This project is my first foray into exploring the relationship between humans and nature. It explores how “nature” is differently portrayed, or discursively constructed, in contemporary advertisements. In particular, I am interested to explore the nuances within the romantic ideal of harmony between humans and nature.
Living in harmony with nature is a central tenet in much marketing communications and consumers’ narratives. For example, brands like Toyota and Nissan promise consumers that their cars will bring “harmony between man, nature and machine” (Prius) and will re-unite polar bar (and all nature) with man (Leaf). Despite the central role in marketing communication, it remains unclear how the harmony myth is manifested in contemporary advertisements, and what nuances and tension arise in these discursive constructions of harmony.
To explore the nuances of the harmony myth, I engaged in a visual analysis of over 600 nature-depicting advertisements from Backpacker magazine. Guided by an environmental-historian and art-historian lens, I present the harmony myth to be multifaceted. Whether visual elements of the ads adopt “Arcadian” or “Dynamic” images of nature shapes how harmony can be found and lost through consumption activities.
This research has been presented at the 2012 Consumer Culture Theory conference in Oxford, UK, and at the 2012 Association for Consumer Research conference in Vancouver, BC (together with Jay Handelman). A first publication of this research is forthcoming in Research in Consumer Behavior in December 2012.
Download the ACR 2012 Poster here.
Download the Research in Consumer Behavior 2012 Manuscript here.