Cloud Gazing for Afar: A comparative analysis of how eletronic cigarettes are branded and perceived across markets

Nathalie Gylling Hansen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis turns its attention to the newfangled product innovation that is electronic cigarettes. The point of departure is an inquiring interest in the very distinctive marketing of electronic cigarettes as seen in The United States of America and in Denmark respectively, a variance that indicate a general difference in how the product is perceived. Therefore, the thesis sets out to determine present discourses, which might have manifested themselves in cross-cultural advertisement, media and public discussions on electronic cigarettes. In order to accomplish this, the thesis discusses the concept of culture and explains how the culture concept is applied within the realm of social science and in a globalizing world, where the question of standardizing or customizing the marketing mix is growing increasingly complex. The discussion is further balanced by theoretical contributions by Stuart Hall and Michel Foucault. Where Hall’s classic communication framework is linked to Foucault’s ideas on discourse and how the notion of power and knowledge are central within cultural contexts. The thesis then applies a qualitative methodological approach inspired by discourse analysis practice. This was chosen as the optimal method to navigate within an emerging field like the one at hand. Three different data groups in both The United States of America and Denmark were collected to shine light on the different public conversations. The various data groups also contributed with an intertextuality that is inherent to discourse analysis. The analysis discovered an array of different discourses in an American cultural context, where the dominant one was determined as freedom, which was revealed in different perspectives and across all media groups. The Dominant discourse in Denmark was health – a discourse dominant to the extent that is deemed as hegemonic. Using Foucault’s concepts it is suggested that the results can be understood as the welfare state’s and bio-politic’s power to optimize the health of the individual, whereas the American context was characterized by a freedom discourse that rejects the bio-political imperative of optimizing and prolonging the life of the population. It was further suggested that the disparate legislative landscape could hinder a more uniform approach to electronic cigarettes, insofar it contributes to a slower market development in a Danish context. The research has some limitations. Owing to time constraints, it was not possible to analyze a greater sample size. The method samples therefore might reflect certain newspapers and brands. Moreover the articles were collected within a specific time frame, so it is unknown if the findings would be relevant to data located in other media or timeframes. Similarly, because the e-cigarette market is rapidly changing, the analysis may not be applicable in the future.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages86