The MA in Consumption, Culture & Marketing is an interdisciplinary masters programme that draws together content and teaching from both marketing and sociology. It is aimed at individuals who want to think intellectually about the world, enjoy being challenged and are curious about business practice. The knowledge and skills gained could help develop a range of professions including policy development, publishing, academia and, of course, marketing and commercial management.
This course looks in-depth at our consumer culture and seeks to understand it and will engage in a number of theoretical areas: branding, marketing, bio-power and neoliberalism. You will explore claims that our contemporary world can be best understood as a consumer society and a brand culture, as well as how marketing and consumerism increasingly define our experiences, social relationships and civic infrastructure. As such we seek to analyse marketing behaviour and consumption practices with a view to better understand how marketing connects with society and culture.
You will join an intellectually stimulating, friendly and supportive research environment and work closely with our expert and experienced academic staff.
- Distinctive from other marketing programmes in that it combines teaching and research from marketing and sociology.
- Innovative programme inviting students to critically explore their lived experiences within the consumer society.
- Flexibility to tailor your studies to suit your specific areas of interest, such as; consumption, markets and culture, marketing communications children and consumption, crime and consumerism, social identities, consumption and difference.
- Latest thinking and exciting intellectual challenges provided by academics who are at the frontiers of their subjects.
Foundations of Modern Management and Organisational Analysis
This module, taught during your induction week, will introduce you to the key elements of organisational management for commercial success. Through analysis of historical roots, you will develop an understanding of the current practices for managing customers, shareholders, and employees, and discuss how numbers and technology influence management decision-making.
Consumers and Brands
In this module, you will develop an understanding of how consumers consume brands. You will look at current ideas within marketing and consumption scholarship and practice, considering the centrality of brands to commercial practice and everyday living. With a focus on critical engagement, you will learn about branding and consumption theory, incorporating current thinking on the strategic management of brands, consumer behaviour and its role within general marketing practice, recent theoretical formulations concerning brand culture and consumer culture, and how personal experiences, relationships and identities are partly organised and mediated by the consumption of brands and their immanence in a constantly evolving symbolic order.
Sociology of Consumption
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the theoretical analysis of consumption in modern society. You will look at the development of consumption and consumerism in society, examining the foundational sociological ideas and arguments concerning the role of culture in promoting a sense of belonging and identity-formation. You will also consider how consumerism and cultural production are socially-contingent, shaped by historical conditions and political-economic arrangements.
Consumption Research Methods
This module will provide you with an overview of the key methodological debates in management research, and the methods and techniques of qualitative data gathering and analysis. You will examine competing perspectives on research methodology, the relationship between theory and method in research design and the nature of validation and reliability in the research process. You will be introduced to the ethical issues involved in research, and the main elements of the research planning process. You will also look at the techniques and methods that are commonly deployed by qualitative researchers in the management and broader social science fields.
The dissertation provides you with an opportunity to learn and practise researching and writing skills for your future career. You will apply the analytical and problem-solving techniques you have acquired throughout your studies to explore a specialist interest in greater depth. You will critically evaluate academic literature, collect data systematically, organise your findings, and present your research results in a clear and logical and manner. To help, your research proposal will be read by the programme director, who will select an appropriate member of staff to act as your dissertation supervisor. Your final submission will be between 12,000 and 15,000 words in length.
Optional modules in Marketing include:
In addition to these mandatory course units, there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
This module will introduce you to the basic marketing theories and practices necessary for the successful running of art galleries. You will look at how art is consumed, its consumers, and how arts organisations operate across the private, public, and voluntary sectors. You will consider the particularities of ‘marketing for the arts’, such as audience development, corporate sponsorship, and philanthropy, and how they are addressed alongside conventional marketing concerns, such as segmentation, targeting, positioning, branding, intermediation, and promotions. You will also examine financial investment vehicles for theatre, film, and fine art, and the role of institutional critique by contemporary artists.
Not-for-Profit and Public Sector Marketing
In this module, you will develop an understanding of marketing in the not-for-profit and public sectors of the economy. You will look at the management of complex relationships both with donors and recipients, reconceptualising citizens as consumers of public services, cause-related marketing, public service announcements, branding nations, political marketing, and marketing religion.
In this module, you will examine the principal means of marketing communications – advertising, promotion, public relations, direct marketing and sales teams. You will develop an understanding of the contemporary media environment and how this impacts on marketers’ efforts to communicate with stakeholders. You will examine how communications must be tailored to the market segment, and look at the impact of communication cultures, particularly overseas, on market entry.
