Living in the material world: marketing and meaning

Grant McCracken

Anthropologist Grant McCracken looks at marketing as the management of meaning in culture. He argues that the meanings carried by material goods come from the culture we live in and go into the goods that we consume in pursuit of identity, to help make choices and communicate with others. Marketing facilitates the movement of meanings from cultural artefacts to consumers via branding.

Materialism is becoming the villain of the piece

Increasingly it's the explanation we resort to when things go wrong. Drugs on the rise, divorce rate up, kids dropping out of school? Must be our love of consumer goods. The case against the consumer society is the new orthodoxy, a staple of classroom, cocktail circuit, and media commentary. We have found a new flag in which to wrap ourselves. We have found a new incendiary for our 'searing' acts of social criticism. Most of all, we've got ourselves an all-purpose explanation for the ills of contemporary life.