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Department of Management

Dr Alexander Thompson

Dr Alexander Thompson

Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Director of Postgraduate Research Students (Organisation Studies)


 +44 (0) 1392 724526

 Streatham Court 1.77


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 recceived his PhD at Imperial College London. His research explores how businesses have adapted ethnographic market research methods in their quest to better understand customer needs. He has published in journals such as the Journal of Business Research, the Journal of Marketing Management and International Small Business Journal. He has also co-authored the textbook Essentials of Marketing with Professor David Brown.  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 MSc in International Business
  • Student Staff Liaison Committee


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

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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.

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Journal articles

Stringfellow L, Thompson A (2014). Crab antics? Contesting and perpetuating status hierarchies in professional service firms. Journal of Professions and Organization, 1, 118-136. Abstract.
Thompson A, Stringfellow L, Maclean M, MacLaren A, O’Gorman K (2014). Puppets of necessity? Celebritisation in structured reality television. Journal of Marketing Management, 31(5-6), 478-501.
Thompson AS (2011). Review Essay- Commercial Ethnography. Consumption Markets and Culture, 14(1), 117-121.
Thompson AS (2010). Commercial Ethnography and the Production of Practice. European Advances in Consumer Research, 9, 445-446.
Thompson AS (2002). Leading Quietly: an Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing. Mid-American Journal of Business, 17(2).


Thompson AS, Penaloza, Lisa (2013). Constructing the Visual Consumer. In Emma B, Warren S, Schroeder J (Eds.) Routledge Companion to Visual Organization, London: Routledge.

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  • 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 Consumption, Markets and Culture course.

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

Alex is also the programme director of the MSc in International Business (IB). As programme director, he mentors the International Business cohort and teaches Current Issues in International Business. Alex is also the module coordinator for BEMM384- International Business Plan project, where utilises a business simulation game in helping students learn key business planing and strategy skills that they can take into employment.



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