Consumption, Markets and Cultures
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the broader socio-cultural issues relevant to marketing practice in the 21st Century. You will look at the interactions that occur between the market, consumers and the marketplace, focussing on how particular manifestations of culture are constituted, maintained and transformed by broader forces such as cultural narratives, myths, ideologies and grounded in specific socioeconomic circumstances and marketplace systems. You will engage with complex theoretical concepts including consumer culture theory, symbolic consumption and the production of culture.
Technology and Macromarketing
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the theoretical analysis of macromarketing at the intersection of marketing, markets, and society. You will look at selected challenges and typical responses arising from the theoretical analysis of macromarketing, examining the ways in which digital innovation and technology, in general, may be used to promote a market-driven ideology within society.
Optional modules in Sociology include:
Social Identities, Consumption and Difference
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the practice of consumption within the context of general strategies of social self-definition, both on an individual and a group basis. You will review how post-industrial society uses increased consumption as a vehicle through which identities are made and re-shaped. You will look at the role that social divisions such as age, ethnicity, gender, and social class, play in access to financial and cultural resources and experiences of consumption. You will critically engage with sociological debates concerning the relationship between social identities and consumption, considering, for example, how the experience of being a man or a woman is influenced by consumption.
Children and Consumption
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the key debates in relation to childhood, children and consumption. You will look at theories of consumption and consumer culture, considering a range of theorists including Marx and commodity fetishism, Veblen and conspicuous consumption, Marcuse's critical theory, Baudrillard and consumer society, and Bourdieu and cultural capital. You will examine these theories within wider debates into conceptualisations of children and childhood, commercial enculturation, and exploitation and empowerment.
Fear, Risk and Consumption
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the relationship between fear and consumption. You will look at the impact of positive risk and negative risk on consumption patterns, and risk acceptability and thresholds in businesses, including associated risk strategies. You will consider how modernity has changed the nature of fear from a solid to liquid form, and why the latter is harder to identify. You will analyse the impact of media representations of fear, and the industries and products which are based on the creation of it, critically discussing investment in technology and risk management.
Crime and Consumerism
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the recent resurgence of interest in consumerist society within Criminology. You will look at the connections between consumerism and crime alongside the rich theoretical work of cultural criminology, focussing on the London riots of 2011 and how they were characterised, amongst other things, by a distinctively consumerist acquisitiveness. You will examine the criminalisation of sexuality, the relationship between gang cultures and consumerism, the influence of gender, the marketing of deviance, and consumerism as a motivation for the crime.
Youth and the Making of Consumer Society
In this module, you will develop an understanding of the relationship between the young and consumer culture. You will look at the role the young players in modern consumer capitalism, and how youth cultures and sub-cultures formed from the 1950s onwards have been placed at the centre of the creative industries. You will examine how the young are the creators and producers of culture and the artefacts of those cultures making them both consumers and producers. You will also consider how youth culture in the form of style, fashion, music, film, games, etc., has become central to the sell and structure of contemporary capitalism.
Teaching & assessment
Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including essays, group projects and a dissertation.
UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent
Relevant professional qualifications and relevant experience in an associated area will be considered.
A successful applicant will usually have the following qualities:
- Intellectually ambitious and interested in developing readings that are inter-disciplinary and theoretically sophisticated.
- Self-motivated, intellectual with a love of learning and engaging with complex ideas.
English language requirements:
IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum of 6.0 in all subscores. For equivalencies, please see here.
If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor your study in the UK, your IELTS must be a UK government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).
Your future career
Graduates will have considered a wide range of theoretical issues relating to contemporary lives that form the basis of marketing practice. This knowledge may be useful to pursue a research career or to augment and progress current careers in fields such as marketing, education, journalism, development, social policy and politics. This course equips postgraduate students with the subject knowledge and expertise required to pursue a successful career or provides a solid foundation for continued PhD studies.
- Graduates in recent years have entered different areas including Senior Associate at Bank of China International, Reporter at Xinhua News Agency, Senior Associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Finance Officer at Ealing Borough Council and Relationship Manager (Investments) at Barclays Bank.
Fees and funding
Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £7,200
International students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £16,300
Other essential costs**: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course
* These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee, usually equivalent to approximately half the full-time fee.
Read more on the university website here.
About the School
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