-producing images not driven by specific commercial jobs-drew its inspiration from comic strips and advertising slogans. His first huge success resulted from the Campbell’s Soup can series, which attracted widespread attention and notoriety (e.g. Stuckey, 1989; Swenson, 1963, 1964). Other works of this period include the Coca-Cola series, consisting of repeated images of Coke bottles, Brillo box wood sculptures, reproductions of commercial shipping containers, and celebrity portraits. He produced many self portraits throughout his career, as well as dozens of films, several books, and, after he was famous, continued to do commercial work (Bourdon 1971; Hackett 1989; Warhol 1975, 1983, 1985). The Andy Warhol Museum opened its doors in Pittsburgh in 1994, and is the largest museum in the U.S. devoted to a single artist (Sozanski 1994). Currently, his work commands high prices at auction (Vogel 1993), and the "cult" is alive and well (e.g. Gruber 1993).


An analysis of five areas of consumer behavior in terms of Warhol’s work and reactions to it demonstrates the potential of placing art within consumer research. The five areas were chosen for this study to demonstrate the diverse potential of turning to visual artists to understand consumer behavior. As a masterful producer of cultural discourse, Warhol isolated and reified the banal and commonplace objects of consumption. Insight gleaned from this exercise complements and reinforces concepts and ideas developed by consumer researchers. This multi-method approach is capable of offering confirmation of experimental research findings, generating new research ideas, and uncovering hidden aspects of consumer behavior. Material for this analysis is drawn from several sources; the art itself; critical comments; Warhol’s own reflections and quips; and scholarly writing about Warhol. Warhol’s statements are notoriously unreliable-he constantly misled interviews about his background and intentions (Bourdon 1989). However, for the purposes of this paper, his comments provide interesting findings about an accomplished marketer whose most successful product was himself.

Since the birth of Modernism around the turn of the century, a significant project for artists is the development of an individual style (Jenson 1994). Thus, art history might offer lessons in brand equity-an identifiable trademark, designed for consumption (Percy 1993). Andy Warhol was extremely successful in building his own version of brand equity, interestingly enough by using an imitator strategy of adopting ready made symbols in his art.


Andy Warhol developed one of the most globally recognizable styles in the history of art, even though his work lacked signature brushwork or technique (Stokstad 1995). Moreover, of course, many of his most famous subjects were originally designed by others-the Brillo box designer sued Warhol for breach of copyright (he lost) (Bourdon 1989). Despite the fact that he did not "create" the original image, Warhol became irrevocably linked to his flat depictions of Campbell’s soup cans. In essence, then, he developed a strong brand identity and brand equity. By introducing images that were easily identified and linked with himself as an artist, Warhol achieved his own style-in marketing terms, his own brand: "it is one the many paradoxes of Warhol’s career that [his images] should be so inescapably his own" (Rockwell 1991, p 347). He aggressively pursued potential buyers for his art; "his metamorphosis into a Pop persona was calculated and deliberate" (Bourdon 1989, p. 6).

Warhol changed the way we look at products, especially Campbell’s soup. The Campbell’s brand has meaning apart from that of a heavily advertised consumer product, because of Warhol’s art and ensuing fame. Indeed, the Campbell’s soup company, initially antagonized by Warhol’s use of their trademark, hired him to paint a series of Campbell’s dry mix soup cartons in the 1980s (Honnef 1991). Warhol’s major work prefigured scholarly attention of brand equity, but he was very aware of the powerful associations found in his Pop images: "Andy always seized on the most familiar and recognizable objects" (Bourdon 1989, p. 90). Popular brands tended to promote equal opportunity for consumers, Warhol stated in a famous quote: "A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke" (Warhol 1975, p. 100). His eye, trained in art, and focused on mainstream success and fame, gave him "an uncanny gift for selecting motifs from the glut of visual information characteristic of a modern industrial society overwhelmed by consumer products, newspapers, magazines, photographs, television, and the cinema" (Livingstone 1990, p. 118). Warhol was a shrewd marketer of both his work, and perhaps more significantly, his image. His background in advertising assisted him in knowing what sells and how to sell it.

Through his international success, Andy Warhol became a major "brand" himself, allowing him to command high prices for his prolific output, and amassed a fortune valued at $400 million after his death (Peers 1996). Andy’s persona matched that of his art-detached but friendly, familiar, yet distant. His pursuit of fame was legendary, he became a product endorser through his celebrity, appearing in ads for a variety of products (Pomeroy 1971). In 1986, he came full circle by creating Absolut Warhol, thus inaugurating the artist produced Absolut Vodka series. Warhol was a shrewd marketer, his public image designed for maximum impact and appeal. He was driven a desire to be famous-for anything: "I wish I could invent something like bluejeans. Something to be remembered by. Something mass" (Warhol 1975, p. 13). Warhol assured his immortality through the creation of the richly endowed Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which helped develop the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. His success has become its own icon: "Warhol’s Dollar Signs are brazen, perhaps even insolent reminders that pictures by brand-name artists are metaphors for money, a situation that never troubled him" (Bourdon 1989, p. 384).

