Past events

2014 -2015

October 3rd, 2014
Pursuing the Extra-Ordinary: The Transformative Role of Intra-Personal Communication Ritualizations
Chadwick Miller and John L. Lastovicka, Department of Marketing, Arizona State University

John Lastovicka joined us to present and discuss recent work with his co-author, Chadwick Miller. Prior consumer research has primarily examined the inter-personal meanings that rituals convey in facilitating consumption communities and social order. In contrast, this research considers how solitary consumption ritualizations—that is: rituals developed by consumers for their own private use—convey intra-personal meanings to themselves in their pursuit of a transformation to the extra-ordinary. In an interpretive study of baseball players, they empirically identify two new categories of rituals; namely, self-efficacy ritualizations and cue ritualizations. Their work shows how these improvised ritualizations psychologically transform consumers. While informants are unable to influence their adversaries or the wider environment, they endeavored to transform themselves psychologically. When perishable fetish objects failed as enduring sources of self-transformation, ritualizations were performed with the intent of becoming more self-confident, more task-focused, and more intuitive. An intuitive state is associated with less self-monitoring, automaticity, and the effortlessness and rapid-fire execution of highly practiced skills. Informants referred to this intuitive state as “being in the zone,” meaning the psychological state of flow. To the degree to which a change in the self and a reactive change in the environment are intimately connected, then transformative ritualizations may indeed shift ordinary consumers into a better position from which to achieve extra-ordinary performance.


October 31st, 2014
Brand Volunteers: Unpaid Contributors to the Marketplace
Bernard Cova, Department of Marketing, Kedge Business School.

Bernard Cova presented and discussed his work on what he names brand volunteering. Through collaborative marketing approaches, companies invite consumers to provide unpaid contributions. Companies commonly do this in the realm of brand communities. The key question Bernard Cova addresses is: How can a company lead consumers to offer unpaid contributions to brands as an act of free will? To answer this question, he presented a framework based on volunteer commitment research to study the actions a company takes to engage consumers in unpaid work for brands. He used this framework to analyse the online collaboration promoted by the carmaker Fiat with its brand community of Alfisti and the offline collaboration promoted by the endurance events organizer Tough Mudder with its community of Mudders. The results introduced the notion of brand volunteers: brand enthusiasts who are committed to providing unpaid work for the exclusive benefit of the brand. With this notion, he focused on the possibility of exploiting consumers in value co-creation and the existence of compromises, signifying an agreement between two collaborating parties in which one party (here, the consumers) temporarily puts aside possible sources of conflict.


February 6th, 2015
New Parent Decision Making in a Culture of Choice Overload
Amber Epp, Department of Marketing, University of Wisconsin, Tandy Thomas, Department of Marketing, Queen's School of Business

In this presentation, Amber discussed how new parents make choices in a context marked by too many decisions, conflicting advice from credible sources (including institutions, social networks, and the marketplace) and overwhelming feelings that each decision is consequential. Amber and her co-author contend that in this cultural environment, traditional decision heuristics may fall short. Using a longitudinal design, they conducted multiple in-depth interviews with approximately 25 couples over a one-year period. Their findings document a temporal decision making process that is embedded in a network of discourses and material realities. Through this process, expectant parents build an idealized assemblage composed of discourses, sources, materialities, decision strategies and capacities. After the baby is born, parents often experience betrayals within their assemblages, where elements of the assemblage (e.g., products; feeding practices) do not work as intended. In response to these betrayals, parents reconfigure their assemblages and revise their network of sources—by moving new sources in, misaligned sources out, and managing contentious sources—to create a new assemblage that reflects the current realities of their families. These findings provide implications for how companies’ actions might differ as parents gain experience over time.

Amber was selected as our annual "drive-in" speaker--someone who does not live in the Chicago area but who lives within a reasonable driving distance and whose travel expenses are paid by our generous sponsors. Thanks to Alan Malter and his committee (Ashlee Humphreys and Michelle Weinberger) for choosing this year's speaker!


March 6th, 2015
"What's That You Say?" How On-Line Word-of-Mouth Providers Cultivate Audience Engagement
Andrew Smith, Department of Marketing, Merrimack College, Eileen Fischer, Department of Marketing, York University

Word-of-mouth (WOM) in online contexts can differ in important ways from WOM in offline contexts for many reasons, not least of which is that providers of WOM are competing fiercely for the attention of online audiences. Using theories of sensegiving and sensemaking, and drawing on research conducted in the context of an online investment community, Eileen Fischer explored why some word-of-mouth providers are so much more effective than others at engaging their audience members. She will describe five word-of-mouth strategies (framing, cuing, connecting, action facilitating, and unsettling) that she and her co-author identified, as well as distinct types of audience responses. She will also discuss propositions regarding the relationships between particular sensegiving word-of-mouth strategies and the volume and type of audience engagement they elicit. This research contributes to our theoretical understanding of word-of-mouth processes, and offers important insights for entrepreneurial WOM providers, for managers who want to promote WOM online, and for public policy makers who want to facilitate collective sensemaking processes.

Eileen was selected as our annual "fly-in" speaker--someone who does not live within driving distance of Chicago and whose travel expenses are paid by our generous sponsors. As is true every year, nominations and voting for the "fly in" speaker were open to everyone on the C4 mailing list. Thanks to all who participated!


April 10th, 2015
Anthropology in Business: A Status Report
Rita Denny, Practica Group LLC, Chicago, IL

Rita Denny joined us to give an up-to-date overview of the vibrant and sometimes problematic intersections between anthropology and business, and what the current state of affairs might mean for those using anthropological methods for academic research on business and marketing. Her discussion was based in great part on her experience co-editing (with Patricia Sunderland) the Handbook of Anthropology in Business, a book that illuminates the theoretical perspectives, practices, and muses that fuel incursions.


May 8th, 2015
Shaping Authenticity: Building A Regional Brand for the Original Olive Oil
Alan Malter, Department of Marketing, UIC College of Business

Geographic brands form a market system rooted in claims of product authenticity. But regions are shared and contested political spaces, with unclear ownership and boundaries. Who shapes the brand narrative for iconic regional products? Who defines the geographic and product boundaries, and who owns the resulting regional brand? In this presentation, Alan discussed his research on the challenges of organizing and managing a market system of independent producers and creating a customer-focused marketing strategy for collective regional brands. His research investigates these issues in a long-term participant observation of efforts to organize traditional producers of olive oil and establish new regional brands in the politically volatile region of Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. This study examines the multiple layers and hierarchy of tensions that characterize this market system, and how an effective market strategy might emerge. To better illustrate the product characteristics of this market system, Alan's talk included a guided tasting of selected olive oils from the region.