Consumer Researcher Jack Tillotson: Companies can learn from consumer culture

Jack Tillotson profiilikuva
Starting August, Doctor of Philosophy in Marketing, Jack Tillotson, begins his appointment as assistant professor (tenure track) of consumer and user innovation at the University of Vaasa. Tillotson specialises in food consumption and wellbeing by focusing on novel consumption landscapes and experiences.

Trained as a sociologist, Jack Tillotson examines core topics in consumer behavior and marketing. His research investigates the role of cultural institutions on branding discourse, processes of consumer decision-making and the influence of consumption on the management of stigma. There are a lot of ways consumption provides support in the management of stigma for example, clothing and fashion choices allow certain people to camouflage certain traits and conform to standards that society calls normal.

Tillotson’s research has appeared in Foundations and Trends in Marketing, Annals of Tourism Research, Journal of Place Management and Development, and Psychology & Marketing. Additionally, Tillotson speaks to managers and executives and consults on branding, consumer insight, and technology and innovation.

–  Much innovation in today’s markets happens at the cultural level rather than the nuts-and-bolts level of the physical product or service. We have countless examples of innovation where the change to the actual product is minimal. For example, think of lactose-free dairy, craft beer or Minimoto motorcycles. The market becomes very dynamic in large part due to the cultural expressions that consumers value, says Tillotson.

Research on the cultural and social dynamics of innovations can help companies resonate with consumers in more meaningful ways. Consumers become the ultimate arbiter of innovation as they adopt specific cultural codes and resist others through their consumption practices within the market. 

–  to understand the ways innovation proceeds at the cultural level, companies need to see markets as social systems. Markets are shaped by the conversations happening between consumers, producers, competitors, governments, media organizations and various other institutions. Within those conversations, consumers embrace certain innovations. They resist others depending on the cultural expressions made by certain institutions and the social issues at play. Also, the historical trajectory of support and opposition for those social issues and consumers' experiences are valuable. As an example, digital platforms like Uber, Amazon, or Airbnb operate as a market. On one side, you have users, and on the other side, you have advertisers, businesses, service providers, governmental institutions, et cetera. Within each side, as well as across the platform, conversations are occurring. The success of that platform relies on its ability to facilitate those conversations.

The University of Vaasa has a sense of community

Tillotson has worked across the globe. Originally from the USA, the meeting of his Finnish wife over 14 years ago led to a fascination with Finnish society and its people. Tillotson wrote his doctoral thesis for the Aalto University (School of Business) with a competitive grant from Valio Oy. Since then, he has gained international experience doing research and teaching in the UK and his home country, the USA. Eventually, Tillotson arrived at the University of Vaasa as a university teacher and programme manager for the new digital marketing degree.

–  At the University of Vaasa, there is a genuine warmth among colleagues that you do not find in many places. People are very supportive, and there is a rich research community of like-minded scholars. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to contribute to the university, and I look forward to what the future holds here.

Tillotson’s new five-year Tenure Track position is in the subject of marketing in the School of Marketing and Communication. The appointment connects to the university’s multidisciplinary research platform InnoLab. As an assistant professor, Tillotson examines, among other things, how different technologies influence consumer choices and steer food consumption and production in a more responsible direction.

Further information

Jack Tillotson, Assistant Professor, University of Vaasa, phone +358 29 449 8541, email: jack.tillotson(@)

SoleCRIS Research Database Jack Tillotson



  • Name: Jack Sheldon Tillotson 
  • Year of birth and country: 1980, United States 
  • Lives: in Helsinki 
  • Education: PhD, Marketing, 2019, Aalto University School of Business. 
  • Career: a visiting researcher at the Department of Marketing (Oregon State University, USA), a Lecturer in Marketing (Liverpool John Moores University, UK), a Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing (Häme University of Applied Sciences), a University Teacher and Program Manager for the Bachelor Programme of Digital Marketing (University of Vaasa)
  • Family: wife Heidi Levävuo-Tillotson and two kids: five-year-old boy Maxwell and four-years-old girl Sylvia  
  • Hobbies: Reading books, watching TV and movies, bike touring in the summer
  • Surprising fact: I have a dog named Señor Beans. He is an eight-year-old Boston Terrier that is stubborn but very high-spirited

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