Word of mouth: products, conversations and consumption

Barry Brown, Eric Laurier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While there is a rich collection of studies of consumption and identity, the role of buying practices in ordinary conversations has been largely neglected. Minor items and major purchases regularly play a key role in furnishing our talk with topics, news, jokes and formulations of what kind of person we are. This paper unpacks the idea of post-purchase conversations contained within the common phrase - ‘word of mouth’. What happens when products are examined in ordinary talk is pursued through the close analysis of a series of conversations around a significant purchase (a moun- tain bike). Drawing on the work of Harvey Sacks, and conversation analysis more broadly, the paper documents how products as a topic provide not only resources for small talk, but also an opportunity to consider our identity and its transformation. In conclusion the paper argues that the knowledge and experience that circulates outside of the actual marketplace or point of purchase are part of a domain of economics as ordinary practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-49
Number of pages25
JournalConsumption, Markets and Culture
Issue number1
Early online date18 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Conversation analysis
  • social relationships
  • entitlement
  • word of mouth


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