Consumer vulnerability

Critical insights from stories, action research and visual culture

Authored by: Susan Dunnett , Kathy Hamilton , Maria Piacentini

The Routledge Companion to Critical Marketing

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138641402
eBook ISBN: 9781315630526
Adobe ISBN:


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Critical marketing scholars have been encouraged to consider the experiences of consumers who encounter marketplace exclusion, consumers ‘whose views are rarely heard by those in positions of power’ (Tadajewski, 2010, p. 214). Our focus in this chapter is on consumers experiencing vulnerability. Baker, Gentry and Rittenburg (2005, p. 134) offer the following definition of consumer vulnerability:

Consumer vulnerability is a state of powerlessness that arises from an imbalance in marketplace interactions or from the consumption of marketing messages and products. It occurs when control is not in an individual’s hands, creating a dependence on external factors (e.g. marketers) to create fairness in the marketplace. The actual vulnerability arises from the interaction of individual states, individual characteristics, and external conditions within a context where consumption goals may be hindered and the experience affects personal and social perceptions of self.

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