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Small versus big stories in framing consumption experiences

Antonella Carù (Universita' Bocconi Di Milano, Milano, Italy)
Bernard Cova (Euromed Marseille, Marseille, France)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 4 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance and utility of introspective accounts to ethnography when it deals with consumption experiences.


The paper reviews the changes in the way “reflexive consumers” write introspective narratives about their intimate thoughts and deep feelings lived during an experience and takes advantage of previous research carried out in different contexts, e.g. music concerts and internet‐based services.


The paper specifies the more original stages of a complete ethnographic approach to consumption experience. These include co‐immersing; organising the narratives' write‐up; combining the experience's time frame with data generated via observation and introspection; and producing interpretations that will vary depending on the consumer's expressed level of pleasure.

Research limitations/implications

This type of approach does not work in all consumption situations, nor does it apply to all consumers.

Practical implications

The combination of observation and introspection will enrich researchers' toolboxes in the quest to unravel the increasingly complex and unpredictable experiences the consumption of today products and services affords consumers.


The paper advocates that the writing up of introspective narratives and diaries has become a common practice for reflexive consumers accustomed to telling their stories online that must be used in market research.



Carù, A. and Cova, B. (2008), "Small versus big stories in framing consumption experiences", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 166-176.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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