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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Theming

PER STRÖMBERG

Telemark University College, Norway

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs228

“Theming” involves the use of an overarching theme as an added value, for example, “pirates,” “Wild West,” “Egypt,” or a self-referential brand such as Nike, to create a holistic and cohesive spatial, cultural, and social organization of a consumer venue. Theming as a method is mostly defined in relation to themed environments such as restaurants, hotels, theme parks, shopping malls, or any other servicescape based on a thematic concept, which serves as a narrative stage for human interaction in a commercial context.

A theme – a result of theming – is an all-encompassing narrative unit which provides a veneer of symbolism and meaning to a service, good, or location whose thematic source is external to the object or institution to which it is applied. In semiotic terms, a theme is a sign, or a “super sign,” composed of several signifying elements. A theme is, like linguistic signs, arbitrary and polysemic, meaning that its unifying meaning always depends on the cultural context in which the theme is interpreted. Consumers relate and respond to themes in different ways; in other words, it is not a one-way communication. Themed environments are organized and arranged by suppliers (entrepreneurs, urban planners, and architects) and actively sought after – or avoided – by consumers as places for leisure and pleasure.

Over the last several decades, a number of scholars have observed an increased ...

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