PCCC study in collaboration with the University of Southampton sheds light on new brand relationships

A Promotional Cultures and Communication Centre (PCCC) study in collaboration with the University of Southampton using Transactional Analysis (TA) to shed light on new brand relationships has been published in a high-ranking journal.

The paper titled ‘Games people play with brands: An application of transactional analysis to marketplace relationships’ authored by Georgiana Grigore and Becky Jenkins with Mike Molesworth (University of Southampton) is now available online in Marketing Theory: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1470593117706530.

In this paper, the authors use TA as an analytic to understand the complexity of marketplace relationships, and consumer-brand relationships in particular. The article shows how TA can be applied to the relations between different market actors to reveal underlying psychological structures that produce emotional ‘payoffs’, including dysfunctional ones. The benefits of such an approach are threefold. First, TA is more accessible than other psychoanalytic approaches, although it retains a biographical explanation of human motivations that are made absent in cognitive, or behavioural approaches. Second, the focus on ‘transactions’ allows us to examine specific exchanges between market actors that explain dysfunctional aspects of marketplace relationships. Finally, TA can provide both new and critical perspectives, and the possibility of transformation of relationship forms. The authors therefore explain the structural basis of marketplace relationships from a TA perspective, illustrate how TA Game Analysis can be applied to marketplace relationships, and discuss the implications of such an approach for transforming market practices.



Relationships have been normalized in marketing theory as mutually beneficial, long-term dyads. This obscures their emotional content, ignores critical conceptualizations of corporate exploitation and fails to capture the range of possible marketplace relationship forms, including those that may result from individuals’ biographical psychology and that lead to repeated dysfunctional exchanges. In this article, we offer Berne’s (1964) transactional analysis (TA) as a way to uncover the biographical psychology that informs marketplace relationship structures and their accompanying emotions and to provide a critique of such arrangements. We first explain TA, its origins, its relationship with psychoanalysis, its limitations and contemporary extensions beyond therapy. We then present the structural basis of marketplace relationships from a TA perspective, before illustrating how a game in TA can be applied through an analysis of the iPhone and related mobile phone contracts and the Games If I didn’t Love Apple and Smallprint. Finally, we discuss the implications of such an approach for transforming market practices based on recognition of marketplace Games and their modification.