Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Framing Brands and Markets: Consumer Culture Theory



Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) looks at consumers, brands, and markets from a social and cultural vantage point. From Sid Levy’s famous 1955 HBR article, “Symbols for Sale,” to today’s thriving scholarship and practice across the globe, this research tradition offers powerful approaches to think about consumers as social beings creating meanings in and through the marketplace. CCT people have had an ongoing presence at EPIC conferences and contribute important insights about the making of markets, consumption experiences, design of products and spaces, brand strategies, and identities. This panel of leading CCT researchers will cover key CCT concepts and new frontiers in the field, as well as engage participants in conversation about the intersections of CCT and their own work and industry spaces.

Selected References:

Arnould, Eric & Craig Thompson eds. (2018) Consumer Culture Theory. Sage Publications.

Arnould, Eric J. & Craig J. Thompson (2005) Consumer Culture Theory (CCT): Twenty Years of Research. Journal of Consumer Research 31(4): 868–882,

Arnould, Eric J. & Julien Cayla (2013) Consumer Fetish, Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, 386–404.

Bean, Jonathan, Bernardo Figueiredo & Hanne Pico Larsen (2017). The Object of Research: Considering Material Engagement Theory and Ethnographic Method, Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings.

Crockett, David and Melanie Wallendorf (2004), The Role of Normative Political Ideology in Consumer Behavior, Journal of Consumer Research 31(3):511–528.

Crockett, David (2017) Does Changing Style of Hair or Dress Help People Avoid Stigma? The Conversation, 2 June 2017.

Crockett, David (2017) “Paths to Respectability: Consumption and Stigma Management in the Contemporary Black Middle Class,” Journal of Consumer Research 44(3):554–581,

Epp, Amber, “Outsourced Parenthood” (video).

Epp, Amber M. & Sunaina R. Velagaleti (2014) “Outsourcing Parenthood? How Families Manage Care Assemblages Using Paid Commercial Services.” Journal of Consumer Research 41(4):911–935,

Geisler, Markus & Eileen Fischer 2017, Market System Dynamics. Marketing Theory 17(1):3–8

Johnson, David (2017) “Consumer Culture and Political Resistance: How Gay Entrepreneurs Sparked a Movement.” Keynote Address, Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, Montreal, 23 October 2017.

Johnson, David (2019) Buying Gay. Columbia University Press.

Scaraboto, Daiane & Bernardo Figueiredo (2015) How to Create Value via Object Circulation in Gift Systems. Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings.

Sherry, John & Fischer eds (2017) Contemporary Consumer Culture Theory. Routledge.

Sunderland, Patricia L. & Rita Denny (2007) “What Is Coffee” in Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

Tamminen, Sakari & Elisabet Holmgren (2016) The Anthropology of Wearables: The Self, the Social, and the Autobiographical. Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 154–174


David Crockett is a Professor in the Department of Marketing, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina. David’s primary research interest is in sociological aspects of consumer behavior, particularly the consequences of social inequality. His research investigates the creation, manifestation, and resolution of class, gender and racial inequality in the marketplace and addresses consumer, managerial and public policy initiatives designed to alleviate inequality. David is an associate editor of the Journal of Consumer Research and Consumption, Markets & Culture. His research has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, the Journal of Business Research, the Journal of Consumer Culture, the Journal of Research for Consumers, the American Marketing Science Review, the Journal of Macromarketing, and Preventive Medicine.

Amber Epp is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Wilbur Dickson-Bascom Professor in Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Business. Amber’s research advances an interdisciplinary perspective of the relationship between family and the marketplace. In particular, she studies what products, brands, or services mean to families; how families derive value from brand uses and experiences; how families’ choices facilitate or hinder collective goals; and how families evaluate and make sense of their choices within the broader context of family life. Her work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing, and she has co-authored book chapters on qualitative data analysis, family consumption behavior, and assemblage theory. Amber’s dissertation received the inaugural Sidney J. Levy Award for outstanding Consumer Culture Theory research, and her research has been funded by the Marketing Science Institute

Sunaina Schultz is a consultant advising companies like Microsoft, Facebook, General Mills, Starbucks, Warner Brothers, and Intermountain Healthcare. She received her MBA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work spans academic, public health, and corporate contexts and focuses on the study of consumption and its pervasive impact on power, identity, and well-being. Whether building theory in academia or constructing actionable insights in industry, Sunaina adopts a socio-cultural approach to research—systematically connecting individual-level meaning and experience to cultural processes and structure. Her work is published in the Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.

Craig J. Thompson is the Churchill Professor of Marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Craig’s research addresses the socio-cultural shaping of consumer identities, with an emphasis on social class and gender. He has published in a wide range of marketing, consumer research, and sociological journals. He is co-author of the book The Phenomenology of Everyday Life, and co-editor of Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude: Case Studies of the New Economy and Consumer Culture Theory. Craig is the president of the Consumer Culture Theory Consortium. In 2014, he received the Society for Marketing Advances’ Distinguished Marketing Scholar Award. In 2017, he was named a fellow of the Association of Consumer Research.

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