Anti-Essentialist MarketingAn Alternative View of Consumers' Identity'

  • Ofer Dekel

Student thesis: Phd


One problem with the traditional marketing segmentation view of consumer markets is that it treats social categories as an ontology, which somehow becomes independent of its own members. It assumes that the self is required to adjust to its segment. In my research, I follow writers such as Hall (1996) who claim that consumer identity is not a reflection of a fixed, natural, state of being but a process of becoming. The meaning of social economic class, Britishness, religion, masculinity and so forth, are subject to continual change. Identity then becomes a 'cut' or a snapshot of unfolding meanings; it is a strategic positioning of the individual, which makes meaning possible.My primary research focuses on one cultural category - second generation British South Asian. This is a group of consumers who are required to negotiate with multiple discourses - local, global, past, present, future, western, eastern, religious, national, popular culture and more - and with many social and cultural categories - British society, South Asian community, county of origin, religion, professional identity and others. The mainstream literature takes an essentialist view when analysing this group treating ethnic minority consumers as acculturating individuals who hold a hyphenated identity and who have to balance pressures from two sides of the hyphen- South Asian and BritishIn my research I take inspiration from Hall (1996) and treat ethnicity in its de-totalised, or deconstructed forms, recognising ethnicity as a concept that cannot be thought of in the 'old way' as representing essential, discrete differences between groups. Ethnicity and race are conceptualised here as socially constructed, relationally and culturally locatedMy data collection strategy is designed to help participants (Sample size of 13) to explore the landscape of their self by eliciting life narratives and their constituent attachments. The data were collected in two stages. The initial phase is based on the collection of 2 collages one of self-identity and one of shopping experience. The objective of this phase was to give the participants an opportunity to explore and map the different discursive influences in their lives. The second stage uses a narrative interview where the collages were used as a guide for the structure of the conversation. The findings of this research confirm a picture of self-identity as a 'Field of Discursivity' (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985) where self-identity can be viewed as a field in which no one discourse can fully master the others. Consequently, 'who one is' becomes an open question, with a shifting answer depending upon the positions available between one's own and others' discursive practices and within those practices. This understanding is the foundation of my claim that traditional marketing discussion rests on a flawed assumption which renders segmentation strategy incompatible with current market reality.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGary Davies (Supervisor) & Terry Newholm (Supervisor)


  • Anti Essentialist Marketing, Segmentation, Visual Research, Participatory Research
  • Cultural Categories, Post Structuralist,

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