The term Consumer Culture refers to the system of commercially produced images, signs, discourses, experiences, and material objects that social groups use to make collective sense of their environments and to orient their identities and social experiences.
Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) is an interdisciplinary field of research oriented around developing a better understand of why consumers do what they do and why consumer culture takes the forms that it does. Theorists focus on understanding the interrelationships between various material, economic, symbolic, institutional, and social relationships, and their effects on consumers, the marketplace, other institutions, and society. Researchers typically draw from and build on theories rooted in sociology, anthropology, media studies and communications, history, literary criticism and semiotics, gender and queer theory, cultural studies, and marketing.
Accordingly, consumer culture theorists pursue a robust and nuanced understanding of how market-mediated, global consumer culture and its localized instantiations shape people’s identities. Their research illuminates the co-creative practices through which consumers integrate these resources into their contextually grounded lifestyles. And, it theorizes how these activities influence and are influenced by social relationships, power structures, and institutions.
Consumer Culture Theory research has tended to address four key theoretical domains and their various points of intersection: 1) Consumer Identity Projects; 2) Marketplace Cultures; 3) The Socio-historic Patterning of Consumption; and 4) Mass-Mediated Marketplace Ideologies and Consumers’ Interpretive Strategies. Across the areas of inquiry, research findings have implications for theory, organizational practice, public policy, and consumer’s lives.
Outlets for CCT Research
Consumer Culture Theory research is published in high profile academic journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research (generally regarded as CCT’s flagship journal), the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Retailing, the Journal of Consumer Culture, Consumption, Markets & Culture, the European Journal of Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Marketing Theory, Journal of Marketing Management, Journal of Macromarketing, Qualitative Marketing Research, and Recherche et Applications en Marketing, as well as a steadily growing volume of books, edited volumes (such as the Research in Consumer Behavior Series), films, and conference proceedings.
Researchers participate in a range of public and industry facing activities including participating in the Marketing Science Institute, engaging in independent consulting, providing expert opinion in media interviews, contributing to industry blogs, and writing for consumer websites. Contact us to be directed to appropriate experts for media inquiries and collaboration inquires.
For more detail about Consumer Culture Theory as a research field, see “Consumer Culture Theory (CCT): Twenty Years of Research” by Arnould and Thompson 2005,; “Consumer Culture Theory: The Ironies of History” by Askegaard and Scott 2013, and Contemporary Consumer Culture Theory, eds Sherry and Fischer 2017; and Consumer Culture Theory, eds. Eric Arnould and Craig Thompson, forthcoming 2018, Sage.
History of the Consumer Culture Theory Consortium
After 25 years of research in the area now considered Consumer Culture Theory, the Consumer Culture Theory Consortium was established to provide a formal forum for researchers to exchange ideas and to support the study of Consumer Culture through a formal institution. The CCTC administers the Sidney J Levy Award, provides support for the Consumer Culture Theory Conference as well as other symposia and workshops, promotes CCT research, and provides travel scholarships.
Join the CCTC
In addition, regional groups of CCT scholars meet on a regular basis and are open to drop ins and new members. These include: The Chicago Consumer Culture Consortium (C4), Southern California Consumer Culture Community (SC4), the Sociocultural Consumer Behavior Reading Group at the University of Arizona, and the London Consumer Culture Group.