The Consumption Performance: Applying Role Theory

The Consumption Performance: Applying Role Theory

Eirini Koronaki (The American College of Greece, Greece) and George Panigyrakis (Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6120-0.ch003

Abstract

Building on the sociocultural dimension of consumption, this chapter sees consumption as the interaction between individuals, products, and meanings. One of the frameworks within consumer culture theory, symbolic interactionism, further explains this co-creation of meaning, building on the idea that people are creating their reality when interacting with one another. A theory providing us with greater detail in how people interact with one another is role theory, according to which people play various roles in their lives, some with greater and some with lesser importance, and each one of them is accompanied with certain expected behaviors. One of the roles we play in contemporary societies is that of a consumer, providing us with an explanation of why the things we expect from consumption change over time. In this, the above will be analyzed parallel to the identification of constructs from the marketing literature for the proposed framework.
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Introduction

Lately an increasing number of individuals has been undergoing a shift in how they experience consumption, demanding a more mindful approach to positively evaluate it (Bahl et al., 2016). From the company, a social citizen’s behavior is expected (Holt, 2006), while from themselves a brand choice that gives them something real, true and genuinely authentic (Beverland & Farrelly, 2009) and is characterized as a conscious consumption choice, promoting individual, social and ecological well-being is demanded (Mick et al., 2012). Under such a scope, we can see companies increasingly investing in their corporate citizen obligations and brands creating a rhetoric around causes such as gender equality and woman emancipation, political issues, and protection of the environment to name a few. The question naturally emerges: why is it that our expectations from consumption change from time to time and how do those changes affect our consumption experience?

Building on the sociocultural dimension of consumption, we will approach the explanation of the phenomenon described above through consumer culture theory, which sees consumption as the interaction between individuals, products and meanings (McDonald & Wearing, 2013). One of the frameworks within consumer culture theory, symbolic interactionism, further explains this co-creation of meaning, building on the idea that people are creating their reality when interacting with one another (Gusfield, 2003). A theory providing us with greater detail in how people interact with one another is role theory, according to which, people play various roles in their lives, some with greater and some with lesser importance, and each one of them is accompanied with certain expected behaviors (Ward & Robertson, 1973). One of the roles we play in contemporary societies is that of a consumer (Webb, 2000), providing us thus with an explanation of why the things we expect from consumption change over time. Despite the increasing importance that the role of the consumer has in contemporary societies, a framework examining the process of consumption through role theory is still lacking. In this chapter, we will present such a framework, first explaining the relevance of consumer culture theory for interpreting consumption, proceeding with how we can use symbolic interactionism within that theory to understand the role that others can play in this meaning creation process, and concluding with the application of role theory in the role we have as consumers. Finally, we conclude with identifying constructs from the marketing literature that can be used in the proposed framework.

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