SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY OF CONSUMPTION
Module 1: Food Branding
The aim of the course is to deliver an overview on food and drinks brands starting from the consumers experience and sensibility.
Brands will be consequently treated as a cultural phenomenon that not only influences the consumers’ choice but also their emotions, beliefs, representations, and desires. The latter dimensions are the most interesting from a sociological and psychological standpoint and for this reason the subject has been included within the Master program.
The final part of the course will be devoted to understanding the world of brands and describing their fundamental aspect through: cultural approaches, brand aesthetics, rhetoric and evolution.
1. Aspects, meanings, and theories of consumption
Shaping lifestyles, self-esteem, personal identities. Consumption is the key feature of an affluent society: an overview on cultural explanations and criticisms of this will be provided as a theoretical framework for the course.
2. Brands and consumption
When you deal with a shortage of goods, you don’t need brands. Brands are markers of overabundance to differentiate commodities when the market compels one to make a choice. Further to this trading function brands add a moral and symbolic meaning to goods and also play a cultural role in moulding consumers’ desires and representations.
3. Edible and potable brands
Food and drink consumption either share a brand’s cultural meaning or differentiate from other consumption fields: in consuming we are what we eat (and drink) but due to a new cultural framework we are changing representations and expectations about food and drinks.
4. Brands and origins
From an anthropological standpoint, origin (i. e. the mental and geographical place where products come from) is the fundamental feature of food and drink. Dealing with industrial and mass production, foods lack a tangible origin and as a consequence lose their primordial identity and close relationship with the consumer. By giving products a symbolic image brands make up for this.
5. Brands and gastronomy: mass market vs. premium brands
Historically food brands are mainly rooted in mass market and standardization rather than quality and typicality. However, some examples indicate that brands can play an important role in promoting high quality products and to this extent case histories will be looked at.
6. Brand aesthetics: logos, labels, and packs
Brand expressions show a distinctive iconography through: logos, labels, and packs .Consumer aesthetics has been popularized to link the brands with colours, signs, and emotions.
7. Brand rhetoric: advertising and storytelling
To become relevant to consumers, brands convey moral and symbolic messages through. advertising and other means of representation. They tell us tales, myths and legends about themselves, their meanings and their values.
Module 2: Psychology of Food Consumption: Symbolic Aspects and Social Construction of Meaning
The course will explain the cultural and psychoanalytical meanings associated with food and its consumption from the first years of a child’s psychosexual development up to the social construction of meaning by mass media. Starting from the analysis of the symbology linked to the product, the course will explore the main contributions by social science to the interpretation of consumption as a communicative act (e.g. Douglas and Irshwood) and will present research methods and empirical results for the explanation of the most recent food consumption trends (the fashion of restaurants, organic food and light products). The course aims at transferring a useful methodology for the identification of cultural and symbolic factors that influence the psychology of today’s consumer, in order to be able to predict future behaviours and develop effective communication.
- Psychoanalytical symbolism of food and nutrition;
- Relationship between food and identity;
- Social symbolism in food consumption;
- Analysis of empirical data on social representations of modern rituals of ‘food consumption’
- Consumption as an act of communication for self-expression (social-psychological prospect)
- The impact of mass communication
- The role of the choice of food in the construction of modern social identity
- Empirical evidence about the relationship between body, food and identity and its effects on today’s consumption
- Social change and future trends in food consumption
- Relationships between mass communication, risk perception and food consumption
- Effects of food risk awareness on modern consumption choices
- The phenomena of “Organic” and “Light” products
- Social and psychological causes of changes in consumption contexts. From out-of-home consumption to the fashion of restaurants
- Trust, reputation and social accountability of food marketing
M. Conner, C.J. Armitage, The social psychology of food, Buckingham, Open University Press, 2002.
P. Falk, The consuming body, London, Sage, 1994
Module 3: Sociology of Consumption
More information will be available shortly.