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How consumers are bombarded and affected by retail spectacles

January 07, 2005

It probably started with the playground at McDonalds. Then it transitioned to pizza restaurants with basketball shooting machines and pits of balls for kids to play in. But, while these examples seem to be ways to occupy children while adults rest or eat, the idea of spectacle in the marketplace has shifted to include adults in the action. Emblematic of this are stores like ESPN Zone--a sort of sports fanatic playground.

It's this idea of spectacle that is the subject of a current article in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. Robert Kozinets of the University of Wisconsin, and his colleagues, sought to tap into the issue of the marketing strategy of spectacles.

"Spectacles have a long history of being viewed as ways that marketers could bombard and overwhelm consumers in contemporary commercial society," the authors explain. "Our ethnography therefore illustrates an important point: that consumer culture is currently evolving a hybrid form of spectacle."

In the study, the researchers conduct a fascinating study of visitors to ESPN Zone Chicago in order to understand better how consumers are affected by sports-related bombardment. Of particular interest is the blending of reality and fantasy and the critical role that video plays in spectacle. "Video screens have become indispensable parts of the spectacular experience, providing a new form of stage that enables consumers to breach fantasy and reality, to transcend physical limitations, and to conjure the iconic spirits of the celebrity pantheon," the authors state.

The implications of this research are many and the researchers pose several relevant questions about where spectacle will go from here. "What would happen, though, if these hybrid types of consumption spectacle became more prevalent? What if they filled increasingly more of our civic and retail spaces?"
-end-
From Ludic Agency and Retail Spectacle. ROBERT V. KOZINETS, JOHN F. SHERRY, JR., DIANA STORM, ADAM DUHACHEK, KRITTINEE NUTTAVUTHISIT, and BENET DEBERRY-SPENCE.

University of Chicago Press Journals

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