Edited by Russell W. Belk
Chapter 23: Critical Visual Analysis
Jonathan E. Schroeder Marketing often relies on strong visual identity. Products and services are promoted via images, corporate image commands increasing attention and images of identity pulse through marketing communication, consumer households and mass media. Many battles of the brands take place in the visual domain. Furthermore, the Web mandates visualizing almost every aspect of corporate strategy, operations and communication, bringing visual issues into the mainstream of strategic thinking, and spurring research and thinking about perception and preference of visual displays. Critical visual analysis oﬀers researchers an interdisciplinary method for understanding and contextualizing images – crucial concerns, given the cultural centrality of vision. If marketing depends upon images, including brand images, corporate images, product images and images of identity, then research methods in marketing must be capable of addressing issues that such images signify. By connecting images to the cultural context of consumption, researchers gain a more thorough (yet never complete) understanding of how images embody and express cultural values and contradictions. This chapter presents qualitative methods for researching images, including advertising images, websites, ﬁlm and photographs. I draw on a theory of visual consumption to show how cultural codes and representational conventions inform contemporary marketing images, infusing them with visual, historical and rhetorical presence and power. To illustrate how theory informs critical visual methods, I invoke an analytical concept of consuming diﬀerence to describe a relational framework of contemporary branding campaigns. I discuss how marketing communication draws upon the ideology of the group portrait as a visual technique...
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