Academic journal article Journal of Research for Consumers

Exploring Dramaturgy in Consumer Research

Academic journal article Journal of Research for Consumers

Exploring Dramaturgy in Consumer Research

Article excerpt


The dramaturgical organizing framework introduced here supplies consumers and consumer researchers with new avenues of exploration. The theatric metaphor found in impression management theory was reconfigured utilizing terminology more inherent to the discussion of consumer behavior. This dramaturgical metaphor allows consumer researcher to study an individual out in public as if one were studying an actor performing on stage in front of an audience. Consumers could also utilize this perspective. It is argued here that topics such as the individual consumer (actor), a reference group (chorus), products (props), and brands (masks) could all be studied through dramaturgy. Two case studies are presented showing how this new framework can be applied to consumer research.


A dramaturgical conceptual framework has been adapted from impression management theory in order for consumers and consumer researchers to use in order to study consumer behavior. The theatric metaphor in Goffman's (1959) impression management theory allows the social scientist to study an individual behaving out in public as if one were studying an actor putting on a performance on a stage in front of an audience. This theatric metaphor was reconceptualized using phrases consistently touched upon in the consumer behavior literature. In other words, consumer researchers could use this dramaturgical framework to study consumers out in public as if they were studying actors on stage in front of an audience. Also, consumers could benefit from the application of this metaphor to their everyday lives. Reflexivity of one's behavior through impression management allows the individual to learn from past behaviors in order to make better decisions in the future. Plus, assessing and successfully interpreting the behavior of others allows the individual consumer to better understand how to skillfully interact with others in the future.

In addition, the dramaturgical literature supplies a wealth of new information, theories, and models that can also be adapted to consumer research. An all-inclusive, all-exhaustive explanation of dramaturgical constructs is beyond the scope of this manuscript. However, several avenues will be explored from this literature in order to supply a number of new tantalizing areas for consumers and consumer researchers.

First, impression management theory will be meticulously discussed in order to fully understand the major assumptions and presuppositions of this theory. Then, a dramaturgical framework for consumer behavior will be introduced. It is argued here that this framework is a potential jumping-offpoint for many other future research projects. Each concept in this new framework will then be discussed separately. As one will see, the dramaturgical terms have been translated into consumer research terms while still maintaining the theatric framework. By supplying consumer researchers with this framework, they can more clearly see how to apply dramaturgy in their analysis of consumer behavior. Then, a discussion of how lay consumers can utilize this new framework for their everyday lives will be discussed. This theatric metaphor is a novel lens that they too can use to study their own behaviors, and the behaviors of others around them. Next, two case studies will be presented in order to supply an example of consumer research via a dramaturgical analysis. Finally, the implications of this conceptual framework for scholars, practitioners, and consumers will be discussed.

Theoretical Framework

Impression Management Theory

In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman (1959) argued that individuals utilize techniques during social interactions in order to attempt to exert control over the perceptions of others about their identity:

I shall consider the way in which the individual in ordinary work situations presents himself and his activity to others, the ways in which he guides and controls the impression they form of him, and the kinds of things he may and may not do while sustaining his performance before them (p. …

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