Monday, March 05, 2007

association for consumer research

I’ve been an on and off member of the Association for Consumer Research (ACR) since 1993, as far as I can remember. The ACR is an academic association dedicated to promote the study of consumer behavior. Its members come from a wide range of expertise (anthropology, marketing, sociology, communication, linguistics, etc.) and include luminaries such as Harold Kassarjian, Sidney Levy (a pioneer who wrote the seminal “Symbols for Sale” in 1959!), Gerald Zaltman (How Customers Think), and my favorites, Grant McCracken (Culture and Consumption), Russell Belk (Happy Thought), Morris Holbrook (Symbolic Consumer Behavior), and Elizabeth Hirschman (The Creation of Product Symbolism).
Collectively they have published a wealth of knowledge and insights since ACR's inception in 1969. I personally found their production fascinating for somebody whose good chunk of work is to understand consumers (although this is not ACR's main goal, let me be clear, this is an academic body, knowledge for knowledge's sake, they don't exist to provide consulting services).
Nonetheless, they've provided me with invaluable insights about symbolic consumption, ethnography, cultural aspects of consumption, to mention just a few of the topics they cover. In the process, they have explored all sorts of unconventional methods in trying to understand consumers, from introspective, self-analysis of their own consumption behavior, to analysis of movies as consumption objects, to the analysis of the sacred aspects of consumption, which easily make them one the most unconventional, innovative, and creative group of people that I’ve ever met (even if some of the articles are too highbrow for me to understand).
For whatever reason though, I seldom meet a branding practitioner who is aware of the existence of this body of knowledge. Perhaps people get intimidated by the academic approach, but if you get past the academic terms, there are real gems in there.
Take a look at some of the articles below:
"Happy Thought", by Russell Belk.
"I'm Hip: An Autobiographical Account of Some Musical Consumption Experiences", by Morris Holbrook
"Advertising: Meaning or Information", by Grant McCracken
"Consumer Behavior Meets the Nouvelle Femme: Feminist Consumption at the Movies", by Elizabeth Hirschman
Most of these articles can be found either in the "Journal of Consumer Research", or in ACR’s website (there’s an online proceedings search). Enjoy the readings.

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