The paper's aim are to: review the value and credibility of oral history for historical research in marketing; and conceptualize oral history as more than a data source in historical research but also a subject to investigate memory and a conceptual approach for understanding historical events.
The paper comprises an international historical review of oral history theory and practice linked to an examination of oral history methods in marketing.
Oral history is perceived as an “essentially contested concept”; a lack of consensus on universal principles has been sustained over a long time and has led to incredible diversity in theory and practice but has also made it difficult to grasp and manage. It is shown to be perspectival with analytical reach beyond individuals' recollected experiences and actions. Memory is identified as the subject as well as the source for oral history and a misconception that oral history can provide literal expressions of what experience and events were like is clarified. Oral history has been under‐utilized in marketing history and this is presented as a methodological paradox given the ubiquity of the interview in the marketing discipline more generally.
Central to oral history are a range of questions around issues of memory and remembering that have been largely unacknowledged in marketing and the oral history approach is perhaps uniquely placed to address some of these. Oral history critically examines the making of history and the paper highlights some of the issues this presents for historical research. Disciplinary efforts to standardize oral history are queried.
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