Warhol also attempted to create "superstars"-celebrities known for their association with him. He had some success in promoting the careers of the rock group The Velvet Underground, the film personality Edie Sedgwick, and an entourage at his studio, dubbed the Factory. This is an interesting example of brand extensions-new "products" associated with old favorites. Warholwas tremendously invested in his "aura," and one company expressed interest in securing his services to promote their products (Bourdon 1989). Warhol represents a charismatic figure totally concerned with strategically marketing the ultimate commodity, oneself. He was careful not to become confused with other early pop artists, such as Roy Liechtenstein, who worked with comics. His insights and concerns with his identity will be addressed further under "self-concept."

Warhol showed us that a well recognized brand name might succeed in attracting consumers in a different context-brand extension. He demonstrated that consumer’s positive feelings about products often lay far outside the product itself-he did not paint Campbell’s soup, after all, he painted the branded can. His success was phenomenal evidence that brands are psychological entities, with associations far outside the context of consumption. Moreover, he showed that equity is linked to recognizability. Advertisers may have known this far some time, but Warhol’s contribution extends beyond the domain of marketing-for his art has created an extra layer of brand equity to such well-known products as Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola. Cigarette brands like Camel and Marlboro are pursuing this concept by selling clothing and Marlboro gear to consumers. Harley Davidson figured out that they can sell more t-shirts and wallets than motorcycles. Coca-Cola has started selling clothing. Perhaps these are more sophisticated examples of brand value, but Warhol remains an compelling figure in the history of brand equity.


Warhol was fascinated with celebrities and was profoundly affected by Marilyn Monroe’s suicide in 1962. He began to work on a series of paintings of her, starting with a publicity photograph of her he had purchased. In the next several years, he produced what many art critics consider to be his strongest work, the Marilyn series. In the work, Warhol used a silk-screen technique to highlight Monroe’s features with brighter than life colors. In this period he began experimenting with repetition, mass production, and "mistakes"-poorly aligned images and smudges. In a famous image, Marilyn Monroe Twenty Times, Warhol experiments with repeated the image of Monroe over and over, creating subtle differences in each repetition, while maintaining the mass produced appearance of a consumer good. Moreover, his work comments on the reproduction of images, art, and originality (see Benjamin 1968).



Celebrities are like goods, Warhol seemed to be saying, by creating similar works with Coca-cola bottles, S & H Green Stamps, and even U.S. currency. Warhol helps us realize that celebrities have brand equity, consumer awareness, etc. In Warhol’s paintings, Monroe gazes coolly out at the viewer behind a publicity smile and heavily applied makeup. Warhol felt these paintings were an homage to Monroe’s beauty and fame, but art critics have pointed out the ghoulish nature of reproducing the image of a beauty queen amidst evidence of a tragic life and death (Mamiya 1992). In one example, a single image of Monroe is surrounded by a field of gold, like a Byzantine icon: "By symbolically treating the famous actress as a saint, Warhol shed light on his own fascination with fame" (Livingstone 1991).Warhol shows us the construction of fame and beauty. He was perennially dissatisfied with his looks, undergoing plastic surgery and wearing a wig at all times. His portraits of Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy also dealt with issues of fame, beauty, and tragedy. Once again, his choice of material rings true- tragic undertones infuse many great works of art and literature. Warhol returned to Marilyn Monroe several times throughou his career, producing an eerie reverse-color series late in his career. In Reverse Marilyn, the image is as recognizable from his earlier work as from Monroe’s fame-but it seems fraught with trauma, her face darkened and eyes glowing as if on fire. Warhol was willing to show us how we consume celebrities, while also providing a thoughtful reminder of the discrepancies between public persona and private identity. This theme was tremendously important in his own life, as evidenced by his friends and his written work. Warhol was always on stage, even when writing in his diaries, which were produced for public consumption (Hackett 1989).


Mr. Warhol was among the first to point out that we are a country united, most of all, by commercialism. He opened our eyes with art. Whether silk-screening soup cans or Marilyn Monroe, he showed us that the things we know best and react to most instinctively are those images brought to us via mass markets, mass media, and mass production.

-Skenazy 1987

Imagery is the area that Warhol made perhaps the most profound contributions to issues of consumer behavior. Warhol injected many images into the cultural discourse. His repeated motifs are classics of twentieth century art. Warhol investigated ideas of originality and the original image through his choice of subject matter, technique, and reproduction (silk-screen, prints, reworking). His success, however, was in becoming an icon himself, the image of a fabulously famous artist. His preeminence as a cultural icon is summarized as follows: "In the postwar era, if an artist wants to do more than merely fuel the art apparatus, the most effective strategies usually involve working with the institutions of culture. The artist who most fully met this challenge and who is the paradigm of the artist-producer is Andy Warhol" (Staniszewski, 1995, p. 262). Another critic concurs: "Warhol’s art represented the culmination of dilemmas about the relationship of art, media, and advertising that artists had confronted since the turn of the century" (Bogart 1995, p 300).

