Consumers as legitimating agents: How consumer-citizens challenge marketer legitimacy on social media

Ella Lillqvist, Johanna K. Moisander, A. Fuat Firat
  • International Journal of Consumer Studies, December 2017, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/ijcs.12401

How do consumers challenge the legitimacy of unsolicited marketing communication on social media?

What is it about?

Research shows that people increasingly challenge the legitimacy of marketers and unsolicited marketing communication in online contexts. Based on a qualitative study, this article examines how and for what reasons consumers challenge marketer legitimacy—the perceived appropriateness of marketers and their activities—in the empirical context of Reddit, a popular social news and community website. The study hows consumers assess marketer legitimacy based on particular community and situation specific legitimacy criteria that reflect and reproduce the communal values and norms of the community.

Why is it important?

The study contributes to knowledge in two ways. First, it builds a symbolic interactionist perspective on consumer-citizens as legitimating agents who enact their active citizenship role in the marketplace by assessing and constructing marketer legitimacy in online communities. Second, it offers an empirically grounded account of how and for what reasons consumer-citizens challenge or accept the legitimacy of marketers and unsolicited marketing communication in online communities.Specifically, the study shows how in Reddit communities, consumers confer legitimacy based on particular instrumental, moral, and relational types of socially shared legitimacy criteria and challenge marketer legitimacy when marketers’ activities are in conflict with these criteria.


Professor Johanna K. Moisander
Aalto University

This article is based on the doctoral dissertation of Ella Lillqvist who currently works at Consumer Society Research Center, University of Helsinki.

Read Publication

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Johanna K. Moisander