Atmospheres of Seduction: A Critique of Aesthetic Marketing Practices

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This article introduces the concept of the “atmosphere” from aesthetic theory to contribute to critical research on the aesthetic, embodied experience in retailing, and consumption spaces, which has received little attention in the marketing literature. The article draws on the “new aesthetics” of Gernot Böhme which is not a theory of art or the works of art but considers the full range of “aesthetic work” including marketing practices. Contributing to the art-versus-commerce debate, this framework suggests differentiating between atmospheres in the arts and in marketing, and it suggests the continued relevance of Critical Theory. The theoretical background is applied to a Starbucks coffee shop as an example for a seductive consumption atmosphere to make evident issues of aesthetic pleasure and aesthetic manipulation. The concept of the atmosphere helps to consider aesthetics as an active social power in a macromarketing context.