Warhol’s most successful images are tied into the mainstream cultural symbols-abundance, mass marketed products, images of the good life. His subject matter revolves around high involvement images . His art, and the Warhol phenomenon instructs us in how we consume images and symbols. When his household belongings were auctioned, Sotheby’s estimates were far exceeded, commonplace cookie jars sold for $1000. People were eager to own something that belonged to him-he probably would have been thrilled. His image had been carefully constructed-his wigs became progressively more noticeable and odd, his face often caked with white foundation and make-up. He was an original, yet his art blatantly copied mainstream designs. He reflected the ideal of mass marketing techniques-appealing to uniqueness through consuming mass produced goods: "Buying is much more American than thinking and I’m as American as they come" (Warhol 1975, p. 229).


Warhol’s "boxes" series isoates package design, focusing our attention on the package as an object in its own right. These works are wooden sculptures, made to look exactly like shipping cartons for popular consumer goods-Del Monte canned fruits, Brillo cleaning pads, Campbell’s soup. Warhol achieved a great deal of notoriety, scorn, and press from the boxes series, and they remain some of his most successful works. In the Campbell’s soup can painting series, Warhol takes a close look at packaging, too. In Big Torn Soup Can, for example, he shows us the package behind the label, calling attention to the object of consumption. In this painting, a brand extension, if you will, of his earlier soup can paintings, the Campbell’s label is torn, hanging off the can, but still instantly recognizable. The can is exposed, and in some hints of a painterly technique, its steel case reflects light toward the viewer. One is struck by the dual packaging of the image-the label and the can. The can looks plain, uncovered, unlabeled without the Red and White Campbell’s. We realize that labels reassure us of safe contents, protecting us from harm. Once again, product designers and market tests might pick up these insights, but Warhol made them available for all. He also fixed his attention on the packaging of Coca-cola, painting the patented bottle over and over.

Warhol’s work comments on the packaging of celebrities, as well. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, two of his major subjects, both lived desperate lives in marked contrast to the media image they enjoyed. By choosing their publicity images, Warhol deliberately pointed out contradictions of the package. However, the image of Marilyn Monroe as a beauty outlived her personal anguish, with Warhol’s disturbing portraits of her a vague reminder of her private pain.


Writing about Warhol’s cultural contributions in 1971, one art critic suggested that one of his most important contributions was to show the evolution of a personal mythology by means of an extremely consistent persona (Josephson 1971). Warhol’s self portraits are an interesting study in an expression of the self-concept. He was fascinated in the relationships between image and reality-especially his own: "It must be hard to be a model, because you’d want to look like the photograph of you, and you can’t ever look that way" (Warhol 1975 p. 63). He completed many self-portraits throughout his career, eventually adopting his repeated techniques for his own image.

In all of his self portraits, he remains aloof, composed, and very much Andy Warhol. It is his self-portraits that are the most well known images of Warhol as a person. Thus, he controls his image by producing it. Warhol’s many self-portraits can be viewed as a great marketing campaign for himself. For a Pop exhibition in Germany, he provided a huge self-portrait-a glorious ad for Andy Warhol (Bourdon 1989). Warhol knew that the best marketing for his art was the creation of celebrity, and his self-portraits were an important component of this strategy. Warhol’s public record shows a remarkable consistency throughout his career, stretching back into his college years, that is a hallmark of psychological conceptions of the self-concept. His self-portraits offer evidence of the construction of self-concept; a process we all engage in, albeit with somewhat less intention than Warhol.


Warhol’s impact on art and society was tremendous; this paper offers a highly restricted view of his potential for consumer researchers. By applying some methods of art criticism to his vast body of work, insight was gained in key areas of consumer research: brand equity; clothing, fashion and beauty; imagery; packaging; and self-concept. Art history is equipped with much more theoretically challenging theories and frameworks-this paper gleaned insights from a surface skimming of the treasures of art criticism and art history. Further work is necessary to articulate how art historical techniques might complement literary tools that have earned a place within the consumer researcher’s toolbox.

As we move into a postmodern society, dominated by visual images, informed by five hundred cable television channels, and obsessed with global symbols, visual literacy takes on greater importance to both the consumer and marketer. Art criticism seems a useful area to study the central role images play in consumer behavior-joining successful applications of other humanities based approaches. Marketing, in particular, encourages symbolic associations: products to images, images to products. To fully understand consumer behavior requires an appreciation of the long heritage of art scholarship. This project represents a step toward mining the rich ground of art history to extract nuggets of wisdom about consumers and the society they live in.


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Jonathan E. Schroeder, University of Rhode Island


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 24 | 1997

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