We do not live to buy: Why subcultures are different from brand communities and the meaning for marketing discourse


Purpose: The purpose is to investigate the concepts of subculture, subculture of consumption and brand community with a view to better understanding these three groups and their distinct differences.

Design/methodology/approach: The method relies on a literature review and a case study of sporting subculture. Using commentary from the surfing community as an example of subcultural groups we see how they define themselves against consumption oriented groups.

Findings: Subcultures are completely different from brand communities (or subcultures of consumption) and while they can be said to share certain common traits the broad philosophical foci of these two groups are vastly incommensurate with one another.

Practical implications: Marketing discourse has perpetually conflated subculture with forms of consumption, i.e. brand communities, yet they are different. By acknowledging and interrogating the key differences marketers may better apprehend the needs, character and activities of subcultural participants and market more strategically.

Originality/value: By dissecting the differences between subculture, subculture of consumption and brand community, this paper offers a re-conceptualisation of these terms in marketing discourse. In doing so, this paper seeks to dispel some fundamental misapprehensions in marketing and offer an entirely fresh perspective on the value and meaning of subculture.



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