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Home arrow Marketing arrow Marketing and American Consumer Culture: A Cultural Studies Analysis
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Sociological Theory: The Group Sells

Demographics is destiny.

Auguste Comte

There is an old conflict over the nature of society. One side mystically exaggerates its significance, contending that only through society is human life endowed with reality. The other regards it as a mere abstract concept by means of which the observer draws the realities, which are individual human beings, into a whole, as one calls trees and brooks, houses and meadows, a “landscape. ” However one decides this conflict, he must allow society to be a reality in a double sense. On the one hand are the individuals in their directly perceptible existence, the bearers of the processes ofassociation, who are united by these processes into the higher unity which one calls “society;” on the other, the interests which, living in the individuals, motivate such union: economic and ideal interests, warlike and erotic, religious and charitable. ...Just so the impulses and interests, which a man experiences in himself and with push him out toward other men, bring about all the forms of association by which a mere sum of separate individuals are made into “society.”

Georg Simmel, “The Sociology of Sociability”

Abstract The role of functionalism in sociological theory is considered. Functionalism is defined and different kinds of functionalism are considered. This leads to a discussion of grid-group theory, which asserts there are four and only four lifestyles in modern society and these lifestyles shape our consumption preferences. The four lifestyles are hierarchical elitists, competitive individualists, egalitarians, and fatalists, all of which are in © The Author(s) 2016

A.A. Berger, Marketing and American Consumer Culture, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47328-4_4

conflict with one another. An article by Mary Douglas, who invented grid- group theory, on shopping is discussed. She asserts that lifestyle choice, not personal taste, shapes consumption preferences. A chart is offered that shows suggested popular culture preferences of members of each lifestyle. The VALS (Values and Lifestyles) typology and the Claritas/Nielsen typology are described. It is suggested by marketers that the more advertisers know about their target audiences, the better job they can do in reaching them and persuading them to purchase a product or service.

Keywords Functionalism • Grid-group theory • Typologies • Values and Lifestyles (VALS) • Claritas

We have just explored two approaches to marketing. The first, semiotics, argues that marketers must understand how people in target audiences find meaning in the world by decoding signs and that understanding this is a key to shaping their behavior as consumers. The psychoanalytic approach, on the other hand, suggests that it is the forces in our psyches and our unconscious that shapes our behavior and that marketing must be aware of these hidden forces if it is to generate successful advertising. Sociology, broadly speaking, is the study of the behavior of people in groups, and focuses upon the institutions they create and the rules that socialize people and enable them to function in society.

 
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