In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sociocultural Approaches to Advertising and Marketing

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Children and Adolescents as Consumers
  • Theoretical Frameworks

Childhood Studies Sociocultural Approaches to Advertising and Marketing
Amanda E. Staiano, Sandra L. Calvert
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 October 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0054


Marketing is the systematic planning, implementation and control of business activities that seek to unite buyers and sellers typically for the exchange of products but also for the exchange of a service, organization, or idea. Key components of marketing are advertising, public relations, market research, product pricing, distribution, customer support, and sales strategy. Advertising is the specific paid, public, non-personal announcements of a persuasive message provided by an identified sponsor, for the purpose of promoting products to customers. Thus, marketing is the overall strategy whereas paid advertising constitutes a subset of marketing approaches. Marketing categories include: television, radio, print, company-sponsored websites and other online advertising, packaging and labeling, advertising in entertainment venues, email and text messaging, in-store marketing, specialty item or premium distribution, public entertainment events, product placement, character licensing or co-branding, sponsorship of sports teams or athletes, word-of-mouth marketing, viral marketing, celebrity endorsements, in-school marketing, and advertising with philanthropic endeavors. Targeted marketing, which focuses on consumers’ particular traits or preferences, is a highly popular and fundamental marketing strategy, as it has proven to be a cost-effective and efficient approach for increasing product sales. The sociocultural framework studies the interaction of social and cultural factors to explain cognition, in this case, the influence of marketing and advertising on consumers’ cognition, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. The basic tenant is that society and culture, including social customs, beliefs, values, and language, will shape cognition and perceived reality, beyond innate or individual forces. Therefore, a sociocultural approach is a useful tool to understand the influence of marketing and advertising on consumers’ attitudes, preferences, and purchase behavior, particularly in this new age of targeted marketing. Several fields of study adopt the sociocultural approach, including psychology, sociology, and communications. The following bibliography presents key resources for the sociocultural study of marketing and advertising, with a particular focus on the child consumer and online marketing.

Introductory Works

Several introductory works describe the sociocultural factors that influence what a consumer brings to the marketing experience. These experiences shape the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors the consumer adopts after exposure to persuasive messages (Shrum 2012). Specific topics include the marketing to children in entertainment and educational venues (Kenway and Bullen 2001), global marketing influences that lead to cultural imperialism that usurps local imperatives (Buckingham 2007), and the sexualization of the young female consumer (Cook and Kaiser 2004, Seiter 1995). This idea of experiential marketing describes a multi-layered experience during a marketing or advertising event that is consistent with the specific characteristics of each consumer (Schmitt 1999 and Grier and Kumanyika 2010). The majority of recent research in this area has focused on the child consumer (see Calvert 2008).

  • Buckingham, David. “Childhood in the Age of the Global Media.” Children’s Geographies 5 (2007): 43–54.

    DOI: 10.1080/14733280601108155

    This paper overviews the debate over the advantages of globalized media messages including for educational and social development purposes, versus the loss of individual culture due to “cultural imperialism” from marketed messages. Useful for a graduate course on communications and media or child development.

  • Calvert, Sandra L. “Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing.” The Future of Children 18 (2008): 205–234.

    DOI: 10.1353/foc.0.0001

    Describes the developmental and psychological characteristics of children that make them particularly vulnerable to both traditional and newer marketing strategies. Also describes US governmental regulations to reduce advertising and marketing practices that target children. Useful overview for advanced undergraduate or graduate psychology or communications courses.

  • Cook, Daniel T., and Susan B. Kaiser. “Betwixt and Be Tween: Age Ambiguity and the Sexualization of the Female Consuming Subject.” Journal of Consumer Culture 4 (2004): 203–227.

    DOI: 10.1177/1469540504043682

    Provides a historical perspective on the sexualization of young females at increasingly younger ages, particularly focused on marketing efforts to the “tween” age period. Useful for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses in child psychology.

  • Grier, Sonya A., and Shiriki Kumanyika. “Targeted Marketing and Public Health.” Annual Review of Public Health 31 (2010): 349–369.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.012809.103607

    Introduction to targeted marketing, which identifies consumers with specific needs or characteristics to facilitate match to appropriate products or brands. Example of how a sociocultural approach may help marketers increase the effectiveness of advertisements. Useful overview for advanced undergraduate or graduate psychology or communications courses.

  • Kenway, Jane, and Elizabeth Bullen. Consuming Children: Education-Entertainment-Advertising. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2001.

    A sociological review of marketing to affect children’s consumption patterns via the educational system and entertainment venues. Useful for graduate courses in media and communications, sociology, child psychology, and for parents, educators, and policy makers.

  • Schmitt, Bernd. “Experiential Marketing.” Journal of Marketing Management 15 (1999): 53–67.

    DOI: 10.1362/026725799784870496

    Introduces experiential marketing, which provides sensory, affective, creative cognitive, physical, and social-identity experiences that adapt to the consumer’s unique cognitive and emotional interactions with marketing. Useful overview for advanced undergraduate or graduate psychology or communications courses.

  • Seiter, Ellen. Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

    Approaches telecommunications as a vehicle to teach culture, socialization, and creativity, drawing from empirical evidence in the fields of social, political, developmental, and media research. Useful for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses in communications and media, and for parents and teachers.

  • Shrum, L. J., ed. The Psychology of Entertainment Media: Blurring the Lines between Entertainment and Persuasion. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2012.

    Contributions by psychology and communication experts to describe learning through the vehicle of marketing and media use. Includes newer marketing approaches such as in-game marketing, as well as traditional topics including alcohol messages in television and persuasion through narratives. Useful overview for advanced undergraduate or graduate psychology or communications courses.

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