Close knit: using consumption communities to overcome loneliness

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OSullivan, Máire
Richardson, Brendan
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Purpose: This paper aims to highlight the role of consumption communities as a self-help support group to ameliorate loneliness. The authors suggest that the self-help element of consumption communities has been overlooked because of a focus on communities pursuing hegemonic masculinity. Instead, the authors focus on a female-led and – dominated consumption community. Design/methodology/approach: A longitudinal ethnography was undertaken with the aim of understanding consumer behaviour in a “hyper-feminine” environment. Participant observation, depth interviews and netnography were carried out over five years within the Knitting community, focussing on an Irish Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group. Findings: A dimension of consumption communities has been overlooked in the extant literature; this female-led and -dominated community functions as a self-help support group used as a “treatment” for loneliness. It also demonstrates all the characteristics of a support group. Research limitations/implications: This study offers a framework with which new studies of community consumption can be examined or existing studies can be re-examined, through rather than cases of loneliness and self-help support groups. Practical implications: Marketers have an opportunity to build supportive consumption communities that provide a safe space for support where commerce and brand-building can also occur. Groups aimed at ameliorating loneliness may wish to consider integration of the consumption community model. Originality/value: Calls have been made for a reconceptualisation of consumption communities as current typologies seem inadequate. This paper responds with a critical examination through the lens of the self-help support group, while also taking steps towards resolving the gender imbalance in the consumption community literature. The paper explores loneliness, a previously underexamined motivator for consumption community membership.
Consumer identity , Consumption communities , Loneliness , Self-help , Social support
O Sullivan, M. and Richardson, B. (2020) 'Close knit: using consumption communities to overcome loneliness', European Journal of Marketing. doi: 10.1108/EJM-02-2019-0145
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