Consumer Behaviour in Contemporary Contexts

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2019
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


We are inviting proposals from those who wish to investigate how consumers interact with markets, products and/or services in contemporary contexts: whether theoretical, situational or subject-related. Consumer behaviour research is of especial interest in marketing and consequently has a long and varied history. Much of the research to date has focused on individual/psychological perspectives (see Jannson-Boyd and Zawisza, 2016) that assume a high degree of personal agency in decision-making. And whilst this remains both a viable and frequently applied approach, more recent ideas have drawn on sociological and anthropological foundations noting, for example, the importance of external and/or historical context (Arnould and Thompson, 2005 – consumer culture theory); the impact on our lives of material ‘things’ (e.g. Woodall et al., 2018); and the role of habits and routine (Warde, 2005 – practice theory). As our understanding of the factors underpinning and influencing consumption expands, so do our conceptual horizons, and this leaves free rein for those with an inquisitive and creative approach to theorising. Consumer behaviour is relevant to pre-consumption, intra-consumption and post-consumption activities in market space, and is applicable equally to both goods and services, normatively now assumed to be interdependent and subject to the institutional logics of everyday life (Vargo and Lusch, 2017). Consumer behaviour is now as much a political as it is a market construct (e.g. Datta and Chakraborty, 2018), and both ‘consumer’ and ‘consumption’ are increasingly negotiable terms; we might even consider marketers as consumers of opinion, paradoxically subject to the influence of society’s concerns (e.g. Woodall, 2012).

Situationally, the field is wide; topics currently of interest to our consumer behaviour research team include cultural/identity barriers to utility cycling; the impact of mindful consumption for wellbeing; the proliferation and diversity of online selves; ethical and sustainable purchasing; perceptions of advertising ethics across cultures; substance use, abuse and reference groups; food and clothes shopping in later life; the paradoxical choices of millennials; and pragmatism as a foundation for ethical decision-making. Note that this list is illustrative, and not a limitation on proposals you can suggest.


Arnould, E. J., & Thompson, C. J. 2005, “Consumer culture theory (CCT): Twenty years of research”, Journal of Consumer Research, 31(4), pp 868-882.

Datta, A., & Chakraborty, I. 2018, Are You Neoliberal Fit? The Politics of Consumption under Neoliberalism. In Kravets, O., Maclaran, P., Miles, S. and Venkatesh, A., The SAGE Handbook of Consumer Culture, 453-477.

Jansson-Boyd, C. V., & Zawisza, M. J. (Eds.). 2016, Routledge International Handbook of Consumer Psychology. London and New York: Taylor & Francis.

Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. 2017, “Service-dominant logic 2025”, International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(1), pp 46-67.

Warde, A. 2005, “Consumption and theories of practice”, Journal of Consumer Culture, 5(2), pp 131-153.

Woodall, T. 2012, “Driven to excess? Linking calling, character and the (mis)behaviour of marketers”,  Marketing Theory, 12(2), pp 173-191.

Woodall, T., Rosborough, J. and Harvey, J. 2018, “Proposal, project, practice, pause: developing a framework for evaluating domestic smart product research”, AMS Review, 8(1-2), pp 58-74.


Dr Tony Woodall

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

How to apply

For more information about our PhD programme, and how to apply, please visit research degrees in business.

Please email the university's Doctoral School for an application pack.

For informal enquiries about this project, please contact: Dr Tony Woodall on marketingPhDs@ntu.ac.uk (please put Dr Woodall’s name in the title line of your email).

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Tony Woodall