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Dr Alexander Thompson

Dr Alexander Thompson

Senior Lecturer in Marketing


+44 (0) 1392 724526

Streatham Court, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4PU, UK

Dr Alex Thompson is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing within the University of Exeter Business School. His background is in the field of anthropology and socio-cultural approaches to marketing.  His ethnographic approach to marketing seeks to address the dynamics that occur between consumer actions, the marketplace, and cultural meanings.  His research interests lie within the areas of embodied forms of knowledge production; the production of culture perspectives; practice theory, and ritual.  Alex incorporates a number of interpretive methods including videography, in-depth interviewing, participant observation, and life story narratives.

Dr Thompson recently completed his PhD at Imperial College London. His dissertation research explored how businesses have adapted ethnographic market research methods in their quest to better understand customer needs. Dr Thompson holds a BA in Anthropology from the College of Wooster (USA), and an MBA from Central Michigan University (USA).

In addition to his academic experience, Dr. Thompson has worked on a number of commercial research projects where he applies ethnographic approaches to understanding marketplace dynamics.  His clients include GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, the LaBelle Entrepreneurial Centre, the Imperial College Business School, Novartis, Water Regulatory Advisory Scheme (WRAS), and the Public Broadcast System (PBS).

Nationality: American

Administrative responsibilities

  • Director of the MRes Programme
  • Student Staff Liaison Committee
  • Mitigation Committee


BA in Anthropology (College of Wooster), MBA (Central Michigan University), PhD (Imperial College London)

Research clusters

Research interests

  • Ethnographic Research
  • Market Research
  • Production of Culture
  • Consumer Culture Theory
  • Ritual
  • Embodiment

Within the field of academic research in consumer culture, ethnography has become an institutionalized method in understanding the socio-cultural dimensions to consumer behaviour. The popularity of ethnography has also gained ground in commercial settings where there are several books about ethnography as a research technique as well as many large organizations that incorporate ethnographic findings into day-to-day decision-making. However, there are few studies that look at how commercial ethnographers construct, represent, and deploy insights gained via ethnographic methods. What kind of consumer does commercial ethnography create? How is this construction utilized in the application of ethnographic knowledge? What are the implications of commercial ethnography for understanding consumer culture?

Alex’s research interests centre on an understanding of how consumers are constructed within the marketplace. Through a qualitative understanding of market research practices, Alex explores commercial market research engagements where consumer knowledge is produced. His research seeks to make a contribution to those studies in marketing that shed light on the roles marketing agents play in the generation of cultural meaning within the marketplace.

  • Cultural approaches to marketing
  • Principles of marketing
  • Marketing and society

Dr Thompson's primary teaching interests surround applying cultural approaches to understanding within the field of marketing. A cultural approach to understanding marketing phenomenon means that he is interested in the dynamics that occur between marketers, consumers and the marketplace. This perspective focuses on how cultural meanings are produced amongst actors and is sensitive to how social relations are negotiated. His interests here are manifest in his BEM110 Consumption, Markets and Culture course.

He is also interested in broader marketing practices. In his BEM2013 Principles of Marketing course, he explores some of the current issues faced within marketing and how companies use marketing practices to achieve market differentiation.