Language and Neoliberalism in the Online Cosmetic Sample Business

Publication Name

Signs and Society


This article presents a digital ethnographic study of amateur entrepreneurs who sell cosmetic samples primarily in an online marketplace in Hong Kong to illustrate how they use language to to create added value in their unconventional beauty product niche. It exam-ines how these people cross over to an authoritative and professional brand persona by reappropriating product description of the original products to introduce their own beauty sample products to a wide audience, forming interdiscursive links between the original brand and their own business. These linguistic and semiotic resources afforded by the online plat-forms help create extra value in the normally not-so-expensive cosmetic sample products being (re)sold by ordinary, unauthorized people. The marketing decision and invested labor of these amateur entrepreneurs display their neoliberal selfhoods, illustrating the precari-ous nature of their online business. This study offers unique insight into current research about the authenticity and commodification of language.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access





First Page


Last Page




Link to publisher version (DOI)